The UK’s Sindy Could Become the First Third-Culture-Kid Doll

Her 50th birthday is around the corner and she can no longer keep up with fashion. Can anyone save Sindy, the doll created to be a British rival to Barbie?

So begins David Sillito in his article for BBC News, “How Barbie Crushed Sindy” (July 2, 2012).” The “she” he is referring to is Sindy, a doll created by England’s Pedigree Toys in 1963. Like Iran’s Sara and Dara, Sindy was presented as an alternative to the American-made Barbie.

Sindy was the “British girl-next-door.” Compared to Barbie, she had a rounder face, a younger look, shorter legs, and a flatter chest. Sindy had great success through the 80s, peaking in 1985 with 80% of the UK doll market. But as the 90s began, Sindy was losing out to the ever glamorous and trendy Barbie, so Pedigree remade her, more in the image of her American rival. Mattel, Barbie’s manufacturer, noticed and filed a lawsuit against Pedigree. The British company responded with another makeover.

Helen Carter, “an avid Sindy collector and fashion lecturer” misses the old look, telling BBC “[The original Sindy] has got such a warm, friendly expression on her face, she’s got side-glancing eyes. She’s not challenging in any way, she’s pretty, she’s the English Rose.”

Up until 2009, the newest generation Sindy was being sold by Woolworth’s, but when that chain closed, Sindy said goodbye, as well. Now, Pedigree is looking for someone else to take over the Sindy name. “We don’t really have the skills to keep up with all the fashions,” says Pedigree’s Jerry Reynolds. “If it’s a retailer or a manufacturer, they have to change her clothes every year to keep up with trends.”

I think I have a solution. Sindy should go back to her origins, and she should be marketed as the “Third Culture Kid” doll. Here are 6 reasons why it makes sense:

  1. In 1984, Michigan State University sociologist Ted Ward called TCKs “the prototype citizens of the future.” The future has arrived and Sindy can help lead the way.*
  2. Many of the earlier Sindys are proud of their TCK heritage, as they have “Made in Hong Kong” printed on their waists.
  3. TCKs don’t always “keep up with the trends.” Sometimes it’s because they aren’t aware of the trends, sometimes because they disdain the trends. Either way, Sindy can create her own fashion statements. (And, as the BBC article mentions, Sindy could re-adopt her original wardrobe, going “retro to cash in on the popularity of vintage looks.”)
  4. Barbie has a closetful of international costumes, but they’re just that, costumes. Sindy could show the world what the real global citizen wears, as she transitions in and out of countries. Think of the culturally-relevant clothing possibilities. Collect them all!
  5. If Sindy could talk, what global stories she could tell, and all with a cosmopolitan British accent.
  6. Sindy should get back her “side-glancing eyes” (they turned forward in the makeover). This would represent the inquisitiveness of the TCK mind, mixed with a little bit of suspicion.
  7. Sindy looks like a TCK name, doesn’t it?

So who will save Sindy? Raise your hand and give Mr. Reynolds a call.

* When I wrote this post, I hadn’t looked up the source of this oft-quoted quotation. Actually, it’s from 1987, and it’s a paraphrase of “[T]he missionary kid of the nineties will be the prototype of the Christian of the twenty-first century.” I wrote more about Ted Ward and the context of this quotation at “TCKs as Prototypical Citizens and Culture Shock as Exaggerated Poop: Ted Ward and His Views on Growing Up Abroad.” (updated 03/2015)

[photo: “Sindyhat,” by Holly at The Thinking Doll, used under a Creative Commons license]


Ken and Barbie, Not Welcome in Iran

Back in 1996, religious leaders in Iran declared Mattel’s Barbie un-Islamic because of “destructive cultural and social consequences,” but toy sellers largely ignored their edict. Starting in December of last year, though, Iran’s morality police initiated an official ban on the doll (and her companion, Ken). Who will fill the empty shelves? Enter Sara and Dara, created by the Iranian government’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in 2002 “to promote traditional values, with their modest clothing and pro-family backgrounds.” The pair of dolls are modeled after eight-year-old children, and even though that is young enough for Sara not to have to wear a headscarf in public under Islamic law, one is provided with each of her outfits. Quoted in Islam for Today, Masoumeh Rahimi, a toy seller in Iran, welcomes Sara and Dara’s arrival. “I think every Barbie doll is more harmful than an American missile,” she said. Another shop owner, agreed, calling Sara and Dara “an answer to Barbie and Ken, which have dominated Iran’s toy market.” But a Reuter’s report quotes a toy seller in Tehran who has a different opinion of the changes: “We still sell Barbies but secretly and put [dolls covered with veils and wearing loose-fitting clothes] in the window to make the police think we are just selling these kinds of dolls.” And Famaz, a 38-year-old mother, said, “My daughter prefers Barbies. She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat.” Made in China, a Sara doll sells in Iran for about US$15, compared to US$40 for a real Barbie, and US$3 for a copy.

(Mitra Amiri, “Iran: Morality Police Cracking Down on Barbie Dolls,” Huffpost World, January 16, 2012; “Dara and Sara—Iran’s Islamic Alternative to Ken and Barbie,” Islam for Today)

[the photo is of girls in Iran with a Barbie backpack: “Picture 980” by cordelia_persen, used under a Creative Commons license]