We’re starting to see the marketing machine rev up for Disney’s new animated movie “The Princess and the Frog.” Gee. Another Disney princess movie. Yawn. Hard to get too excited because we know when it comes to gender, Disney has the imagination of a toadstool. What about race? Will this story be different, now that the princess is African American? Maybe, if you count the fact that she gets changed into a frog along with her prince and that this will be the first inter-racial coupling (he’s white-ish). But will pretty Tiana also talk to little animals? Have that thin but sexy hourglass figure? Sing in that lovely voice? Yes, yes, and we’ll have to wait and see. Brookes Barnes does a nice job of sorting through the not unexpected controversies in a New York Times article , but if you want a really great read, check out Linda Holmes' fabulous letter to Pixar. We already know Disney is hopeless, but maybe Pixar can give us what we want. While we wait — and it could be a very, very long wait -- we’ll take a reader's advice on the NPR site and go back to the best in good old 2-D animation: Studio Ghibli's haunting, imaginative, original films like Howl's Movie Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. All female driven with nary a princess in sight. Listen up Disney — and Pixar!
Remember the Coppertone ad in which a doggie pulls down the blue swimsuit bottom of a cartoon girl about 3 years old, showing her coppertone tan? The picture was coy and cute, originally, but wouldn't fly in this very sexualized porn culture girls are currently growing up in. So take a look at the new Huggies "gold jeans" specialty ad for toddler girls. In it we see a "topless" baby in Huggies and ruffled apron serving at a miniature table. The words above her say, "Work it baby", a line commonly used by photographers to models asking them to pose sexily. South African journalist Lauren Beukes writes about it in her article, "Disturbingly Sexual." Slutty waitress baby, as Beukes refers to her, is clad in a pink apron with lace (invoking a french maid) and is looking over her shoulder as in a topless model pose. Those at Huggies denied to Beukes any sexual connotation. They say they were trying to portray a hard-working waitress. We doubt, however, that they didn’t get the sexy connotations and suggestive symbolism. Nevertheless, as Beukes writes, it's not one thing but the combination "in Waitress Baby that reads so horribly wrong: that pose + that pout + that dodgy tagline. “ We get sexual humor; we sometimes even like it; we might even say to one another "work it, baby" as a joke. But it's not funny when applied to children or babies. And the toplessness, pink apron, lace, and over the shoulder glance suggest something older imprinted on someone younger. In our world, in our time, this just isn't funny.
Just read the comments on our petition -- almost 8000 right now -- of moms, dads, and kids who signed our petition: Let's Go! No Makeover for Dora! and you'll know why we're furious at that awful Early Show coverage of the No Makeover for Dora campaign. Sharon was interviewed for 15 minutes last night and told CBS's the Early Show why we don't want a makeover -- she gave all the points and more contained in the blogs below. But they edited out or didn't use all but one phrase -- "Dora's an alternative", and did not include the points we make about LATINA dolls and the blonde/blue-eyed makeover she can get online, nor about stereotypes of femininity. Instead, we get an anchor who looks like EVERYanchor (sorry to say, but don't know her name) who is really an apologist for Nick and Mattel, and their parent company Viacom. She said "This is the Dora that Daniella (her daughter) plays with" and holds up a pig-tailed, long-haired, pinkified Dora in a pretty dress, a far cry from Dora the Explorer. She just doesn't get it that Dora is an EXPLORER. Then again, her daughter isn't a fan of the show. Her daughter plays with some every-doll version of Dora that already isn't true to what she is and means. But the clincher was her final lines -- "Every girl is more fashion conscious as she grows up and loses the baby fat." Yes, that's what Viacom, Nick, and Mattel want you to think -- that EVERYgirl conforms to their stereotypes of what a girl should be. Accessorized, rather than equipped. Pink rather than dressed in bold colors. In the kitchen or mall, rather than in the jungle. Slim rather than normal -- (by the way, why are people calling Dora chubby??????). I don't believe that even EVERYgirl on the upper West side of NYC where this anchor quite possible lives gets more fashion conscious and slim. Ugh. After having done a few of these shows in the past, my conclusion is that this anchor didn't read the petition, didn't read the articles, didn't listen to the things I said on the taping last night or that Lyn or Hardy Girls Healthy Women director Megan have been saying in other articles, and merely responded in a knee jerk way to represent EVERYmom -- as if she had the right.
We love certain producers at the Early Show -- and they must be fuming!
