Dora The Explorer: Discover the World, Not the Mall

dora-greenFeb. 26, 2009 Oh fer cripes sakes. Say it ain’t so. Is Dora the Explorer getting a makeover and turning tween TOO?! Leave her alone! This “age-compression” bit is putting a new dent in my TMJ-clenched jaw as we once again see marketers “vy for the buy” with zero regard for the integrity of the message being delivered.

Just LOOK at the cues being sent to ‘tween girls’ as Nickelodeon and Mattel announced their new Dora Explorer Girls line. Talk about selling off childhood…I’ve ranted about the  manga makeovers of Nancy Drew, the Facelifts for Kiddie Characters and comic book superheroes altered into not so comedic ‘updates’ of objectification,  but Dora?

Wholesome, little, outdoorsy, adventurous, bilingual role model DORA?

According to NVCP (Nickelodeon/Viacom Consumer Products) Dora’s been “one of the most successful properties for nearly a decade, with an average of 21.1 million viewers, including 6 million preschoolers tuning in each month.” And THIS is how they’re going to repay her in an attempt to “follow the audience?”

Slap a $60 price tag on her keister, ditch the outdoor adventures, and plug her into a tween virtual computer playtime site? Bah! Toy slavery I say! They’re selling her off! This Toy Story needs a rebel yell! (where’s Pixar when I need ‘em?)
parentdish

Bethany Sanders over at Parent Dish pointedly describes the NEW Dora who will be revealed in the fall.

She now “lives in the big city and goes to middle school. She still solves mysteries but she’s abandoned outdoor adventure for shopping, jewelry and fashion.”

AAAAAAUGH. More. Of. The. Same. How can they Bratzify Dora?

No, no NO!

To me, this message has the potential of being even more destructive than starting out on the consumptionist career path of fluff-n-stuff like Bratz. Why?

Because it cues girls to an even WORSE message by conveying that girls can START out as unique, brave, active, indie spirits, but behaviorally, by the time they edge into tweenage years, they’d better march like lemmings into the beauty biz to embrace their inner fashionista.

Sigh. Just ducky, folks. Way to ‘empower.’

dora-newMaybe I’m getting too cranky too soon, and should take a ‘wait and see’ approach and reserve judgment, but Bethany laser-pointed to the toddler to tween aspirational pull quite beautifully here:

“We’ve only seen her silhouette. But that flowing hair and those long, skinny legs give me great pause…”

…”My three-year-old adores Dora just the way she is. But she also loves “big girls.” The minute she sees Tween Dora, will her devotion to that spunky little adventurer fade for a fashionista middle schooler?”

…”It’s like this: When Dora first showed up on the scene, she was an adventurer. But then her cousin Diego came along and suddenly Dora’s toys were offering girls two options: princess or babysitter (to Dora’s twin baby brother and sister) My hope for Dora’s Explorer Girls is that they open up a whole new world of choices for girls 5 and up, not box them in even further.”

Um, Mattel? You might want to rethink this one…

As for what the experts, child psychologists and über-educators think?

I turn you over now to our own Shaping Youth Advisory Board team at Packaging Girlhood.com where Dr. Lyn Mikel-Brown and Dr. Sharon Lamb share their thoughts and reactions…

packaging-girlhood“Let’s Go!” No Makeover for Dora

by Dr. Lyn Mikel-Brown and Dr. Sharon Lamb

What happened?

FIRST it was Dora’s Magic Talking Kitchen, THEN Dora Princess, THEN Dora Babysitter in her cousin’s show, NOW DORA TWEEN. Alas, we saw the signs. The cute flower lip gloss, the pinkified look, the sudden separation of Dora and Diego shows. We could have, should have predicted this after we saw the likes of Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobby, and Trollz (now with the ubiquitous commodified girl power z), all made over in the cute sexy way that marketers sell maturity to girls—the sassy wink, the long flowing hair, the thin waist, the turned out hip pose of practiced lingerie models.

What next? Dora the Cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with cute purse and stilettos? Dora the Pop Star with Hoppin’ Dance Club and “juice” bar? We can expect it all, because that’s what passes as “tween” in the toy department these days.

In Packaging Girlhood, we wrote extensively about Dora the Explorer as one of the best role models in girls’ early worlds. She wears (or used to, anyway) shorts. She has a sidekick monkey. She has a map and a compass and a backpack! She solves problems and explores the world in Spanish and English. Her motto is “Let’s go!” and it could never be construed in that wink, wink kind of way.

