McDonald’s just can’t seem to get it right. They have been under serious scrutiny from consumers and corporations for continuously promoting unhealthy food and eating habits. Furthermore, their advertising has ruffled more than a few feathers. McDonald’s latest promotion, targeting children, has critics in an uproar. They have partnered with Mattel to give away Barbie Dolls with meals and the inherent problem lies with the presentation. The ad shows a brown-skinned girl with tight ringlets wishing she could be an all white, blonde, straight-haired blue-eyed Barbie doll. Not one of the Barbie dolls are brown even though the company does sell brown baby dolls.

This type of imaging just rocks me to the core as this ad further pushes the stereotype that whites are superior to all other races and every little girl dreams of looking like a white woman. What is this ad saying to our little black/brown girls? That European features are the standard and that women that look like them are not considered beautiful? This can have long-term effects on young girls, making them internalize a sense of inferiority and self-hate. I am disappointed and displeased with McDonalds Corporation, and the fact that they didn’t see anything wrong with this ad.

Clutchettes, do you see anything wrong with it? Do you believe this ad is damaging, offensive and irresponsible?

-Nikia Pope


  • Nichole

    A young girl dreaming to become a veterinarian, fashion designer or a mother is ok. However, McDonald’s should have take an extra leap to portray a Black barbie(s) for the child.

  • Dee

    I agree with Nicole, an extra step in changing the skin tone would had been nice but hey Barbie is originally white. She is daydreaming of one day becoming what Barbie has accomplished. I don’t see the harm. At least they have a brown girl in the ad. LOL!

  • Beauty Is Diverse

    It’s clear that she’s dreaming of becoming a teacher, pet doctor or fashion designer not dreaming to be white. They should have put a bi-racial doll since the girl does appear to be mix.

  • Sheila


  • curious

    yeah, i’m agreeing with everyone else here. i don’t think the intention was to say she wants to be white as much as she wants to be like barbie/what barbie represents. unfortunately, the message was not put together in the most effective manner.

  • Bronze

    Just give me the names of the colleges and universities these idiots attended so that my great-great-grandchildren never waste their money.

  • CoCo

    It does send a mix message, yes she wants to be all those positive things,but when a child looks at the ad, since most children are very visual, it gives them a certain message. So on the subconscious level it’s saying something. Not for nothing but when I was growing up my day dreams did not consistent of white women doing great things. But of me doing great things and my mother reinforcing that “WE” as black people can do and have done great things……Didn’t mean to stretch this out but visual messages mean ALOT.

  • esmagnifique

    When the concocted image of all this little girls’ aspirations don’t resemble her in the slightest? That’s problematic. I feel like we as people (esp. in the U.S.) have become so desensitized to subliminal and sometimes overt ignorance that those who question things or take offense to things such as this are accused on being too analytical and overly sensitive. America has quite a tumultuous relationship with race and until we can openly discuss it regardless of what stirs up the conversation (maybe even a children’s toy campaign), no one will see how images like this really effect people, especially kids.

  • Natural Belle

    I think they are just missing the letter ‘a’….’I can be a……fashion designer, teacher, astronaut….also this child does look to be mixed race so perhaps the blonde Barbie image is not so far removed from what she’s see in her day to day life… would have been nice if the image showed Barbie, Christie (black) & Teresa (Hispanic?) (yeah I know all of Barbies friends!) as the last comment said the visual is very powerful so brands should think first perhaps.

  • Tiffany

    If whoever wrote this article had done her research, she would have realized that the point of the ad is not to say, “White women are amazing; black girls should want to be like them!” The Barbie I Can Be… campaign tells girls of all ages, races, and walks of life that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up (i.e. doctor, vet, fashion designer, teacher, etc.). Even if one was to claim that McDonald’s was wrong for using the ads, it was the Mattel company who originally created it. By the way, Barbie has been white since the 50s. Since the nature of the ad calls for a typical Barbie doll, I see no outstanding reason why the picture has to portray African-American dolls, other than the fact that the model used in the shot is black. Sure, you can argue subliminal messages until the cows come home, but this is really what’s up. The message is not “Don’t you want to be white?” When a little girl sees that picture and buys the I Can Be doll, she thinks “Wow, I can be anything.” If your child wanted this doll and said she wished she could be an astronaut because of it, would you refuse to buy it for her because the doll is white? I’m sure that would prevent racism, right?

