arbie can add another bullet point to her resume of 200+ careers: VTuber. While best known for her massive doll empire, string of movies, and hit video game franchise, Barbie is establishing new, digital stakes in the video medium as a Virtual YouTuber.
As global social media usage evolves and adoption expands at an increasing rate, Mattel, Barbie's parent company, adapts the way she communicates with her audience. As fan interest shifts away from traditional mediums towards digital experiences, the Barbie team developed her into a virtual character capable of vlogging daily in a push to to stay connected with fans as social media experiences undergo seismic shifts.
A being's ability to persist across generations and platforms while still captivating fans all the same makes them attractive candidates for the role as a brand spokesperson.
Since the start of her long-running YouTube series, “The Barbie Vlogs,” Barbie has earned the love of over 10 million new fans. As a woman with a long history of pop culture knowledge and an affinity for trying new things, vlogging is one of the most innovative outlets for Barbie to spread her message of empowerment to a new, digital audience, yet quite a natural progression in her long career.
Barbie found her voice over the course of sixty years, and she’s using it to inspire young girls to find theirs today.
"I want you to know, whatever you're feeling, you are not alone. We're all going through this together." -Barbie
Like many popular teenage YouTube vloggers, Barbie records herself sitting at a desk with her bedroom as the background. Her friends, sisters, and boyfriend Ken make frequent guest appearances in her videos. Even when recording alone, she almost always mentions one of her little sisters, which gives her vlogs a family-centric feel. The videos are concise, typically running for fewer than five minutes.
Her content covers range of topics:
- Online Challenges
- Style Tips
- And More...
In addition to her topical range, a large portion of Barbie’s videos are dedicated to “The Dream Gap.” This phrase refers to research revealing girls between the age of 6 and 7 stop seeing themselves as intelligent or as capable as their male peers.
Barbie makes it a point to reach out to girls that might be feeling the same things and reassure them of their capabilities, hoping to positively impact the Dream Gap statistics. She speaks directly about this issue in several videos while silently hinting at it in others, such as when she shares brief biographies of successful women like Katherine Johnson, Frida Kahlo, and Amelia Earhart.
Throughout history, Barbie has re-invested her image multiple times to promote progress, such as when her face was permanently re-designed in the 1970s to have eyes looking straight ahead instead of casting down. This change was made in the midst of the Women’s Liberation Movement, highlighting that women should not be afraid of confidence or demanding equality in the face of others. Barbie has also represented roles previously reserved for men, such as Astronaut Barbie prior to Sally Ride, or as Presidential Candidate Barbie prior to Hillary Clinton.
However, Barbie is no stranger to criticism. Despite her current mission of empowerment, Barbie has a murky history of poorly reflecting popular culture, which both helps and harms her everlasting reputation.
A notoriously questionable “Sleepover Barbie” was released in 1965 with a scale permanently fixed at 110 pounds and a diet book with “DON’T EAT!” printed on the back. Even though extreme dieting and weight-loss supplements were common advertisements for women (and teenagers) at the time, her decision to market those ideals to young girls has not aged well in light of current cultural shifts.
Barbie has also been accused of being materialistic and vapid, while perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards.
“Barbie creates unhealthy body standards for girls."
"Barbie is too sexual."
"Barbie is anti-feminist.”
The list goes on.
The YouTube vlogs represent a new age of Barbie. Her vlogs show Barbie as a young girl with a fully formed personality, her own passions (and realistic shortcomings), humanizing her character and making her more accessible to viewers who previously saw her in a more derogatory light. As a celebrity and influencer in her own right, Barbie’s vlogs highlight the opportunity for public figures to use their platforms for real, focused, and positive change.
Barbie’s vlogs portray her as a relatable, imperfect teenage girl—and as an online personality with real heart. Barbie’s vlogs show her endless curiosity and passion for empowering her viewers while not pretending to have all the answers.
While the Barbie doll encouraged kids to be whoever they wanted, VTuber Barbie reminds them how no one is perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Barbie’s vlogs are representative of current culture: they are supportive of self-love, they are encouraging of body positivity, and they are explorative diaries about creating your own identity.
As young girls grow and change in a rapidly changing world, “The Barbie Vlogs” are there to reassure them of their capability, strength and self-worth while in pursuit of the biggest dreams. VTuber Barbie assures us it’s possible to grow and change while remaining true to your foundation. She can be socially conscious while still demonstrating her passion for fashion and traditionally “girly” things.
While missteps may be inevitable for such a long-running and iconic brand, VTuber Barbie shows us Mattel has the potential to empower young girls forever by adapting her image to accessible mediums.
A being's ability to persist across generations and platforms while still captivating fans all the same makes them attractive candidates for the role as a brand spokesperson. Barbie is the perfect person for the job. And today, that’s as a Virtual YouTuber.