Monday, MSNBC (we know, we might as well be reading Reader's Digest) ran a piece on sexualized kid's toys targeting, you guessed it, young girls. It seems that the media outlet missed the Bratz uproar over a half-decade ago, and decided it was time to cause a parental ruckus over some "tarty" takes on childhood favorites. Apparently, the old-fashioned doll enthusiasts freaked out in 2011 because horses are now carrying purses and Disney characters have traded in sweet smiles for snarky ones.
Disney figured out a long time ago that it's not about dressing up its characters in inappropriate attire -- the power is in reinforcing gender stereotypes and negative views on motherhood using subtlety and happy endings. Basically, Disney has more tact than Bratz, and that's part of the reason the company has been one of the largest players in the transformation of America into a brand-based culture over the last 50 years.
Maybe it's just us, but in general this "toys inciting salacious behavior" whine comes little late in the game. Barbie's been telling girls for decades that they can do anything -- as long as they look great doing it and are able to transform that "9-to-5" look into date-night apparel. Has this kept any woman from pursuing a career in "office work"? Probably not.
The piece even harps on the image change of board games like Candy Land -- which in marketing is really known as a re-branding or, simply, an update. If Katy Perry's cream-shooting breasts were part of this 2011 version of Candy Land, it might be a different story. But a pretty fairy in place of an awkward, possibly male candy cane person is hardly offensive. Same with Dora the Explorer -- she was taken to task for, essentially, growing up. New Dora is slimmer, yes, but she's also taller and wears jewelry -- just like preschool-aged Dora.
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Bratz dolls are gross, no doubt, and the idea that Troll dolls are now sassy girls in mini-skirts instead of gender-neutral baby people takes the nostalgic weirdness right out of them. But for this generation of kids, who's to say if there will even be any interest in the cotton candy-haired playthings anyway? We would like to note too that, no matter how overtly sexy Trolls have become, their hair still cuts the same (or burns the same, depending on how destructive you're feeling.) Same with Barbie -- whether her look is graceful and empowering or teased up and club-ready, we all know how she's supposed to go to bed -- stacked horizontally on top of (and facing) Ken like a plastic person sandwich.
In this time after International Women's Day has passed and we go back to our regularly scheduled Charlie Sheen's "winning" abuses programming, the thought should rest more on the fact that in the sidebar of this MSNBC article was link to a piece called "Diet Rules That Don't Suck." If that headline isn't aimed at young women, we would love to know what demographic MSNBC was really going for.