The Evolution of Polly Pocket

This series is seriously wringing some serious handwringing out of me.

To be clear, not once have I created a post by first finding the evidence of evolution and then posting it.

It’s been more like this:

  • “gee, I remember Candy Land looking a lot different…let me get out my old board.”
  • “Oh, hey, Strawberry Shortcake, I love her! Is she still a thing?”
  • “Polly Pocket! Is she still around?”

Indeed, she is, but like the rest of the artifacts in this series (even the ponies, for cryin’ out loud) she has gotten taller, thinner, and sexier.

I had a 1989 Polly Pocket–Polly’s Townhome, I do believe–and I loved it. How fun to have a tiny dollhouse you could bring with you anywhere!

The original (circa 1989) Polly Pocket figures looked like this:

1989 Polly Pocket figures

Let’s just run through the years quickly, shall we?

1990 figures

Note 2 things about these early figures:

1. essentially childlike

2. not sexy

1990 figures with “pocket”
1994; a wee bit taller, maybe?
1995; wee bit sexier.
1998, the pivotal year, methinks
1998, sexier, less childlike–but still not grownup or super-skinny
2001, and it becomes about dressing her up instead of playing dollhouse…
2002, ditto, but sexier
2003, Polly goes on a crash diet.
2004. At least they’re portraying some eating.
2006; Polly and her anorexic friends aboard a floating paradise-of-consumption.
2007. Bare bottomed anorexic Polly!

And the contemporary Pollys:

Cute matching wellie/umbrella dollies
skinny bathing beauty Polly. Note the huge eyes!
Just to compare, these are the figures I played with (around 1989-90)

I’m finding this trend disturbing, to say the least.

How could playing with increasingly Barbiefied dolls NOT exacerbate young girls’ body dissatisfaction? How could the movement of toys toward ever sexier versions of themselves NOT contribute to the premature sexualization of young girls?

Maybe not for every child that plays with them, but certainly for some.

Further, what does it mean that toys (esp. toys that attempt to represent some kind of human figure) are trending toward consumptive activities in the way they’re packaged and presented? In other words, my Polly Pocket lived in a little apartment. She could have friends over and play house, go to work, hang out with her cat. Today’s Polly Pocket can change her clothes, ride on her luxury jet and go on a cruise. There’s something about her (not just her, but many toys) that celebrates consumption in a way that I’m not sure is pretty sure isn’t healthy.

What do you think? Do you find this trend disturbing? Am I being quixotic?

{You may enjoy the other posts in this series: The Evolution of Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Candy Land, Morton Salt & Coca-Cola, and G.I. Joe}

The Cultural Evolution of My Little Ponies

So I’ve been on the lookout for more artifacts that might say interesting things about how we represent bodies, and then this weekend at the Festival of Faith and Writing, the lovely Amy L. Peterson introduced herself and said “Check out My Little Ponies! They’ve changed!”

And I did.

So here we go, three separate incarnations of My Little Pony–

Moondancer toy, 1980s
My Little Pony TV show, 1980s

And then the Moondancer toy from the mid-90s, a bit taller, a bit thinner, eyes larger and ‘sexier’ (is that possible on a plastic toy pony?)

Mid-90s TV show poster

And a contemporary pony, much taller and thinner, with even huger, sexier eyes:

and the television show poster, where the eyes are frighteningly large:

Is the slimming of toy horses reflective of the growing fear of fat in our culture? Does sexiness in a toy animal relate in any way to the expectation of sexiness in or of a young girl? I don’t know. But the old ponies seem childlike and sweet, and the new ones don’t.

What say you, dear readers?

{You may also enjoy reading The Cultural Evolutions of Candy Land, Morton Salt & Coca-Cola, and G.I. Joe}