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Culture Lust by Angela Carone

Today, a live action movie based on the sexed-up dolls known as the Bratz opens in area theaters. Its title is all ingenuity and flash: Bratz: The Movie . I don't know about you, but I think they're resting lazily on their merchandising laurels.

If you haven't seen a Bratz doll in person, march yourself into the closest Target, Wal-Mart, or Toys "R" Us to take a look. Brace yourself. These sought after playmates with names like Yasmine and Jade wear fishnet stockings, thongs, micro-mini skirts, and make-up, lots and lots of make-up. I know Barbie had her figure, her bikini, and her blonde bimbo hair, but even she would roll her vapid blue eyes at these "girlz" and their bare mid-riffs. For more on the battle between Barbie and the Bratz, go here . Best line in the article: "Now Barbie has declared handbags at dawn against a posse of pouting interlopers who are threatening her position as the world's favourite doll."

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Bratz Dolls

The New York Times reports that since 2001, MGA Entertainment, the company behind the Bratz, has sold over 150 million Bratz dolls worldwide. And the LA Times reports that by the end of 2005, Bratz products topped $2 billion in global sales.

But ever since these 10-inch plastic minxes landed on store shelves, various parents and child advocacy groups have claimed that the dolls encourge pre-adolescent sexuality. In February of this year, the American Psychological Association agreed, calling out the Bratz on their overall hoochiness.

Apparently the new movie has attempted to purify the girls' images by making them, among other things, good at math. But as the NY Times article points out, the filmmakers may disappoint the dolls' massive fan base if they purify too much. The article notes that Lionsgate , the studio releasing the film, developed a specific marketing c38aign because they are "aware that Bratz devotees might balk at seeing their dolls look and behave in ways that don't match their imaginations." But what are young girls, from ages 4 to 12, really imagining when they play with their Bratz? Apparently, they don't have them mastering long division.

Toys are a valuable experiential tool in a child's world. Toys feed and cue the imagination to create symbolic worlds where the child can then try on identities and act out possible scenarios. So with respect to the Bratz dolls, what kind of behavior are young girls imagining? And, more to the point, what cues are their imaginations given? What kind of imagined behavior arises out of cues like lip gloss and thongs? With GI Joe, the cues are pretty obvious. Young boys simulate war. At least Stewardess Barbie has a job. The Bratz dolls are all sex, sass, and cheap thrills.

What makes me even angrier is when the racial diversity of the dolls is used as a defense. The Bratz are compared to Barbie's lily whiteness (she does look more and more like a Desperate Housewife in comparison) and the defense becomes: the Bratz dolls are more reflective of our multicultural world. Look, I'm all for diverse racial representation in toys, but when they look like 12-year-olds working the late shift on El Cajon, not so much.

Obviously, the Bratz dolls and the movie present a real quandary for parents. If you feel strongly that you don't want the Bratz dolls feeding your daughter's imagination, do you forbid her from having one? The dolls are so wildly popular, she's bound to play with one at a friend's house at some point, which will only make her want one more. How do you handle this?

Do you let your daughter go see Bratz: The Movie , the one all of her friends will be talking about? I suppose it could have one of two possible results: it could be harmless and she could find it stupid (introduce her to Lisa Simpson ) or she could come home wanting a T-shirt two sizes too small with the words "porn star" written in glitter across the chest.

Pam
August 03, 2007 at 06:00 PM
Ugh. I loathe the Bratz. Even worse than what's described above is the line of "Baby Bratz," one of which was given to my 3-year old by her grandparents, complete with bottle, diaper, belly chain and heavy mascara. Needless to say that little baby is sitting, unopened, at the bottom of the landfill. -----



Sad Tia
August 03, 2007 at 11:28 PM
My 4 yr old niece insists on having her hair done "como las brrratz" ("like the Bratz"). 4 years old. I cringe every time. She might as well be also asking for fishnet stockings "como la britney." Oh dear!

aaryn b.
August 04, 2007 at 04:27 AM
As the parent of a two-year old daughter, I loathe the day she asks me for a Bratz doll. And should my child ever receive one as a gift, it will meet the same fate as that of the Baby Bratz doll in Pam's home (see above). It's a disturbing commentary on our culture that these dolls are so popular. My husband and I are working really hard to teach our daughter her value as a human being---that she is more than just her outward appearance, that she can be whatever she wants, that she is intelligent and powerful, that she should always respect herself and expect that others do the same, etc. I hope she internalizes these messages and develops a strong sense of who she is, so she doesn't feel the need to degrade herself by emulating that which the Bratz dolls represent. Ideally, I'd like her to reject all things Bratz as she grows. But it's more likely that she'll want what the other girls have. Isn't that part of the problem? So it's our job as parents to give our kids, in this case our daughters, as much information as possible so they have the tools to recognize why the Bratz are so terribly wrong.

