Last year, the toymaker revealed it was working with the International Olympic Committee to create five new dolls that would highlight "inclusivity and innovation." However, it many believed that said "inclusivity" only applied to the new sports added to this year's Games — namely surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding, karate and softball — because, as critics pointed out, it didn't look like there was an Asian Barbie.
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Granted, the faux pas stayed relatively under the radar until Barbie's official Twitter account promoted the collection in late July. That said, the line was met with online backlash after commenters alleged that Mattel didn't make an Asian doll — something that was particularly odd given the fact that the 2021 Games were held in Tokyo.
#Barbie is committed to empowering girls to participate in sports by capturing the fun and friendship of the season, and inspiring kids to find the athlete within.🏅 #YouCanBeAnything #tokyo2020 #Olympics https://t.co/MFjn2ZhfvW pic.twitter.com/XftIDTaZMo— Barbie (@Barbie) July 28, 2021
"Wow. Wordless. Olympics in an Asian country yet zero attempt to represent any Asians in your collection. Shame on you," as one person wrote, while another referenced Suni Lee's big win for Team USA added that "an Asian countries [sic] has the most gold medals" (Note: China and Japan actually ranked second and third in gold, respectively, in the total medal count).
Wow. Wordless. Olympics in an Asian country yet zero attempt to represent any Asians in your collection. Shame on you @Barbie— laviel (@psyduckphd) August 6, 2021
According to Mattel you can can anything , but ASIAN if you want to be included. The Olympics is literally happening in Asia. An Asian countries has the most gold medals. An Asian-American won gold in one of the biggest and most poplar event. Talk about tone deaf. Do much better!— Allen Chan (@achan0501) August 6, 2021
In response to the pushback, a Mattel spokesperson told the publication that the skateboarder doll with auburn hair was supposed to be Asian, though they also admitted that the company "fell short" in its efforts.
"Fostering a more inclusive world is at the heart of our brand and we strive to reflect that in our Barbie product line. With our Barbie Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 dolls, we celebrate a range of athletes to inspire kids to find their athlete within," Mattel said in the statement before adding that the toymaker would "work to find more ways to champion all representation and celebrate the amazing achievements of all Olympic athletes" in future collections.
People then went on to note that Mattel has previously released Chloe Kim and Naomi Osaka dolls. And though that doesn't really make it any better, Mattel's full statement can been seen via the publication, here.
Photo via Getty / Charly Triballeau / AFP
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