By now you've probably heard how Mattel is tarting up Dora the Explorer to appeal to a tween audience. Instead of animal friends and adventures, she'll be a "fashionable" city girl in middle school, with a line of accessories and the ability to do online makeovers. Yours for only $59.99.
WTF?! (In the spirit of Dora's beloved Nick Jr. persona, I tried to find a bilingual equivalent to this expression, but the closest I got, without insulting Dora's mother, was ¿Qué carajo?)
Dora is still hanging onto her giant melon head, but according to a teaser Mattel marketing campaign that has released only a silhouette of the doll, the new Tween Dora will be skinnier and will ditch the boxy shorts for a short tunic when she's unveiled this fall. No more pre-schooler belly sticking out from her T-shirt. In other words, the fearless outdoorswoman has turned into a materialistic fashionista. Forget Dora the Explorer. Meet Dora the Whora. Instead of saving the day, she's saving money to buy skinny jeans at the mall.
Mattel, which also makes Barbie, apparently thinks tween girls aren't worried enough about their appearances. In its infinite falling-stock wisdom, the toy giant is hustling to fill the void left by big-eyed, pouty-lipped Bratz girls, the skanky dolls Mattel effectively knocked off toy shelves with a licensing lawsuit last year.
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Somebody needs to tell toy makers that there are no winners when we ply girls with yet another provocative, scantily clad doll wearing excessive makeup (unless you count all those women who are going to use the new look as a sexy costume this Halloween). Why mess with Dora, one of the few refreshing alternatives in a world of sugary, lobotomized princesses? Girls lose their innocence soon enough – they don't need a doll to help them.
This generation of kids promises to be smarter than their parents and grandparents. Why are their toys getting dumber?
It's not that we parents don't want our little girls to grow up. It's just that we don't want them to grow up that way. Where's the doll that loves to look under rocks, write in her journal and design her own clubhouse? Instead, we get more of this mall-shopping, TV-watching, midriff-baring, boy crazy vapid girl culture, not to mention yet another Latin stereotype. Dora was a wholesome, outdoorsy non-white girl with spunk, curiosity and intellect. Why stick her in hoop earrings and turn her into a hot tamale?
The other troubling aspect of this is that tween marketing campaigns tend to trickle down to much younger girls. That's why nobody close to Hannah Montana's age would be caught dead at one of her concerts. Look in the audience and you'll see mostly idolizing 5- and 6-year-olds. This may be great for building brand recognition, but not so great if you're trying to build a girl into a strong, confident young woman.
Mattel's peek-a-boo campaign has backfired in some corners, with parents petitioning against changes to Dora, http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Dora_Makeover. Meanwhile, the company insists Tween Dora will not be "oversexualized;" that the grown-up version includes an online, mystery-solving component. But journalists given a look -- no cameras allowed -- at Toy Fair 2009 report the computerized doll seems to be more about changing outfits and eye and hair color. They also noted the new Dora has platform shoes strapped to her feet. (I guess tree climbing is out.)
What's next? Text messages on Dora's cell phone to a tattooed, condom-toting cousin? Say it isn't so. No, Diego, No!