  • ae

    I actually diasgree with most people here. this ad is offensive– we tend to be really quick in saying “they didn’t mean it” or “they didn’t mean it that way” when, i’m pretty sure they did mean it THAT way. it’s a pretty big oversight to intentionally select a child of color [because, we KNOW there was probably an ad discussion about that] and then put little blond white girls in her thought bubble… on some level, that is an absolutely conscious decision. if it weren’t intentional, surely there would be black barbie [christie?] and asian and latina barbie [or at least a barbie that looks like this kid] in this thought bubble; conversely, they could have casted a white child. I usually think deeply about whether or not things like this should be let go in the name of “it was a mistake/oversight” but corporations and ad execs, of all people, are not foolish, non- thinking people and they spend hours going over this! someone had to think this was okay [and intentional] on some level– but it’s been printed and posted in McDonald’s everywhere anyway.

  • esmagnifique

    In a utopia, that would be true.

    I however live in the real world and know that this image says otherwise.

  • http://[email protected] Laissez-faire

    I agree with you! Let’s not get crazy here people. The message is clear Barbie is white with lots of accomplishments that’s what it has always been. The modern time we live in now are to dissect every single detail to make EVERYHING wrong and insensitive. So let’s move on.

  • Tiffany

    I see your point, but here’s food for thought. Even if we were able to force the company to change the ad, what would you gain? The satisfaction of having your daughter’s skin color match her doll? More importantly, what are these ad executives gaining from all of this? What benefit could they possibly get from making minorities feel inferior? What I’m trying to get at is the reason that any business would have for insulting and offending potential customers simply out of prejudice. Furthermore, why does a Hispanic child have to own and admire a Hispanic-looking doll? If what matters is the message, then it shouldn’t make a difference whether the doll is white, black, or indigo. Think about the real world. Do you admire someone because of what they do or because of how they look? Did African-Americans vote for Obama because he was black or because they felt he was the better candidate? Now think about the world through a child’s eyes. Unless they have been tainted by their parents’ beliefs, a child’s viewpoint is virtually colorless. They make friends with anyone they meet and almost never judge, which is nearly impossible for adults. I wouldn’t know firsthand, but most children I know wouldn’t stop and think about what color the doll’s face is; they just want the doll.

  • DB

    I agree and although she is dreaming of being these things, at what point is ok for a mixed child to embrace all of who they are? I’m sure we wouldn’t have found this offensive if it were a brown skin barbie, which still wouldn’t look like this little girl.

    I also think the wise thing in general would be to utilize a variety of women showcasing the different careers.

  • Satin

    cosign. I do agree with the ladies who say that it may not be the intention. since the original barbie character is a white blonde doing all type of careers and activities then that probably was the real intent behind the ad (I want to be like Barbie and be a model, actress, doctor, vet, blah blah blah) HOWEVER as black people we need to be aware and openly speak against images that can hurt our beautiful black children’s self image. we need to protect little black girls and boys self esteem! images are very powerful and can really effect the psyche in a negative way when you are bombarded with images of “white is right” and “black is wack” though that may not have been the intent.

    side note. yes the little girl in the picture looks biracial and more than likely is biracial but her white features is not what gets trodden upon in the media. its those features that the world identify as “black” whether black from two parents or one parent that gets disrespected in the media. and black people do need to call it out and say that this crap is not okay and try to surround healthy images of “black is beautiful” “black is intelligent” “black is positive” so our kids can soak that in.

    which is why I adore cartoon shows like Little Bill :)

  • Satin


  • Satin

    what we have to gain by speaking out against images like this?

    we gain the opportunity to have our little black kids see more healthy positive images of themselves. thats very important and should not be downplayed. period.

  • So Over This Ish

    @ Satin…I agree with you 100%. I’m of mixed race and I don’t believe it is healthy to have little Black or biracial girls looking up to white images of beauty.

    @ Tiffany…the point seems to be that these messages are often subliminal. It is unconscious. You asked why a minority child should own and admire dolls that look like her. I dunno, maybe because Black and brown children are flooded with messages that who they are isn’t good enough?

    Barbie is a toy, but let’s not kid ourselves…she is an archetype of white beauty. That is the standard that lots of women, not all of whom are white, try to emulate. Skinny with big boobs and long blonde hair and blue eyes. This is the image that is commonly associated with Barbie, even with black Barbie dolls, because most of them are just darker versions of the same.

