Reading about the importance of Barbies reminded me of something the creative team at LEGO said after they released their line of toys made specifically for girls, LEGO Friends. I would have to look up the statement, and then try and see if the study they’re basing it on is available, but I’ll see about that later. They stated that they had done extensive research about what young girls want in a toy, and one of the claims they made was that girls want toys that they can use as an avatar in their play scenarios. The avatar would take the place of the girl in her imagination, and do all the things that she would do.
This leads me to a few questions. First, if girls see their toys as avatars acting out their fantasies, why do all the fantasies that LEGO Friends provides involve adventures in domesticity? I find it hard to believe that every little girl’s fantasy is to get her hair done at the salon, then frolic through her pastel home. Second, if girls see their toys as avatars, what happens when her avatar is uniformly white, blonde, and thin? I’m reminded of Latoya Peterson’s comment, and how her cousin grew up feeling her black woman’s body was deficient. Is it because she spent so much of her play time pretending to be a white Barbie? Does the lack of representation in toys, in avatars, contribute to a sense of dissatisfaction around bodies of color?
I had little interest in Barbies when I was growing up. Whenever I did play with them, they were only as props in a game of ‘save-the-damsel,’ and my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had to save her from Taz the Tasmanian Devil, the perennial villain. Which also makes me wonder – if girls see their toys as avatars of themselves, what does that say about my identification with Leonardo the Ninja Turtle?