It’s obvious what the issues with Barbie are. She perpetuates an unattainable beauty standard, influencing impressionable, young girls globally. Barbie also maintains sexism against women with her stereotypically female careers. What I want to talk about is how white she is. Launched in 1959, it would be eight years until an African American version were released in 1967, but only “Colored Francie’s” skin was darker, her facial features were still Caucasian. In 1968, the popularly adopted “official African American Barbie” named Christie was released with more genuine African American features. Then, 20 years later in 1988, Teresa, a Hispanic Barbie, was released.
BARBIE® 2015 Birthday Wishes® Doll – Hispanic
Mattel has been applauded for their efforts of including ethnically correct African American features in their doll line, but you would never be able to tell that Teresa is in the least bit Hispanic. Mattel now has 27 versions of their African American doll, varying in shades of skin, facial features and names, but major retailers like Target and Walmart have been cited for variations in pricing between identical versions of Caucasian and African American Barbies. Teresa stands along side her only variation, a new Barbie labeled on Mattel’s website as “BARBIE® 2015 Birthday Wishes® Doll – Hispanic.”
BARBIE® Fashionistas® Teresa&® Doll
The progress of racial inclusion is incredibly slow at Mattel. Where are the 27 versions of Hispanic dolls? Where are any Asian dolls? As the widely accepted American icon of current, feminine beauty standards, Barbie excludes the representation of a significant part of modern America. Therefore, Barbie devalues those women as Americans because they don’t fit the mold of the ideal American woman: white, sometimes black, barely Hispanic.
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When we think of American culture and its icons it is inevitable that the subject of music should be addressed. Not only has America influenced the music industry globally, it is the music industry! The appeal of American music could be due to the fact that it is an amalgamation of voices from every depth of society. From the yearning laments of Irish immigrants to the soulfulness of the African-American Gospel choirs, American music is perhaps more poignant and penetrating. It represents the struggles of its people, the triumphs, diehard patriotism and the faith that ‘change is gonna come’ where change is needed.
Automatically, Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A’ and McLean’s ‘American Pie’ spring to mind as the forefront runners of iconic American songs. This promotion of American ideals and staunch patriotism dominates our perception of what it means to be American, ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ But perhaps a more fitting icon of song would be Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’ This song acknowledges the everyday adversity of American citizens whilst asserting that America the Great has the capacity for change.
Cooke, like too many American legends, died prematurely yet his legacy as the ‘King of Soul’ lives on in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His role as prevalent pioneer in the world of soul inspired many of the greats from Aretha Franklin to Marvin Gaye. As an African-American of Chicago, Cooke was a fervent activist of the Civil Rights Movement. However, his popularity was owed to happy go lucky tunes i.e. ‘Wonderful World’ and ‘Twistin’ the Night Away.’ The jovial nature of such songs exemplified all that was good in American life. For the ‘King of Soul’ such trivial tunes lacked punch and passion which served as a constant inner turmoil. It wasn’t until Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ that Cooke was truly worthy of the sobriquet ‘King of Soul.’ Moved by a white man’s accuracy and poignancy in depicting the struggle of African Americans, Cooke came to the realisation that music was key in projecting mass values, therefore the key to change in regards to racism. Losing his white fan base was no longer a fear as the quest for the greater good took centre stage.
Ultimately ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ became the anthem of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The song alludes to the long African-American struggle from the middle passage to present day. But most importantly it stays in the realm of optimism of Cooke’s prior works. It does not denounce the government nor sully white Americans. In an avant-garde fashion, it acknowledges discrimination, violence and hate however only as a temporary condition. Change will come and humanity is not void of good. ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ achieves immortality with a transient and relatable message regardless of the era. A song which decades on can stir emotions and render the coldest of hearts worthy of feeling, more than deserves the status of icon. Its theme of hope should be utilised in every nation, it does not reside in the pessimistic or oblivious but inhabits societal realities and is willing to act.
Shanice Atkins (QUB)
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