Beth
August 07, 2007 at 04:47 PM
The Bratz Baby given to our 3 year old (by the same Grandparent offenders mentioned above) was opened before I could intervene, object or otherwise hide it from my girl. It quickly disapeared to the top of her closet until time for the toy purge and it ended up at Salvation Army. I feel for the poor sap whose daughter saw this hoochie baby on the shlef for a dollar. I do feel bad that I taught my little girl an unfortunate word to describe the Bratz. She sold me out by telling her Preschool teacher "Mommy says the Bratz are Tarts and I can't have one."

pamela
August 08, 2007 at 09:03 PM
uggh they should be called Slutz!

aaryn b.
August 08, 2007 at 09:47 PM
Just afer my above post, literally less than 24-hours after I clicked the "Add Your Comments" button below, my child received her first Bratz Bootie. Included in the stockpile were water wings, a floatation ring (?), a note pad, a coloring book and a toothbrush. All items were neatly stacked and sent, as promised, directly to the landfill with the gift-giver obediently holding the lid to the trash can.

becky
August 09, 2007 at 04:51 PM
I have been getting the Baby Bratz Cloe's for my 2 year old, Chloe, since she was born. The thing is, people call the dolls "slutz" and the such, but I have seen actual babies dressed in worse clothing than these dolls. I don't dress my little girl like that and to her they are just dolls. She doesn't want her hair done like them, nor does she want to dress like them. She treats them like she does her other dolls...rats the hair into a big knot, undresses them and puts other clothes on them, changes their diaper. I think when people start making a big deal out of a "doll" then others do and then children do. I teach my daughter to respect herself and her body and my husband I raise her with good, Christian morals. This is just my humble opinion.

Chris
August 10, 2007 at 12:57 AM
Well. It's interesting to see how people justify and rationalize their reasons when they really want something, thinking they are doing no harm. I'm NOT a Christian, I don't embrace the teachings of Christianity and even I think the Bratz dolls are slutty looking. They are overly made up, their clothing is sexually based and the marketing approach around these dolls seems to target the addictive consumerism that's prevalent in this country and that's "my humble opinion".

Alexis
August 21, 2007 at 09:45 PM
All this commotion over a doll???? Come on people!! My 4 year old niece has a few and my 8 eight old niece also has a few. When I have 5-6 girls playing with their Bratz dolls I watch them and what they like the best is changing their clothes. Sex and "hooochiness" is not part of their conversation. I support the Bratz and kids love them. Go complain to Barbie for her implants.

jade
September 18, 2007 at 07:14 PM
i like bratz i am 12 i have liked bratz ever since they came out and i am so not a slag or a slut yeah i like to dress nice and wear make up , but thats it and i am much cleverer than u , bratz don't make you wanna dress like a slut have u seen the movies they are actually about following your dreams and never stopping until u get there now i have even sent lots of my fashion designs off to competitions and u know what i have won most of them so really u ppl are sick for not letting your child have what she wants

imperialleda
December 23, 2007 at 09:12 PM
I'm sorry, but when I was 12 I didn't even know the word 'Slut' existed yet alone knew what it meant...

elle jaye from gold coast australia
January 21, 2009 at 11:05 AM
at least the talking bratz dolls say more productive sentances than barbie, for instance 'its cool to be smart!', 'helping others rocks' etc i admit they are skanky at times and i have many 'dancing' outfits the same as myscene and bratz, but they do also have more conservative, less make up bratz, like the play sports range, cowboy, passion for fashion, forever diamonds and fashoin pixies etc myscene is the real problem, i mean im a stripper and have walked past a myscene ilse and stood there in shock and disgust as they were selling dolls wearing my outfits and possibly hooker outfits as we apparently shop at the same place, i would love to see mattel take those dolls down.

Katie
March 22, 2009 at 06:33 AM
Sometimes the best way to stop a kid obsessing over a toy you loathe is to give it to them a basic model without ceremony, let her get it out of her system, then produce a more interesting toy in a month when she's over the hype. I've heard this woks with boys and toy guns.

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