THE HOLIDAY packaging of the hugely successful Bratz dolls, which includes a blind date story line pitched to girls as young as 6, has caused some of us to rethink any issues we had with good old Barbie and all her body image baggage.
Jade, Yasmin or Nevra, the multiracial fashion dolls who come dressed like, well, like prostitutes, are packaged this season with one of the Bratz Boyz, whose identity is hidden until your 6- to 10-year-old opens the box.
Manufacturer MGA Entertainment says this about the toy: "It's a night you're sure to never forget as you share a first date with the Bratz and the Bratz Boyz as they laugh over a midnight smoothie, slow dance under a full moon, and find themselves getting closer than ever as they walk the fine line between friendship and love."
The fact that the identity of the boy doll is unknown "highlights the real anticipation of a real blind date," according to MGA.
The package comes complete with teeny-tiny wine glasses. The only thing missing is the teeny-tiny condom. Or Bratz Dadz at the door with teeny-tiny baseball bats.
The toy has sparked outrage among some parents, who used the review space offered on Amazon.com to rip the dolls and the TV commercial, which shows an 8- or 9-year-old girl getting dressed for a date with a stranger and which is airing on Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network.
My husband thinks Barbie is the reason our daughter grew up to be such a clothes horse. God only knows the long-term impact of letting little girls play with dolls who come with a script just this side of date rape.
Even without the "secret date" story line, the Bratz dolls give me the creeps.
They have over-sized heads with overly made-up eyes and huge, pouty lips and huge, snap-off feet with impossibly high heels. Their clothes are skimpy and tight-fitting and can best be described as skanky.
The dolls are marketed to "tweens," girls who can't wait to become teens. Doll play ends for some girls around ages 6 or 7. The Bratz line extends that doll-playing age bracket with dolls that are what 10- and 11-year-old girls most desire to be - high school kids.
The problem here is the story line that goes along with the dolls. Barbie had a huge repertoire of scripts - from astronaut Barbie to President Barbie. American Girl went a step further by providing books to go with their historical period dolls.
But the script for the Bratz dolls is clubbing and clothes. "Runway Disco" puts the dolls at a bar, wine glasses and bar stools included. The promotional material says they are drinking "smoothies."
Give me a break.
Young girls use dolls - and young boys use action figures - for fantasy play that accomplishes some of the important work of growing up. They are having fun, but they are also creating stories and having conversations that help them make sense of the world around them. The dolls are often stand-ins for the children themselves.
What kind of a story - what kind of conversations - do you think your 7- or 8-year-old is going to build around one of the Bratz dolls?