Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Makeover for Dora

If you've had any contact with the under-five demographic, particularly girls, you'll be well familiar with Dora the Explorer. For those not in the know, Dora is the title character of animated TV show aimed at the pre-schooler demographic. Dora spends most of her time exploring (duh!) and helping people while also teaching Spanish to the kids (As an aside in some countries English is the language of instruction for Dora. Though it would be cool if we could get a Te Reo version here).

Like all good Kid's TV shows, there's plenty of merchandising that spins off from the programme. There is Dora clothing, lunchboxes, cups, books, dinner plates and there was a live show version that came through town a few months ago. The show does exceedingly well in its demographic, but apparently the powers-that-be want to extend Dora's marketing reach into tween demographic where the infamous bratz dolls and the pink lip-glossed Hannah Montana dominate.

And how do the producers plan to do that? By giving the title character a makeover to make her more feminine and sexy.

What a shame.

Trawling through the kiddie section for a present for my four-year old cousin a few weeks ago, I was staggered by how the general theme seemed to be pink princesses for girls and then the 'boys aisle.' The Dora line seemed to stand alone amongst toys marketed to girls that didn't perpetuate traditional gender roles (Don't even get me started on why advertisements like this are never marketed at boys).

I'm not saying that pink frilly princess stuff is bad and that we should ban all of it from our girls' toy boxes immediately. My point is that there isn't actually that much choice outside of the 'pink princess' and 'sex kitten' in the girls' toy aisle and I'm not sure that we need yet another product reinforcing the idea that dressing in pink dresses and around waiting for a handsome prince is a core part of a young girl's identity.

It hasn't always been this way.

I remember having some pink stuff as a kid as well as a Barbie (which I promptly pulled off its head and cut off all the hair). But back then Barbie dolls seemed to have real jobs rather than being a Princess (Kate take note) and characters like Rainbow Brite went off and defeated evil rather than just looking pretty and 'feminine' in pink (actually IIRC there was not only did the title character wear a 'boyish' blue dress none of the colours of the supporting cast were pink either). Then there was Star Wars, Fraggle Rock and E.T which appealed to both girls and boys with not a shade of pink in sight. And even though Leia may have been a Princess, she managed to lead a rebellion against the Empire without the need to don a pink frilly frock.


Looks like I'll be spending my present money in the far more interesting 'boys aisle' in the future. Actually come to think of it, I always thought boys toys were better than the stuff for girls' back when I was kid. What a pity things have gotten far worse since my childhood.

BTW you can contact Viacom, the company that owns Dora here to voice your opinion.


artandmylife said...

Dora is BIG in our house (as is Diego). I have always liked her "natural" look and the educational aspects so this is a bit of a shock. I wrote to the Maori Language people once asking for support for a Te Reo version

Anna McM said...

Dora is massive in our house too. My son, 2, and my daughter, nearly 7, both just love her. The programme offers solid values, good educational content and a refreshing escape from all the restrictively gendered toys you talk about. I found Dora incredibly endearing exactly because she's just a wee girl in shorts having adventures.

You're absolutely right about toys being gendered, as well as clothes. There's almost no such thing as neutral kids clothing which can be worn by either sex. I spoke about this to a friend recently - he mentioned that in the family photos of his childhood, it was difficult to tell boys from girls. Everyone had the same standard-issue cords and skivies. Same with us. Clothing was more expensive then, and got circulated around, so gendered items (pretty dresses, for example), were for good occasions only.

Anna McM said...

We need to petition Dora's creators (Nickolodeon?) to keep her just the way she is, I reckon...

The ex-expat said...

The company I linked to, Viacom, owns nickelodeon.

Violet said...

I find it appalling that they want to tinker with such a cool character. The only reason I don't mind my daughter being a fan is that she's a girl who has adventures and doesn't have to be girly. Personally, I'd be gunning for a Cantonese version, but that'd be a mere pipe dream.

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