This year is Barbie's 50th anniversary, but lately, it's been the iconic doll's companion, Ken, that's been getting all the attention: A new Ken doll called "Sugar's Daddy Ken" is prompting snickers for its suggestive-sounding name.
In fact, several Web sites refer to the doll, which is due to make its official debut next year, by a slightly different name -- "Sugar Daddy Ken."
Dressed in an ornately-patterned, bright green jacket, pink polo shirt and white pants, the doll is part of toy giant Mattel's new Palm Beach doll line, which is geared for adult Barbie collectors and supposed to exemplify classic Palm Beach fashion. (For a full picture of Sugar's Daddy Ken, click here.)
But for some, Ken's fashion is of secondary importance.
"This is like one of those joke Barbies art students do in college to criticize gender roles forced on children by their toys, like Hobo Barbie and Pregnant Trailer Trash Barbie. Except this time Mattel made it. It's official. My world is rocked," wrote a blogger on the Web site Topless Robot.
Mattel says the doll's name is in reference to Ken's pet -- Sugar, a white West Highland terrier that Ken leads on a pink leash. The dog is included with the doll, along with several accessories, including sandals, sunglasses and swim trunks.
Asked about the possibility that the doll's name may be misinterpreted, a Mattel spokeswoman wasn't fazed.
"At the end of the day, this collection is targeted toward adults," said spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni. "While the name of the doll does refer back to the dog, I think people are going to interpret it as they want to interpret it."
Barbie Officials 'Proud of Who We Are'
The doll, which won't go on sale until April 2010, is available for early ordering on the Web site Entertainment Earth for $69.99
A decades-old staple of the toy world, Barbie has raised eyebrows before through such products as lingerie-clad dolls and a pregnant doll.
The iconic Barbie doll's body proportions, meanwhile, have been criticized as setting an unrealistic example for young women.
"Barbie's sculpt has changed as women have changed," Richard Dickson, general manager and vice president of Barbie World Wide, told "Good Morning America" earlier this year. "She's become more athletic looking when athleticism was part of the trend and she constantly evolves her body.
"But truthfully, when adults put that stereotype on Barbie, it is a distraction for us," he said. "We are a good brand and we inspire girls around the world to do amazing things, and we are very proud of who we are and what we are."