A new Barbie ad features the first boy that the toy has ever used in a marketing campaign.
In a commercial for Moschino Barbie — a limited edition line that sold out an hour after it went on sale November 9 — two girls and one boy admire the designer-clad doll’s look. “Moschino Barbie is so fierce!” exclaims the boy, before draping a black purse with a gold chain over the toy’s arm.
Jeremy Scott, creative director of the Italian luxury fashion house Moschino, collaborated with Mattel on the eight-piece mini-Moschino collection. “Moschino Barbie sold out in less than an hour! Wow! Barbie and I thank u for all the love! #moschinobarbie,” Scott posted on Instagram last week.
The young boy — who some say looks just like a young Scott, with a similar blonde mohawk — closes out the commercial, too, after Moschino Barbie’s mini-cell phone rings. “It’s for you Moschino Barbie!” he says, giving a wink to the camera.
It’s fitting that Mattel would feature a young boy in this particular ad campaign, considering Scott has said that it was Barbie who originally led him to his current career. “The thing I love about Barbie is that she is the ultimate muse and inspired me to become a designer,” Scott told People StyleWatch. “Moschino style is all about humor coupled with high fashion and Barbie allows us to play out these looks in whole new way.”
Mattel’s inclusive move is the latest decision by a company or retailer to do away with gender labeling on their dolls and toys. In August, Target announced it would it stop making “girl” or “boy” distinctions for items such as building blocks and bedding, instead simply labeling products as for “kids.” In June, Disney UK banished gender labels on the costumes on its website after a young girl complained that a Darth Vader outfit should be marked as “for kids” rather than “for boys.”
In response to Target’s decision, Dr. Christia Brown, professor of psychology at University of Kentucky and author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, said the move was important, if overdue. “It really corresponds with what a lot of research shows is good for kids,” Brown told Yahoo Parenting. “Research overwhelmingly shows that when we segregate toys and label them explicitly for boys or girls, kids only gravitate to the toys labeled for their group. Even if it’s the same toy, if you label it ‘girls’ or make it pink, only girls want it. If you take the same toys and label it for boys, boys want it. So it’s not the toy itself; it’s the labeling that drives attention.”
And featuring boys in a doll commercial, as the latest Barbie ad does, can have long-lasting positive effects, Brown said. “For boys, if they are encouraged away from dolls, they don’t get the chance to learn nurturing and care-taking, all the things we want them to do as parents,” she said. “And then we are surprised when men grow up and aren’t comfortable changing diapers, when we clearly have steered them away from it all their lives.”
In other words, Mattel’s move is one that can only be described, in the words of this trailblazing young boy, as fierce.