Really, Bratz??

MGA Entertainment, maker of the controversial Bratz dolls, introduces its latest addition to the line at the Toy Fair in New York this week. Because the regular Bratz aren’t trashy and offensive enough, now MGA claims to be committed to and supportive of the fight against cancer by rolling out bald versions of the Bratz girls under the “True Hope” campaign.
Bratz girls before:

Bratz girls after:

I thought the pinkwashing of products for breast cancer awareness was bad. Wait, I still do. But this takes the “charitable” marketing scheme to another level. At least the bald Bratz don’t look like hookers. Although the super-short plaid skirts, the over-the-knee socks, and the platform heels come close.

I don’t even know where to start. The blatant misspelling? The idea that being a brat is a good thing? The over-the-top tartiness of the original line of dolls? I’m not a fan of the original Bratz, so it’s no surprise that I’m not embracing the new line, either.

For those who are a fan of Bratz, whether the slutty version or the bald version, you may not get where I’m coming from. I will also allow for the possibility that a pediatric cancer patient may find comfort from a bald doll, albeit one that portrays a completely unattainable version of feminine beauty and one that might suggest to said child that heavy eye make-up is do-able during chemo. Bratz fans may find nothing wrong in the messages conveyed by the original Bratz gang to little girls, and perhaps will similarly find nothing wrong with bald Bratz dolls being sold under the guise of children’s cancer charities. But I have a problem with both.

Bratz dolls, IMHO, encourage impressionable little girls to focus on their image over all else. They introduce little girls to the idea of dressing like women, which is rife with problems and causes little girls grow up even faster. I’m not the only one with this opinion.

“When young girls have an open-ended toy—like a generic baby doll—it encourages creativity,” says Diane Levin, a professor in the early childhood education department at Wheelock College in Boston. “But the scenarios of Bratz dolls tells them how to play—to dress up, do your hair, go to fashion shows. The dolls encourage girls to think about themselves as sexualized objects whose power is equated with dressing provocatively.” While we women have come a long way, baby, in terms of equality, these dolls have the potential to reverse our course and send us back into the “mommies don’t go to college” mentality. If little girls get the message that they must be sexy to be valuable, we’re in real trouble.

The American Psychological Association did some research on this very issue and released its findings in the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Girls are bombarded with images and messages that are not age-appropriate, which the APA Task Force says can have a negative impact on self-confidence, body image, self-esteem, sexual development, and mental health.

All that from a doll? You betcha.

Yet MGA’s CEO, Isaac Larian thinks otherwise. Shocking. He says that girls want Bratz because they are “beautiful,” and he denies the idea that there is anything sexual about the dolls. “I’m looking at a whole wall of them in my office, and I don’t see them wearing sexy clothes,” he says.

And from the Baby Bratz line:

Huh. Perhaps Larian needs to get his eyes checked. Or do a quick google images search, which is what I just did. Or perhaps his version of “sexy clothes” is different from mine. Since when are fishnet hose and over-the-knee boots part of the dress code for girls ages 4 to 8, which is the demographic targeted by Bratz? Since when are red lipstick, beauty marks, and adorned, itty-bitty panties cool for babies?

And what of the Bratz Web site, which promotes major superficiality and vapidness? While waiting for the transition from one screen to another, the message flashes “Please wait … it takes time to look this good.” Each doll’s “profile” used to include her “favorite body part” but that nifty little feature appears to have been axed.

More insanity from Larian, who says that “MGA’s mission is to provide joy and happiness to kids around the world. We believe children are our legacy and want them to be healthy, have confidence in their imagination and build their dreams into reality.” Like the reality of the body images of these dolls? And we thought Barbie’s proportions–estimated to be 39-21-33 and without enough body fat to menstruate, were totally whacked. At least Barbie preaches the message that girls can do anything they want to do, pursue a variety of careers, have financial and emotional independence from men, and become who they want to be rather than who society, or Isaac Larian, tells them they should be.

Larian says “We [MGA] have a responsibility to children and we take that responsibility very seriously.  The “True Hope” dolls are designed to support and comfort young girls and boys who so bravely endure cancer treatments.  MGA also wants to be an active supporter in the fight to develop lifesaving treatments for children.”

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but it seems to me that if MGA really wanted to be an “active supporter” in pediatric cancer treatments and research, they’d donate more than the $1 from the sale of each doll, as currently planned. With a suggested retail price of $14.99 each, that $1 donation amounts to a pittance and reminds me of the pathetically paltry amount (an estimated 19 percent) of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s proceeds that go toward breast cancer research. If you really want to make a difference, skip the dolls and send the $14.99 directly to a cancer charity. For pediatric cancer, I recommend St Jude or Alex’s Lemonade Stand. For breast cancer, you know I love The Rose, located right here in Houston. If you’re not sure which cause to donate to, check out Charity Navigator.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and the True Hope dolls will become a major tool in the battle against cancer. Maybe they will be the linchpin on which cancer research hangs. Maybe I’m cynical from the deluge of pink products purported to help eradicate the disease that kills more than 40,000 women in this country alone every year.  It’s estimated that more than 12,000 kids younger than 15 are diagnosed with a childhood cancer in the United States each year. I’d love to know how many of those sweet babies would want a True Hope doll.


