Mariachi Barbie by Mattel is Actually an Improvement Upon Past Representations of Mexican Culture, But It's Still Not Perfect
Mattel attempts to tackle world culture with its "Dolls of the World" Barbie collection. Given that tons of little girls (and boys) play with the dolls from a young age, it's important that the dolls cover a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. But, unfortunately, the company doesn't always get it right — remember "Mexico Barbie," which came with a "Chihuahua friend" and a passport? Yes, really. However, Mattel's latest shot at Latin American representation is actually kind of an improvement. Her name is "Mariachi Barbie."
"Mariachi Barbie" wears a gold-trimmed bolero jacket and cropped trousers, a wide-brimmed sombrero, and a white blouse with a hot-pink bow at the neck, plus high-heeled black boots. She has dark hair worn in a low-ponytail and skin several shades darker than "white," so at least Mattel didn't just throw a traditional mariachi costume on a totally white-washed doll. According to BuzzFeed, Felix Sanchez, the chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, is OK with the depiction, saying: "Well at least she’s not coming off as sexy Latina Barbie, spinning on a pedestal. This is an image that does exist. It helps us embrace toy making in a way that makes it relevant and authentic.”
"Mariachi Barbie" in all her glory.
The problem with the "Dolls of the World" line is that it often paints a highly stereotypical picture of a specific culture by choosing the most instantly recognizable (and at times problematic) images from that culture. For example, "Hawaii USA Barbie" wears a hula skirt and lei. And then there's that "Mexico Barbie" I mentioned earlier . . .
But, for all Barbie's faults, I do think it's important that she represents a range of nationalities (and body types . . . your move, Mattel) given how many children love to play with her. If you're interested in snagging "Mariachi Barbie," she'll be available sometime this month for $24.95. But please make sure all the little ones in your life understand that not all Mexican women play in mariachi bands.