The goal of Mattel's "Dolls of the World" Barbie collection might be to boost intercultural understanding -- but it seems the brand has tried the tolerance of specific communities it seeks to represent.
The latest batch of dolls in the collection -- shown in the slideshow below -- was introduced last summer. Each one comes with a passport and a pet -- Holland Barbie has a bunny and India Barbie, a monkey. The accessories assigned to Mexico Barbie, however, have been the focus of considerable skepticism from commentators.
Bloggers including Laura Martinez have protested the inclusion of a passport at all, suggesting that making special reference to the doll's documentation is offensive.
On Cafemom's The Stir, blogger Adriana Velez called the entire set a "missed opportunity" to teach about real cultural diversity.
Complaining that the Mexican doll's costume was not only old-fashioned, but also inaccurate, she suggested alternative accessories like "a white blouse with colorful embroidery and a woven shawl."
"[A]ll girls deserve dolls that enlighten them, not that talk down to them with this half-assed ethnic tourism," she wrote, adding that a hairless dog -- or even a Mexican bass guitar -- would have been a more appropriate prop than a Chihuahua.
I don’t understand what the big deal is. They’ve been doing international dolls for years now. The Dolls of the World series is not meant to represent examples of modern women in the now ubiquitous jeans and t-shirts now found around the world. ... I personally am thrilled to see a big company like Mattel preserving these beautiful and historical costumes that are rich in symbolism, meaning, and history.
National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts chairman Felix Sanchez sounded off more generally to Fox News Latino about the "dated" images projected by the dolls.
In an online announcement last June, when Mattel relaunched a group of the Dolls of the World principal designer Linda Kyaw noted that she had never been to Mexico when she designed the Mexican doll.
Responding to complaints on Twitter, the company wrote: "Mexico Barbie is 1 of 100 Barbie Dolls of the World. Current dolls wear a country-inspired outfit & have a passport & animal."
In a statement released to The Huffington Post, Mattel said:
Each doll wears an ensemble inspired by the traditional costume and fashion of the country. ... We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua. Our goal with the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, as well as the entire Dolls of the World Collection, is to celebrate cultural differences and tradition, introducing girls to the world through play.
The controversy comes not long after New York mom Karen Greene Braithwaite started a petition -- which now has nearly 15,500 signatures -- asking Mattel to use Barbies of color on party supplies. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like her wish will be granted anytime soon.