In this day and age, I think it’s a nearly inarguable fact that television has a monumental effect on children, and unless parents are willing to lock their offspring in a magical anti-media closet complete with corruption filter, there’s very little chance of insulating kids from what’s on TV.
As a big sister to a seven-year-old and a three-year-old, I’ve made it my sworn duty to make sure my siblings are exposed to only quality TV, along with telling them that George Washington was a knight of the round table and that Hannah Montana is a “loose goose.” In the spirit of this oath, I bought them a season of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” hid my sister’s Barbie movies under her bed and rejoiced in the knowledge that their pure little minds were secure.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed a dark shadow on the horizon, looming over my siblings’ TV exposure. One show I had always approved of was “Dora the Explorer.” I’ve sat through countless hours (and hours and hours) of “I’m the map” and “Swiper, no swiping!” and I’ve got to say, I’m smitten.
She’s educational and multicultural. Considering there are 35.3 million Hispanic Americans as of 2001, and the numbers are increasing, I’d say that’s a fairly appropriate and significant theme to feed our youth. She’s cute and pudgy and her god-awful bowl haircut makes her all the more lovable. Her belly of leftover baby fat sticks out from under the little kid t-shirt with the flower on it. She talks to animals and goes on adventures while still managing to teach topographical science to all those impressionable little minds out there.
However, a short time ago I found something out that not only left me speechless, but basically ripped out my tongue and dangled it from my vocal cords. According to Nick Jr., there will be two new iterations of Dora: an older, whored-up Dora who will star in “Dora’s Explorer Girls” and a Dora Links doll targeting girls ages five to eight. According to the website, the new show was created to “reflect the new play patterns of the doll’s intended audience.”
Considering all the bad press about the new development, it’s understandable that the website has undertaken some massive damage control, advertising the interactive computer game packaged with the Dora Links doll as featuring “relatable pro-social themes” like “volunteerism, water conservation and planting trees.” However, 10 minutes of sample gameplay featured on YouTube reveals little beyond the fact that her extensions can be changed and her lip color, blush, earrings and necklace color can be customized. The only foreign language sample I heard was the Spanish word for “jewelry store.”
Not to worry. The network will continue to produce the darling and age-appropriate “Dora the Explorer.” But perhaps this will leave the old Dora as nothing less than a televised gateway drug that one day will pull children into the world of the hardcore “Explorer Girls,” leaving them cracked-out on ditz and slut-ification. Indoctrination! Do I sound like a raving lunatic looking over my shoulder for Big Brother? Ask any marketing student if I’m that far off.
Regardless, my beef is not with the motivation behind this new Dora, but instead with who Dora has become. She’s not a Spanish-speaking, proud Hispanic college graduate backpacking across Europe. Instead, Dora has become a Bratz-doll lookalike, with significantly lighter skin and hair (which has been highlighted and straightened) who wears leggings and color-coordinated flats that match her earrings and makeup.
Dora was one of the only figures on children’s TV who didn’t tell little girls that they should be skinny, coated in at least seven layers of makeup and wear clothes that accentuate their (as yet) nonexistent boobs. Dora should be about brains, personality and heart. Now she’s about shopping, cute clothing, accessories and the objectification of women.
It’s not that I’m a feminist. And it’s not that I’m overly sensitive. However, I am a big sister, and I don’t want my little brother or sister to think that the moment you pass out of kindergarten, sex appeal and cutesy clothes become the sole reasons for living. Internet parodies show the new Dora pregnant, smutted-up and drugged-out of her disillusioned mind. God only knows what Boots could be up to. Opening a brothel? Rolling a blunt using Map? Helping Swiper knock over a liquor store? Maybe no one else is ignited with the passionate hatred that flares in my big sister soul, but maybe you should be.