Born in 1986, this '80s baby and '90s kid remembers the colorful and naughty side of millennial youth.
Not so Tubular
The 1980s was a colorful time of excess juxtaposed with political turmoil and it also saw the birth of the first-gen Millennials or Xennials for those who were too old for the soft, soy-and-Teletubbies-raised 2nd half the 80s born are blamed for.
It was a polarizing time of political strife and partying still romanticized today, but it also had a very dark side when it came to children's products.
We're not going to blather on about the realistic toy guns or the episodes of G.I. Joe that allowed the adults to drink, smoke, and slip in a blue joke. Instead, we're going to look at what the girls were into. Maybe we should have been paying more attention to those perfume ads.
If you were too young for the overtly sexualized Baby Soft perfume - complete with creepy ads about how alluring and enticing innocence is, (Gag me with a spoon as 80s kids say.) then you got Tinkerbell, a line of real cosmetics and perfumes aimed at ages 2 to 13. Lipsticks, colognes, blush, eye shadow, and chemically questionable peel-off nail polish were available in deep pink, white and red box sets with cartoon pictures of a non-Disney fairy blessing each item with her wand.
Ads for these products teetered from predatory ("hey mom, don't you want your little girl to enjoy makeup like you?") to dishonest ("this peel-off nail polish is so safe, she can rip it off and put it on again and again without damage, honest!") to just plain despicable ("Don't you want to look cute on the playground?") and yet the star covered packages currently littering Pinterest still trigger the mind control these ads had on early Millennials as today's 30-somethings still pine for the perfume.
Get in Shape, Girlfriend!
The 80s are also known for the aerobics craze. The fluffy, frail, and skinny younger siblings of the 70s Disco scene were now telling Gen X to get off the couch and get fit. But why stop there when you can also body shame those brand-new Millennials too!
Get in Shape - Girl was a workout series of toys aimed at little girls ages 3 to 12 with highly inappropriate ads featuring little girls in heavy amounts of makeup and in skin-tight clothes working themselves into exhaustion in order to get a slim, trim, beach bod before puberty hits. And ay caramba: this toy line had a near Olympic amount of training tools, from bars to weights, these sets had more equipment than the local gym, and were in stereotypical pink too.
What? Not a fan of pink? That's all right. There was a rival Hulk Hogan set in red, yellow, and blue too. Who said Hulkamaniacs can't also be girls?
Totally Not Tubular
Full disclosure, the Barbie of today is totally radical with a line of dolls that are racially diverse, body sensitive, respectful of people with disabilities, and above all, highly inclusive. Today's Barbies just plain rock, and her CGI vlogs are empowering to girls.
That wasn't always the case though, as the 80s saw a body-conscious Barbie with more than one different line of workout sets. Barbie didn't just have little neon weights. She also had a full gym that required high school ratios and physics to put together.
She also had a nightmare fuel VHS tape, where a claymation Barbie talks to you about how you need to get in shape. Yikes! And fun fact, a tween Jennifer Love Hewitt is in it too.
Barbie had a questionable line of doll lingerie, children's makeup, and children's underwear that would alarm Chris Hansen.
But Barbie did have a few rivals during these years as well. Hasbro's Jem was a cartanime (cartoon-anime) about an orphaned entrepreneur named Jerrica who ran her dead parents' company by day and was a rock star by night. When she wasn't doing battle with the sexist Eric or bullying his band The Misfits because they're well... goth inspired misfits, she's also trying to keep a romance alive with her boyfriend Rio, a jealous man with a violent temper who has convinced himself he is cheating on her with Jem, not realizing that Jem and Jerrica are the same women. Rather than drop him like a bad habit, Jerrica muses to herself about how much prettier she would be if she changed her hair, wore more makeup, or dropped a few pounds - disturbing thoughts that led to a toyline of dolls and clothes for kids caked in makeup, dress-up kits with inappropriate body glitter and a final season where Jem, The Holograms and The Misfits are all drawn anorexic with even more glittery makeup than ever before - which likely led to the show's abrupt cancellation.
With all the sexualization and body shaming Millennials grew up with, is it any wonder this generation rebelled? The adult Millennials taking over today are creating a world that is more body sensitive, gender-neutral, and less sexualized for the little girls of today. From movies to pro wrestling, the culture has changed from one dripping in sexual overtones and body shaming to one that shows women and girls as being intelligent, strong, and more confident than generations previous.
And to think, this is where we started.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Koriander Bullard