By Lisa Gutierrez
The Kansas City Star
Barbie has been many things over the years — Air Force pilot, pediatrician, NASCAR driver, president of the United States.
Now some people think she’s a fashion don’t.
To promote Hulu’s new Barbie documentary, the Barbie Style Instagram account posted a photo of three Barbies sitting on a couch with a computer.
“Movie night with my girls to watch the @Hulu premiere of the new @Barbie documentary, Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie!” the caption read.
The two white Barbies wore their hair pulled back into ponytails. The black Barbie had dark cornrows on one side of her head and curly blond hair on the other.
The hairstyle prompted much head-shaking, confusion and even anger on social media, even as some applauded Mattel for continuing its diversity efforts.
Why is the Barbie for sale without her WEAVE DONE?
— Kevin (@KevOnStage) April 30, 2018
They just couldn’t give sus a simple bob?
— Binderella (@Keylo__) April 28, 2018
Lol barbie… this is actually just embarrassing. Like they wanted to fit every black hair style on one head. The cornrows, the dyed weave, body wave bundles. Why? Why? Why? Just ask any black person and they will tell you, that you don’t do this anywhere. ANYWHERE !
— Eno Boateng (@Enooo_x) April 30, 2018
@Mattel @Barbie On behalf of the Afro-X population we demand that there be a Aro- X rep on the design team advocating proper representation b/c caricature of us NEEDS A RECALL
If there was an Afro-X rep on the team FIRE HIM/HER! We no longer affiliate w/them!
— ThurZday (@Its_ThurZday) April 30, 2018
In March, for International Women’s Day, Mattel introduced three new collectible Barbie dolls based on historical “Inspiring Women,” including Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose work was spotlighted in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”
Like the doll’s hairstyle, this debate has two sides.
On the other hand, some people didn’t get the fuss.
“Im black and mexican. And I love it!” one woman wrote on Instagram. “I think the loom is supposed to be edgy. A lot of girls in my high school wore their hair like that, kinda punk.”
Y’all hating on that black Barbie but her hair is bomb
— mermaid princess (@mermaidhev) April 29, 2018
I think this is part of representation. There are black little girls out there that would absolutely adore her hairstyle
— Your Bestfriend (@MixCultureFlow) April 29, 2018
“Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss recognized that hairstyle. It used to be hers.
“I wasn’t gonna post this pic but since I have a sense of humor I decided to give y’all a good laugh! I saw people roasting the hair on the Barbie pic today & I laughed so hard because I had this same hairstyle before. This was my real hair, no weave,” she wrote on Instagram.
It used to be blonde but my roots were black so when @paulabrittstyles braided the side it had a similar look to the Black Barbie in the pic y’all were talking about. Swipe left to see the original pic with @mamajjoyce, @rileyburruss & I. Riley was only about 1 on this pic so this was maybe 14yrs ago.
A post shared by Kandi Burruss (@kandi) on Apr 29, 2018 at 9:21am PDT
“Still,” wrote Allure magazine, “the general consensus was negative, so time will tell if Mattel takes that into consideration in the future.”
Barbie’s future — and past — is what Hulu’s “Tiny Shoulders” explores with historians, feminist leaders including Gloria Steinem, and the women at Mattel charged with bringing Barbie up to speed for the 21st century, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Clearly, the plastic fashion doll still shoulders hair-raising expectations.
“We have a very complicated relationship with our own femininity, and it’s not just us individually,” the film’s writer and director, Andrea Nevins, told the Times..
“Society still has a very complicated and unsolved idea of what women should be today. That’s captured in this doll. She carries a lot on her tiny shoulders. I think we all do.”