Friday, April 25, 2008

Clark Media Analysis

A look at the beauty standard, advertising, and publicity statements

Although she was born in 1959, Mattel’s Barbie is still recognized as the most successful doll ever created. Each week, 1.5 million dolls are sold. Currently, over a half a billion Barbies have been sold in 140 countries, and 90% of American girls have owned at least one Barbie doll in the last 40 years. A website, which has also created a book, of the 100 most influential people that never lived has listed Barbie as #43. One of the main reasons for the doll’s fame and popularity can be attributed to the heaving, not to mention creative, marketing strategies that Mattel Inc. has employed. For years the company has kept up on the most innovative ways to sell their product that has been controversial from the very beginning. Of the many criticisms that the doll faces, perhaps the most common is that the doll endorses a very unrealistic body image that is damaging, both physically and emotionally to teenagers and young girls. However, a factor that is just as alarming but often goes un-noticed is the sly marketing strategy and play on words that Mattel uses to market this doll in a “positive” and “user-friendly” way.
The media and others in society advance the notion that there is one standard of beauty. Although this is not true, this ideology is reinforced by Barbie’s perfection. As those millions of children all over the world play with a Barbie doll, they are subjected to society’s beauty standard at a very young age. What about the children that don’t live in the United States and have never seen someone with blonde hair before? When that mold of perfection is placed in their hand, their ideas of beauty are in some way affected.
Naomi Wolf, in her book The Beauty Myth, concludes that beauty is socially constructed and that the beauty myth only feeds society’s high beauty standard. The beauty standard in turn is used to establish heteronormativity, meaning that it’s deemed “normal” for a woman to try and make herself more beautiful in order to get a man. Wolf uses the term “iron maiden” as the unattainable standard that is used to punish women physically and psychologically for their failures to achieve this beauty standard, and Barbie promotes the beauty standard. Whether or not doll manufactures are willing to admit it, their product has a great effect on society, and even though there may be a positive spin on a toy, that toy still affects the self-image of every child who comes in contact with it.
With the advancement of technology, and new advertising techniques, more and more children are subjected to the beauty standard in the most innovative ways. I’m sure at least all of us at one point or another have seen a Barbie commercial or have been subjected to some form of advertisement by Mattel. It is no secret Mattel stays on top of the newest and unsurpassed ways to keep Barbie alive as competition among toys has increased. Thus, leading to the creation of their newest project; where children can play Barbie games, shop in virtual malls, create their very own virtual Barbie characters, and even watch Barbie commercials…how convenient. Mattel has seemingly thought of everything as the website has it all from virtual dolls to real children’s testimonials. The site even has a “just for parents” section in addition to a place where parents can blog their opinions, but not so fast, also included is a happy section filled with Barbie’s positive and uplifting beliefs.
My knowledge of the controversy surrounding Barbie and the image she creates for young children first sparked my idea of doing a media analysis on Barbie. As a child, Barbie was my favorite toy. I owned practically every doll, article of clothing, and accessory ever made throughout my childhood. Now that I am older, more knowledgeable, and have had experience with feminist text, the thought of analyzing of my once favorite toy was intriguing. All it took was one visit to where I was able to view Barbie’s mission statement. I was taken aback at how different their mission statement is from some of the products they produce, and felt like it was an issue that I have heard little about therefore my film was created in hopes of raising awareness.
In my short media critique, my film is composed so that it will show the irony of Barbie’s beliefs in comparison with the products that Mattel sells. I began by using a short clip from a famous song “Barbie Girl” to create a bright and comical opening. Also included, are a couple random, but relevant facts. You will hear the audio from Barbie’s 1959 debut which emphasizes the fact that Barbie was originally created as a role model, and this role model embodies an unattainable perfection. Following is a sequence of clips combined with Barbie’s beliefs that are designed to be a stark contrast. I also included images from the Mac makeup line’s new Barbie campaign as well as a real life Barbie look-a-like to show the standard and skewed image Barbie creates. My intentions were for the film to be light and funny but at the same time, send a strong message revealing the unfeasible beauty standard and exposing the ironic advertising methods and statements made by Mattel. My favorite part of the film is actually in the beginning when the song lyrics say “life is your creation” as a clip of girls dressed as Barbie comes up. I hope that you will find this film both informative and enjoyable.

No comments: