Over the years, Mattel’s Barbie toys have received criticism for their unrealistic depictions of beauty.
Most of these criticisms focus on Barbie herself. A 2006 study from the University of Sussex stated that Barbies and other similar dolls “may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycle.”
While Mattel has argued against those studies, the brand has also made occasional changes to Barbie’s measurements, apparently relenting to the public pressure. A company spokesperson was frank about the reasons for the change.
“We were seeing that Millennials are driven by social justice and attracted to brands with purpose and values, and they didn’t see Barbie in this category,” said Tania Missad, Mattel’s director of global brand insights, when announcing a new line of body-positive Barbies in 2016.
Barbie’s new designs were well received. For the first time, the dolls were available in “tall, curvy, and petite” body styles, with numerous eye colors, skin tones, and hairstyles. Time Magazine put Barbie on its cover with a telling headline: “Now can we stop talking about my body?”
Now, the company is apparently extending those types of changes to Ken, Barbie’s longtime boyfriend.
To be fair, Ken’s seen his share of updates before, but those were mostly cosmetic; take Dream Date Ken, produced in the 1980s with a suave black tuxedo.
But Ken’s toned physique have remained largely unchanged, and while his proportions aren’t quite as outlandish as Barbie’s, Ken has also attracted his share of criticism.
“By continuing to expand our product line, we are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” said Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Barbie, in a statement. “Evolving Ken was a natural evolution for the brand and allows girls to further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie’s world.”
According to the press release announcing the new dolls:
The line includes 15 new Ken dolls with three body types, seven skin tones, eight hair colors, nine hairstyles and modernized fashions, ranging from casual business attire to athletic wear. The brand is also introducing 25 additional diverse Barbie dolls. These dolls join the 100+ diverse looks launched in the Barbie Fashionistas line in the last three years.
Ken’s new body types are “slim, broad, and original.”
And yes, you can finally find a “Man Bun Ken.”
The immediate reaction to the new toys was mostly positive, as Twitter users lauded Mattel’s body-positive approach, with some referring to the “dad-bod” Ken.
The brand, however, isn’t offering the new body types to appease social media; the company enjoyed a 7 percent increase in sales after introducing the new Barbies last year. This move won’t result in a similar increase, as according to The Wall Street Journal, kids have an average of one Ken per seven Barbies. Still, it’s a reasonable change from a brand that has been historically resistant to change. Plus, we doubt that we’ll hear any complaints from Barbie herself.