Saturday, September 22, 2007

Maybe the problem is that the name "Bratz" is inherently a negative word. Probably shoulda thought about that.

I've tried to make my peace with Bratz dolls -- honest: this world seems big enough for Bratz, Barbie and Barbie's breasts -- but Tuesday's post brought it all up again. And it reminded me: what happened to the Bratz movie? Oh.

Barbie and Skipper send their condolences. Midge With Teeth could not be reached for comment.

But here's an interesting pre-release bit I missed: "negative public perception has prevented the Bratz from blossoming into a full-scale entertainment phenomenon. Parents and child advocacy groups have long argued that the dolls, with their fishnet stockings, pouty lips and micro-mini skirts, encourage pre-adolescent sexuality. With 'Bratz: The Movie,' MGA and Lionsgate want to change that image." The movie versions are evidently infused with a "newfound purity" and "Bratz might bare their midriffs, cake their faces in makeup and worship stiletto boots, but they know wrong from right: they decide to teach the school a lesson in diversity." Since I didn't see the movie, I have to ask: diversity of what?

I'm fully aware, though, that Barbie has had her share of problems. Mattel at first rejected a doll with, you know, a chest and feminists very nearly turned "Barbie doll" into a slur. But Barbie has always had an admirable narrative. Even those early outfits -- with names like "Commuter Set" and "Theater Date" -- suggested an intelligent, active woman. A Busy Gal! Although the doll's changed and is now meant for a much younger child, Barbie still reflects, I think, that original spirit. Maybe I don't know enough about Bratz to know if they have a story. I guess diversity is a start.

ADDED: Maybe it's the Bratz image that pushes some parents into the loving, educational arms of American Girl dolls and their newest movie -- which just from first looks alone, seems to be the anti-Paper Moon. And if you saw Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front, how old did it make you feel that they cast Molly Ringwald as the mother? God, that devastated me.


Suniverse said...

I'm not sure what the Bratz story is, beyond looking like a skank.

The whole American Girl thing is a backlash, but a VERY EXPENSIVE one. The dolls are ridiculously expensive (of course, once you get over spending $90+ on a doll, $6 for a pair of doll shoes is very reasonable) so it's not something that's a real option for most people. I'm not sure on Bratz pricing, but I'm assuming it's closer to Barbie's than AG. Still, I'd rather do paper dolls with my kid if those are my options.

The marketing thing you mentioned in your last post is true - we've seen our share of shitty, shitty movies, and owned more than a few (I defy anyone to name a worse movie than Thomas and the Magic Railroad. It does not exist), mainly because we don't watch cartoon network or any network t.v. When something comes out that isn't violent or misogynistic (much) we head to that rather than Charlie Sheen.

And Molly Ringwald is the mom? Oh, my god. Is she going to do the lipstick trick from Breakfast Club?

Make the logo bigger said...

“a worse movie than Thomas and the Magic Railroad.”

Anything with Dane Cook. It’s because of him that I think Hollywood should adopt a DMV-type points for driving infractions system. For each lousy movie, you get 1 pt added to your SAG card.

Based on this criteria, his is already revoked in my mind.

HighJive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HighJive said...

Bratz and Barbie may be analogous to the advertising industry today. There are agencies like CP+B and Goodby, representing the new school culture, versus agencies like JWT and McCann, representing the old school culture.

Bratz presents cutting-edge cool (in a bubble-gum style), just as CP+B will present BK and Truth advertising. Barbie’s attempts to be cool—ala her Bling series, for example—feels forced and wannabe, just as JWT tries playing cutting-edge concepts with clients like Oscar Mayer and Kraft. Barbie is the traditional leader brand seeking to respond to the challenger brand—and Barbie is starting to come off like New Coke of the 1990s or “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Barbie should step up to the times, but not come off like a washed-up Hollywood starlet seeking a pathetic comeback.

Bratz looks, feels and acts like contemporary culture. Forget the movie, which is a total disaster (Hey, Barbie movies are not significantly further evolved, as they don’t even try to play in the theatres, taking a straight-to-DVD approach. Actually, it might be better to compare Barbie movies to Bratz animated movies, as the two even share themes.). Are Bratz dolls inspiring some type of immoral, slutty attitude? No more than iconic figures like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, BeyoncĂ©, etc. Perhaps Barbie even inspired such revulsion when first introduced decades ago as the international supermodel (can’t be certain here, as doll history is not a fortĂ©).

And like the ad industry, Barbie lacks authentic diversity. Barbie opts to take the same basic doll model and simply darken the skin tone for cultural variety. Bratz at least starts with a diverse base, where all the characters are equal versus derivative.

Why the hell did I just spend the last 15 minutes over-analyzing girly toys?

Irene Done said...

highjive -- Because girly toys are fun!

Two things, though: Bratz is a diverse collection but their ethnicity and their attire are two different issues. It's the ridiculously sexy attire that most people object to. And while Bratz dolls may reflect the pop culture, purchasing a doll is a decision that's different than turning on the TV. You're asking a mother to actively and literally buy into a sexualized image for her daughter. Consider that so many doll sales are gift purchases made by grandmothers and family friends and you begin to see the limitation of the Bratz product.

The analogy to CP+B is interesting and Bratz certainly seem very of the moment. But I assume the Bratz brand is after some kind of long-term success, along with all the promotional opportunities that entails. To do that, it has to be a toy that parents feel good about buying. The manufacturers didn't factor that in -- or didn't care.

Barbie=the ad industry? Funny! Here's an interesting thing though: I've been to my share of Barbie conventions, dealer shows etc, and the collectors are an extremely, profoundly diverse group. It truly is a coming-together of the world's people.

MTLB -- If this were a just and wise world, your system would be already be in place.

Suniverse -- Paper dolls are awesome! It's the important bridge between coloring and total clothes obsession. Great points about American Doll. It's almost designed to appeal to the collector-mother and grandmother more than to the fun-seeking child. Almost not really a toy.

And mom-Ringwald was nearly saintly. She raised 3 kids while working in a WWII parts factory! Imagine!

HighJive said...

also, i'm waiting for the American Girls Gone Wild video. i hear molly ringwald gets pretty freaky.

Anonymous said...

Random though...I don't think American Girl dolls can be considered a backlash to Bratz dolls. This is mostly because I am 25 and remember wanting a Samantha American Girl doll when I was in elementary school. Can something be a backlash response when it existed first? I do agree that Bratz dolls are far too sexy to be given to 5-year-olds for their birthdays though.

Anonymous said...