Skip

How old is Barbie?
April 30, 2005 5:47 PM   Subscribe

How old is Barbie? I know the toy first appeared at the Toy Fair in New York in 1959, but how old is the character Barbie meant to be?

Is she a teenager? She doesn't have any parents. Is she older? We know she doesn't have a husband. She's got a little "sister," but we all know she's meant to act as a mom when she's got the baby. The Mattel site offers no answers. I never thought about her age as a kid, but I'm beginning to think that she is ageless, that whatever "age" she is doesn't actually exist in real life...
posted by Crushinator to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
 
Old enough to know better, but not old enough to care.
posted by caddis at 5:51 PM on April 30, 2005


interesting question Crushinator, on so many levels.

I'll give you my personal opinion as my answer, as I feel that this is what you are asking for --

When I was a little girl, Barbie was older - a teenager (perhaps 18?). By the time I was a teenager, the kind of 'accessories' that were sold with Barbie made her into a girl in her early 20s.

Barbie represents aspirational marketing at its best. She offered a guideline to the lifestyle that little girls 'were supposed to' aspire to as they grew older. Pure genius from the marketing folks.

However, I never got into Barbie. I think that I was given one when I was 13 for my birthday - but I put it aside to play other games with my friends. I had more of an outdoorsy upbringing, and read lots of books - Barbie was a complete miss for me.

And I went to a private school for girls, where Barbies were forbidden - so no playing with them at recess either.

And now that I am - ahem - a little older, Barbie still represents a materialization of a girl in her 20s. For me, she represents a girl who is just out of college, first job, dating, about to embark on her first marriage, etc...

She may be 45 years old in product lifecycle terms, but in brand-terms she represents a young American girl just at the beginning of her career and her adult life.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:20 PM on April 30, 2005


Well, I can't find a specific age, but Mattel states "BarbieĀ® doll grew up in Willows, Wisconsin and attended Willows High School." so she's older than 18 (or not, if she was left back.)

This USENET post states that her age is 17 or 18 (from a Barbie story book) and she is still in high school, so that contradicts Mattel's site.

...and that's all I could find.
posted by daninnj at 6:22 PM on April 30, 2005


I would say early/mid-20s. Old enough for a girl to see her as an older sister, but young enough to still be 'beautiful' by ideological standards. Young enough to be unmarried, but also old enough to have a baby if she so chooses. Young enough to have a 10 year old little sister (whatever that doll's name is, Kelly?).
posted by rhapsodie at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2005


This doesn't answer the question, but I find it amusing that someone named "Crushinator" is so curious about Barbie's age.

To make this somewhat of a useful post, she was a doctor at one point, so unless she is Doogie Houser, she must be in her mid to late 20s. Perhaps she exists outside time or in all times at once, like God. That way she could be both teenager and twenty-something at the same time without implicating any time-paradoxes.
posted by Falconetti at 6:50 PM on April 30, 2005


Is she older? We know she doesn't have a husband.

well, she's got a boyfriend. I always figured her as a young adult... old enough to have her own life but not yet at an age where she's bogged down by kids & mortgages. Early 20s.

She's got a little "sister," but we all know she's meant to act as a mom when she's got the baby.

what baby? I never figured her for the maternal type. I was never into barbie, but my impression was that she was another 'girls just wanna have fun' prototype.
posted by mdn at 6:52 PM on April 30, 2005


Falconetti

I like what you have to say about time paradoxes, but your disparagement of my screenname has me feeling very small inside. Screennames can be misleading, you know. *sob*

( Crushinator is actually a reference to Futurama and has little to do with me, my personality, or my body type. I just thought it was funny : D).
posted by Crushinator at 7:17 PM on April 30, 2005


The idea behind Barbie came out of a mother observing that her daughter (Barbara) didn't care for dolls representing her current age, but teenage ones. Thus essentially, as seawallrunner notes, Barbie is aspirational: she is the future age you project her to be.

Regrettably for all you middle-aged women out there, I don't believe she's backwardly compatible....
posted by forallmankind at 7:23 PM on April 30, 2005


To make this somewhat of a useful post, she was a doctor at one point, so unless she is Doogie Houser, she must be in her mid to late 20s. Perhaps she exists outside time or in all times at once, like God. That way she could be both teenager and twenty-something at the same time without implicating any time-paradoxes.

Quoting from This website:

"Initially, Barbie was a fashion model, but she started getting jobs -- babysitter, nurse, student teacher -- by the early 1960s. Barbie was a college graduate long before the Women's Lib Movement. Since then, she has broken the glass ceiling into dozens of other wardrobe-appropriate occupations, including police officer, ballerina, NASCAR race driver, astronaut and Air Force jet pilot. She became a physician in the mid-70s and has since had careers as a surgical nurse, surgeon, dentist and pediatrician. She has sung at the Grand Ole Opry, run for president twice and played basketball in the WNBA."

I also learned that Ken's full name is Ken Carson.
posted by anastasiav at 8:25 PM on April 30, 2005


I always thought of Barbie as being in her late 20s - early 30s. If she ran for president, though, she has to be at least 35. Of course, it could just be that the minimum age for the presidency is 15 in Barbie World. After all, with such utterly improbable body measurements, who knows how badly skewed time is there?
posted by Aster at 9:10 PM on April 30, 2005


I like what you have to say about time paradoxes, but your disparagement of my screenname has me feeling very small inside. Screennames can be misleading, you know. *sob*

Please don't be sad. And anyway, I know better than to touch the Crushinator because "a woman that fine you gotta romance!"
posted by Falconetti at 10:09 PM on April 30, 2005


How old would someone be who is a mall piercer, a vet and a McDonald's cashier?

Complicating matters, of course, are the My Scene dolls -- which also feature Barbie -- in which she's old enough to get into the clubs but dates smarmy hipster slackers and is supposed to be "younger" than the other Barbie.
posted by Gucky at 10:34 PM on April 30, 2005


I grew up in the 70s, and I had two Barbies -- one a hand-me-down from my older sister (so, say an early 60s barbie), and one bought just for me. The 60s barbie (who looked like this, the one on the right) was clearly older than the 70s barbie (who looked more like this).

This article mentions the age difference too: "It is interesting to note that since the Barbie doll project began with Germany's Bild-Lilly during the mid-1950s, the Barbie dolls and fashions up to 1961 have a 1950s look and feel to them. While the first two dolls and their fashions portray a sophisticated adult, Barbie quickly was redesigned into a doll that was a reflection of an idealized American teen-ager."
posted by JanetLand at 10:45 AM on May 1, 2005


Barbie has her own house and shit. She's got to be at least 18. Otherwise, where are her parents?
posted by bingo at 2:57 PM on May 1, 2005


Certain over thirty five.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:55 PM on May 1, 2005


I think it just varies depending on what they want her to be. She's been a doctor on numerous occasions, and that's not a job you associate with early 20s either, generally.

She has 4 little sisters - teen Skipper, tween-ish Stacy, toddler Kelly, and infant Krissy.

I do like in the new "Happy Family" line, where Barbie is the "baby doctor," the grandparent dolls. I think they're very charming.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:52 PM on May 1, 2005


bingo - when the parental units are away, the house helongs to her
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:11 PM on May 1, 2005


« Older I am purchasing a new computer...   |  I'd like to become skilled wit... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post