This week’s reading by McAllister, Girls With a Passion for Fashion, raised some very thought-provoking questions about the consumer market of young girls (aka ‘tweens’) who have bought into the brand of BRATZ.
BRATZ dolls raised controversy in the consumer world over their fundamental campaign, which advertises small bodied dolls with large anime-like eyes, giant full glossy lips, and tiny noses dressed in provocative (some may even say “slutty”) outfits whose main concern in life is shopping. The implications of their over-sexualized image and seemingly mundane aspirations had many critics questioning why such characteristics were being catered to young girls – many of which were younger than even the “pre-pubescent” stage.
At first, I found the comparison between Bratz and Barbie pretty simple – they both represented unattainable female images, which taught young consumers the misplaced importance of beauty and body image. After reading McAllister’s analysis, it is quite evident that the Bratz brand has instilled in tweens a much more alarming message.
For one, Barbie is clearly a woman — tall and slim with a microscopic waist and large breasts. But she is marketed as an independent woman; with no husband or family, Barbie holds many different occupations that young girls should readily aspire to – such as a doctor, veterinarian, athlete, or store owner.
Bratz on the other hand, have been deliberately (and disturbingly) created so that young girls can imagine themselves AS a Bratz Doll. Their bodies, which have much smaller, more childlike measurements than barbie, were cleverly built to be more relatable to their young users. As McAllister intelligently explains, “This primacy of appearing over having is reflected in Bratz. Compare the Barbie slogan, ‘‘We’re into Barbie,’’ with Bratz’ ‘‘Girls with a Passion for Fashion.’’ These slogans reflect the difference between owning a doll, and living and looking like a doll” (McAllister 250)
Additionally, all Bratz dolls have been strategically designed to have ambiguous ethnicity. All have large eyes and full lips, a tiny nose – but have different skin tones and hair colors. An MGA (creator of Bratz) executive explains “We don’t even market them as belonging to a particular race. We have little girls in South America who think Sasha is South African, girls in Samoa who things she is Samoan and girls in the United States who think she is from Harlem.”
So, besides the troubling notion that Bratz is teaching young girls they should look this way, why is “being a Bratz Doll” so inherently upsetting? The brand’s slogan “Brats, Girls With a Passion for Fashion!” sole purpose is to promote the “Bratz Lifestyle”, which entails spending every day, using all efforts, and concentrating all thought on shopping. Toys like the “Bratz Mall Crawl Board Game” and the “Brats Mall Line” advocate to these extremely young consumers that the only thing that matters in life is, well.. being a consumer. It teaches tweens that shopping is a valid favorite past time, as opposed to playing sports, or learning something new and relevant, doing something extracurricular.
I’ve never deeply considered the social implications of the BRATZ brand until after reading McAllister’s journal. The ideals behind these dolls is much more distressing now that I understand that these toys were designed to make young girls believe they ARE Bratz Dolls.