Are We Ready To Embrace “Average”?

image courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

image courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Let’s face it, Barbie is everywhere. And she’s been hogging most of all the attention for the past 55 years.Now she’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition, for God’s sake, and a lot of people  are unhappy about it.  Forbes Magazine seems especially pissed, though amusingly, their anger is aimed at Sports Illustrated rather than Barbie. Even the Girl Scouts got caught in the middle. Do a Twitter search on the subject and you’ll see how many people felt the need to weigh in.

Over the more recent decades debates over her physically impossible proportions have led to an ongoing discussion on the subject of healthy body image and unrealistic standards of beauty. The Sports Illustrated debacle has fired up the conversation all over again. Always, the discourse includes proponents of creating dolls with a more healthy body image. But what do girls really want? Do they want to play with dolls that   resemble themselves? Or do they want to lose themselves in the fantasy of beauty, glamor and roleplay? There are many voices in both camps. Barbie, after all, is an astronaut/veterinarian/supermodel who lives in a big pink mansion. Most of us aren’t. Surely that’s why she appeals in the first place?

Today I came across this article in Time magazine about an artist who wants to offer an alternative to Barbie. Nickolay Lamm’s goal is to raise $95,000 on Kickstarter to develop a doll with the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman. Ladies and gents, meet Lammily.

Image courtesy of Nickolay Lamm

Image courtesy of Nickolay Lamm

At first glance Lammily is noticeably heavier than Barbie. I want to say (and I hate this word) stocky, in comparison. But is that really fair?  is Lammily really overweight (like the average American, by the way) or just bigger than Barbie? There are people out there that might snicker and make disparaging comments at first glance, but let’s give Lammily a chance. She has a genuinely friendly expression, which certainly would appeal to children, and she is pretty. Her underwear (bathing suit?) consisting of boy-shorts and a non-revealing top are modeled on comfort and even modesty, rather than showing off skin. Her skin is fair, not tanned. She is, perhaps deliberately, not a blond. Let’s see another photo.

Image courtesy of NIckolay Lamm.

Image courtesy of NIckolay Lamm.

I really like her in this photo. I like this outfit a lot. It looks comfortable and, while it’s not high fashion, it’s cute. There’s nothing wrong with cute. I like how she’s posed with the ball, because this really does represent real girls and healthy, active play. Let’s see another photo.

Image courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

Image courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

Hmm. Okay… a two-piece jogging outfit. But really, I think this is kind of cool. I could see myself taking this doll to the beach along with the little ball in the previous photo and posing her against a tiny volleyball net. 🙂  I also dig, as Time puts it, her “advanced design,” i.e., she’s fully articulated. She can wear flat shoes as well as high heels.

Nickolay Lamm began his Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday and already people are starting to take note. This evening’s NBC News with Brian Williams ran the story. And Lamm has some pretty high-powered backers in his corner:  Robert Rambeau, a former VP at Mattel, is helping him search for a high-quality manufacturer.

There are two things about this line that I’m personally not crazy about. The first thing is the doll’s tagline: “Average is beautiful.” The word “average” sounds so…average. It sounds so second-rate by default. But what other word could replace it? Normal? Regular? I admit I don’t have an alternative. Britain’s Lottie doll is an “average” little girl whose tagline is “be bold, be brave, be you.” Maybe Lammily’s tagline could be something along the lines of being yourself, embracing who you are, etc. The second thing is the doll’s name. Lammity. Hmm… Where did that name come from?…Men shouldn’t name female dolls based on their surname. Sure, it sounds like Emily but it’s not.  A traditional girl’s name would probably appeal more to the target audience.

I’m normally not on board with crowdsourcing but I’m going to take another look at Lamm’s Kickstarter page and give it some serious thought. I can see Lammily riding a 1/6 scale bicycle, or driving a car! Not a Corvette of course, something practical but cool, maybe a hybrid. Definitely not a Chevy Cavalier. Instead of a dream house, Lammily could own a little Cape Cod, or maybe a cozy cabin in the woods.  Yes…there are a lot of possibilities here!

What do you think of Lammily? Do you like her? Do you think she would sell, or are we too conditioned to accept nothing less than plastic perfection?

Nickolay Lamm’s Kickstarter campaign is here and, SPOILER ALERT: he’s already surpassed his goal of $95,000 and raised a whopping $196,000 with 29 days still to go! Amazing!

I guess we are ready to embrace average after all.


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