Tokyo Olympics: Did Toymaker Mattel Forget It Took Place in Asia?

In their special-edition Barbie dolls, Mattel included a Black plastic lass, but not an Asian

Is it possible that the more inclusive one tries to be, the more likely one would also exclude? US toymaker Mattel recently revealed their latest special-edition Barbie dolls, released to commemorate the just-concluded Olympic Games. They are supposed to be ethnically diverse, but an Asian is clearly not represented among the smiling quintet. There are two blonde Whites, and a brunette, one Black, and one possibly Latino, but not one face that could stand for Asia, which, according to World Population Review, is the most populous continent in the world (and, as any school child knows, the largest), with a current total of 4.7 billion people (China and India represent 1.37 billion and 1.29 billion respectively). How is that not large enough for Mattel to consider crucial for representation?

On 29 July, Mattel shared a tweet to tout its range of sporty Barbie dolls with fashion, smiles, and medals that were supposed to reflect “the fun and friendship to the season”. It seems that an Asian face has no part in the fun and friendship. Twittersphere took note and hit out. Mattel quickly responded with an official statement released to the media. They admitted that they “fell short” in not including an Asian Barbie among the line-up that is supposed to celebrate the Tokyo Games. Despite that admission, the irony that Asian representation is missing to mark an Olympics staged in Asia is not at all lost. Adding to the deep dismay that an American company could fall so short is that one of the stars of Team USA at this year’s Games is Susina Lee, the first Hmong-American to represent the Stars and Stripes, and winning a gold in the gymnastics individual all-round.

To be sure, Mattel has been more woke than other toymakers and has released Asian dolls in the past, including male ones, in particular the wildly successful BTS dolls (which reportedly raised the company’s worldwide sales by 10 percent). But, for an Olympics edition toy that is supposed to reflect the global nature and representation of the Games, the maker of the 61-year-old Barbie appears not to be able to cast its sight beyond its own Whites-are-more shores, even when they outfitted one of the blondes in what appears to be the karate uniform gi. In that fateful Tweet, Mattel added the hashtag #YouCanBeAnything. Except, perhaps, Asian?

Photo: Mattel/Twitter

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