Friday, August 29, 2014

Sharon Tate is not Malibu Barbie

Hello everyone, kind of off topic start but I've fallen down the Sharon Tate rabbit hole once again. Yes, a bit more ghastly topic than I'm usually dealing with here. However it does have some relation to my usual subject. At several sources I keep reading that Sharon Tate's character of Malibu in the film "Don't Make Waves" was the inspiration for Malibu Barbie.

Case in point the following excerpt from Sharon's official website written by her sister: 

"Did she know about 'Malibu Barbie' being inspired by her--and what was her reaction?
No, as Malibu Barbie came out in 1971. Mattel has never stated as fact that the doll was named after Sharon's character, but I've heard that rumor for most of my life. It makes sense if you think about it, though. To get the doll on the shelves by 1971, it had to have at least a year in development. Sharon was in many ads for Coppertone and promos for the movie "Don't Make Waves" with Tony Curtis was being advertised... some Mattel exec probably took notice and lo and behold, Malibu Barbie was born. Barbie's swim suit was the same color as the one that Sharon wore in the film. Just a coincidence?"

You can find the original text here.

Now from what I've seen there are three augments as to why Malibu Barbie is based off of Sharon's character.
They are:

1. Same Name
2. Similar Look
3. Similar Time Frame of Popularity

I'm going to discuss each argument one at a time.

The first one is that they both have Malibu in their name. Malibu is in fact a city in California known for it's beaches and beach lifestyle. It is also the origin of the surfer movement that would sweep the nation in the 1970's. It was here that a dark tan skin tone and sun beach blonde hair would become the pinnacle of health and beauty. I would assume that's where Sharon Tate's character's name originated from and Barbie was just as inspired from Malibu, California. From the Mattel website regarding Malibu Barbie: "... sent Barbie doll to Malibu." (The city, not the character).
I should also point out, a fact that people are ignoring is that Malibu is the name of the line. Barbie herself is not named Malibu, she is still Barbie. It should grammatically be Malibu: Barbie to denote the line name and the character. People who claim that Malibu and Malibu Barbie are one and the same seem to forget that there was also a Malibu Ken, Malibu Skipper, Malibu Francie, and Malibu Christie. If "Don't Make Waves" Malibu was the basis of Barbie was she also the basis for all these other characters?  

The second arguments is they both share a similar look. This one is hard to refute at a surface level. Both Sharon and Barbie are attractive blondes who wear swimsuits. But that's an incredibly generic description that could fit any number of women, plastic or otherwise. Let's start with hair. While it's true they are both blondes from what I've seen Sharon's character has dirty blonde hair with a center part while Malibu Barbie has extremely blonde hair with a side part. I understand that giving a doll highlights would have been impossible or looked terrible, but if this is based off of Sharon, why bother changing the part location?
Moving onto their faces. Malibu Barbie actually reuses a head sculpt that was created for Barbie friend Stacy (her British friend) in the late 1960's. This doll does have beautiful pearly whites like Sharon, but she also has a very wide nose. Sharon's nose was a lot more classically beautiful and very different than Stacy's upturned nose. The differences also extend to the face paint too, I'll just touch upon the eyebrows. Comparing them to Sharon's is like comparing the night to day. Barbie has very thin eyebrows set extremely high on her forehead. Sharon's are thicker and much lower on her face just above her eyes. And since swimsuits were brought up as an example as to why she is based off of Malibu let's delve in further. Yes, it is very true that Malibu and Barbie are wearing blue. Coincidence? Yes. Last time I checked blue is a perfectly wonderful color for swimsuits. It's the color of the ocean, the color of the sky, and it even matches Barbie's eye color. However, the color is the only thing they have in common. Sharon wears a bikini in the movie. Her suits has overlapping straps in the front on the top with cut outs in the center and has cut outs on the hips on the bikini bottoms. It also seems to be a much deeper blue than Malibu Barbie's sky blue swimsuit. Barbie on the other hand is wearing a one piece that goes all the way to her neck, a very modest swimsuit and a completely different look. Barbie is practically wearing a body suit compared to Sharon's much more revealing swimsuit. Barbie also came with circle sunglasses and a beach towel with cut trimmed edged. I have yet to see Sharon with either of those accessories. Sharon also has one accessory that Barbie does not, a surf board. Barbie was not created to be a surfer. If she was supposed to inspired by Malibu, why does she have so little in common looks wise?

And finally we have the fact that they're both from around that same time. "Don't Make Waves" was released in 1967 and Malibu Barbie was released in 1971, four years apart. "Don't Make Waves" was by far not a smashing success. I read that it took in 1.25 million in it's original release. It is not an iconic movie, and Malibu is not an iconic role. I would bet that the majority of the people you ask would not know the movie or the name of the character Sharon Tate played. In 1970 Sharon was known for two things, her role in Valley of the Dolls (the dolls in this case are drugs) and her horrific murder at the hands of the Charles Manson Gang, neither of which are really things a toy company would want to be associated with. I think that if there ever was any connection intentional or not, Mattel would have changed the Malibu name in an instant even if they had to debox thousands of dolls and put them into new packaging. They could easily have renamed the dolls any number of things to avoid any connection with the Malibu name.

And in summary no, the evidence does not really show that Malibu Barbie is based off of Sharon Tate's character of Malibu from "Don't Make Waves". While they do have lots of things in common, they are extremely superficial and if you do an image search for "70's surfer girl" you will find a ton of related images that match just as well if not better. Barbie is a doll that is designed to reflect the times, she is what is pretty "now" what all little girls what to be when they grow up at that exact time in history. They were plenty of other blonde women with tans enjoying those beaches. So while Sharon Tate was A Malibu, she was not THE Malibu.

*Personal disclaimer, I like Sharon Tate and as long as I've known about her I have felt sad for the terrible way she met her demise. However I really dislike false information and gossip being perpetuated as facts when there's no real proof and any circumstantial evidence is grasping at straws. 

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