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Tween Dora inspires girls to explore…the mall

By September 28, 2009 9 Comments
She looks empty.

She looks empty inside.

Dora the Explorer’s new “tween” look has caused quite a stir. The new Dora seems to be telling little girls that looks are, in fact, very important. She is also suggesting that girls should be more interested in styling their hair than in having adventures.

Luckily, the original, adventurous young Dora will live on in her television show. The tween Dora is being marketed as a doll that can hook up to computers to interact with her web site, doralinks.com. The site and doll will officially launch on September 29th, but until then, visitors to the teaser site can watch the Dora links commercial, which you might have seen on television:

The commercial focuses on three main features of tween Dora and doralinks.com: numerous outfit and accessory options, the ability to change Dora’s eye color from brown to blue or green, and the option of making her hair longer.

The commercial mentions that she will now be solving mysteries with her “explorer girls”, but then just goes on to highlight changing Dora’s appearance in order to “disguise” her for investigations. That is a pretty sorry attempt to hold onto any bit of the old Dora’s soul. What’s next, having the option to lighten Dora’s hair and skin? Being able to give her lip injections and breast implants? Maybe they’ll wait for teen Dora for those options.

These marketing points are still standard for girls’ toys, but I really hoped that such a dynamic, groundbreaking character like Dora would not grow up conforming to gender stereotypes and placing so much emphasis on her looks. Cartoon characters and dolls are still role models for girls, and when most play options involve taking care of babies or putting on pretty outfits, we can really see where women and girls still stand in this world.

Judging by my observations of other girls and from my own experiences growing up, girls tend to lose their gusto somewhere between the ages of 6 and 12. Unfortunately, Dora the Explorer is no exception. The Punky Brewsters, Ramona Quimbys, and Eloises of our childhoods are eventually taught that they should be seen and not heard, and that they need to conform to certain standards of beauty and conduct that are appropriate for girls. These standards do not include being bold, rambunctious, or playful.

Why do little girls in this age group lose their spark? Perhaps society is threatened by the power these girls could grow into if allowed to cultivate those characteristics. Meanwhile, boys are encouraged to continue to develop these qualities as they grow older, and they go on to make up the majority of people in power.

I would’ve liked to see the older Dora take on even bigger, more challenging adventures instead of retreating to a stereotypical girly-girl’s world and focusing on her looks. The tween Dora could’ve been an action figure for children, but instead, because of her female gender role, she is assigned the passive role of a doll, focusing on her appearance instead of adventure.

Want to tell Dora’s production companies what you think? Yeah you do. Contact them:

Viacom Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, New York 10036
(212) 258-6000
or online

Mattel, Inc.
333 Continental Boulevard
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 252-2000

You can also sign this petition