In 2006, Mattel (again) had the nutty idea that they should honor breast cancer fighters/survivors with a special Pink Ribbon Barbie and donate a percentage of the profits to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which is so noble that 17 bald eagles exploded when you read that sentence.
So What's the Problem?
Imagine creating a doll whose sole purpose was to honor people born with flipper arms, but instead of crafting actual flipper arms for your doll you give her the most beautiful arms mankind had ever seen and a withering, condescending smile to beam back at the mutated horror-children she is meant to honor. This Barbie is kind of like that.
Mattel's approximation of someone with cancer.
Women battling breast cancer frequently lose their hair from chemotherapy and, in extreme cases, end up having one or both breasts removed as a last ditch effort to save themselves from the disease.
So "honoring" survivors with a fully coiffed pink princess and two gigantic, perfect boobs, who's on her way to the Healthy Lady Ball didn't quite sit well with a few people.
What makes this more confusing is the fact that the creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, was a breast cancer survivor herself. So why was Mattel--who had the nerve to mass produce a doll with a fetus inside of it--too squeamish to make a toy actually depicting the symptoms suffered by the very woman who created it?
Oh right, because nobody would've fucking bought it.
Following the phenomenal success of the Cabbage Patch Kids, Coleco chose to expand the doll line in a new direction, wisely targeting the whimsical joys of life-threatening premature births.
The Cabbage Patch Preemie dolls featured smaller bodies than their full-term counterparts, tiny diapers and baldish heads that smelled like they'd been rolled around in baby powder for seven hours.
So What's the Problem?
You know what's not all that cuddly? A one and a half-pound infant fighting for its fragile life in a coffin-shaped incubator with more tubes and machines attached to it than Weapon X. Don't forget the bandages that keep the light out of its underdeveloped eyes, or the little heating beds it has to lay in because it can't maintain its body heat. Toss in some weeping parents and a couple of nurses probing and prodding its frail little body and you've got the must-have toy of the season.
Coleco didn't even remotely try to emulate actual premature babies, which was probably for the best because other dollmakers have and this is what they ended up with:
Transforming delicate babies into big, fat-headed Cabbage Patch dolls is hardly endearing to preemie parents, but Coleco stepped up to the plate with this brilliant commercial, telling us once and for all that all it takes to keep a premature baby alive is a shitload of cookies:
Sigh. Yeah, we had a sneaking suspicion that we weren't done with Barbie.
In 1997, Mattel joined forces with Nabisco in a cross-promotional effort that delighted fat little girls nationwide. And to prove once again that Mattel has the racial sensitivity of a package of Handi Snacks, they picked the one cookie in the universe that could ever be construed as offensive, ever.
Not a Photoshop.
Marketed as a toy that girls could feed their Oreos to after school (what?), Mattel manufactured both white and black dolls each sporting clothes that had "Oreo" written all over them as if they had just been attacked by a crazed team of Nabisco executives armed with magic markers. Early plans to pair the white doll with Ritz and stencil the word "Cracker" all over her clothes were nixed before production.
So What's the Problem?
"Oreo" happens to be a derogatory term used within the African-American community to describe a black person who, on the inside, really wants to be white. Get it? Because an Oreo is a chocolate cookie with white filling. It's the kind of thing it would take the whitest toy design team in the world to miss.
That's why it wasn't until the dolls were on shelves and baffling people across the country that Mattel realized their mistake (thanks to a collective "Are you shitting me?" from members of all races).
The Oreo Barbies were yanked from stores and discontinued, immediately turning them into sought after collectibles and leaving us with the riddle of what ethnic group Mattel will offend with their next promotion.
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For more toys you shouldn't buy your children, check out 9 Toys That Prepare Children for a Life of Menial Labor. Or find out about some toys that will straight eat your child, in The 13 Most Unintentionally Disturbing Children's Toys.
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