P.S. If you read the article at CBS then please leave a comment below... and realize that I DIDN'T, as they say I did, say anything about keeping Dora "wholesome"...what a bunch of cr*p.
Yeah, she’s cute. And leggings are better than a short skirt. But this was never just about modesty. It’s about hooking little girls on “tween” activities like fashion, shopping, and appearance. The new Dora is for 5 year olds and up. Is 5 the new tween? Why is a Dora, concerned about her appearance and clothes and jewelry a good thing for little girls not yet old enough for first grade? Sure, little girls will want the new doll, even beg for her, because media and marketers have sold fashion and shopping as the very definition of girlhood. Little girls love chocolate cake too—but as good parents we don’t feed it to them 24-7. We want a healthy alternative, and the original Dora was just that.
So we don't buy "it's what girls want and need stuff" (especially when that need and desire has been created by toy companies and TV shows) or that Mattel, a company capitalizing big on Dora’s image, cares about our daughters’ well-being. It's real basic: Mattel knows if they can connect to the tween crossover market they will make a lot more money; but it’s at the expense of the wonderful messages the original Dora offers to girls. Once Dora is remade, even the littlest girls will want the older Dora because they have been effectively sold on the importance of appearance, fashion and shopping. They won't grow up with Dora, they will bypass her for the tween version. That's the loss.
What about the fact that Dora is Latina? Does it not matter that Dora was not only a great example of a nonstereotypical girl, but a great example of diversity? Is this not lost when girls can change her hair and eye color? Is cultural identity just something you can buy and sell?
Because no one else is doing it, we have to make the obvious connection between hooking little girls on shopping and both the economy and the environment. Is this really the time to reveal a Dora who costs $60 and travels from the real jungle to the lipstick jungle? Do we really think this is the only way Dora can grow up? A Dora who grows up in the rainforest might still be wearing her shorts and sneakers (even if she moved to the city.) Believe us, 9 and 10 year old girls are still wearing shorts and sneakers, and rarely the bows, earrings, bracelets, leggings, necklace, headband -- accessories that simply mean more $$ to be made off of Dora. She might help little girls make these connections and fight the good fight for the planet, but if she does this in pearl earrings and teen fashion, the message is most certainly undermined for 9 and 10 year old girls everywhere.
We’re sure Mattel is spinning this as a great way to drum up interest in the new Dora. No news is bad news for a marketing campaign. And their strategy of describing us as only "moms" in a panic about something non-existent is a way of trivializing our very sensible demands. But no, Mattel, these moms (and developmental psychologists) and the others who signed our petition are not so easily soothed -- or manipulated.
What happened? FIRST it was Dora's Magic Talking Kitchen, THEN Dora Princess, THEN Dora Babysitter in her cousin's show, NOW DORA TWEEN. Alas, we saw the signs. The cute flower lip gloss, the pinkified look, the sudden separation of Dora and Diego shows. We could have, should have predicted this after we saw the likes of Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobby, and Trollz (now with the ubiquitous commodified girl power z), all made over in the cute sexy way that marketers sell maturity to girls—the sassy wink, the long flowing hair, the thin waist, the turned out hip pose of practiced lingerie models. What next? Dora the Cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with cute purse and stilettos? Dora the Pop Star with Hoppin’ Dance Club and “juice” bar? We can expect it all, because that’s what passes as “tween” in the toy department these days.
In Packaging Girlhood, we wrote extensively about Dora the Explorer as one of the best role models in girls' early worlds. She wears (or used to, anyway) shorts. She has a sidekick monkey. She has a map and a compass and a backpack! She solves problems and explores the world in Spanish and English. Her motto is "Let's go!" and it could never be construed in that wink, wink kind of way. But those adventuresome folks who created Dora no longer own her. She's owned by Viacom who can sell the rights to her to the highest bidder. That's right. The highest bidder. A bunch of greedy corporate execs own her and can use her image, re-MAKE her image, in any way they see fit to make money.
But we know the truth. If the original Dora grew up, she wouldn't be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She'd develop her map reading skills and imagine the places she could go. She’d capitalize on those problem solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world. Maybe she’d become a world class runner or follow her love of animals and become a wildlife preservationist or biologist. We’ll never know because the only way a girl can grow up in tween town, is to narrow that symphony of choices to one note. It's such a sell out of Dora, of all girls.
