First, a Barbie alternative that’s being called a “normal Barbie” is getting a lot of attention. The doll looks like an average 19-year-old American woman, not a female whose measurements, studies show, are anatomically impossible. Then, a goof from the House of Barbie is stirring up controversy for its suggestion that women need help from men to do things like create video games and fix crashed computers. Barbie’s troubles are coming right as Americans enter the holiday shopping season — the most important time of the year for Barbie parent Mattel (MAT). Outrage was growing this week over a Barbie book, “I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” that was published in 2010 but was still available at Amazon (AMZN). While the title of the book sounds empowering, readers don’t have to go very far to see that Barbie is in fact a horrible computer engineer.
In the book, Barbie sets out to design a computer game in which a robot puppy does cute tricks. But Barbie admits she is only coming up with design ideas. “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” she says. Later in the book, Barbie crashes her laptop, her sister’s laptop, ruins her sister’s homework and music files and spreads a computer virus that she had been carrying around with her on a heart-shaped flash drive necklace. Some computer engineer. Finally, Barbie is rescued by the aforementioned Steven and Brian. “It will go faster if Brian and I help,” Steven adds. Mattel apologized for the book Wednesday on its Facebook page, saying that it has reworked its Barbie books since 2010. “We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits,” the company said. “We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief.” Mattel also pulled the book from Amazon.
The controversy comes as Lammily, a doll created by Pennsylvania artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm, makes its debut. Lamm raised more than $500,000 on a crowdfunding site earlier this year to develop and produce the Lammily doll. Since then, the doll has been manufactured and will ship out next week to the project’s backers. Lamm showed the doll to a Pennsylvania class of second graders and received some encouraging reactions, according to Time. “She looks like my sister,” one girl said. “She looks like she would help someone if they were hurt,” said another. Aw! People can buy the Lammily doll online for $25 along with a $6 reusable sticker pack that can give the doll freckles, scars, acne, cellulite, mosquito bites and grass and dirt stains. Lammily does not come with a heart-shaped flash drive on a necklace. But that’s probably a good thing, because Steven and Brian may not have fixed it yet.