Repainting Barbie Dolls; A new artistic trend or pointless vandalism?

By Harriet Lowbridge

The fad of repainting Barbie dolls came about in the early ’00s. People have been cleaning off and recreating the faces and bodies of Barbie dolls, Bratz dolls, and Monster High dolls. You want it, you can probably find it. The dolls give people the chance to express themselves, break away from social stereotypes and create realistic dolls in the image of beloved celebrities or characters.

Fashion dolls have faced criticism and critique for decades now because of their basic and formulaic approach to the female figure. Debates have sparked because of their unrealistic, hyper-sexualised designs and sexist career prospects. They don’t exactly pose perfect role models for the children playing with them and basing their own self-image on. Barbie dolls, especially, have a long history of contributing to issues like body dysmorphia and self-image issues. The creation of the real-life Barbie doll girls attests to this where women are paying thousands of pounds on plastic surgery to look like the dolls of their childhood. Dolls which have such a huge bearing on how we see the ideal women. Thus, a new craze was born.

Nowadays you can find video tutorials for creating your own dolls and then you can find premade dolls for sale on eBay or Etsy for seemingly ridiculous amounts of money. One artist of note is Olga Kamenetskaya, whose work has astounded audiences because of how hyper-realistic her dolls are. With small flaws intentionally left on in the artwork and even body modification such as realistic nipples and body fat added to some dolls, Kamenetskaya’s work emphasises how unrealistic the original dolls are as well as revelling in the beauty of the dolls themselves. But when you come to question whether repainting the dolls are worth the time and effort consider how just one of Kamenetskaya’s repainted dolls could set you back over £700 and even her painting tutorials come to £100. So, there is definitely money in the industry and a market/audience for these dolls for those willing to pay the money for a collection or for artists looking to earn money the same way.

Personally, I see these repainted dolls as a brilliant form of artwork, they have created a new mode of artistic expression and really allow people to see how improved the dolls look with a bit of time and effort. Even the videos of people repainting have proved to be a new form of artwork, they allow audiences to engage, request and recreate the dolls that fascinate them. This new craze proves that the dolls don’t have to be plastic or fake looking to get attention from people. In fact, many people, myself included, seem to prefer the realistic versions of the dolls. They also reveal a gap in the market, companies such as Barbie’s Mattel could produce art kits and blank dolls to allow children to style the dolls as they please, getting the enjoyment from creativity as well as playing with the dolls. Barbie dolls could face a new evolution, they could begin to revert the stereotypes so inherent in our society. Young children could finally start seeing representation and diversity in their toys as well as dolls which actually reflect what a regular human being looks like. Body positivity issues could begin to decrease and as a society, we could begin nurturing our youth to love their own bodies instead of striving for the dream of ‘plastic perfection’.

Overall, these repainted dolls symbolise a new hope for upcoming generations who might finally get the chance to grow up without the overbearing dogma of body stereotyping. They symbolise the flourishing of artistic expression and creativity still around in the world. They provide a bright future for us all.