    I’m not saying that Barbie is bad but at the same time it is necessary to show positive images of Black beauty to children, especially little girls.

  • Katie

    I am white and blonde but I don’t look like Barbie (no normal person does), nor have I ever aspired to look like her when I was a little girl. I don’t recall ever associating my dolls with what I want to become when I grow up. I associated my mother with that, and my mother also does not look like Barbie.

    You see, Barbie is an unhealthy “symbol” of beauty for white children as well. So why are you all focused on the color of her skin? If she were black, would she suddenly meet your criteria for normal body type to aspire to for your little (black/brown) girl? I hope not!

  • Karen H.

    My daughter is Asian. When she was a little girl, she loved Barbie. I could not find any Asian dolls where we lived, so I was happy when I went to Japan…but there were hardly any Asian featured dolls there!
    My daughter is now a senior in high school, honor student, she has been offered scholarships to universities…Playing with blue-eyed, blond-haired dolls did not damage her self-image or psyche in anyway.
    Stop being so sensitive, people! The picture is a little girl imagining being those professions that that the Barbie dolls represent.

  • One Point

    Look at that picture a little more closely, note the eye color of the little girl. Are you sure this is what the company is realy portratying to children? The girl shoud be dreaming about the professions of the doll, however, if you look closely, I’m not quite sure, the little girl appears to have on blue contacts. I’m questioning the intention of the person who created this advertisement, and the person who approved it. It is commonly know that children need dolls that are of the same color (or similar) to identify themselves with.

    Should we speak out against corporations displaying harmful images to impressive children? YES. Even if the ad doesn’t intend to portay a racial image, it’s important that we monitor what children see and here, so that they have a chance to reach their highest potential. In my opinion, McDonald’s should edit the ad to include dolls of various ethinicity, to represent and reflect the diversity and demographics of our country.

  • Sarah Grif

    Thank you for this post! I saw this ad at my local McDonald’s and thought it was extremely problematic, not only because all the dolls were white, but also because the professions portrayed are so gendered. The veterinarian is fine, but I wish there had also been a President Barbie, or a Journalist Barbie, or Scientist Barbie. I guess we have to tackle one problem at a time though, huh?

  • Sarah Grif

    I would also like to remind everyone that dolls are extremely important in developing a child’s self-image and self-esteem. A young woman re-did the famous “doll test” from Board vs. Board of Education in Harlem a few years ago. Black children still identify white dolls as “pretty” and “nice,” while identifying black dolls as “bad” and “ugly.” This is a huge problem. Children need dolls that look like them.

    Here’s the story I’m referring to (from NPR):

  • Carolyn


    The fact that you are white means you dont understand the negative stereotypes associated with dark skin. Yes the barbie image affects white women because that is an image that some try to emulate. As black people, our hair is too nappy, nose is too big, skin color is too dark, etc… to fit in. Because of these negative images, we are known to wear blue contacts and long weaves. The ad just confirms these stereotypes whether she is bi-racial or not. The truth is that she is still a black girl and she needs to know that black is beautiful. If you are using a particular race in the ads, then the dolls should be a representative of who she is. They could have used all different types of dolls to show that anyone can be what they aspire to be regardless of color.

    Yes, we have people to look up to at home, but what happens outside our home is the reality. We can be taught at home that black is beautiful and that we can be anything we want to be but when we get outside our home, the reality sets in that it is not as easy as they say it is. In some companies, we never see a black person in management. I know where I work, there is only one black manager out 10 managers. And I am only one of 5 black people in an office of over 50 people. This is very discouraging but this is the reality we face outside our homes. Image is everything and we all know that the first thing we see is color and some people cannot get past the color. It is sad but true.

  • MarshaMarshaMarsha

    I find it to be pretty ironic that as I scroll through the comments for this article discussing the images that our little kids see, an ad on the left side of the page flashes different types of blonde weaves and clip-ins. It’s less about Barbie’ image, more about mama and auntie and pastor’s wife and teacher’s image. SMDH

  • Farrah

    Why would you assume that she is wearing contacts? Have you never seen a Caucasian-looking biracial person? It’s not as common, but biracial people do, sometimes, have blue eyes and light colored hair. Her features suggest that she does have mainly European characteristics, except for brown skin & hybrid hair. I doubt she is wearing contacts.