But those adventuresome folks who created Dora no longer own her. She’s owned by Viacom who can sell the rights to her to the highest bidder. That’s right. The highest bidder.

A bunch of greedy corporate execs own her and can use her image, re-MAKE her image, in any way they see fit to make money. But we know the truth. If the original Dora grew up, she wouldn’t be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She’d develop her map reading skills and imagine the places she could go.

She’d capitalize on those problem solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world. Maybe she’d become a world class runner or follow her love of animals and become a wildlife preservationist or biologist.

We’ll never know because the only way a girl can grow up in tween town, is to narrow that symphony of choices to one note. It’s such a sell out of Dora, of all girls.

That’s why we’re starting a campaign! Join us and Hardy Girls Healthy Women for Let’s Go: No Makeover for Dora.

Help us tell the execs at Viacom to “Let GO” of Dora.

Either let her live on as her wonderful self, or create a pre-teen doll that is true to who she was as a child!

Here’s what you can do:

1. Write to Nickelodeon and Mattel and tell them to LET GO of Dora.
2. Start your own SAVE DORA email campaign
3. Blog about this
4. Write a letter or an op ed for your local paper
5. Spread the word to high schoolers and college students who grew up with Dora

Slogans?

* Let Dora Be Dora!
* Don’t Bratz My Girl Dora!
* “Let’s Go!” / No Makeover for Dora!
* Dora Explores the World, Not the Mall
* Get Your Greedy Hands Off Our Dora!

If you have ideas and resources, let’s join together and start this campaign. Create a sign, a bumper sticker, a button, and we’ll help you promote this. Find out who to write to and we’ll update our site here.

Any questions? ;-)

The Packaging Girlhood authors just wrapped up their next book from St. Martin’s Press called (natch) Packaging Boyhoodwatch for it coming up in October 2009.

They were also integral to the APA Task Force (American Psychological Association) reporting on the harm and damage of the early sexualization of girls so they know this ground from the trenches. (72pp pdf of the study here)

watchmen-girlOh, by the way, along these lines, for a current/upcoming preview of watching tween and teen girls roll their eyes and cringe?

One word. Watchmen.

You should’ve seen the look on my teen tribes’ faces when we were at the Cartoon Art Museum last week where they featured costume exhibits of two new films Coraline and Watchmen.

The history of costumes for Silk Spectre (character at left) is a classic case of “‘going from bad to worse” in terms of evolutionary superhero portrayals…

Female superheroes have always been sexed up and stripped down in Lara Croft Tombraider unattainable style, and at least this one’s wearing clothes I suppose…if, um, you count bondage boots-n-garter garb as outerwear apparel that is.

Gee, you think the new tween Dora the Explorer will come with a whip and collar for that monkey soon? (sorry, Boots, couldn’t resist) Bleh.

Mattel, I’d mull this over pretty dang hard…

“It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them.  To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.” ~Dale E. Turner

March 1, 2009 Update:

Well, the Packaging Girlhood gang DOES act fast! Here’s a link to the petition they’ve created and I’ll post the full text in the comments! Join us?

Comments

  1. Here’s the text of the new petition that PACKAGING GIRLHOOD has put together. Strong. Succinct. Common sense. I love it.
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Dora_Makeover/

    “What happened? FIRST it was Dora’s Magic Talking Kitchen, THEN Dora Princess, THEN Dora Babysitter in her cousin’s show, NOW DORA TWEEN.

    Alas, we saw the signs. The cute flower lip gloss, the pinkified look, the sudden separation of Dora and Diego shows. We could have, should have predicted this after we saw the likes of Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobby, and Trollz (now with the ubiquitous commodified girl power “z”), all made over in the cute sexy way that marketers sell maturity to girls–the sassy wink, the long flowing hair, the thin waist, the turned out hip pose of practiced lingerie models. What next? Dora the Cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with stylish purse and stilettos? Dora the Pop Star with Hoppin’ Dance Club and “Juice” Bar? We can expect it all, because that’s what passes as “tween” in the toy department these days.

