Barbie starts to sag as middle age looms

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The Independent Online
There was shocking news yesterday for boys and girls alike: the fabulous legs-to-armpits figure that Barbie, that doll amongst dolls, has managed to maintain for almost four decades is not, well, altogether realistic. If you have been scouring every bar on earth for a perfect look-alike or, listen up ladies, if you have been aspiring to attain those dynamite measurements for yourself, you can give up right now. It ain't going to happen.

The folk at Mattel, the toy company that first gave us Barbie in 1959, have decided that the illusion is no longer sustainable. Were she a real gal, Barbie would come in at 38-18-34. But not for much longer.

It is true. Barbie is to become anatomically - even politically - correct. Starting next year, America's icon of impossible beauty is going to be given a little plastic surgery and it will not be a question of pinch and lift. Rather, Barbie is actually going to be allowed to sag a little.

The new Barbie body will only be revealed at the annual New York toy show next January. Cellulite dimples may not be on the surgeon's mission list but this we know: her waist will fill out, while her hips and, most stunningly, her jutting bosom will undergo some judicious trimming.

There will be a new Barbie face too. In fact, it will be face Mark IV. The current visage - all grin and sparkly blue eyes - is version number three, introduced in 1977. From next year, she will be altogether less superstar and more natural-looking with closed mouth and straight hair.

The implications of the makeover are, of course, grave. Barbie owners the world over will be forced to open their piggy banks and invest in the new model of their heroine. (Already Barbie dolls sell as the rate of two a second). Then there will be the new wardrobe to buy. Mattel is not stupid.

And what of the legions of radical feminists who have made careers out of lambasting Barbie for presenting to little girls an impossible image and sending whole generations headlong into lives of eating disorders and depression?

Mattel, by the way, says such sniping had nothing to do with the revamp. Said one company spokesman: "We've always been sensitive to that issue, but it wasn't the basis for our decision". Instead, apparently, it's all about giving Barbie a "contemporary look that's more natural and today".

No one in the meantime seems to be worrying about whether Barbie's long- time friend Ken (can it still be platonic?) might also need a more "today" look. Men's Fitness magazine recently reported that translating his manly physique into human dimensions, keeping everything more or less in proportion, would make him 7ft 8in tall.