Once Again, Barbie Faces Competition From A New Group Of Stylish Plastics

There's a graveyard filled with sassy plastic dreams, where stylish dolls with slightly oversized heads and/or tragic 80s denim shorts are buried beneath gravestones that read "Here Lies So-And So: She Tried To Mess With Barbie."

Barbie has been stumbling over the past few years, her once powerful pink plastic empire taking a hit as Bratz, tarted-up sass-pots your daughter could love, stole much of her thunder and a great deal of her business. Like many other competitors, however, the Bratz were eventually taken out by Barbie and her crack team of lawyers, leaving the blonde pilot/doctor/astronaut/beauty queen shaken but once again at the top of her game.

The cracks in Barbie's armor, however, are providing opportunities for new challengers to slip in and try to take her broken-like-two-seconds-after-you-get-it-out-of-that-dumb-plastic-tie-thing-in-the-box crown. Two "fashion doll" lines, the "Liv" dolls and the "Moxie Girlz" (we're still doing the "z" for s thing, eh?) are currently the biggest threats to Barbie's reign in the doll aisle, offering girls dolls that celebrate the fun of fashion over the cost of fashion.

According to Ruth La Ferla of the New York Times, the Liv and Moxie lines (along with Barbie's new "Fashionista" line) veer from the limousines and bling of the Bratz era. The Liv dolls, she notes, are "positioned as the anti-Bratz, decked out in denim jackets and tooling around on tiny motor scooters," and the dolls are geared toward "pint-size consumers who mimic girls in their teens," which I take to mean that the dolls are more representative of young girls wanting their dolls to dress like cool teen idols Demi Lovato or Miley Cyrus as opposed to wanting their dolls to look like billionaire whores in their 30s, as the Bratz line often did.

The Liv line, La Ferla notes, is also specifically designed to veer from Barbie's oft-bemoaned appearance, as the dolls have "plump facial features and contours softer than Barbie's," as well as wigs that can be interchanged to allow girls to have more options with styling, a great idea, in my opinion, as I ruined at least 5 Barbies as a child by trying to "style" her hair. Of course, the new dolls are not without criticisms; there are still several accessories to "collect" and, as child psychologist Susan Linn tells La Ferla, "These girls remain immersed in a world obsessed primarily with looks and clothes."

Whether or not the Liv dolls or the Moxie Girlz will eventually overtake Barbie is yet to be seen, and I suppose the new lines are a step up from the horrendous Bratz line. But still, it's hard to get excited about another "fashionista" product aimed at little girls. Yes, the limo may be gone, and the clothes may be more age-appropriate, but I'm so tired of the message being sent to little girls that fashion is the most important thing on earth (somehow, "fashion designer" has become the be-all-end-all job for kids), and that even their dolls have to keep up. I suppose in the end it comes down to a balance; there's nothing wrong with having fun with dolls or fashion, as long as parents remind their kids that it's more about having fun than having all the right things.

Losing The Limo [NYTimes]

[Image via New York Times.]