Bratz Movie Seeps Brattitude Into Kid Culture

bratz-logo.jpgTwo of Shaping Youth’s stellar Advisory Board team, Dr. Sharon Lamb & Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown at Packaging Girlhood wrote this fabulous Op Ed about the Bratz Film and its purportedly ‘cleaned up’ message. They plopped it on their blog, and gave me permission to do the same for our readers as “guest editorial” on the next page.

I’ve written about the toxicity of the Bratz phenom, vapid consumerism behavioral cues and hoochie-mama media damage to girls countless times, but soon Bratz will seep into psyches even deeper with online integration, beyond the Bratz site, the movie, or the mismatched inclusion in Scholastic school book fairs.

That’s right digital darlings…Marketers are now offering a doll with a special ‘necklace’ to key into a new Be Bratz immersive virtual world with access to games and content. Yep, an elite club of Be Bratz style, ugh. (just what our girls need, more pampered fashionista elitist snobbery, shallow brattitude and text messaging opps)

Flashing banners beckon, “Be the first to Be-Bratz,” and “look like a movie star.” argh. Please, please, please, can’t we put this digital talent into a healthier venue?

Send their web dev team over to OUR nonprofit for some counter-marketing messages, we could sure use a hand! Or help out MyPopStudio with their media literacy games. We’re ALL Shaping Youth with our purchasing power, let’s delve a little deeper into what’s being sold…Scan their book excerpts here and get a glimpse of what you’re buying into.

And guys? I’m excited to announce Packaging Boyhood is next! If you’d like to weigh in with your own lifestyle influences (what you watch, hear, do, read, & wear) you can add your opinions into the mix in this online survey! It’s not every day kids get to be part of shaping a book with their own life stories (parents, no worries, it’s secure and noncommercial research). For now, on to Packaging Girlhood’s Guest Editorial...Enjoy!

Shaping Youth Guest Editorial By Lyn Mikel Brown & Sharon Lamb

Bratz Dollz. Bratz Bralettes. Bratz Cartoons, Bratz Computers?

Those “hot to trot” babes sure do have it all. Now, they are finally movie stars (even though they’ve been living the movie star life for years).

When BRATZ: THE MOVIE comes to your local theater, you might be hard pressed to recognize “the girlz” since the profiteers have cleaned them up a bit with a makeover, yet still their PG rating loosely warns “some material may not be suitable for children.”

The real life actors playing our least favorite dollz won’t be outfitted in anything remotely dominatrix or soft porn “esque” because let’s face it: if cute little dolls look sleazy in those outfits, real girls wearing them would look, well, obscene (and the producers would have to kiss the PG rating–and all the allowance money that comes with it–goodbye).

No matter how they clean up the movie girlz to mimic every other perky wanna be a teen girl flick, it’s important for parents to see the sexualization that defines the overall Bratz package. Yes, like all teen girls, the Bratz–Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos), Jade (Janel Parrish), Sasha (Logan Browning) and Cloe (Skyler Shaye)—are proud to be”BFFs” – Best Friends Forever, but unlike real girls who play sports, love math and want to be scientists, writers and explorers when they grow up, the Bratz only solidify the same old stereotypes.

We haven’t seen the movie yet, so we can’t predict where the specific product placements will show up (we’re willing to guarantee this movie will be one long commercial for various “must have” products), but we are certain the script will include the following:

· A popular mean girl who gets what’s coming to her at the end of the movie (the mean girl usually comes with her own posse of dimmer but just as mean followers)
· A crazy fun makeover and/or shopping spree scene set to music by a teen pop star
· A “once in a lifetime” chance to model, perform in front of a band, or get dressed up for a special dance or concert.
· An embarrassing moment (which aims to make a Brat more likeable and relatable to her audience). This moment will probably occur in front of a cute boy.
· A “cool” boy who helps the girlz understand that they should just be themselves. On the way to learning the value of friendship, at least one of the girlz will “get” this “cool” boy in the end.
· Frustrating use of the word “power” It will be used to reference how a Bratz feels powerful shopping, choosing a special look, getting a make-over, or picking friends over a mean girl.

