Janice Shaw Crouse

I recently bought a doll for my 6-year-old granddaughter. It was a really beautiful, expensive baby doll. She looked at the doll; then laid it aside. To her mother’s dismay, she displayed socially-incorrect behavior by firmly announcing, “I’m sorry, but I’m way too old to play with that kind of doll.”

Little girls don’t get to “mother” their pretend babies any more; instead, they act out today’s young adult values with the more popular “fashion dolls.” Bratz dolls, those ghetto cool, sexualized dolls with skimpy miniskirts, high-heel boots, pouty lips and ‘bad’ attitude, are now the #1 doll in America, having pulled ahead of Barbie as the most popular fashion-doll in the United States. One writer explained that the dolls made little girls “sluts-in-training,” another said they promoted “hooker chic” and another claimed that they promoted “precocious sexuality.”

MGA Entertainment, which manufactures the dolls, spent $15 billion last year marketing to children in the 70 countries where the doll is available. In spite of the huge price tag for marketing to children, MGA Entertainment reveals that their market research indicates that mothers of pre-teens are the ones who are buying the Bratz dolls for their little angels.

With their glazed expressions, plumped lips and trampy clothes, these dolls are light years away from the American Girl dolls that too many little girls now consider "babyish." In these days of anorexia anxiety, some are celebrating the dolls' "more realistic" body proportions. And true enough, these dolls don't seem to have Barbie's surgically enhanced chest. But is it any better to replace one advertisement for cosmetic surgery with another one? These Bratz dolls all obviously make regular trips to the plastic surgeon for collagen lip injections. And their makeup, on dolls targeted at 8 to 12-year-olds, would make a Broadway performer playing to the back of the hall feel underdone.

Like the Barbie dolls, the Bratz industry has diversified: there are DVDs, video games, a movie, matching outfits for the doll owners, additional outfits and accessories for the dolls and a full line of play sets that reflect the diva lifestyle –– discos, nail and hair salons, spas, limousines, cafes and shopping malls. The dolls have been an industry sensation –– winning Character Brand License of the Year, Toy of the Year and other awards. Sadly, Scholastic, Inc., the nation’s largest bookseller for books at school-based book clubs and fairs, offers a line of Bratz books. Scholastic claims that the books feature “strong, capable girl characters” and that they speak to young girls “in a voice that reflects their real world.”

Janice Shaw Crouse

Janice Shaw Crouse is a former speechwriter for George H. W. Bush and now political commentator for the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.
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