Dora the Explorer is getting a makeover. In Fall 2009 Nickelodeon and Mattel are going to launch a grown up, sexier Dora – the Dora Links fashion doll. The doll is interactive and is supposed to be plugged into a computer where girls can customize their doll by changing her hair style, eye color, clothing and jewelry. Gina Sirard, vice president of marketing for Mattel, says:
The doll really taps into a tween’s love of fashion and empowers girls to influence and change the ‘lives’ of Dora and her friends. The instant gratification that girls receive as they change Dora online and watch as the doll magically transforms right before their eyes is groundbreaking in today’s toy market. What’s more, parents can feel comfortable knowing that Dora’s online world provides a safe and wholesome play experience for their children.
Assuming that all female tweens love fashion just plays into gender stereotypes and gender socialization. Also, excuse me but how does the doll “empower girls to influence and change the ‘lives’ of Dora and her friends”? First of all, girls only change Dora’s appearance which is superficial and helps to perpetuate society’s overemphasis on appearance. Girls are already bombarded and overloaded with all these imposed unrealistic beauty standards.
Secondly, why should girls be focusing on “empowering” a fictional character in a fictional world instead of empowering themselves and their own lives? Empowerment is not about changing your physical appearance and trying to dress sexier. It is especially not about changing the appearances of other girls.
These Dora dolls are also going to be expensive (they’ll be priced at around $59.99). The hypersexualization of Dora is quite unsettling. Her sexier silhouette reflects a lot of ideals of femininity: long hair, extreme thinness, and wearing miniskirts to show off more leg. Dora is also supposed to be Latina but sexed up Dora embodies a very western, white standard of beauty.
This speaks to the hyper-sexualization of chlidhood and how girls especially are so forcefully ushered into sexy teen-hood or adulthood, completely bypassing childhood. From such an early age, girls are indoctrinated into hypersexualized femininity. Dora is not the only child cartoon character who has been revamped into a grown-up and sexier character. Look at how Strawberry Shortcake morphed:
She’s become skinnier, more feminized (longer hair, longer eyelashes) and posed in a sexier position. She used to be innocent and cutesy looking but morphed into a flirtatious, more femininie, and sexy character. Care Bears have also been made over to be skinnier and have less round bellies which sadly shows how even cartoon bears have to conform to such harmful, hegemonic beauty ideals of thinness.
The hypersexualization of cartoon characters is disturbing and it’s damaging to children. Where are more positive role models for girls if real life celebrities and popular cartoon characters are all sexed up and make it seem as though what’s on the outside matters most?