    In Packaging Girlhood, Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown write extensively about Dora the Explorer as one of the best role models in girls’ early worlds, at least before her image was sold to princess clothing lines and sugary cereals. On TV she wears shorts. She has a sidekick monkey. She has a map and a compass and a backpack! She solves problems and explores the world in Spanish and English. Her motto is “Let’s go!” and it could never be construed in that ‘wink, wink’ kind of way. But those adventuresome folks who created Dora no longer own her. She’s owned by Mattel who can use her image, re-MAKE her image, in any way they see fit to make money.

    The highest bidder for tween Dora was Mattel, and they have plans to sell her at a whopping $60 to aspiring teens everywhere. For this price, girls are told to forget the outdoors and adventure into the same old same old: shopping, fashion, makeovers, and jewelry.

    But we know the truth and can do something about it! We know that if the original Dora grew up, she wouldn’t be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She’d develop her map reading skills and imagine the places she could go. She’d capitalize on those problem solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world. Maybe she’d become a world class runner or follow her love of animals and become a wildlife preservationist or biologist. We’ll never know because the only way a girl can grow up in tween town, is to narrow that symphony of choices to one note. It’s such a sell out of Dora, of all girls.

    That’s why we’re sending this letter to Mattel and Nickelodeon! Join us for Let’s Go: No Makeover for Dora. Help us tell the execs at Mattel and Nickelodeon to “Let GO” of Dora. Either let her live on as her wonderful self, or create a pre-teen doll that is true to who she was as a child!

    Sign onto the letter below and we’ll add your name to the list of concerned parents, activists, educators, and girls who refuse to stand aside while yet another girlhood icon becomes the victim of marketers’ schemes:

    Robert A. Eckert
    Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
    Mattel, Inc.
    333 Continental Boulevard
    El Segundo, CA 90245-5012

    Cyma Zarghami, President
    Nickelodeon
    1515 Broadway
    New York, NY 10036

    Dear Mr. Eckert and Ms. Zarghami,

    Don’t give Dora a tween makeover. She is beloved by little girls and boys everywhere for her adventuresome spirit, curiosity, and bravery. If she is to grow up in doll form, please keep her true to herself rather than follow in the footsteps of the makers of Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobby, and Trollz. We don’t need any more tween dolls teaching girls that growing up means turning into a fashionista, excited about secrets and crushes and going shopping. We don’t need dolls that replicate the thin ideal. The APA Sexualization of Girls Task Force report shows that teens only rarely achieve this body type and when they don’t they are vulnerable to depression and body image problems. Please don’t push this version of what it means to be a teenager on young girls. It limits them, narrows their options, and leads them to think that what matters most about themselves is how they look and what they buy.

    If the Dora we knew grew up, she wouldn’t be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She’d develop her map reading skills and imagine the places she could go. She’d capitalize on those problem-solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world. Maybe she’d become a world-class runner or follow her love of animals and become a wildlife preservationist or biologist. We’ll never know because the only way a girl can grow up in tween town, is to narrow that symphony of choices to one note. It’s such a sell out of Dora, of all girls.

    There are already too many dolls out there that limit the potential of girls. We ask you to reconsider your Dora makeover. We have a team of experts (including girls!) ready to help you re-design her to be a teen doll that parents will be pleased to bring home to their daughters, one with stories to tell, places to go, equipment to use, and knowledge to pass on. Don’t underestimate parents of girls and girls themselves. Dora can be a new kind of teen doll and you can make it happen. Either “Let GO” of Dora and let her live on as her wonderful self, or create a pre-teen doll that is true to who she was as a child!

    Sign the petition and we’ll send this letter along with your name to Mattel and Nickelodeon.”

  2. About the Petition Hosts:

    Serious clout here between Packaging Girlhood and Hardy Girls, Healthy Women:


    “This petition was initiated by Packaging Girlhood authors Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D. Sharon Lamb is a licensed psychologist, college professor, mom, and author of several books including, Packaging Girlhood. Lyn Mikel Brown is a developmental psychologist, professor, mom, and author of several books including their shared book, Packaging Girlhood. Dr. Brown is also co-creator of Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

    The petition is supported by the work of Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW). Hardy Girls is a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and well being of girls and women. The organization’s vision is that all girls and women experience equality, independence, and safety in their everyday lives. To that end, HGHW’s mission is to create opportunities, develop programs, and provide services that empower them. HGHW sees girls not as the sum of any particular pathology (self-cutting, disordered eating, drug use) or struggle (body image, self-esteem, early sexual activity), but as whole beings living within and affected by a variety of social systems. With increased control in their lives, greater challenge from adults, and closer commitment to their communities, girls will and do thrive.

