Mattel has released its latest Barbie: a ‘Day of the Dead’ doll complete with a flowery dress and a skull pattern painted on her face.
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage worldwide. During the day, people says prayers and remember friends and family who have died, and many choose to wear costumes which can include skulls, associated with death, and flowers, a popular motif in traditional Mexican dress.
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The Dia de Muertos Barbie (the phrase is Spanish for ‘day of the dead’) was released yesterday and made available for $75 (£60) on the US Mattel website.
However, the product is currently sold out due to high demand.
While the doll was clearly popular, some people are calling cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.”
Twitter users called the doll “a bad joke” and “cultural appropriation at its worst”, criticising Mattel for profiting from the Mexican festival.
Is this a bad joke or what? #Mattel toy company plans the release and promotion of a Day of the Dead barbie... Dia de los Muertos is one of our most sacred traditions in Mexico dating back to prehispanic days. STOP PRODUCTION!https://t.co/wd7hB6h5ck— Travel Mexico! (@TravelMexico75) August 28, 2019
No!Day of the dead is a religious celebration for the indigenous ppl of Mexico. It is being used by Mattel or whatever corp. owns Barbie to make $ . No one believes Ken & Barbie celebrate Day of the dead. Cultural appropriation at its worst! https://t.co/HWprhUxGqb— DianaOG (@Sfdog60) September 3, 2019
Cultural Appropriation Barbie is coming out soon. Don't worry! No proceeds will go to indigenous people that sell this kind of thing much cheaper. For only $75 you can help a multi million dollar corporation get richer! https://t.co/2tTvVOM9jb— Thomas Tijerina (@thotij) September 11, 2019
As fierce/cool as this doll is, it feels odd that a day of the dead Barbie is being made by an American company for profit + novelty while poor immigrants are dying, rotting in concentration camps. I don’t know how to feel about this pic.twitter.com/nwz9BuJeW9— ~ UwU ~ (@_DarKKawaii_) September 7, 2019
Not everyone has a problem with the doll, however.
Some Twitter users have instead understood the concept as a celebration rather than an appropriation.
I love that I can incorporate my heritage with raising my daughters. This is a step in the right direction. It isn't cultural appropriation when it's my culture. It's celebrating our heritage. Take a Xanax, Abuela.— Teach® Free Range and Organic (@YesThatTeach) September 10, 2019
AWESOME! The collectible doll, which will be released on Thursday, celebrates the annual Mexican festival, in which people honor their departed loved ones. https://t.co/z091xLkAVQ— News4JAX (@wjxt4) September 10, 2019
A similar debate surrounding Rihanna’s Harper’s Bazaar China cover in July this year.
The singer and entrepreneur was photographed for the publication’s August 2019 edition by Chinese photographer Chen Man wearing traditional Chinese dress, makeup and a hairstyle complete with mini fans.
But fans claimed the fact that Rihanna posed on a Chinese publication styled by people of its culture means she did not, in fact, appropriate the culture – but instead the cover was an example of “cultural appreciation”.