Barbie is the toy queen of controversy. Her audience has always been girls, and young girls have always been the target of shoe-horned perspectives. Barbie has both perpetuated those stereotypes and at times even tried to fight against them, only to delve into even deeper into controversy by the public.
Besides her pretty looks, many Barbies can portray girls as unintelligent. Some such Barbie’s are on this list, so we will not spoil them in this introduction. There's also this issue: if you ask little kids who the real Barbie, they will point to a very specific blonde one. There are even photos traveling through the internet of the same Barbie’s sitting on store shelves.
To make matters worse, Mattel tries to wash away Barbie’s bad stereotype issues by buying their way into pro-girl spaces. They did this with the Girl Scouts, and we will explain more of that later on this list.
So enjoy our list of Barbie’s society never asked for.
25 Barbie The Incompetent Computer Engineer
Instead of a doll, this is actually a book. It’s called, “Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer.” Sounds empowering right? Well, once you read the book, you may notice an issue. Barbie comes up with the ideas, but she has to get boys to make the game for her. Wow.
Also she accidentally gets a virus and needs the boys to help her with that too.
This book was slammed with criticism went it came out. So much so that Mattel apologized and pulled the book out of Amazon.
24 Pregnant Midge Barbie
Mattel had the genius idea to create a toy of Barbie’s friend, Midge, that is pregnant, one with an openable magnetic stomach that you can stuff a baby inside. First of all, that’s a disturbing visual in general. Secondly, this had quite the outcry from parents. They believed it promoted teen pregnancy. She was packaged without her husband, Alan. Also, she had no wedding ring (which was later fixed). Wal-mart even pulled these dolls off of their shelves due to the controversy.
23 Oreo Barbie
Obviously, this was created out of a partnership between Mattel and Oreo cookies. However, the staff did not use their heads when creating this black doll.
They either did not know or think about the term “Oreo” also being a derogatory term.
This Barbie came to shelves in 1997. However, when Mattel realized their critical error, they pulled the Oreo Barbie off all store shelves. Now she is a rare collector’s item.
22 Teen Talk Barbie
Introduced in 1992, Teen Talk Barbie has a voice box and with the press of a button would say a random phrase. Random phrases included, “Wanna have a pizza party?”, “Okay, meet me at the mall”, “I’m studying to be a doctor,” “Let’s plan our dream wedding,” “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “Let’s have a campfire”, “Want to go shopping?”, “Wouldn’t you love to be a lifeguard?”, and the infamous “Math class is tough.”
The “Math class if tough” line warranted a ton of criticism.
21 Happy Birthday Ken Barbie
This Barbie was made for Ken’s 50th anniversary. The box she comes in says ages six and up but has a description like, “Wearing her most eye-catching, show-stopping outfit to present Ken with his birthday ‘gift,’ Barbie is every bit the beautiful birthday present herself.”
The weird description gave a vibe that made some potential buyers scratch their heads.
It was like Barbie was giving herself to Ken as a gift. That’s not quite child-friendly. In fact, it’s kind of humanizing.
20 Mexico Barbie
This doll is part of the “Dolls of the World” collection. These Barbie’s would come with a passport, stamp, and animal friend. However, when it came to stereotypes, Mattel was walking on thin ice.
For their Mexican Barbie, they dressed in her in a fiesta dress with a pet Chihuahua. They immediately got backlash for the dated design. They committed themselves to the mistake of putting other cultures in the past instead of using contemporary designs. Many worried about its harmful cultural influence on children.
19 Girl Scout Barbie
With Barbie being constantly under fire for being a terrible role model, Mattel makes sure to put money in the pockets of certain pro-girl groups. One such group was the Girl Scouts.
Mattel gave the group two million dollars for them to give out Barbie patches to the scouts and for Mattel to put out Barbie dressed as a Girl Scout.
Some parents were outraged, but Girl Scouts defended Barbie. However, it’s hard not to defend someone that gives you two million dollars.
18 Alfred Hitchcock Barbie
This design is so far in the left field. It was made in celebration of the famous horror movie, The Birds. The movie where people are actually destroyed by birds. The movie where people’s eyes get pecked out. Perfect for a Barbie right?
So this Barbie comes with birds that attack her. Yay!
This has got to be one of the strangest Barbie’s ever made. The Birds is not an appropriate kid’s film. Even if a kid saw it, would they want this Barbie?
17 Hello Barbie
Not all controversies have to do with Barbie’s outward appearance. With the miracles of technology, she can now spy on your children.
Hello Barbie uses the same technology as Apple’s Siri and Google Now.
16 George Washington Barbie
This Barbie is not controversial like the many others on this list. Instead, she’s just odd. Why George Washington? It feels like Mattel was grasping at straws for this design. They can just open a line of Barbie historical figures at this rate. Barbie Darwin, Barbie Einstein, and Barbie Lincoln may not be a stretch of the imagination anymore.
There is literally no reason for this to exist. It’s definitely on this list because no one could have asked for this.
15 Shoe Obsession Barbie
Oh yes, because shoes are a girl’s best friend. That’s so uniquely a girl thing. It’s not like men also can see shoes as a status item. Seriously, shoes have undergone a huge male fashion trend.
Bitterness aside, this design is just weird.
Did Barbie stuff shoes into her dress and attach shoes to her neck? This is Lady Gaga level of strange fashion. It’s like a statement outfit for a music video that criticizes capitalism. Unfortunately, it’s not deep. She is just shoe obsessed.
