Month: October 2015


When a Girl Plays With Barbie

Mattel’s latest commercial for Barbie draws on a powerful rhetoric of play (the one I’m always harping on about)¬†and childhood imagination to address parental anxieties about gender stereotypes. In this ad, the ‘scripts’ Barbie invites girls to act out are carefully chosen to reflect a specific and limited kind of female subjectivity where empowerment essentially amounts to one’s future profession as professor, coach of a men’s sport team, veterinarian, and business woman. The ad conveys the message that the ‘right’ kinds of play, with the right toys (ie. Barbie), can lead to the right kind of future you (adult) want for your daughter. Things we might consider in this ad are the ways in which it (and we) take at face-value the correlation between play and normal child development; how the play rhetoric enables the ad to so convincingly foreclose alternative ways of playing; and how the play rhetoric fosters a particular definition of normal and adequate female childhood as well as notions of ‘success’ in the case of this ad.