As other adults, high on nostalgia, wait excitedly for the Barbie movie, I'm over here wishing they'd make a movie about the dolls *I* was raised on—the Sunshine Family. The dolls–created by Mattel in 1974–were, as MeTV asserts, the "most 1970s toys of the 1970s." They go on to state that the Sunshine Family "shunned the pink plastic materialism of Barbie."
I never had a Barbie. But I had lots of fun playing with the Sunshine Family. I absolutely adored them! My sister and I spent hours upon hours with the little hippie family—Steve and Stephie, and baby Sweets, along with Grandma and Grandpa—dressing them in their corduroy pants, flowered smocks, and sandals, and making crafts to sell out of the back of their yellow family van. MeTV provides this great description of the beloved hippie dolls:
Barbie was living in a townhouse in Malibu, sailing pink catamarans, driving pink Corvettes. Tuesday Taylor was a fashionista with a penthouse and shopping habit. Most of the dolls of the 1970s were living the high life. All this during the Oil Crisis.
And then there was the Sunshine Family. They made belts and pots to sell off the mobile craft store on the back of their yellow pickup truck. Their humble home had a wooden rocking chair, loads of flowers and a spinning wheel. They wore sandals and clogs, turtlenecks and cords. Somehow, you assumed they recycled and were vegetarians. No toy better captured the wood-paneled, shag-carpeted, earth-toned, bell-bottomed, crochet-crazy decade of the 1970s than the Sunshine Family. Obviously. They were called the Sunshine Family. And we were obsessed with them.
Though they were launched by Mattel in 1974, the Sunshine Family would fit right in today. That being said, the packaging would use the term "artisanal" a lot more and they would come with a Whole Foods playset. While Barbie and Ken cruised in sportscars, here was the humble ride of Steve, Stephie and little Sweets: The Sunshine Family Van with Piggyback Shack.
Don't get me wrong, I can definitely appreciate Barbie's profound impact on American popular culture. But I think it's time we pay a little attention to the Sunshine Family, and their DIY, back-to-nature aesthetic, too. Who's with me?