Barbie the Hot Pagan Witch

Owen Byrne owen at permafrost.net
Thu Oct 30 20:43:20 PST 2003


Steve Nordquist wrote:

>> Props to ES, sorry for the crossover, this was scha-weet! ;-)
>>
>> Now if we could just scale up to life size, wedge in some minimal 
>> AI,  and throw in some specialized animatronics...  Mattel / RealDoll 
>> J.D.?   Hmmm...   the mind boggles.
>>
>> Ahem.  Never mind.
>
>
> Right, set up the troll for "one more medical-related feature, another 
> ten dollars"
> and just drop it like that.
> Indeed, the live-action Sailor Moon OVAs are quite scary in their own 
> right,
> taking Magical Girls and putting them to task beyond singing and emoting.
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>
I like the phrase - "set up the troll" - I am not sure I have seen it 
said just so before.

It seems to me that underage sex - well its another in the long string 
(alcohol, drugs, terrorism) of things that the American Empire has been 
built on - maximize demand, criminalize supply - make a mint off of the 
side effects.

 From the journalistic point of view - not that I'm a journalist - I 
just spent a few years at a newspaper - its just piling onto this story 
from earlier this week in the NYT:
Owen

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Underdressed and Hot: Dolls Moms Don't Love
By RUTH LA FERLA

T 8, Macie Rosenthal is done with Barbies. "I have a whole collection," 
she said, "that I would like to get rid of someday."

Instead, pride of place on Macie's toy shelf belongs to Jade, a 10-inch 
avatar of urban chic, from her exploded hair, inflated lips and tiny 
wifebeater shirt to her platform boots. Jade is a Bratz doll, one of a 
multiracial cohort of bosomy girlfriends with names like Sasha, Yasmin, 
Cloe and Nevra, and wardrobes that speak to the aspirations of a nation 
of third-grade J.Lo and Beyoncé worshipers.

Introduced in the summer of 2001, Bratz and their licensed products have 
already rung up a spectacular $1 billion in sales, according to their 
maker, and toy analysts are predicting that they will be a big hit as a 
holiday gift.

As anatomically advanced as they are ethnically diverse, the Bratz' 
shrunken sweaters, shredded jeans and faintly glazed expressions are 
part of their allure. "Bratz look sexy, but that's O.K., because that's 
what makes them look good," said Macie, who attends P.S. 234 in downtown 
Manhattan. "They have more style and everything now."

Not every parent, however, thinks it's O.K. that Bratz look as though 
they might be at home on any street corner where prostitutes ply their 
trade. "The dolls are atrocious," said Naomi Perry, grimacing as she 
eyed the Bratz display at the Toys "R" Us store in Times Square last 
week. "This is a very trampy look."

But as she spoke, she engaged in a mild tug of war with Gavriella, her 
7-year-old daughter, who was firmly planted in front of a Jade dressed 
for New Year's Eve in blue tulle, eyeing it longingly as she stroked her 
own Jade, which she was carrying, raking her fingers through its 
waist-length hair.

Ms. Perry's ambivalence — she is suspicious of the message the dolls 
impart about impossible-to-achieve female bodies and suggestive clothes, 
while unable to stem the pull they exert on her daughter — is typical of 
many parents' feelings about pop culture these days.

"What I think it speaks to is that children are growing up very early," 
said Miriam Arond, the editor in chief of Child magazine. "These days 
many children of 4 and 5 are developing a fashion sense," she added, 
their tastes and aspirations "mirroring a society in which we're 
treating really young children as if they were much older."

Barbie may still be the idol of the post-toddler set, 3- to 5-year-old 
girls who can't seem to get enough of her vacuum-molded contours and 
shiny plastic wardrobe. Bratz are targeted toward older girls, up to age 
12, "and they are doing very well there," said Christina Charasse, a toy 
analyst with the NPD Group, which tracks retail trends. According to 
NPD, Bratz, priced from about $14 to $30 each when packaged with 
accessories, have taken 31.7 percent of dolls' market share, cutting 
into the sales of American Girls and the top-selling Barbie.

"Barbie is somehow considered taboo at this age," said Dr. Claudia 
Paradise, a New York City psychoanalyst who works with children. "The 
bigger dolls, like American Girls, are perceived as infantile," she 
said, adding, "Bratz are more representative of trends, of what actually 
goes on in young girls' minds."

Kelly Scolara, 12, a seventh grader in Manhattan, has collected all five 
original Bratz. "I just think they can kind of relate to you," she said. 
"It's fun to have something that looks like you."

Denene Millner, the articles editor of Parenting magazine, predicts that 
Bratz will be a huge hit this holiday season. "They are a little more 
realistic in what girls look like, see on videos and on the big girls 
when they are going to school," Ms. Millner added.

