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.”
Scholastic defended its inclusion of the Bratz books because, they said, they want to get kids to read. Kyle Good, Vice President for Corporate Communication, said, “We offer materials that appeal to children where they are, not where we would like them to be. This is particularly true for reluctant readers.” Whatever happened to the principle of teaching children to better themselves and holding out ideals for them to emulate?
The Bratz babes were singled out by the recent report from the American Psychological Association as one of the worst offenders in sexualizing girls.
The objectified sexuality presented by these dolls, as opposed to the healthy sexuality that develops as a normal part of adolescence, is limiting for adolescent girls, and even more so for the very young girls who represent the market for these dolls.
Bratz has opened a new line called “Baby Bratz.” These dolls are even more controversial than the teen version. Appallingly, the baby version wears a thong instead of a diaper. MGA Entertainment apologized for the “mistake” claiming that there should have been a Pampers on the baby instead. Right! The baby bottle filled with a soft drink, accompanied by a life-sized burp, not-so-subtly pushes sugar-laden soft drinks for infants when childhood obesity is a national epidemic.
These Bratz babes are changing the face of childhood. MGA personnel are blasé about their product. “Those who take offense,” they predictably say, “have dirty minds.” The rest of us who have common sense and recognize the dangers of sexualizing our children know better. MGA is pushing a bawdy adult sexuality off on children; parents are reporting that some pre-teens will wear only lingerie from Victoria’s Secret. What about the thong on the baby doll? MGA’s Web site claims that the Baby Bratz, “know how to flaunt it, and they’re keepin’ it real in the crib!”
Obviously, parents were not listening when Whoopi Goldberg warned, "White parents have no clue that their kids are being indoctrinated into ghetto values and culture."
You can bet, though, that people who are living the ghetto life for real recognize what MGA is doing. The Urban Dictionary, a Web site that allows readers to provide their definitions for urban slang, has eight readers’ definitions for Bratz –– all of them recognize that the dolls are “helping to make our children sexually promiscuous.” One definition explained, “We are living in a society which is determined to take innocence away from youngsters.” Others were rude: “Toys like this create a new generation of sluts, skanks, and whores!” “They dress like a slut and bring a bad message to little girls who play with them.”
That’s the truth –– out of the mouths of those who know.