SuperHero dolls might not be sexist. But they are a bit weird

These modern dolls are made with the best of intentions. But with their bulbous eyes and skinny thighs, they still give me the creeps

There’s a new type of doll on the way – the SuperHero Girls. They’re bendy and athletic, rather than stiff, pointy and girly. The teenage version of superheroines. And we already have fossil-hunting and pony-riding dolls, and more heroic IAm​Elemental dollies, in silver breastplates, who can fight without their skirts and scarves getting in the way. They have physical powers rather than sex appeal. I suppose it’s a step in the right direction; we don’t want girls to think they have to be mimsy and fluffy. But why do the new dollies have to look so odd?

Why the super-long anorexia-style legs and the thigh-gap? The weeny torsos with no room for innards? The giant or robot-style heads, the big (mainly) blue eyes and formidable eyelashes? Weird, weird. It’s not really much of an advance on Barbie and Sindy, which my daughter adored in her earliest youth. How difficult it was to poke the rigid little limbs into the fiddly-diddly clothing. At least the new ones are bendy, but they still give me the creeps. Dolls always have.

I had a pram full of animals when I was little, but my auntie insisted that I have a dolly, because I was a girl, and she gave me a cloth one, with moulded cloth face and shiny, pretend hair. But I scribbled all over its blank, spooky face, pulled its hair out, and my mother had to hide it from auntie in the wardrobe. For ever.

That doll had creeped me out, but it was fairly ordinary. What can these strange new dolls be doing to the world’s children, with their muscles, boots, pink/mauve helmets/masks and strange proportions? It starts early. Fielding’s new baby granddaughter has a scary one called Lily. “It’s a hysterical yellow, with a baby-face, eye-makeup, and woolly jumpsuit,” says he, shuddering. Baby sensibly hurls it from her pram. But it’s not the only horrid doll in his house. Late last night, crossing the silent living room, he passed a cluster of dollies and set off some electronic device, making one squawk a robotic “Hallo, hallo, hallo!” He fled. “I thought my number was up,” said he. Progress? Or horrorshow?


Michele Hanson

The GuardianTramp

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