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Our little Dora’s all grown up. Too bad

Submitted by on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 2 Comments

dora the explorerShe takes care of Boots, fights off Swiper, loves her abuela and can fend for herself quite nicely, thank you very much.

Ay, but just as dragons live forever but not so little boys, it seems that Dora the Explorer must grow up, too. Or so say Mattel and Viacom, who’ve teamed to create new Dora set to debut next fall.

“As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look,” the press release says.

Fashionable look? What’s wrong with the old one? I like the scruffy little toughy with her ready-to-play shorts and sneakers, even if her shirt and shorts clash by most rational standards. I fear for Boots, too. Will a yippy rat dog riding in a purse replace the monkey and the back pack?

I have no problem with Barbie. She’s pure fantasy play, and there’s room for that in any child’s life. Just because Big Guy plays with Batman doesn’t mean his psyche is being shaped to regard himself as a failure if he can’t scale buildings with a Bat-a-rang.

Plus Barbie clearly is an adult. The vampish Bratz give me pause because they force more-mature roles on a doll with child-like faces.

I could live with Bratz – especially since none lives in my house – by thinking, “at least there’s Dora,” a kid who acts like a kid.

Dora, who’s rescued the prince and helped show my guys that girls can hold their own.  Dora, who tromps through the forest without worrying about getting her pointy-toed shoes muddy. Dora, who represents to 3-year-old Boots (my kid, not the monkey but where do you think he came up with that?) the ideal of femininity. Dora, whose nemesis taught Big Guy how to play goalie. “You have to be like Swiper,” his coach told him two seasons ago. “Swipe that ball!”

Dora, who has the top preschool show on commercial television, according to Viacom. But that’s not enough.

“Girls really identify with Dora and we knew that girls would love to have their friend Dora grow up with them, and experience the new things that they were going through themselves,” the press release continues. “The brand captures girls’ existing love of Dora and marries it with the fashion doll play and online experiences older girls enjoy.”

The brand turns a fun-loving kid into a tween cliche in order to sell more toys.

It’s that transition that’s troubling. Barbie is what she is and what she has been for 50 years, occasional foray into the world of work aside. Dora’s different.

A blogger at shapingyouth.org articulated the objections much better than I can.

“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.”

Bloggers at Packaging Girlhood have started a petition against tween Dora, asking Viacom and Mattel to either drop the version or keep it faithful to Dora’s childhood self.

I fear it’s too late, because if the character is a fall release production likely is well under way. If it’s not, this whole campaign is nothing more than a cynical marketing scheme designed by Mattel/Viacom to create buzz.

Too bad. Dora already had sufficient buzz, and for all the right reasons.

Playing with tween Dora or watching the new show will not create a generation of former fun-lovers who suddenly become obsessed with the size of their thighs at age 11. Society manages to do that now even without tween Dora.

But it’s a shame that manufactures are pointing Dora’s map down the path of trendy clothing and fashionable hairstyles.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Amy Jussel said:

    Hi Debra, I think you articulated this quite nicely, (and thanks for the kudos on Shaping Youth!) Glad to see you’re paying it forward (and loved the Puff the Magic Dragon reference…one of my first guitar songs as a teen!) ;-)

    I have a hunch the toy industry is becoming like the ‘formula movie-Hollywood cliche’ where copycats and sequels prevail at the expense of indie-thinking, unique points of view and artistic vision…If we want childhood to be anything more than churning out homogenized ‘sameness’ for tweens under the purported guise of ‘what sells’ then we need to pay attention to the Doras of the world and what they bring to the mass media messaging.

    Like your Puff reference, I’ll turn the wayback machine to the Beatles and hope that Mattel/Nickelodeon will allow Dora to be Dora in her outdoor, explorer-girl ways…Who knows, maybe they’ll decide, “Speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.” (one can hope, eh?)

  • Danielle Maralori said:

    This should never happen. This is sooooo retared! why would they change Dora? She’s good the way she is! People who are doing this is so stupid! Why? why? think about it! The USA WILL change!