Dora Grows Up

8:50 AM Posted by Natalie

By now, I'm sure most moms are aware of the new, older version of Dora the Explorer that will be hitting the store shelves next fall as news of her makes its way through discussions around the blogosphere. Not a new TV series, but as an interactive doll aimed at 5 to 10-year-olds, the "new" Dora is aimed at extending Dora's appeal to children who loved her but have since "outgrown" her. I had not heard of this until there had apparently already been a stink over the development. Mattel, the maker of the new Dora doll, had released a silhouette of the older character that had parents up in arms. She appeared to be scantily clad, a more "sexed-up" teenage version of the generally inocuous character so many kids (including my own) have come to know and love. However, once the final photo of the character was released, we could see that this wasn't really the case.

Old Dora:

New Dora:

Even as a conservative Catholic mom, I can't say there is really anything "wrong" with this version of Dora. I actually think she's cute. And, in fact, I have similar types of outfits for my 2 1/2 year old daughter, long tops with leggings. My issues with this are of a different nature.

First of all, I have to say that I am pleased that parents are paying attention and voiced objection to what they perceived as a threat to their young children. Unfortunately, it seems that one of the times we do manage to object to the sexualization of our culture and victimization of our children, the objection is largely unwarranted. We have to accept some responsibility for the very reason there seems to be a "necessity" for more grown-up versions of things for younger and younger children. Hello? WE create the environment they live in. WE have control over what they are and are not exposed to and when, even though my experience has been that many parents seem to think we are powerless to control it. And if we do try, we are "sheltering them" from the world and not preparing them for the world around them. We do just as well to be informed about what our kids are doing, but not really get in the way of it. How much sense does it make to object to an older version of Dora when people allow their children to be exposed to sex education programs as early as kindergarten? Or buy baby versions of adult women's clothing like teeny bikinis and backless tops for their little girls? What about the Bratz dolls? Does it bother anyone that many children seem to be outgrowing Dora at the tender age of 5? Or that somehow 5 to 10-year-olds are being considered "tweens"? We need to ask ourselves why.

I think it is also an example of how unimaginative our culture is today. Rather than creating new wholesome characters for our children to love, we just repackage the same old ideas. Strawberry Shortcake didn't grow-up when I was a kid, and it was okay for me to move on to something else when I outgrew her appeal. Although, I think the problem today is probably that there isn't much for kids to move on to.

Of course, what about all of those other things that children can do? What about classic books, characters, and games that we can use to entertain and educate them? We've replaced other types of fun with TV and video games and decreased the appeal of good old imaginative play. In some regards, I am no less guilty of this than others. My children have a gazillion toys and games, yet will come to me and tell me they don't know what to do. It is something I have to work on in our family, too, and it concerns me greatly. When I was a kid, I remember happy days of playing on the swing set, in the woods behind our house, trips down to the creek, and roller skating in the garage. I want that for my kids, too.

I don't know what the impact of the new Dora will be and I don't really care. Clearly we cannot rely on toy companies or television producers to care about what our children are exposed to. Their primary goal is to make money anyway, and we have to be mindful of the fact that if there were no market for this stuff, it wouldn't be produced and sold. And if we're going to worry about a 10-year-old Dora who is at least modestly covered, there are a whole lot more pressing issues we better start making noise about.


  1. cbdkndmom said...

    Okay, I will admit that I was a bit freaked about "aging" Dora, but if that is truly what the new Dora looks like, it's not as bad as I thought. She looks like a first or second grader. Not too shabby.

    FWIW, I absolutely abhor the Bratz dolls. Can't stand 'em. Won't let 'em in the house. Thank goodness my daughter likes Barbie. (ACK!)

  2. Jerri - Simply Sweet Home said...

    I don't have a problem with the look of the new Dora either. These look is far more innocent than the little Brats dolls.

    But I don't like the idea of them changing her. I like the idea of characters like this being timeless. I grew up with Strawberry Shortcake too and a whole host of shows that I still love to this day. I think when I was a kid, if they had suddenly made Strawberry or Rainbow Brite a little older it just would have confused me.

    What I think they should have done was to use this new look and just create a whole new character, maybe she could be Dora's older sister, just as they created the character of Diego for boys. I think that would have gotten a far better reaction.