That’s why we’re starting a campaign! Join us and Hardy Girls Healthy Women for Let’s Go: No Makeover for Dora. Help us tell the execs at Viacom to “Let GO” of Dora. Either let her live on as her wonderful self, or create a pre-teen doll that is true to who she was as a child! Here’s what you can do:
Sign our petition: tell Nickelodeon and Mattel to LET GO of Dora!
Start your own SAVE DORA email campaign
Blog about this
Write a letter or an op ed for your local paper
Spread the word to high schoolers and college students who grew up with Dora
Let Dora Be Dora!
Don’t Bratz My Girl Dora!
“Let’s Go!” / No Makeover for Dora!
Dora Explores the World, Not the Mall
Get Your Greedy Hands Off Our Dora!
If you have ideas and resources, let’s join together and start this campaign. Create a sign, a bumper sticker, a button, and we’ll help you promote this. Find out who to write to and we’ll update our site here. And check out Bethany Sanders’ article on www.parentdish.com !
Here's our petition. Sign it, and pass it along!!! PETITION: LET'S GO
UPDATE: It's 3/8/09 and we now have over 2000 signatures thanks to Hardy Girls Healthy Women who have really gotten the word out. There's been coverage on CNN as well as in a newspaper in Mexico! Here's the link to the video of LYN speaking to New England Cable News.
I (Sharon) just screened this film with my Psychology of Girls and Women class. WOW. It is a wonderful film. I was slightly involved at the beginning of their (Kristy Guevara-Flanagan & Dawn Valadez) project, previewing their short version, but had no idea it would turn out so well. The directors followed 4 girls, Ariana, Isha, Rosie, and Esme for 4 years, until their 13th birthday. There's Esmeralda, Mexican American; Ariana, African American; Rosie, mixed race Latina; and Isha, an immigrant from India. The film uses a mix of intimate interviews, cinema vérité, and stop-motion animation.
What I love so much about the film is that every topic I am concerned about, every topic I teach about, appears in the film and in a subtle and nuanced way. This isn't your typical documentary where people's lives get so overdramatized and then statistics keep appearing to remind you of a dark present and a darker future. Instead the girls lives and the girls just beautifully speak for themselves.
Isha -- a very good girl who just for a moment or two in the film delights in what it might mean to be bad -- was thoroughly watched and protected by her family in positive and not so positive ways. I saw a hint of rebellion to come. Rosie's story of depression and recovery was fantastic -- I kept wanting to put her in a hippie alternative school where she'd be appreciated. She really begins to withdraw and become sullen in a major and pathological way -- her intelligence is so unmet in the world around her except perhaps by her mother who is struggling with her own demons. Esmerelda? The transformation from self-hate to self-love for her was and is important for all of us to see. We picture girls victims of self-esteem problems and body-image issues, but we rarely see their rising above that, even if momentarily. The first to have a boyfriend, her wholesale buy into heterosexual romance bodes disaster at every turn, and yet no disaster arrives. Ariana,stays so teriffic throughout the film, with no lapse of energy or self-possession. Early in the film she protests the teacher showing Bring It On, a PG-13 movie about cheerleading (to 10 and 11-year-olds, mind you), after she has brought in an alternative, Love and Basketball. The teacher mistakenly gives the kids a vote over the films and the cheerleader movie wins. Ariana is broken-hearted -- and she rightly mumbles something like, they just want to see those panties. There's also a scene in a sex ed class that is hysterical, although the well-meaning teacher (is he a gym teacher? a bio teacher?) was totally serious when he answered his students' questions. One girl asks "when do you know if you're ready to have sex?" Tough question? Nope. Has to do with ovaries, eggs, menstruation! I'm sure every parent in the audience will cringe at that one!
The diversity represented by these 4 subjects is not what the movie is about. It's simply about girlhood; their diversity is their context, their particularity. We see them in their uniqueness and appreciate how their different families shape them, but in the end, all that they say and experience is thorougly and recognizably everygirl.
I was so afraid that some if not all of these girls were doomed. And yet none of them were or are. So what was it that left me with the feeling that these girls are going to be ok? I saw resistance, rebellion, self-love, and girls interested in reading, studying, confronting injustice. I saw a lot of wisdom.
In short, this film is subtle, moving, nuanced, powerful, and right on. I'll use it as a teacher, and encourage my school library to buy it.
Going on 13 Web SiteGoing On 13 MySpace
Speaking of pseudo-multiculturalism and a girly shopaholic attitude. Check out Elizabeth Marshall’s excellent article on American Girl dolls in the magazine Rethinking Schools: “Marketing an American Girlhood.”