17 Comments on “Really, Bratz??”

  1. jbaird says:

    Wow, these are bad chicks. I’m sure those children who’ve had cancer would reject a “True Hope” doll. What a misnomer. What a monstrosity. Shameful! Shameful! Thanks for exposing yet another attempt to hoodwink purchasers into buying pinkwashed nonsense. XOXO

    • Tamara Kay says:

      I was going to comment, but no need. jbaird says it perfectly!

    • dadcologist says:

      As a parent to a child with cancer. My daughter loves her bald doll the most, And to bash something that actually brings awarness to childhood cancer which only recieves 4% of national funding compared to the 96% of funding adults recieve. But I’m sure you were already aware seeing as childhood cancer recieves so much national attention!

  2. David Benbow says:

    Obviously they’ve noticed that all those chemo kids need to learn to ACCESSORIZE. There’s an untapped market out there. I see bedazzled pill cases and glammed IV poles.

    Sad, sad, sad.

  3. Very thought provoking post.
    Cancer Warrior

  4. Trevor Hicks says:

    We talked about this last night, and I was a bit ambivalent. At least they aren’t too trashy, but would sick kids really want one of these? Well no, I don’t think very many of them would.

    I think playtime is generally an ‘aspirational’ activity, we play at filling roles or achieving things in the future. I think that’s why kids play more than adults – we’re much more firmly entrenched in various social roles. OK enough of deep analysis. Bottom line, sick kids don’t want toys that remind them of their unpleasant reality. They want the same toys as everyone else, as surely their dreams of adventure and achievement are even more urgent.

    I think the Bratz people know this and don’t expect to sell very many of these dolls, it’s purely a PR move for them. I don’t know if there’s a pithy term equivalent to pinkwashing for children, but it’s the same thing here.

  5. elizabeth connolly says:

    Yes, it is just another way to sexualize our young girls, but to do so using girls sick with cancer is really low. But the almighty dollar reigns supreme. Let’s boycott all Bratz dolls. Congrats again .

  6. Eddie says:

    The name says it all. Bratz for brats. Like most things, you get out what you put into something, put these dolls in your kids hands and, well, you see where I’m going with this.

  7. Lisa says:

    This campaign is really in response to a Make-A-Wish that Mattel participated in…making a bald Barbie for a little girl. The response was so overwhelming in the pediatric oncology world that a petition was started to get Mattel to make more. Being bald as a young kid or teenager in school is very difficult and having a doll that looks like you can be empowering to a younger kid who is made fun of because their classmates don’t understand. Mattel said no to the pediatric oncology families…this company said yes. Publicity move or not, they didn’t need to be asked. Here is the FB link…anybody interested in reading more should google it, there is plenty of info out there about the movement and petitions.

  8. Jason says:

    It is for recognition of kids and people with hair loss such as Trichotillomania and Alopecia also. Take a look at my 12 year olds video. This may change you mind on why this is a good thing. Also, she was part of the Beautiful and Bald Barbie when only 200 had liked the page.

    • Jason, you have an amazing little girl! Of course I was looking at the dolls with the jaded eye of a cancer patient who feels hoodwinked by many of the “for the cure” fundraisers and not thinking about conditions like Trichotillomania and Alopecia. Thank you very much for sharing Chloe’s story, and tell her I said she is one brave girl.

  9. jelebelle says:

    I love this post and agree with you wholeheartedly.

  10. Liz Gomez says:

    Thank you for sharing, Jason. Your daughter is beautiful.

    I do agree with the original post when it comes to Bratz dolls in general and to the many organizations that hoodwink us. However, this particular doll does feel different because 4 out of the 6 have pants on. MGA was responsive and they took an opportunity Barbie refused. (Or Barbie half-heartedly agreed to due to public pressure.) does donate the money right back to the families of pediatric oncology patients at Children’s Hospital Boston. They are very upfront about where the money goes and it directly addresses quality of life issues for patients and their families. Small, local charities seem to be more focused on their original goals. The bigger they get, the more overhead they have and the more they stray from their mission.

    I’m shaving my head for them in a few weeks- you can see my before picture here:

    I am going to get one of the new Bratz dolls for my daughter in a few weeks. If the girls all have excessive makeup on, she’s getting the boy doll.

  11. Lena says:

    My daughter is Chelle. She is 8. Chelle has an auto immune disorder & allopecia. Her hair sometimes fully falls out. The longest her hair has ever gotten was to her chin. The girls at her school make fun at her. Every day her dad & I tell her how beautiful she is. Still she says you don’t understand. She seen that the dolls are coming out & she wants one. I agree a lot of these places use illnesses for $ and while we donate to the hospitals directly. If this brightens my little girls day, she’s getting one. My daughters know we value inner beauty over outter beauty. We work very hard to make sure our girls know you don’t have to look like Barbie to feel beautiful.

  12. Meg says:

    Join us and sign our petition to boycott Bratz dolls. We need to send a message that we will not stand for or commercially support such sexualized toys. There are better toy options—fostering a healthier self-image, creativity, confidence, and fun!

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