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The Bratz Walk Their Stilettos onto the Big Screen

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."

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 campaign 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.

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