The Barbie doll, that iconic girls’ toy with the impossible figure, has finally gotten a makeover, with Mattel now offering “curvy” dolls, along with tall and petite and seven different skin tones.
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But what about men? We’ve still got to try to live up to the washboard abs, the ripped guns, the slim waist and rippling chest. Ken is to Barbie what Brad Pitt is to Angelina Jolie.
Sure, Ken’s an action figure. He’s not necessarily meant to be a life goal, or even a particularly realistic representation of a man. But that’s for men. Many American boys still find themselves awash in inferiority when Ken makes the scene.
Everyone knows that women don’t look like Barbie. If she were made life-size, she would be 5-feet 9-inches tall, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, 33-inch hips and a size 3 shoe. No wonder wags have said she’d just tumble over on her face. Oh, and there are 22 eye colors. Are there even that many in real life?
Why isn’t there a Ken who wears black socks with sandals?
But nobody looked a thing like Ken in real life, either, not a lot of guys, anyway. The high cheekbones, the baby blues, the bright-white teeth. There aren’t any comparable life-size measurements for Ken, but let’s just guess that his body fat ration would be something like 2 percent. Not to mention the sweet duds.
Several studies suggest that the original Barbie doll can make children feel self-conscious about their weight. In a 2006 study, 162 girls ages 5 to 8 were told to look at images of Barbie dolls, Emme dolls, which have more realistic body shapes, or no dolls at all. Later, they answered questions about body image. The younger girls who looked at Barbie reportedly had lower body esteem and a “greater desire for a thinner body shape,” the researchers wrote.
One study also suggested the Barbie could discourage girls’ career goals. In a 2014 study of 37 girls 4 to 7 years old, they all played with a Doctor Barbie, Fashion Barbie or a Mrs. Potato Head doll for five minutes. Afterward, they answered questions about whether girls or boys could do specific jobs. The Mrs. Potato Head girls said that they could do more of the jobs than did the Barbie group (even those who played with Doctor Barbie), the researchers found.
Following the reinvention of Barbie, social media mused that the hunky, equally unrealistic, original Ken should get an overhaul, too. Agreed. For some boys, Ken not being anatomically correct could propel them through a self-loathing phase, just like young girls.
So we agree: Ken dolls need to reflect the realities of adolescence the same way Barbie does. We need a pimple-faced Ken, one with a beer belly, a balding one, and maybe even the Dad Bod Ken. How about one who wears black socks with sandals.? Or one that wears a tank-top T-shirt short enough to let his muffin top love handles pop out?
Ken is hardly attainable: There’s Skydiving Ken and Rocket Scientist Ken. And he’s got a great car. And he’s always on his way to the beach (he doesn’t ever seem to get there, he’s just always got his surfboard and is hitting the waves).
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But the probability of an actual makeover of Ken is lower than low. While a fashion website created some fat, balding and even hipster Ken dolls, Mattel has not confirmed anything about actually revisiting the make and model of Barbie’s beau.
Because, of course, little girls need to know that they all come in different shapes and sizes — but boys, well, there’s just one kind of them.