Day of the Dead Barbie Accused of Cultural Appropriation

Mattel's Day of the Dead Barbie doll is stirring up controversy for the second year in a row. Mattel released its first doll inspired by La Catrina, the skeletal depiction of death that is part of the Mexican holiday of Día de Muertos, in 2019. As with last year's model, some are accusing Mattel of cultural appropriation regarding the 2020 version of the doll, saying that the doll profits from Mexican culture without those profits going to Mexicans. The Barbie, which retails for $75.99 and has sold out, wears a lace gown and calavera (Spanish for "skull") style makeup.

"I don't think Mattel has a genuine interest in Mexican culture," Gloria González-López, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is also a Mexican immigrant, told CNN. "It's more an interest in making money. Who is this doll going to? Is it the Mexican worker who cleans homes? Are they identifying themselves with Barbie? Day of the Dead has been secularized through pop culture, and then it has found a market in this country. Barbie is also already problematic. It's fascinating to see how these standards of beauty are placed on girls, and now we have another layer on top."

Barbie Day of the Dead
(Photo: Mattel)

Mattel, as a company, declined to comment. However, the doll's designer, Mexican-American artist Javier Meabe, did offer a statement:

"As a Mexican American Designer, it was important to me to use my creative voice to design a doll that celebrates the bright colors and vivid textures of my culture, as well, as have the traditions I grew up with represented and celebrated in Barbie. For this doll, I was inspired by the color gold seen throughout Mexican culture, jewelry, buildings, statues and artwork and highlighted it throughout the design."


According to the doll's product page, "Barbie celebrates Dia De Muertos 2020 with a second collectible doll inspired by the time-honored holiday. Dia De Muertos is a two-day holiday in early November when families gather to celebrate the lives of their departed loved ones. This colorful and lively event is filled with music, food, sweets, offerings and flowers. The Barbie Dia De Muertos series honors the traditions, symbols and rituals often seen throughout this time. Barbie doll is a vision with her face painted in a captivating calavera design. Her blush-colored lace dress is embellished with tiny pearlescent details and opens slightly to reveal a second layer embroidered with floral and skeleton accents. Golden highlights in her hair shimmer beneath a crown of skeleton hands holding roses and marigolds. May 2020 Barbie Dia De Muertos doll become a treasured tradition for your celebration. Includes doll, doll stand and Certificate of Authenticity."

What do you think of the Day of the Dead Barbie? Let us know in the comments.