CREATED BY: Ruth Handler (cofounder of Mattel)
FIRST APPEARANCE: 1959
AREAS OF INFLUENCE: For better or for worse, Barbie has changed the meaning of “doll” for several generations of children. She’s not a baby doll, intended to replicate a parental role for a child, but she teaches kids lots: what a woman could wear and look like (an unrealistic and controversial ideal) and what she can do with her life (own a dream home, be an astronaut). She’s also a branding powerhouse, an object of desire for collectors and—as pointed out by the ’90s band Aqua in their song “Barbie Girl”—shorthand for a vision of bland, plastic perfection.
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