Barbie doll tattoos are stirring up controversy yet again. Mattel releases the pink-haired, tattoed Tokidoki Barbie doll, which some are calling out as inappropriate for young girls. But Barbie doll tattoos have come under fire before, and Mattel has been making dolls specifically for adult collectors for years.
Mattel has released a new Barbie, and she’s a far cry from the smiling, leggy blonde that the “Barbie” name calls to mind.
The Tokidoki Barbie doll, created by Italian designer Simone Legno, sports a short pink bob, permanent Barbie doll tattoos covering her neck, chest, and shoulders, leopard print tights, and a black tunic top etched with Tokidoki’s heart-shaped skull and crossbones logo. She comes complete with sunglasses, a purse, and a little dog dressed as a cactus who goes by “Bastardino.”
The Barbie is getting a bit of backlash from some parents, who think her tattoos and short skirt send the wrong message to young girls.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s not for kids. It’s out there, “ says Marianne Szymanski, mother and founder of Toy Tips, an independent toy researcher with testing centers all over the country. “The argument that you’ll get from the toy companies is: 'Oh, it’s for adults.' But those companies need to know what parents’ concerns are.“
Indeed, the doll is sold on Barbiecollector.com, the section of the Barbie.com website that caters to adult Barbie collectors. It isn’t featured on the Barbie section of the main Mattel site, nor sold at children’s retail toy locations like Toys R Us and Target.
“Many of Barbie’s most pop-culture couture outfits have been designed for the adult doll collector," Mattel said in a written statement. "The Tokidoki Barbie is a perfect example of a limited-edition doll sold through select retail locations such as Tokidoki boutiques.”
Tokidoki is a Japanese-inspired lifestyle brand based in California, founded by Legno.
Much of the concern focuses on the doll’s tattoos. This isn’t the first time a Barbie has sported ink: In 2009, Mattel released Totally Stylin’ Barbie, which came with stick-on tattoos. Unlike the Tokidoki doll, Totally Stylin’ was specifically marketed toward children. It also came under fire upon release, but the doll’s defenders likened her wares to temporary tattoos.
But the Tokidoki Barbie’s tattoos are permanent, which some parents fear will inspire kids to scar their bodies in permanent and (to some) unsightly ways.
Most children playing with Barbies these days are probably used to seeing tattoos, however: a 2006 Pew Research survey found that 36 percent of adults age 18 to 25 have at least one tattoo, as do 40 percent of those age 26-40. Additionally, 54 percent, or over half of respondents in those age groups, had done at least one of the following: gotten a tattoo, had a body piercing in a place other than their ear lobe, or dyed their hair an untraditional color (Tokidoki doll pink, for example).
“I don’t think that doll is really appropriate for a six-year-old,” Szymanski says.“Just because a person has a tattoo, does that mean a doll should have a tattoo?”
Chris Byrne, aka “The Toy Guy” and content director of timetoplaymag.com, an online toy review magazine, doesn’t think that a tattooed doll will necessarily motivate young children to run out and get tattoos when they turn 18.
“At the end of the day, the doll does not model behavior,” he says. “If you don’t like tattoos, it’s your obligation as a parent to not allow tattoos. Children will do things in play, that they aren’t going to replicate in life.”