    Find out more at: http://www.hghw.org

  3. And of course, I suppose I should include MY note submitted from an industry/biz perspective:

    “Shaping Youth.org is a consortium comprised of many in the media and marketing industry, so we understand ‘line extensions’ and ‘branding’ in depth…and are completely perplexed as to why you’d choose to cannibalize your own brand with such vapid values…

    You not only risk eroding your current market share of loyal customers, you’re adding to an over-saturated toy aisle that narrowcasts girls’ limitless potential into a ‘fluff-n-stuff’ proposition.

    Our industry MUST hold itself fully accountable for the harm and behavioral messaging landing on girls at ever-younger ages. Must you undermine Dora’s authenticity to put forth a consumption-driven, appearance-based persona of frivolous absurdity under the guise of ‘what sells’?

    A tween Dora (if created at all) should remain true to her core character, literally and figuratively. (love the idea of having REAL girls empowered with the task of creating her evolution!)

    Anything less is a sellout of epic proportions…”Let’s Go!” might easily be a rallying cry for those concerned about the toxic cues being sold to kids. Do you really want that wrath aimed at your bottom line, shareholders? I’d rethink your branding strategy.

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..March Into Sustainability: Project Green Prom Video Contest!

  4. CS Lewis Jr. says:

    Just to clarify, the costumes in WATCHMEN are satirical and part of the book’s overall commentary on superhero tropes. Silk Spectre II’s costume is *supposed* to be ludicrous and impractical. Alan Moore takes a very jaundiced view of the portrayal of women in comics generally.

  5. Atleast this is better then Go, Diego, go!.
    DORA SELLOUT.

  6. @CS Lewis Jr (great handle, btw) —Twas ever thus, satirical or not, there’s ‘more of the same’ pumping into the pop culture silo of dredge and the irony is lost.

    In fact, I know the MTV folks felt THIS show was *supposed* to be ludicrous and impractical too…

    http://blog.shapingyouth.org/?p=45

    But those visuals and stereotypes laser into the hearts and minds of LOTS of different audiences beyond those hipster wink and nudge Hollywood scriptwriters. As a writer/producer myself, accountability is key…and I’m frankly fatigued by the industry stance of ‘just kidding, it was meant to be satire’—Bleh.

    So I’m curious, where do YOU think the line is drawn between satire and misogynistic misfires?

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Overachievers: Interview with Liz Funk Author of SuperGirls Speak Out!

  7. @Hado…So to clarify: You feel a tween fashionista merits perception as ‘better than’ the cousin/spin-off series of the rainforest animal saving Diego? (for those unfamiliar, here’s a snapshot of the Diego series:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go,_Diego,_Go!

    Hmn…Can’t say I’m with ya there…Tell me more?

  8. a link to a Dora petition

  9. Hi Jen, I posted the original link to the petition site that Sharon and Lyn created in my article above, but this one is gaining momentum too, so brava! Wonder if they want readers to all hub in one locale for traction to be maximized though?! I guess they can always merge and export them into one locale, from Care to Connect supporters too? Thanks so much for your efforts regardless! Here’s the link that I signed: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Dora_Makeover/

    Looks like we’re up to 3, 038 already on ipetitions alone!! woohoo! Best, Amy

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..“Better for You” Foods in the Snack Aisle?

  10. Daniel Stuart says:

    I hate to fly into a ‘nerd rage’, but the fact that you think the watchmen character is misogynistic makes it very clear you’re completely ignorant to the characters you’re commenting on.

    Over the course of the comic and movie, she is always portrayed as a very competent character, who can hold her own with almost any of the male characters (one character has godlike powers, so she doesn’t quite match up with him) she’s often a voice of reason to some of the other characters, and in fact single-handedly convinces the afore-mentioned godlike character that humanity is worth saving in one of the series’ climatic scenes.

    Also, as someone mentioned previously, one of major aspects of her character is that she herself thinks the outfit it ridiculous. The reason the costume is so revealing is that her mother, the original Silk Spectre, began her superhero career as a way to boost her modeling. In one of the ending scenes, she is talking to another character and mentions that she’s planning to adopted a more conservative costume.

    So basically, the character boils down to a strong, independent woman who can easily hold her own with her male peers, is by far the most psychologically stable of the cast, an who wears the costume simply to carry on her mother’s legacy. If you find that misogynistic, then you need a dictionary.

