With more than 60 years of experience and around 200 careers, Barbie is one busy doll.
Looking at Barbie’s perky, unchanging smile, it’s hard to believe that we’ve been living in a Barbie world for over sixty years.
The blond doll formally known as Barbara Millicent Roberts has been a childhood favorite since her debut in 1959.
Barbie creator Ruth Handler noticed that her young daughter liked to give her paper dolls adult clothing and careers.
In response, she designed Barbie, a teenage fashion model doll, as an alternative to the infant dolls that dominated the toy market at the time. The Barbie doll immediately became a smash hit, and her popularity has endured to this day.
The doll’s long history raises a question:
Just how old is Barbie?
Calculating Barbie’s age from her manufacturing debut, the first Barbie doll is now over 64 years old. Considering that Barbie was created as a 19-year-old doll, she could technically be up to 83 years old.
However, in the past, Mattel has reportedly said that Barbie is frozen in time at age 19. Being a teenager explains her seemingly boundless energy, but raises the question of how Barbie could have possibly attained all the credentials for her careers at such a young age. Mattel did not respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment on the doll’s age.
Barbie is well known for her enviable resume: according to Barbie manufacturer Mattel, she has held over 200 careers, ranging from paleontologist to Rockette.
She has even served as a United States Army officer and ran for president six times. Barbie is far from retirement, though — just this year, Barbie took on the roles of dentist, fashion boutique owner, panda rescuer, pastry chef, stylist, tennis player, volleyball player, and wardrobe stylist.
According to Handler, Barbie and her many careers were meant to inspire young women.
‘’Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future,’’ she told the New York Times in 1977.
Though it may be unrealistic for a teenager to achieve all of Barbie’s career highlights, Handler wanted Barbie to serve as a representation of possibility.
“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be,” Handler wrote in her 1994 autobiography. “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
The question of the doll’s real age has also been addressed in more recent Barbie media. The Mattel-sponsored web series “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse,” which ran from 2012 to 2015, regularly joked about Barbie’s mysterious age. In the first episode, Barbie prepares to go on a date with Ken to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the first time they held hands.
Later in the show, Barbie’s friends attempt to calculate her age on her birthday. “I know she was a doctor, and you have to go to school for at least eleven years for that,” one mused. “Well, she ran for president, and you have to be at least 35,” another added. When Barbie does reveal her age at the end of the episode, her answer is hilariously drowned out by a vacuum noise.
The ages of the characters in the Barbieverse have once again become a point of contention with the upcoming “Barbie” movie.
Actor Margot Robbie, who plays Barbie in the upcoming live-action film, is 32 years old in real life. Ryan Gosling, who plays Ken, is 42. Some Barbie fans reacted strongly to Gosling’s perceived age difference with the Ken doll, even creating the #NotMyKen hashtag to protest his casting. (It bears mentioning that if Ken’s age was also calculated from his manufacturing debut, Gosling would be exactly twenty years younger than his character.)
Part of Barbie and Ken’s appeal is their portrayal of eternal youth and happiness — a concept that “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig seems to parody in the film’s trailer. There are also multiple versions of Barbie and Ken in the “Barbie” movie. As Gosling himself told GQ, “If people don’t want to play with my Ken, there are many other Kens to play with.”
Regardless of their real ages, Barbie and Ken remain cultural icons to this day — and life in plastic still seems fantastic.