ha! aka, mattel does india

After writing the last post about young girls of color and which dolls they prefer, I was bothered by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the Indian Barbie doll I had when I was little looked like (maybe when I get home once the semester is done, I’ll look through all the closets in the house for it…).  So I did some research on Mattel’s history of releasing South Asia-related Barbie dolls, and found these two:

India Barbie – released in 1982, as a Special Edition, part of the ‘Dolls of the World – Asia’ line

India Barbie

India Barbie 2nd Edition, released in 1996, as part of the Collector Edition for the same ‘Dolls of the World’ line:

India Barbie 2nd Edition

Is it just me, or is the 2nd Edition doll noticeably darker than the original?  I wonder what happened in those fourteen years to make Mattel want its doll to represent and appeal to a different, broader range of young South Asian girls (including me, because I think this is the one I had and might still have lying around somewhere)…  Also, the 2nd edition doll is presented in a much more noticeably “ethnic” context (the Taj Mahal, of course).

It’s too bad that Mattel didn’t get the costume/terminology right in either case:

  • The 1982 edition is described as wearing a “three-piece sari, including a long rusty red skirt, matching wrap, both trimmed with golden thread, and golden halter-top.”  Uhh, sorry, but that’s not a sari… it’s a skirt, a halter top, and a shawl.  A sari is a looong singular piece of cloth wrapped around the body in different styles.  Great job, Mattel.
  • The 1996 edition is definitely a lot better.  However, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how the doll wears both a “traditional costume from far away India” and a “modern, Indian sari.”  Huh?  As for the “simple hand ring,” I believe it’s called a ‘bangle.’

I’m not the only one debating the authenticity of Mattel’s descriptions about its ‘Dolls of the World.’  Nirali Magazine points us toward a discussion by several Indian-American writers/bloggers/professors about the Diwali Barbie Doll released last year as part of the ‘Dolls of the World – Festivals of the World’ line.

diwali barbie

So at the same time that it explicitly exoticizes Indian Barbies (“far away India,” “exotic-style jewelry”) presumbably in order to differentiate them from its other products (and therefore make them more appealing to consumers), Mattel can’t seem to get the facts straight.  Ironically enough, I wonder how many of the company’s products are made in India.  And how young the workers in those factories may be.

24 responses to “ha! aka, mattel does india

  1. This post on the (specifically India-based) exoticism Mattel is marketing in these Barbies and their clothing is also interesting in terms of the market that Disney is trying to acquire with their Princess franchise in India. Disney has even teamed up with Mattel to make a Cinderella Barbie in India, and it’s interesting to note that, while Mattel is busy making Barbie more and more exotic for their American, as well as Indian-American, customers, Mattel and Disney have decided to make Barbie possibly the whitest/blondest she could be (i.e. Cinderella) for their Indian consumers. Check it out:

  2. Is it just me, or does the 1982 Barbie resemble Sharmila Tagore, while Diwali Barbie has overtones of Aishwarya? Hmm….

  3. In that case, the 1996 Barbie is Karisma Kapoor…

  4. Hi,

    You are missing 1 more doll from Mattel that is Indian/South Asian. It is the “Princess of India” Barbie from 2003/2004? From their Princess of the World Series. I think She Looks like Rani Mukerjee.

  5. woo woo woo wata ahaha barbie shyt yoo hu like barbie prbly lil kidz ahaha buh styll i c sum big kidz azwell nvm yoo aha hav fun!!! wid ya barbie doll muahahaa

  6. nd yoo ppl hu r 12-16 dey kan add us if dey got MSN!! our group ehh here u go kool_gurl_a@hotmail.com fizza_afggurl@hotmail.com brown_gurl786@hotmail.com nd ye remember onlii 12-16 not more den 16 nd not under 12 kk hav funn=)

  7. fkngfngf;ng

  8. i what one of those dolls were can i by one how much are they

  9. that is so cute i want it!!!

  10. i like this the doll

  11. cute

  12. barbie the sign of beauty

  13. i luv your dolls. can i get one. am a nigerian and i would like to purchase one.

  14. I still have the Second Edition India Barbie. She was my favorite when I was young and was the only one I never ‘tortured’ (I was an evil child). I always thought the darker skinned barbies were prettier than the light ones.

  15. eeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!

    these sucks

    all three of this makes me vomit!

  16. i kinda like ’em

  17. i like this doll

  18. these dolls are graet

  19. these dolls are graet

  20. I like the last one it looks like a persiain styled doll

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