Earlier this year when Mattel launched their Sheroes one-off doll series, made to celebrate Variety Magazine’s Power of Women Luncheon honorees, a lot of buzz was generated around the inclusion of filmmaker Ava DuVernay (director of indie gem Middle of Nowhere and 2014’s critically-acclaimed but awards overlooked Selma). Along with Trisha Yearwood, Sydney “Mayhem” Keiser, Emmy Rossum, Kristin Chenoweth and Eva Chen, the dolls were created to raise money for various charities.
When word got out about the dolls and Ms DuVernay’s likeness being captured in particular, consumers took to social media, demanding that the doll be made available for public purchase. Well, fast forward almost eight months later and a sign that Mattel heard the roar of the masses – yesterday the company announced that the doll would be available for sale on Monday (today) through their website: barbiecollection.com, with the proceeds going to charity.
Well here on the East Coast, Monday has come and nearly gone and well, so has the Ava DuVernay Barbie doll. After a prompt from my college roommate, I slunk away and attempted to pre-order first on the aforementioned Barbie website and then on Amazon.com, only to get shunted on both counts. I investigated and the doll was, in fact, completely sold out. And I could not be happier.
Although sales have declined in recent years, for many women my age (high, low and in-between), Barbie is a well-remembered part of our childhood. For better or worse, Barbie did symbolize a sort of rite of passage for me anyway. That said, among the chief complaints about the dolls concerns their fetishization, exaggeration and misrepresentation of the female form and the product line’s lack of diversity.
As someone who has collected select Barbie dolls over the years, I generally follow the development of new lines and dolls as they come in. To their credit, it seems that Mattel has attempted to address some of these criticisms, all in an effort to keep up with the times, and by consequence, keep its place on shelves in doll sections around the world.
Enter Ava DuVernay. Flush off the success of Selma and with rumors swirling about her involvement in a Marvel MCU franchise (Black Panther), her profile has surely been raised in 2015. But neither Mattel nor I could have predicted that the demand would be so great. But what does this mean?
Simply stated – Representation Matters. Of course there are those professional collectors who see this most limited of editions as a gold mine – but they have always been here and will continue to seize any new opportunity. However I suspect a larger portion of those who laid down their $65.00 today are people like me and my friend, women of color who are over the moon to see a creative powerhouse like DuVernay getting her just due and consider getting the doll as a way of celebrating her accomplishments and showing our support. We also recognize and understand how much of an inspiration she can be for young girls who will now know who she is and hopefully see a new world of possibilities open up to them.
Mattel and Barbie have been moving forward and made it their mission to expand Barbie’s world and imbue her with the traits and characteristics that will serve to inspire girls who play with the dolls to someday aim high.
This is an excellent step in that direction.