Día de los Muertos Barbie hit with cultural appropriation backlash

Day of the Dead Barbie
Mattel

Starting September 12, the new Día de los Muertos Barbie will be available from Amazon, Target, and Walmart for a pricey $75. According to Mattel, the doll was inspired by and is meant to pay homage to the Day of the Dead, Mexico, the celebration, its symbols, and its people. Some people aren't feeling the love and think that this Barbie screams "CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!"

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The limited edition Barbie's face is painted to look like La Calavera Catrina, which was created in 1912 by caricaturist José Guadalupe Posada and has come to be an iconic symbol for Day of the Dead. She also wears a crown of cempasúchil (Mexican marigolds) with butterflies and a long dress embroidered with flowers and butterflies. All of these details are meant to honor the symbols of the Día de los Muertos celebration in Mexico. So why are some people so upset by this Day of the Dead Barbie?

Mattel clearly did its research when creating this Barbie.

Mattel clearly did its research when creating this Barbie.

Mattel

Mattel, the parent company of Barbie, clearly researched Day of the Dead when creating this Barbie. Designers included cempasúchil, which are used to decorate altars and help the spirits of the dead find their way to their living loved ones. They included monarch butterflies, which migrate to Mexico at the same time of the year that Day of the Dead is celebrated (October 31 to November 2). They clearly tried to get it right so as not to offend, so why are people still offended?

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Where Mattel sees cultural appreciation and homage, some see cultural appropriation.

One Twitter user wrote:

"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!"

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Is this cultural appropriation at its worst?

Another equally offended Twitter user thinks that Mattel profiting from what "is a religious celebration for the indigenous ppl of Mexico" is the epitome of cultural appropriation. There's no doubt that releasing the doll just in time for this year's Day of the Dead celebration will indeed make Mattel some money.

Not everyone is mad at the Día de los Muertos Barbie.

In response to the tweet that called for Mattel to "STOP PRODUCTION," many people voiced their approval of the new Barbie. Like Nelson Abreu, who wrote: "I think it's a wonderful tool for bringing our culture into our children's everyday lives."

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It's OK to be torn.

Here's the thing: When it comes to issues of cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation, there isn't always a clear-cut answer. You have to follow your conscience and your gut.

If the doll speaks to you and makes you happy that Day of the Dead is being recognized and appreciated, then buy it--that is, if you can afford it. If the doll offends you, then don't buy it. The United States is a capitalist society, and we vote with our wallets.

Topics: dia de los muertos  toys