In a world in which ad campaigns are making headlines for saying “no” to Photoshop and some brands are committing to embracing broader, more realistic standards of beauty, others make no apologies in the face of many years of criticism for promoting unattainable, unrealistic ideals. So, we guess it’s about time two of those brands team up and defiantly, proudly, (bravely!) refuse to change. Or apologize. Together.
Aw, solidarity. How sweet.
A new campaign for Barbie will find the doll posing for her very own spread in the upcoming 50th installment of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, along with the tagline “Unapologetic.” The magazine will also be bringing back other Swimsuit “legends” to celebrate its 50th issue.
Now check out what a Mattel spokeswoman said about the campaign:
“Barbie is a legend in her own right, with more than 150 careers and a brand valued at $3 billion. She is in great company with the other legends such as Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, to name a few…As a legend herself, and under criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’ gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done, and be unapologetic.”
Sports Illustrated maintains a similarly candy-coated take on its purpose, message and influence, and delivers it with equally impressive ability to apparently believe its own bull.
“From its earliest days, Swimsuit has delivered a message of empowerment, strength and beauty,” Swimsuit Editor M. J. Day said in a statement, “and we are delighted that Barbie is celebrating those core values in such a unique manner.
Not everyone, as you might imagine, sees it their way. One commenter on the AdAge story said,
‘ARE YOU [EXPLETIVE] KIDDING ME? When near-perfect women who get airbrushed into flawlessness isn’t enough, Sports Illustrated features a sexual object (literally) that if real couldn’t hold her own head up…and would have to crawl on all fours to sell a subscription to a SPORTS MAGAZINE? Keep your goddamned irreverence for an “apology.”‘
We have to say, we kind of see this person’s point, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see many similar comments in the days and weeks to come. It’s one thing for Mattel to defend its brand by explaining its wholesome intentions, the decades of joy it has brought to generations, and its design rationale for keeping its doll’s proportions so unrealistic (it’s so that our future daughter’s Barbie can wear the clothes of our mother’s Barbie– it’s an heirloom thing). Taking that angle, as the company did in this recent interview, might actually make for a successful PR campaign.
But trying to stick it to the critics by saying, basically, “yeah, our product has been promoting unrealistic standards of beauty for decades, we’ve made billions doing it, and we aren’t going to apologize,” is abrasive, and in our humble opinion, quite tone-deaf.