Essay on Toys as Role Models

1127 Words Sep 7th, 2010 5 Pages
Toys as Role Models

Judy Attfield, who holds a PhD in history and design, has written numerous articles in relation to design history. Her articles, often written in a formal and informative style, concentrate on parenting and family issues. Citing the differences in the maneuverability designs of Barbie and Action Man, which embody the stereotypical cliché of feminine passivity and masculine activity respectively, “Barbie and Action Man: Adult toys for girls and boys, 1959-93” (P. Kirkham (Ed.), The Gendered Object (80-89). Manchester: Manchester University Press) by Judy Attfield argues that children are not only able to subvert toy’s stereotypical meanings but also create fantasies of their own.

Targeting the general public in
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Since its release in the global market during the 1960s, Barbie and Action Man have been at the forefront of toy popularity indices. Not only have they topped sales chart, they have also become symbolic toys for our generation. On the other hand, alternative toys like “Happy to be me Doll” and “Adventurer”, both variants of Barbie and Action Man, have not met the level of popularity achieved by their predecessors (Attfield, 1996). This is largely because children simply love the ready-made characteristics of Barbie and Action Man. This could mean, that playing “Happy to be me Doll” as Barbie, or “Adventurer” as Action Man is either utterly unappealing or perhaps, unthought-of.

The statistical fact on the popularity of Barbie and Action Man suggests that a child’s interest in toys is based on the perceivable characteristics given to them. Children are attracted to the characteristics that popular toys possess and wish to attain or at least experience them through role-play. The characteristics associated with the two toys under scrutiny are Barbie’s passivity and image as a petite young model, glamourized through fashion and beauty, and Action Man’s action-filled role as a soldier who is full of valor in the battlefield. Considering how Barbie and Action Man objectify gender as ‘adult’ dolls (Attfield, 1996), it can be

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