Barbie, Disney, Shanghai and the “impartial” BBC

This morning I saw a report by Chris Hogg on the BBC news website titled Chinese kids sold ‘Barbie dream‘”.

The article talks about how Mattel are  opening a new flagship store in Shanghai, hoping to encourge a whole new country to embrace the Barbie brand.  They see China being their largest market in the future.  Also, even though their are “Asian looking” Barbie on sale in this 6 floor store, it is the “blond, stick-thin, traditional model” that is being sold the most.

Of course here I could wax lyrical about the impact of representation in the media and the blue eyed, blond hair aesthetic as the indoctrinated face of beauty that has been imposed on the rest of the world by the culturally imperialist Western world.  (I do believe that but have to get a train soon so no time to really get into it now! ) It is a well trodden debate though that you can find elsewhere.  See this video for just a snippet, based on infamous experiments in the States in the 1950’s.


The BBC article then goes on to talk about how Disney have just launched the world’s first ever branded Disney School in Shanghai.  The school will teach Chinese Chinese children how to speak English using “the very latest audio and video technology and of course enlist the help of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and all the famous characters children elsewhere in the world know so well. ”

If the Barbie store is about cultural infiltration by capitalist means, then the Disney School is about the indoctrination of culture on another culture by means of not only consumer choicem but by  the imposition of an educational strategy on the youngest generation of Chinse children.  Disney will no longer be a manufacture of popular culture products, but a trusted provider and source of knowledge, information and wisdom.  A clear strategy to secure the world’s most populous country as your future customers.  (Read Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ to read about the practice of multi-national corporations and their motive for ‘branding’.) 

In this blog I’m being admittedly subjective and opinionated, as that it largly the function of a blog.  Anyone expected to find impartial journalistic reporting on a blog are fooling themselves.  You would expect to find impartial journalism on the BBC though, wouldn’t you?

At time of writing this, the BBC article states in its closing paragraphs that “there is nothing sinister about it of course. The company has a long history of providing educational materials for classrooms around the world and it has put a lot of effort and research into ensuring the programme works.  But just as with Barbie, their Shanghai enterprise takes what they have done before a step further, in their case by opening and running their own schools.”

So there you have it.  The BBC’s expert critical assessment on the motives of Disney, Mattel and other multi-national that are eyeing the Chinse market.  Not even any mention that most of thse products would have been made in China in the first place and then sold back to them for astronomical prices.

And this just scratches the surface of what all of this is about.

I have a train to catch.  Ironically I’m attending an BBC “knowledge exchange” research event in London. 


One thought on “Barbie, Disney, Shanghai and the “impartial” BBC

  1. Pingback: The award for Unexpected Activism goes to…..’OK!’ magazine! « Beyond Project: notes on media/education/society __ shawn sobers

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