We’ve done our research and let’s face it, when it comes to the portrayal of girls in popular culture there is an abysmal lack of imagination. The “special” talents of movie teens won’t include engineering, drumming, or skateboarding. They’ll all be sexy pretty with perfect bodies and yet at least one of them will make an insecure comment about how she looks. They will look “hot”–PG Hot that is–not as hot as the little dollz.

Bratz have been on the “What were they thinking?” radar screen for some time, and for good reason.

Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker described them as “little hotties”; London’s Daily Mail called them “a clique of sultry-eyed trollopes”; and bloggers all over the net refer to them as mini “hookers” and “prostitutes.”

It’s not just the fly-girl fashion that is troubling to their critics, it is the lifestyle scenarios they come with–hot tubs, party planes, “juice” bars, and boyz. All of these suggest imaginative scenarios to little girls that they can reenact as they play with their little hotties.

Isaac Larian, CEO of M.G.A., (or as he’s been renamed by bloggers, the “pimp” to the Bratz ho’s), may have a point when he complains, about the less than positive media attention focused on his dollz. After all, there are countless other poor models of teen girlhood jiggling about. Just flick on the TV and check out any recent music video.

The message to young girls? Clearly, shaking your bootie and moving “those humps, those humps, those lovely lady humps,” is the best way to get power. And in Larian’s defense, the Bratz are the first truly popular group of multicultural dolls for girls? They shook Barbie out of her pink suburban reverie and gave real cache to urban chic.

So really, why pick on the “passion for fashion” girlz?

Maybe because the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls found that the Bratz are the best example of the way a marketers have taken a product and targeted the very youngest girls to exploit their desire to be like the big girls they see in pop culture–hanging out with boyz, shopping for fashion, and partying all night long.

While some unwitting friend of the family might buy a four-year-old a t-shirt that says “Little Flirt” or a underpants that say “eye candy,” literally millions of girls, moms, and relatives are buying the Bratz dolls for this age group.

Girls are bombarded every day with invitations to self-sexualize, self-objectify, turn themselves into cute, sexy, hot, shopping divas, and to do so by their own choice, because that’s what makes them feel empowered.

Is the Bratz movie one such invitation? We’ll see, but in a post-Paris world, parents ought to be worrying a teensy bit that playing with Bratz, might just lead to becoming one of them.

(Let us know if our predictions are right. We can’t bring ourselves to go watch this movie!)

—Dr. Sharon Lamb & Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, Packaging Girlhood

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Brainstorm Idea! Calling all parents of boys! Tots, tweens & teens!

If you’d like a FREE copy of Packaging Girlhood, I’ll gift the families of the first THREE boy responses to the “Life Through Boys’ Eyes” survey a copy of Packaging Girlhood from me! (just code “Shaping Youth” in the ‘how did you hear about us’ section titled “other”) Age range? 3-18. (yes, wee ones need a hand ;-)

It’s my way of contributing to the vital research of our Advisory Board team, supporting the work they’re doing at Packaging Girlhood, and giving youth a voice to express the pros and cons of media and marketing influences in their day to day lives.

Here’s to a healthier worldview for kids! –Amy

Comments

  1. Thanks for exploring this topic on your terrific website, Amy. The rampant consumerism of the Bratz phenomenon is branching out — and it’s a challenge for parents (and girls) to resist. Bratz dolls reflect some aspects of American culture that people find problematic, issues which Brown and Lamb have nicely laid out in their article.

    But while I respect them both tremendously, I would quibble with their decision to NOT see the film. I don’t think we can’t take on the most problematic aspects of how girlhood is represented from the sidelines. Millions of girls are going to see this movie– let’s find a way to help them talk about its values and ideology. That’s the best way to develop critical thinking skills about mass media and popular culture.

