While Mattel is best known for the blonde haired, blue-eyed Barbie in the world of dolls, there are many other lines that the company has created over the years, such as My Scene, Monster High and DC Superhero Girls. Each new line is designed to appeal to different types of customers so that each child’s desires can be met in the toys Mattel offers. This year, Mattel has taken things a step further and released Creatable World, a line of gender-neutral doll kits designed to promote inclusivity and creative play. As described on the doll line’s home page, “In our world, dolls are as limitless as the kids who play with them. Introducing Creatable World™, a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in—giving kids the freedom to create their own customizable characters again and again.”
Each set, retailing at just under $30, contains a doll with a tank top and shorts, 6 extra pieces of clothing, three pairs of shoes, a bag, sunglasses and a wig. The bodies of the dolls are designed to resemble young children and are thus prepubescent, meaning the doll can be seen as male, female or other genders as the child desires. The dolls have articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles, giving them a great range of motion and posability. Thus far there are six dolls in the line with multiple races represented.
By its very nature of enabling the dolls to be viewed as male or female, Creatable World is a polarizing line. There are many differing opinions on how gender and sexuality function and what sorts of public expressions of these aspects of our personalities are appropriate. Most people will either love or hate this line depending on where they stand on issues of gender. The line has received warm praise from members of the LGBTQ+ community and has also been decried by conservative groups. Mattel’s stance on the line in terms of branding seems to implicitly show that they are in support of the LGBTQ+ customers who this line particularly appeals to, but the wording in their marketing is always carefully thought out, focusing on inclusivity rather than on explicit gender terminology. Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, had this to say about Creatable World: “Toys are a reflection of culture, and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels.” Gender identity is a prevalent topic in the world today, especially amongst younger generations. It is fascinating to watch dolls adapt to more accurately reflect the world we live in today.
The quality of the dolls and the clothing pieces they come with is on a level Mattel has not been delivering these past few years. While most Barbies on store shelves today have stiff joints, misprinted faces or cheaply-made clothing, Creatable World offers sturdy articulated bodies, adorable faces and bold, memorable outfits. The wigs are also better made than what is generally found on the market. While most wigs look completely fake on dolls, Creatable World’s use of rooted hair means that the preexisting bangs on the dolls cover up the plastic of their wig caps, making the transformation to long hair more realistic. These dolls and outfits will hold up well to extended play. Though $30 is on the higher end of cost for a playline doll as opposed to a collector’s item, these dolls are made better than most competing doll brands priced at 2/3 of their cost. It is also refreshing to see dolls on the market whose appearance and age match the children who will play with them rather than solely offering grownup dolls like Barbie to play with.
I am glad that Creatable World exists. This line speaks to a community that has rarely if ever been represented in mainstream toys before. While this may not be a doll that everyone can get behind, I would hope that those who are against the dolls would simply not buy them and let those they are targeted toward enjoy them. No doll can be all things to all people or appeal to every demographic. That being said, I do believe that Creatable World dolls are the closest one could get to a doll for everybody given their function as customizable kits. They are designed to allow their owners to create looks and styles that are uniquely them and the quality of craftsmanship and beautiful design of the dolls allows this purpose to stretch far beyond being a mere gimmick.
Creatable World is a bold step by Mattel. I’m glad to see this historic company taking risks and producing dolls that are creative and new, engaging their customers and inspiring them rather than simply churning out the same old thing in order to avoid the possibility of controversy. The world is viewed in different ways by different people, and it’s wonderful to see that reality reflected in the doll world. I hope that this line does well and sees more releases. The quality and design in these dolls is something I want to encourage. Any child could see themselves in one of these dolls and that is certainly something worth celebrating.