We couldn’t agree more with Marshall’s analysis of the historical fictions (they “encourage a limited independence and emphasize conventional “good girl” behaviors), of race (“this inclusion is superficial and represents the ways in which “difference”, like “girl power” has become a commodity that American Girl market to its consumers”), and the way AG products exemplify some of the worst marketing patterns (that is, “how corporations play on the feminist and/or educative aspirations of parents, teachers, girls, and young women and turn these toward consumption”).
We wrote about American Girl dolls in Packaging Girlhood (“A Series to Buy For’) as an example of the clever marketing of girl power. Because we made a factual error about which dolls were marketed first, our analysis was criticized by some. We have to wonder if people were actually angry because we called out a cultural icon. To many, American Girl promises something different, something akin to valuing the inner girl -- her strength, tenacity, and courage. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult and disappointing to see how these qualities are tied closely to expensive products interwoven with tired themes about female restraint and accommodation. There’s more too. In the history books, pay attention to what mothers teach their daughters, to the representation of boys, and to who gets called “pretty” or “beautiful” over and over (hint: it’s not African American Addy). As psychologists studying and working with girls, perhaps what bothers us most is the way American Girl, by price alone, sets girls who have against girls who have-not. So much for the inner girl!
We’re back, after a push to finish the manuscript for Packaging Boyhood (to be published this coming November).
Just spoke with a reporter interested in a variety of products targeting girls and promoting self-esteem, like the Rebelle Friendship Bag, a purse that unzips down the middle to make two purses, so girls can exchange with their BFFs, Groovy Girls RSVP line (Respect, Self-expression, Values and Play), and C-Thru perfume, whose spokesperson is a cancer survivor with a message about inner beauty. Guess the marketers who came up with these campaigns were watching the Superbowl when Dove’s “True Colors” commercial interrupted the steady stream of sexist beer fare to launch the company’s enormously successful “Campaign for True Beauty”. (Dang, that was audaciously clever.)
But here’s the difference, and it’s an important difference. Selling a product in a girl- or woman- affirming way and using a percentage of profits to support girl affirming movements, as Dove did for the Girl Scouts, is not the same as using girls’ struggles with self-esteem and anxieties about their appearance as a way to sell a product to girls themselves. As psychologists, we know that self esteem is to often connected to the very things these products cleverly undermine or create anxiety around – being included, having friends, having the right look (or smell?), the right products with the right brands.
In PG, we talk a lot about how marketers co-opt girl power to sell an image of a girl empowered. There’s some of that here (yeah, sure, a girl can “Rebelle” like a teen by buying a cute little purse; she can “express herself” by buying a look that someone else created), but the Rebelle and Groovy Girls campaigns add an online dimension with diverse girls hawking their self-esteem enhancing wares. The girls don’t really embody difficult cultural identities— it’s a pseudo-multiculturalism because it all comes down to what these different girls have in common—their love of these products, and a girly shopaholic attitude.
If people behind these products were really interested in girls' friendships across racial lines, they wouldn’t reduce race to the shared love of shopping; if they really wanted to support girls’ relationships, they wouldn’t sell them products designed to announce their exclusivity and popularity; and if they were really interested in girls self esteem they wouldn't reduce it to having things. Come on girls, rebel for real—don’t buy it!
Well, you've heard from us quite a bit about the trend in dollZ to encourage little girls to play with teen dolls and everything marketers think that "teen" means. That is, Bratz and their followers party, have a passion for fashion, drink "juice" drinks in cosmo glasses, fly in jet planes, shop, and hang out in hot tubs. WELCOME MALIA AND SASHA to the world of teens. TY has made two dolls, Sasha and Malia, to match their other dolls. They're the same height, look very teen, and even have breasts. What's going on here? And they surround them with butterflies and hearts... typical little girls, soon to be partying little teens? Why couldn't they have found out what Sasha and Malia really like? Give them each a dog and a leash? Nope -- reduced to stereotyped little girls but advanced to preteen age. If I were Michelle, I'd call up TY and say while you might want other little girls to grow up too soon,leave mine alone!
FROM LYN: After talking to girls at two high schools yesterday and hearing some of the most insightful comments and obervations, I'd like to invite girls who log on to add to our powerpoint with images and messages they wish we'd address in our talks. I'll add some of our presentation images to this site, but we'd love to hear from YOU! Lyn