Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oreo Barbie

I for one, love the Oreo Barbie doll for the multiple levels of unintentional humor, especially since most black Barbies always look like shallow upper-middle-class, materialism-minded BAPs anyway.

For a bit of background: a Caucasian Barbie was sold as a tie-in promotion to Oreo cookies (these crosspromotions are relatively common - remember Pepsi Optimus Prime?), and it sold so well that they decided to do a black version of the same doll. And apparently nobody stood up and said this was the most terrible idea in history.

I swear, Mattel must have the most hilariously clueless people on the face of the earth, like every level is staffed and headed by Larry David. It's like almost everything they do ends up either unintentionally offensive or a camp classic, like the George Michael looking "earring Ken" that is a top seller in the gay community. This sort of thing keeps on happening over and over, mostly when they try to make an effort to be "understanding." For instance, remember Barbie's friend Share-A-Smile Becky, a doll that had a pink wheelchair? The best part was that Share-A-Smile Becky's wheelchair didn't fit inside Barbie's dream house.

I had a friend that did a semester of study at the Mattel accounting office, and those of us in my college clique were thrilled to hear his stories about that workplace. The company that make Barbie really does have a hilariously reactionary, regressive and paranoid corporate culture. The office is like a throwback to the 1950s: it has a fully stocked bar, and sexual harassment was rampant. Minorities aren't exactly overrepresented, either...this is one of those situations where if only one black person had pointed out that a black Oreo Cookie Barbie was a terrible idea, the idea might have stopped before it got too out of hand.

Coming out of this climate, it's no surprise they keep on putting their foot in their mouths.

1 comment:

David said...

My wife used to work for a place that sold, among other things, "commemorative firearms." Now, as a rule, you can't ship guns directly to a customer's door unless it's classified as a black powder firearm, so a good number of their projects took this route.

Well, one day when going over the final version of some ad copy someone noticed a typo and pointed out, in a panic, that they'd better not send out an ad for a "black power" rifle. Whew, crisis averted. (I might mention there was no real "color" in that office, either.)

The funny part is that not too long after that they launched a series of guns honoring Country Music stars and using the names of their biggest hits. So it was that a pistol honoring George Jones was actually advertised and sold as "The 'He Stopped Loving Her Today' Revolver."