In 1999, Mattel brought out a Barbie doll with tattoos but instead of being the big seasonal hit, there was so much protest against tattooed Barbie that the doll was withdrawn from the market. Now, a decade later, tattoo Barbie is back... but is she in style this time?
This is where what's really being debated is whether Barbie is an influence on girls or whether she is a reflection of modern culture. The Barbie toy line is targeted towards ages five and up. In 1999, the position of tattooing was more that it was moving into the mainstream, with more visibility on celebrities and women. Parental protests over Barbie as a role model for little girls was successful in depicting tattooing as a behavior considered inappropriate for those youngest Barbie collectors and consumers.
In this letter to Mattel from the Daddy of a Barbie-owning Princess, the anonymous father expounds upon his fears of a tattooed Barbie.
Ten years later tattooing has just continued to grow in presence, becoming even more commonplace in the media and popular culture. Now that so many older sisters, baby-sitters, moms and grandmas have tattoos, is it okay for Barbie to have them too? You would think that now that Barbie is fifty years old, she could do whatever she wanted... The only way to tell will be to watch the market response. Last time this idea came into production, the negative response was fairly quick and clear-cut. So far, there have been some protests about "Totally Stylin' Tattoo Barbie." The doll comes with art designs that can be temporarily stamped on the skin of the children playing with the doll.