Barbie criticized for allegedly leaving out Asians in ‘inclusive’ Tokyo 2020 collection

Barbie is being called out on social media after the Mattel brand repromoted its Tokyo 2020 collection without visible “Asian” representation.

The collection: First unveiled in February 2020, the collection was designed by Mattel as part of a licensing agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It features five dolls reflecting five sports debuting or returning in the Tokyo Games, namely (1) baseball/softball, (2) sport climbing, (3) karate, (4) skateboarding and (5) surfing.

  • Each doll has specific sporting apparel and equipment. They also wear Tokyo 2020 jackets and come with gold plastic medals on a ribbon, allowing children to hold their own “awarding” ceremonies.
  • A press release from Mattel states that its Olympic product line — which includes a separate collection of Hot Wheels and a limited-edition UNO deck — highlights “inclusivity and innovation.” Meanwhile, the Barbie brand has a dedicated webpage about its commitment to representation, which states that it is important for children “to see themselves reflected in product and content and to be exposed to different skin tones, hair types, and abilities.”

What critics are saying: The collection saw a fresh wave of criticism after its repromotion on Twitter on Saturday. Many took offense for its apparent lack of an Asian doll, especially since the Games are taking place in Tokyo and Asians — including Asian Americans — have been winning medals from day one.

  • “Mattel renders #AsianAmericans invisible while touting ‘most diverse doll line yet,’ highlighting an Asian country, featuring #Barbie in Japanese karate uniform [and] branding each doll ‘Tokyo official,’” artist, technologist and activist Drue Kataoka, who is Japanese American, wrote. “Even as @sunisalee_, an #AAPI, becomes the breakout star of the @Olympics.”
  • ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim also took a jab at Barbie, tweeting “How. Is. This. Even. Possible.” She added, “No worries. @sunisalee_ and other #AAPI girls will have an entire LINE of dolls one day!”
  • Some reportedly say that the doll on the upper right corner of the marketing photo — whose sport is skateboarding — looks Asian. However, Taiwanese American entrepreneur Dave Lu referred to Barbie’s own Chloe Kim doll, writing “this is what an Asian Barbie looks like” and “ambiguously Asian isn’t good enough.”

Check out more reactions below:

NextShark has reached out to Mattel for comment.

Featured Image Screenshots via MyFroggyStuff

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