Barbie’s Tokyo Olympics collection forgets to represent the Asian community.


Barbie is under fire for not representing the Asian community in their Tokyo Olympics 2020 collection.

A Tokyo Olympics Barbie Collection

The U.S owned Mattel’s Barbie initially launched its Tokyo 2020 collection in February 2020 as part of a licensing agreement with the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The collection features five dolls promoting the sports launched in the recent Tokyo Olympics, namely Basketball, Skateboarding, Surfing, Karate and Sport Climbing. The figures are “dolled-up” with distinct sporting wear and equipment.

They each come with gold plastic medals on a ribbon for children to reenact their own “medal ceremonies”. The Barbies also wear the unique Tokyo 2020 jackets.  

Mattel commemorates the Games through the Barbie dolls, unique collections of Hot Wheels and a limited edition UNO deck for the event.

The press release of the company states that the Olympic collection represents “inclusivity and innovation”. 

The Barbie collection is specially meant to empower young girls to participate in sports by promoting the unity and team spirit displayed in the games.

The company tweeted that it aims to inspire kids “to find the athlete within”. 

Where it all went wrong

The company repromoted this collection during the Olympics that sparked outrage and criticism on social media. Many Asians and the Asian-American community took to Twitter to exclaim their dissatisfaction.

Even after an Asian country hosted the games and many Asian players winning medals from the onset, it upset many Asians for the lack of representation in the collection.

A Japanese American artist and activist, Drue Kataoka, called out the brand for promoting the line “as the most diverse doll line” while the Asians remained an invisible figure.

The representation of the Asian community through a Barbie clad in a Japanese karate uniform and branding each doll “Tokyo official” was not a fair way of projecting the community, exclaimed many.

The question “Where is the Asian barbie?” trended on Twitter as many called out the company for displaying acts of racism.

A couple of people were also of an opinion that the skateboarder Barbie who is fair-skinned and has wide eyes, represented the Asian community.

However, Twitter user Dave Lu responded to this statement by referring to the Chloe Kim doll Barbie had previously created to show how an Asian Barbie doll should look and proved that the company has it to design an Asian beauty.

Amid the rising hate crimes towards Asian-Americans in the U.S, Wong stated in her interview with the South China Morning Post that this serves as another example showing the community’s expulsion from society. 

What does Mattel have to say? 

Mattel released their opinion on the matter, stating that skateboarder Barbie did plan to “represent the Asian community”.

The company expressed their failure to represent the Asian community through the Skateboarder doll accurately and that they acknowledged the feedback and criticism they’ve been receiving regarding this issue.

This matter has opened their eyes to the need for equal, accurate representation and has promised to develop more ways to recognise the achievements of the Olympic athletes who motivate people to dream big.

The company also reiterated that promoting an inclusive world is the main focus of the brand. 

However, Mattel has been quick to learn from its mistakes. Their recent release of a Barbie collection representing the healthcare heroes features a Filipina-American doctor.

Dr Audrey Sue Cruz is the first Asian-American frontline worker to receive the honour to be a Barbie role model. The other women doctors used as the model for the dolls come from countries like Brazil, Australia, U.K. and Canada.

Though these dolls are one-of-a-kind barbie dolls that are not sold in stores, Barbie will donate 5$ to the First Responders Children’s Foundation for each Barbie doctor, nurse or paramedic doll purchased by consumers in the U.S.

Barbie’s exceptional idea of creating dolls modelled after important figures, women and the minor communities is the kind of change that will teach the values of inclusivity and equality at a young age—looking forward to more things the company has in store. 


Yatila Jamir
Yatila Jamir
Yatila Jamir is a 20 year old majoring in English Studies from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. She is one of those many tiny women hailing from a small north-eastern state of India called Nagaland. She takes pride in her culture and also shares a deep interest in knowing more about the different cultural habits of people When not using her family as her lab rats to test her food recipes, Yati enjoys spending time on her own watching the Youtube videos of Inga Lam, Alvin Zhou and Linda Sun who makes her monotonous life a little bit better. Her areas of interest include popular culture, world politics and globalisation. Facebook



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