Our little Dora’s all grown up. Too bad
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.