Since Bratz were introduced last year by MGA Entertainment, a toy maker 
near Los Angeles, a raft of competitors have hit the shelves to vie for 
the hearts and allowances of 8- to 12-year-olds. There are Flava dolls 
sold by Mattel (Barbie's maker), a phalanx of multi-ethnic fashion dolls 
like Kiyoni Brown, an aspiring Missy Elliot with stick-on tattoos and a 
boom box, one thumb suggestively hooked in the waistband of her denim 
micro-miniskirt. Mattel has also introduced My Scene dolls, an offshoot 
of the Barbie brand, which include the vaguely Hispanic-looking Madison, 
encased in a glistening cat suit, the perfect disco-mate for Sutton, her 
slim and dapper escort.

Even the Pleasant Company, the maker of the historically oriented, 
wholesome American Girls, which reported $350 million in revenues in 
2002, has tried to raise its dolls' cool quotient by introducing Kailey, 
an 18-inch surfer chick who comes with her own wet suit and 
star-spangled boogie board. She will be one of the dolls for sale at the 
45,000-square-foot American Girl Place store that is opening on Fifth 
Avenue in New York on Nov. 8, following a similar store in Chicago.

As may be clear to anyone who has seen the film "Thirteen," about 
wayward adolescents, by the time American girls reach puberty, many have 
swapped thoughts of toys for a tongue stud and tattoos. Such 
precociousness should surprise no one, child experts say. "When I was 5, 
I sat at home watching my mother do laundry," Ms. Arond of Child 
magazine said. "Today, by the time they are 4 or 5, children have a very 
active little social life. Many have been in school several years. Their 
parents are dressing them like themselves, and including them in dinner 
parties and in their own socialization."

At the age of 9 or 10, girls' concerns are much different than at 5 or 
6, Dr. Paradise said. "They like the funky boy dolls. At their age their 
play is very much about coupling."

She would get no argument from Gavriella Perry, who was intently 
perusing Cameron and Koby, the new Bratz boy dolls at Toys "R" Us. "I 
actually should get a boy," Gavriella mused. "It's so boring with just 
girls."

Arguably, Barbie herself was the first sexualized, fashion-obsessed doll 
marketed to prepubescent girls. Barbie's pert face and buxom frame were 
modeled, it has been suggested, on Bild Lili, a German sex toy.

Accustomed perhaps to Barbie's va-va-voom look, some mothers have less 
of an issue with the Bratz' exaggerated contours, body-hugging wardrobes 
and garish makeup than with their apparently vacant lives. "Unless there 
is a narrative I don't know, they don't seem to have occupations," said 
Jenny Allen, a freelance writer in New York and the mother of a 
9-year-old girl. "Even Barbies have jobs now," she added. "They have a 
lot to do besides waiting for Ken to call."

Isaac Larian, the Bratz creator and the chief executive of MGA 
Entertainment, sees no problem. The company's research and focus groups 
have shown that "mothers are frankly supporting this toy," he said.

Many parents view the dolls as just another bit of childhood flotsam 
destined for the dustbin once their daughters come of dating age. "As a 
parent I would like to let Macie explore these things," said Macie's 
mother, Ellen Rosenthal. "Age 8 is a perfect time for her to experiment 
with lipstick, fairy dust glitter and all of that. If the Bratz doll had 
a belly ring, I wouldn't care — they're just a phase."

What is more, the Bratz, and the multiracial Flava doll look-alikes, get 
high marks for ethnic diversity. "Multiculturalism is one of these 
dolls' very positive aspects," Ms. Arond said, "a very nice way of 
helping children all over the country realize that people look many 
different ways."

Anna Scolara, the mother of Kelly, praises the dolls' resemblance to 
"New York girls."

"They represent so many different cultures that coexist in the city, and 
I think that's great," she said.

To some minds, the Bratz, with their outlandishly large heads, doe eyes 
and comically exaggerated figures are no more injurious to a young 
girl's self-esteem, than, say, the Little Mermaid. "These dolls are 
cartoons," Dr. Paradise said. "They are actually a much healthier 
depiction of girls than Barbie. No girl will take seriously that this is 
a body image she ought to be striving for. Girls know that these are 
skinny bodies they never will see in the real world."

Maybe. "Through a doll you can certainly fantasize about putting on a 
ball gown or a big fur coat — that is one of the guilty pleasures of 
toys," said Ms. Millner, the Parenting editor and the mother of two. Her 
older daughter, age 4, becomes enraptured whenever she sees a commercial 
for Bratz, she said, "but so far she hasn't asked for one."

"I think she's holding out for a talking vacuum cleaner," Ms. Millner added.




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