Feb. 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?)
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.’
Maybe 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…
“Let’s Go!” No Makeover for Dora
by Dr. Lyn Mikel-Brown and Dr. Sharon Lamb
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
* 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.
The Packaging Girlhood authors just wrapped up their next book from St. Martin’s Press called (natch) Packaging Boyhood…watch 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)
Oh, 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?