My fascination with piercing and body modification started very early in life. Like most girls, I painted makeup on my dolls, chopped and dyed their hair, pierced them, and gave them all tattoos. I knew then that things could be modified and personalized, even the body. At the time I could do to my Barbie doll what I could not do to myself, I lived through her in a weird way. I knew that someday I would have colorful hair and piercings, and it is all her fault. Generations of girls have used their Barbie dolls to discover fashion and develop their own style. Barbie has become an icon and a role model. I remember spending endless hours changing her clothes and making up lives and personalities for all of my dolls.
Barbie is certainly an interesting character in pop culture. She is the “perfect” woman and is often judged for giving young girls a false idea of perfection and unrealistic expectations of what a woman should look like. The right hair, makeup, accessories, figure, friends, and boyfriend are all you need for a perfect plastic life. It is illogical to think that anyone can measure up to those standards of beauty. There are some women who haven taken extreme measures, and gone through plastic surgery, to look like the doll. If she was a real person she would break in half from the weight of her breasts. That to me is much more frightening than a woman with piercings and tattoos.
In 1999, Mattel released a Butterfly Art Barbie that came with a permanent tattoo on Barbie’s stomach and in 2009, there was the infamous Totally Stylin’ Barbie. The fact that the doll came equipped with a “tattoo gun” is what bothered parents the most, although it’s really just used to put the tattoo stickers on. In 2011 the controversial Tokidoki Barbie was released. She has pink hair, stilettos, a cactus-covered pet, oh yea, and is covered in tattoos. Tokidoki’s tattoos are actually inked on. Her upper body is covered with exotic looking tattoos, including a large flower covering her chest and a tiger that curls up her neck. Some parents don’t think it appropriate for little girls to be playing with a tattoo covered Barbie. They say it’s sending the wrong message to their kids.
There are other dolls on the market that sport piercings, tattoos, colorful hair and alternative fashion as well. Bratz, Monster High, and My Scene Dolls are all examples of this trend in toys. There is also a growing trend in collectable doll modification. Artists are adding body modifications and embellishments to dolls. There are countless DIY instructional videos and tutorials on how to modify your doll. You can learn everything from piercing a doll’s ears with a staple, to how to stretch it, to branding and tattooing your doll. Much more advanced and sophisticated than the “modifications” I was giving my dolls when I was young.
The best toys reflect real life. All of my friends have piercings and tattoos, therefore their children will have pierced and tattooed parents. 1 in 4 Americans now have at least one tattoo. Tokidoki Barbie is just a reflection of a more accepting attitude toward body ink and alternative fashion in general. Body art and modification are not going anywhere, and the times are finally reflecting that. Many children have parents with tattoos and piercings. Tattooed moms everywhere are applauding that it’s about time there’s a Barbie that looks like them. Piercings and tattoos are not a measure of character. I think that dolls that have body modification are a step in the right direction and a sign that the world is changing for the better. It is great to see positive examples of piercings and tattoos in children’s entertainment. Tokidoki Barbie is a positive example for children not to judge, and reflects that regardless of what someone chooses to do with their skin, they are beautiful.