14 Dishwasher Barbie
This is just the pinnacle of what a child wants. They don’t need Harry Potter, video games, or teddy bears. They need a dishwasher for their Barbie to wash her dishes. Even the name is painful, “Wash and Watch Dishwasher Play Set.” So what, you wash and then just stare at the dishwasher?
There are toys that make kids critically think like puzzles, adventure books, and building blocks. Maybe this would be fun for playing house, but it’s hard to not feel a sense of loathing when seeing this toy.
13 McDonald's Barbie
This Barbie was controversial for a number of obvious reasons. No offense to the hardworking McDonalds staff out there. Even they have to admit that McDonalds’ food is not healthy. For Barbie, the queen of skinny culture, to be working at McDonald's is laughable and takes a heavy dive into hypocrisy.
Parents wouldn’t want their kids to love McDonald's too much for the sake of their health.
Is there a positive to this? Well, maybe some kids’ parents work at McDonald's and they would like to celebrate that?
12 Tokidoki Barbie
There have been Barbie’s in the past made with detachable tattoos and even they were in the realm of controversy. Mattel did not care or learn from that experience, as they created the Tokidoki Barbie with permanent tattoos on her body.
Honestly, this doll looks unusual and cool in an awesome way, but a lot of parents did not think it was good for young children. They thought the tattoos, dyed hair, and clothes set a poor example for someone so young.
11 Kissing Barbie
This doll’s very purpose is to make-out. She was made in 1979 with a feature centered on kissing. She had a button on her back that would make her kiss someone. This was pretty weird since a kid can easily just make a Barbie kiss someone without need of a button.
It was no normal kiss, as there was a lipstick application to the toy as well. Let’s just say you don’t put lipstick on to kiss your kids goodnight.
10 Sun Gold Malibu Barbie
This Barbie from the early 1980s forgot to put on sunscreen. The controversy connected to this Barbie is all about proper skin care. There is a rather big issue with this Barbie, especially when it comes to women tanning themselves. Basically, this Barbie was trouble since it glorified sun-damaged skin. The Barbie is more than “sun gold.” She is orange and needs to see a doctor.
9 Growing Up Skipper
Growing Up Skipper became known as the doll whose chest would grow. Skipper was released in the 1960s as Barbie’s younger sister. In 1975, Mattel decided it was time for Skipper to grow-up and released this toy.
By twisting the doll's arm, Skipper’s stomach would get taller and her concave chest would push outwards.
How . . . optimistic of Mattel?
This doll was widely disliked, even enough to make the newspapers.
8 Barbie Video Girl
Like the Hello Barbie, the Barbie Video Girl got a little sketchy when it came to technology and the privacy of children. Unlike Hello Barbie, who would record a kid’s voice, Barbie Video Girl could film children and download the film to computers. They were not short clips either. These Barbie’s could record a whopping 30 minutes.
Adults worried that kids could unknowingly upload uncool videos to places like YouTube for the whole world to see. The toy was definitely a dangerous zone.
7 Black Canary Barbie
Straight from the DC comic world, this Barbie raised eyebrows. Black Canary has many outfits, but Mattel for some reason thought the one with the fishnet tights were the best choice out of an arrangement of more innocent-looking options.
This doll particularly rocked the boat for some values groups and the toy gained many strange nicknames.
In its defense, the Barbie is a “Black Label” which means it is meant for a more adult customer. Probably the target is an adult DC comic fan.
6 Growing Up Glam
Now, this just insulted the public because it was Growing Up Skipper all over again. It was never more evident that Mattel did not listen to the concerns of parents when this copycat came out.
Just like Skipper, this doll can grow several inches and has some particular growth in the chest area. A little more was added though, such as changing her shoes to high heels and giving her make-up for a more “mature look.” Cause we know high heels and make-up makes you more grown up!
5 Shaving Fun Ken Doll
This one should be sold next to the Wash and Watch Dishwashing Barbie. Well, it’s less controversial, but it’s totally weird.
Depending on their age and values, shaving could be a totally alien thing for little girls so maybe they would be totally fascinated with this toy. After all, they need to practice shaving a man’s face for the future?
4 Cat Burglar Barbie
Now, this Barbie just created a lot of questions. She was particularly special for being sold for only a limited time. She was a collector’s edition created by French fashion designer, Christian Louboutin, in 1999.
The question this all came to was “why?” Why is Barbie dressed in a tight suit while breaking into people’s houses? Or is she breaking into a shopping center and only cares about shoes (again)? Obviously, this was for Barbie collectors rather than children.
3 Pop Icon Barbie
You know what people most love about Barbie? She’s so humble.
This Barbie from 1977 is, yes, wearing a dress with her own face on plastered on it.
If someone did this in real life, they would be made fun of until they became a meme in which people would begin to worship them for their strangeness. Unfortunately, this Barbie will not have that kind of character development in her face-dress story. Instead, she made it onto this list because no one could have asked for this.
2 Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie
“Ey, what up home-dogs?” Barbie asks as she wanders down the streets of New York. “It’s me, Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie. I’m hip and too cool for school. Check out my beats!” She also says all this while gesturing like she’s from Team Skull from Pokémon Sun and Moon (please somebody make this vision real).
This is just a cringe ready-made in a can. This probably did not do well in its time and has only gotten worse with age.
1 SeaWorld Trainer Barbie
Now this one is just juicy and you probably know why. SeaWorld was once beloved by the public, but then the documentary Blackfish came out in 2013 and it revealed very awful truths about the amusement park’s issues.
So, of course, this Barbie was met with criticism from animal rights groups, so much that this doll’s production ended.
Barbie can be many things, but this one went a bit over the fine line for Mattel. However, they can’t erase that she did exist.