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.”
#Barbie is committed to empowering girls to participate in sports by capturing the fun and friendship of the season, and inspiring kids to find the athlete within.🏅 #YouCanBeAnything #tokyo2020 #Olympics https://t.co/MFjn2ZhfvW pic.twitter.com/XftIDTaZMo
— Barbie (@Barbie) July 28, 2021
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:
Where’s the Asian American when we have a gold medal winner in gymnastics?
— Mc Nelly Torres (@WatchdogDiva) August 1, 2021
Anti-racism and true inclusion includes: Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander. @Barbie @Mattel. Just ask @WHIAANHPI. Thanks #StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate https://t.co/mBlVSHbMUT
— United Chinese Americans (UCA) (@ucasocial) August 1, 2021
The absence of an Asian Barbie is notable despite Mattel’s desire to empower and support diversity and inclusion. This while featuring a (Japanese) karate uniform too!
What a missed opportunity to access a large and growing consumer market and to fully reflect Mattel’s values.
— Heidi (@HeidiHugh8) July 29, 2021
Where’s an Asian-American Barbie?
— just_kos99™ aka Helen S #DecriminalizeCannabis (@just_kos99) July 30, 2021
Where is the Asian Barbie? And if the doll in the upper right is supposed to be Asian, it was poorly executed and the company needs to go back to the drawing board. 🤦🏻♀️ https://t.co/zc8mU3rAss
— Erica/TC Underground (@eanderson4791) July 31, 2021
Seriously? APAHM was just in May and #antiAsianHate is still ongoing and with Sunisa Lee winning Gymnastic Gold, there isn’t an obvious Asian American Barbie Olympian? Do Better.
— Vincent Yee (@vincentyee8) July 31, 2021
Why are you commenting? Y’all don’t even make Asian barbies when the Olympics is literally held in Japan…
— flo money (@florenceyyoung) July 29, 2021
How absolutely SHAMEFUL of Barbie for no Asian representation. Just terrible!!
— CD (@CD3524) August 1, 2021
NextShark has reached out to Mattel for comment.
Featured Image Screenshots via MyFroggyStuff