    I can certainly see why you might not like the costume, but please, put some research in before you call the character “sexed-up.” The only reason that “the irony is lost” as you said, is because you made a conscious decision to remain ignorant of the character’s background, and decided to base your entire opinion of the character on an outfit that is stated many times over the course of the series as something she hates, but wears because her mother wanted her to carry on the Silk Spectre name.

  11. Daniel, your comments evoke “a nerd rage” indeed…

    I fear you’ve missed the point entirely.

    It’s not about whether the Silk Spectre character is mocking her own attire, or redemptive, or even historical in terms of wearing the costume for her mother, it’s about the scriptwriting choosing to embrace an ongoing context of female objectification amidst a mass media culture of reducing females to oggling appearance-based looks-fests no matter how serious their character or persona is depicted.

    And I’m anti-censorship as much as YOU are, so don’t even ‘go there.’ (and yes, I followed you on your Twitter stream in Dubai…

    http://twitter.com/danstuart

    Trust me, I do my homework…So Dan, what I’m really saying is this…

    If you look at news footage of important ‘superheroes’ in REAL life like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton and such…they’re CONSTANTLY reduced to assessment by ‘hairstyle/fashion statement’ or how they come across visually versus the CONTENT of their message.

    Where do you think those cues are coming from, cast in concrete by a culture that can’t depict a strong woman without tearing her down by sexing her up or in ‘put her in her place’ mode. (I could go into a Chris Matthews greatest hits rant on sexism, but I’ll spare you…
    http://mediamatters.org/items/200801110011 )

    My point is…

    The more we create appearance-based ‘makeover’ media, whether it’s with cartoon characters like Dora or ‘superhero’ portrayal like Silk Spectre rolling her eyes at being trapped in ludicrous S&M garb of some tweaked male fantasy, we are reinforcing the following notion to girls:

    “You may be strong and can kick butt and explore the world and out-think most living beings with your brainpower, but you’ll need to present yourself to the public as a flawless, fit, sexed up beautifully attractive female with long flowing hair and a come hither look (even if you think it’s absurd)…to be accepted and recognized in society.”

    THAT is not okay. It imparts the wrong message to girls. (to all kids, really!)

    Whether it’s Lara Croft Tombraider, Kim Possible, Strawberry Shortcake, or Madeleine Albright for that matter…(who, btw, is always depicted as ‘harsh and severe’ yadayada simply because she is capable and professional) this whole notion of ‘tear ‘em down’ and belittle (through attire, bodysnarking or other vapid values) to ‘keep them in their place’ is absurd.

    Oh, and by the way, as to the accuracy of your comment, be advised I clearly DO know the background of the character fully…I chose not to elaborate since the post was about Dora, not Silk.

    I also did NOT call the portrayal of Silk Spectre NOR Dora misogynistic.
    I DID allude to the ONGOING OBJECTIFICATION of women in our pop culture zeitgeist as same, and stand by that depiction fully.

    And no, I do NOT need a dictionary for the definition of misogynistic. Thank you for your kind offer though…

  12. Really educational – continue to spread the word. Getting excited about an update. For too long now have I had the need to begin my personal blog. Suppose if I wait any more I will never do it. I’ll be sure to add you to my Blogroll. Thanks again!!

  13. Awww, quit picking on poor Dora. She’s a good gal, and even her and Boots have to grow up one day. I’m sure she’s already got a Facebook account and a nifty cell phone too.
    Free Dora Explorer Games recently posted..Dora Jigsaw PuzzleMy Profile

  14. I also love Dora The Explorer because she thought good example that kids should do and should not do. I hope when times comes i will have a kid, she will also like Dora the Explorer. :)
    kristy recently posted..Hello KittyMy Profile

  15. My kids love Dora the exlplorer and her friends. My children are learning many good things from Dora episodes and games.
    Dora recently posted..Jeu de mode des fillesMy Profile

  16. As you can see, the last few comments have gotten spammy, but the last one has me laughing and in stitches…’blog tips?’ Okay, how about not spoofing a handle that links to a URL site w/your motivation: “Link Building-blog backlink linkbuilding tips” lol…Needless to say, I removed your URL if you were testing to see if this was still live/monitored…but the SEO silliness in site/strategies spoofing are really amusing lately.
    amy recently posted..Dark Knight Rises: Resources to Reassure KidsMy Profile

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