Are Barbie Dolls Legitimate Fangirl Collectibles?

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Why is that boys’ collections of superhero action figures are legitimate collections, but girls’ collections of Barbies are “just” Barbies with no particular stature in the world of fandom? Our webmistress, Author Susan Morton, agreed to discuss this with us. – Candy
Photo Credit: Mattel Inc.

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batsetPhoto Credit: Mattel Inc.

Apparently, we are not supposed to be surprised at the treatment your love of Barbie receives. Barbie gets a very bad rap these days. According to a recent study at Oregon State University, if a girl between the ages of 4 and 7 plays with Barbie dolls, she is likely not to realize that she actually has a very wide range of occupational choices. What isn’t clear is whether the choices a 4 year-old-girl believes she has after playing with a Barbie doll in an experimental setting have any real impact on her career choices as a young adult. Hmmm. Why am I skeptical?

I loved playing with my Barbie doll. Notwithstanding this early setback, I grew up to obtain four college degrees and pursue a professional career – none of which, frankly, were on my radar at age 4. (Well, maybe I was thinking about the school part. I was looking forward to starting kindergarten). Not a very “limited” choice, if I do say so myself.

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Photo Credit: Mattel Inc.

Like most of my friends, I played with Barbie from the day I opened the box and saw that black-and-white striped bathing suit, up until playing with dolls, even fashion dolls, no longer interested me. At that age Barbie became the outlet for my own creative attempts at fashion design and construction. I designed and made clothes for the Barbies belonging to my younger cousins, buying fabric an eighth of a yard at a time from the local J.C. Penney store.

At this time in my life, collecting interests me, especially since Mattel has teamed up with DC Comics to provide us with truly awesome superhero[ine]s and supervillains. When Jennifer Garner played Elektra in the first Daredevil movie, my (very adult) fangirl friends were thrilled to receive the scarlet robed Barbie for Christmas. And I am as sure as I can be that there are young, future cosplayers in this website’s readership who are honing their design and construction skills by trying to fit that 11.5 inch silhouette into anime prototypes.

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Photo Credit: Mattel Inc.

What upsets me is that these common fangirl activities just don’t get no respect from fanboys. You don’t have to go any farther to see it than AMC’s series Comic Book Men, where Kevin Smith’s pals make it very clear that Barbies are not “really” collectibles, and, furthermore, Barbies are simply not welcome in their New Jersey comic book and collectibles store.

The scientific study I’d like to see is the one that looks into the effect that dismissive attitude has on female fandom, and fangirls’ feelings of self worth. Books, such as “Using the Force: Creativity, Community and Star Wars Fans” by Will Brooker (2002), have documented that fangirls’ fan-related activities are often very different from those of fanboys. Collecting Barbie superhero dolls and designing Barbie anime outfits are just two of those differences – and they deserve to be celebrated to the same extent as finding all the pieces to a vintage G.I. Joe playset.

Photo Credit: Mattel Inc.

Don’t forget to visit Hub Pages to learn more about – and see great pictures of – collectible Comic Book Barbie Dolls!




Quiz time: What Amazon princess left her island home to explore the world and became the greatest of its female Super Heroes? That’s right, it’s DC Comics’ Wonder Woman! And you can buy it on!

Now on  Inspired by the live-action Wonder Woman feature film, the Barbie Wonder Woman doll is sculpted and costumed like the movie character with her super hero costume with headdress, boots, armored bracelets, “magic” lasso, sword, shield and black cape. A fully articulated body is perfect for high-action poses. – Candy

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