  2. Hi Renee, thanks for the ping. You make a good point on the media literacy front, as it’s a fine line between not wanting to support it with box office revenue and needing to deconstruct it for others and glean awareness of messaging (peripheral and otherwise)

    I know I’ve been avoiding the Simpsons for the same reason…my Southeast Asian delegate pals from our Women Leaders for the World conference would no doubt be a good interview to open up the “Apu” stereotyping and “Kwik e-mart” pop culture cues that kids soak into their brains as “satire” in the U.S. but I keep thinking “can I wait to Netflix the thing” rather than fork out $10 at the box office which logs in as Hollywood cred. ;-)

    Yep, I feel a Simpsons editorial coming on pronto as there are TOO many things that need deconstructing on BOTH the media/marketing front, ten bucks or not! sigh…

  3. bill daul says:

    Perhaps parents could enter a contract with the producers of all this crap for kids where the parents agree to send the producers a percentage of their earnings every month and the industry will promise NOT to try to sell you kids more crap they don’t need.
    This way they rake in even more profits…by now having to advertise anymore…

    Sort of like paying the phone company NOT to list your phone number in the phone book!

    ;-)

  4. Video Gamer says:

    Ha! and people thought that Barbie protrayed negative stereotypes.

    Heres and article about women in the science field.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6937513.stm?33

  5. I just wandered over here, after going to the movie with a friend for kicks (we felt bad paying money for such a thing, but boredom will out). I have to say: every item on your list made it into the movie. It was incredibly predictable in a kind of Josie and the Pussycats meets Mean Girls but not as good as either kind of way. Speaking as a 20-year-old, I thought it was pretty amusing, as did my (male) friend. But would I let an 8 year old watch it? Not without a running commentary. The one surprise: the “hot cool” boy is a deaf DJ. They did they’re Hollywood version of cultural diversity, acceptance, friendship and following your dreams. Nothing new, nothing especially redeeming, but ridiculous, mostly fluffy, silly fun.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Rebecca…appreciate your 20-yr old perspective on this too. We try to see all ages and views and it’s always a challenge to balance with centrist deconstruction. Truly appreciate your insights here, and concur with your age 8 comments. Interesting note on the deaf DJ ‘cool boy character,’ nice to see the zeitgeist shifting, if even a tad, to be more inclusive.

    As for VideoGamer’s comments above, appreciate the link…I actually went in and included it along with the podcast embedded into the Danica McKellar math/science gender post! Much oblige! –Amy

  7. Stephanie Kerch says:

    Since my daughter was 7 (now 14) I’ve hated Bratz for its bee-sting lips, porn-like design, makeup and all the rest that you have articulated so well. My daughter never gravitated towards them, but in Toys R Us I immediately and repeatedly was vocal with her about how repugnant and inappropriate they are and how they should be banned from children’s products shelves. She had a “video producer Barbie” as a gift once, but that’s about it. These “Bratz” are clearly designed by some child perv and it is soo sickening. I am genuinely surprised they don’t come shrink wrapped with cigarettes and diet pills — might as well finish the so-bad-should-be-illegal package!!

  8. Stephanie, our daughters are evidently the same age and era of toy exposure, so I join you in being amazed by how many moms don’t even blink about the Bratz bit, as if to shrug it off as ‘just another toy’ (um, ‘NOT’)

    Sadly, looking at the NEXT gen of 7 year olds, we see the mirroring of some of these ‘looks’ without much of a second glance, not to mention the marketing of same ad infinitum in ‘real kids clothes’ and bling, not to mention avatar form of fashionista branding. Bleh. ‘We reap what we sow’…

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Where The Wild Things Are! Media, Mamas & More

  9. p.s. I’m glad you found that post in my archives…I’ve been trying to find a way to ‘resurrect’ some of the older posts that vanish from the front page but are still equally relevant…We’re thinking of doing a ‘summer of link love’ with The Girl Revolution blog to bring forth some of these topics and raise our voices in different arenas/readerships! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Where The Wild Things Are! Media, Mamas & More

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