It’s endlessly hilarious to me how seemingly innocuous tweets can end up launching low-key freakouts on a massively wide scale. Take, for instance, a tweet that emerged from the official Barbie Twitter account last week: If you’ve ever wondered what Barbie’s last name is, the tweet definitely answers that question… but it also threw a large swathe of Twitter into a crisis as they learned details about Barbie and her family they hitherto hadn’t an inkling were even part of the picture.
It all began on National Siblings Day, which occurred on April 10 this year. That day, the @Barbie Twitter account tweeted out a brief message in honor of the occasion: A photograph of Barbie and her sisters accompanied by the caption, “Happy #SiblingsDay, from the Roberts sisters!” But as simple as it was, the tweet threw an awful lot of Twitter users for a loop — largely because many weren’t aware that Barbie and her sisters even had a last name.
But they do. In fact, Barbie’s real name isn’t even actually Barbie. It’s Barbara Millicent Roberts.
If you are well-versed in your Barbie history, you probably already know this little tidbit, but for anyone in the “Who TF are these Roberts people?!” camp, here’s a quick summary: Barbie was created in the 1950s by Ruth Handler, who had founded Mattel along with her husband, Elliot, and Harold “Matt” Matson in 1944. Ruth and Elliot’s daughter had been born a few years prior in 1941 — and it was her fascination with paper dolls that lead to the development of what would become the Barbie doll. Many three-dimensional dolls at the time were baby dolls, but the roles the Handler’s daughter assigned to her paper dolls during playtime were very adult, full of jobs and adventures that baby doll play doesn't usually encompass. Observing this style of play, Ruth wondered if there might be a market for a doll that looked like a grownup, rather than an infant, so she got to work.
Somewhat hilariously, the model for her work-in-progress ended up being a sexy pinup doll from Germany named Bild Lilli; after spotting the doll, however, she knew that it had the kind of look she wanted her own creation to have. Ruth Handler’s fashion doll subsequently made its debut at the 1959 American International Toy Fair.
The Handlers’ daughter, by the way, was named Barbara. She's the doll's namesake.
Over the years, though, it appears that Barbie’s full name has been… well, not exactly lost to the sands of time, but kind of shoved in a corner to collect dust. Or at least, that’s what the amazed and astonished reactions much of Twitter had to @Barbie’s National Siblings Day tweet suggest:
And it’s not just the young folks, either — the Roberts family name was news even to seasoned Barbie owners:
But I mean, hey. At least there's this:
It wasn’t just the mention of the Roberts family name that shook the foundations of Twitter’s collective childhood; there was also the small matter of Barbie’s siblings as displayed in the tweet's photograph:
And, I mean… that’s fair. I did already know Barbie’s full name, but as a non-collector who doesn’t have kids and has therefore not really kept up with the key elements of the Barbie canon, I had no idea Barbie had so many sisters.
Apparently, she’s currently got three: Skipper, Stacie, and Chelsea. I’m familiar with Skipper — she was around during my own Barbie days during the late ‘80s and ‘90s — and now that I’m looking at the name, I have vague memories of Stacie arriving on the scene when I was young; Chelsea, though? Who is Chelsea? And, for that matter, who is Kelly?
Turns out, Kelly and Chelsea are pretty much the same person; Kelly was introduced as the youngest Roberts sister in the mid-‘90s and before being retired and relaunched as Chelsea in 2010/2011. The more you know, right?
Here’s the really bananas thing, though: There are also other Roberts siblings who have been written out of the narrative. Not too long after Skipper was introduced in the mid ‘60s, a pair of Roberts twins came along named Tutti and Todd. An infant sister named Krissy was also briefly available in the late ‘90s.
Just, y’know… FYI.
AND YET THERE IS STILL MORE.
The internet really went to town unraveling the tangled web that is the Roberts family in response to this one simple tweet; some, for example, had some… questions about the fact that Skipper’s hair isn’t the same color as her sisters’:
And although that's a possibility, I'd like to take this moment to point out that there are plenty of reasonable explanations for Skipper's hair color that do not rely on the idea of Margaret Rawlins Roberts cheating on her husband, George. (And yes, those are the names of the Roberts parents, according to a series of novels starring Barbie and family that were published in the ‘60s.) Maybe there was a recessive dark-haired gene on both sides of the family that expressed itself only in Skipper. Maybe they’re a blended family. Maybe Skipper dyed her hair (she's also got purple streaks, after all). Maybe she’s going through her emo stage.
Further supporting the emo theory is Skipper's wardrobe choice:
Alas, though, it’s not a Paramore shirt; it’s a “Paradise” shirt, which happens to be Skipper’s outfit for the Barbie and Her Sisters in a Puppy Chase line:
Either way, though, I’m kind of loving Skipper’s “lewk” these days; the dark hair with the purple streaks is speaking to me deep in my soul. Of course, I say this as a person with dark hair who had blue streaks until fairly recently, so… I am perhaps a bit biased here.
But despite how wild this ride turned out to be for so many people, let’s not forget that it also united families:
According to the U.S. Census, there are around 376,774 people with the last name Roberts in the United States. Are they all necessarily related? No, but it’s kind of fun to think that there might be some ties in there somewhere — even among fictional characters who exist only as dolls.
Happy belated National Siblings Day, Roberts family. Thanks to you, the world will never be the same.