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New Barbie commercial features a boy for the first time

A boy has been put front and centre in a Barbie commercial for the first time since the doll was created in 1959

Boy in Barbie TV commercial

YouTube

Barbie is the world's most iconic and troubling doll (sorry, G.I. Joe, but you know it's true). Millions of children have grown up adoring her, prompting many people to wonder just what ideas those kids are getting from the doll.

With her blonde hair, white skin, impossible body and all-girly-girl image, Mattel's most famous plaything has hardly been a beacon of diversity.

But now a boy has been put front and centre in a Barbie commercial for the first time since the doll was created in 1959.

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The new TV ad for Moschino Barbie features two girls and a boy with a fauxhawk playing with the doll, created in collaboration with the Italian fashion house.

" Moschino Barbie is so fierce!" the boy says as he hangs a purse on the doll's arm.

Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott explained the decision to feature a boy in the commercial in a statement sent to the BBC.

"I felt it was natural to have a little boy representing for all the little boys like myself who played with Barbies growing up. Barbie was more than a toy. She was a muse for me," he said.

Many people have praised the commercial online.

"This almost made me cry! I used to play with my sister's Barbies and felt such shame afterward. I'm so glad we can just let kids be kids. Thank you for this! Boys like dolls too!" wrote one YouTube commenter.

Hateful people have said hateful things, too, of course (they always do).

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There's no doubt the ad is a laudably progressive step for Mattel. It's impact online is a sign of just how big and important a step it is.

Let's give the company credit. But let's also remember this is still Barbie we're talking about, a doll that studies have shown does terrible things to little girls' body image.

The new commercial is certainly well-timed, considering the growing debate over gendering toys.

Earlier this year, Target announced it would redesign its toy section to group all toys together. It said it would also no longer use different coloured backdrops to indicate "boys toys" or "girls toys."

Many other companies have also come under fire for marketing gender-specific toys.

The more cynically minded observer would point out the commercial is also well-timed for the bottom line. Barbie sales have been sagging for the past four years – down 16 per cent in 2014, according to Forbes. The more buyers it can attract, the more profits it will reap.

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Whatever its motivations, Mattel should be praised for helping to break down gender stereotypes. Boys who want to play with Barbies shouldn't be stigmatized.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't see any toys as "boy toys" or "girl toys." They would simply be toys.

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