Barbie Girls too much like 'Mean Girls'?

Virtual Barbie world has hierarchy based on whether you buy the latest device.

Barbie Girls MP3 player
The Barbie Girls MP3 player doubles as a dress-up doll. Mattel

NEW YORK--Who's running things over at Mattel?

The Barbie Girls MP3 player that doubles as a paper doll with plastic clothes is now out.

First, I don't think parents should pay $59.99 for an MP3 player with 512MB of storage, even if you can dress it up. For that price I'd recommend spending a little more and getting their child the "big kid" iPod Nano or Shuffle you know they really want. To be fair, the device can hold a microSD card of up to 2GB.

But that's not my real problem with this tech toy.

Plugging the MP3 player into a computer grants the owner entry into new places in the BarbieGirls.com virtual world that non-buyers of the device won't have access to. It also gives you access to "exclusive" virtual purses and pets.

Seriously?

While I understand Mattel's desire to offer some sort of reward for buying the device, the concept of creating a virtual velvet rope seems destructive to the Barbie image the company has been struggling to improve.

"It's the next-generation fashion doll. We've always evolved with how girls play. It's all about music, being online and fashion," Lauren Dougherty, director of PR/Communications for Mattel Brands, told CNET News.com from the floor of DigitalLife 2007.

If Mattel is serious about reinventing Barbie's image and keeping up with the Webkinz of the world, maybe it should think about the overall picture.

As this writer was once a little girl who drooled over the outfits created for Barbie by some of the coolest fashion designers, I'm not anti-Barbie in the least. I just wish she was a little more Brenda Starr and a little less Paris Hilton. This is 2007, right?

Of course, this is the same company that in 1992 thought it was a good idea to make "Math class is tough" one of the lines for its Teen Talk Barbie.

We all know how well that went over.

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