Previously we’ve posted on the sexy makeovers recently given to Dora the Explorer, Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobby, and the Sun Maid. Here we have three more.
Andy Wright at the SF Weekly recently posted about a new look for Lisa Frank art. If you’re a woman in your 30s, like me, you probably remember this art vividly. As Wright describes it, it “…was a branded line of school supplies consisting of Trapper Keepers and folders that looked like they were designed by a six-year-old girl on acid.”
When I was a kid, Lisa Frank didn’t include any people. But today it appears that they’ve added, well this:
Wright: “I have to wonder if little girls actually are more interested in bizarrely proportioned nymphets dressed like sexy hippies than a righteous day-glo tiger cub.”
Trolls, now Trollz
Remember Trolls? Growing up, I remember them looking something like this (source):
But apparently now they look like this (source):
Cabbage Patch Kids
This is a vintage Cabbage Patch Kid from 1983 (source):
This is the front page of the website today:
They still make “Classic” Cabbage Patch Kids, but now they also make “Pop ‘N Style”:Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Raquel — August 12, 2010
The Lisa Frank and Troll transformations make me sad but the Cabbage Patch doll didn't look so bad until I visited the website...
Descriptions of the different types of dolls:
The Original Cabbage Patch Kids
Each one is an individual, hand-stitched work of soft sculpture art. No two are ever exactly alike. Each is delivered from our Original Cabbage Patch in Cleveland, Georgia.
Depending upon the edition, adoption fees begin at $199.00 and go up.
Toy Cabbage Patch Kids
Vinyl or vinyl and soft sculpture combination toys in a variety of sizes delivered from our Far Eastern Cabbage Patch.
Adoption Fees begin at $10.99 and go up to $49.99
I guess I'm a little grossed out by the phrasing...
Sarah — August 12, 2010
eh- the only change i see in the cabbage patch dolls is the hair? The face & body look the same. I don't think the Lisa Frank ones look bad either? I guess it seems just as girly/cutsy as it always was. (The characters shown don't really look "sexy" to me). The trolls kind of bug me, but I wonder if its the same company? A quick amazon search shows lots of the old style trolls still being sold. I would just hype this up to people not wanting things to change from they way they used to be, but none of this stuff really looks like a "sexy makeover" to me.
R — August 12, 2010
The Lisa Frank sexification has been around for a while. When I was in college, (around ten years ago) I remember seeing the vaguely-Bratz-type girls and thinking it ruined my favorite kid brand. But isn't that the standard MO right now? Take a beloved 80's cartoon and sex it up? Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, even April from TMNT. I shudder to think what they'll do with She-Ra or Penny from Inspector Gadget. Ugh.
Meg — August 12, 2010
Who's to say we weren't six year old girls on acid when we bought them? All of my personal art from that era certainly looked like the work of a drugged-out starving artist. I'm sad they put in such idealized girl-figures; the whole point was how non-idealized the art was. Something more like Monet's self-portrait would be more appropriate, surely.
I also kind of like the new trolls. Not so much for kids, but for me and my friends, who those more closely resemble. It is a little fun in my older age to see my subcultures go mainstream enough to have paraphernalia :)
iammrsnesbitt — August 12, 2010
I had a million Trolls Dolls when I was little. I seem to remember the old ones being gender ambiguous, while the new ones (though they are cute) are clearly supposed to be female. Do they expect only girls to buy them? When I was a kid, boys and girls collected them.
d stewart — August 12, 2010
No No, I have been collecting trolls for over 25 years. The original doll was called a "dammit" doll. The trolls of 30 plus years ago have an even more different shaped head that trolls of the later 1970's. But what ever that picture is below the actual troll is NOT a troll and to true collectors never wil be a real troll doll.
Gen — August 12, 2010
How are the Lisa Frank things sexy? Yes, as a little girl, I actually was interested in girls a degree or two older than me being pretty. But... sexy?
It's definitely an issue that this is ALL girls are given as everything gets converted over to it, but I wouldn't call it 'sexual'.
Niki — August 12, 2010
The trolls don't look so much sexualized as just punked-out. And the cabbage patch dolls are more sexualized thematically than through their appearance. Like, the hairbrushes, the beauty counter, etc. But they're not wearing sexy clothes or makeup or anything.
The Lisa Frank stuff is kind of weird, though.
Syd — August 12, 2010
I really don't get this constant freak out of 'sexualization' of various children's characters (Dora, Lisa Frank, Strawberry Shortcake, whatever). NONE of these characters are even remotely sexual. Are they different? Absolutely. Are they more modern? Yep. Are they better the way they were before? Now, that's based entirely on opinion (I am ambivalent, except for the Troll dolls, which should stay naked and ugly). But sexualized? No. Not even a little. The difference is not that they are sexual, but that they are redesigned to look older. Most of these have simply changed from looking like 6 month old babies to taking on an appearance more close to a grade-school aged child (aside from Cabbage Patch dolls. Anyone who thinks they new Cabbage Patch's are sexual is SICK, seriously. That's the same stuff that real babies wear). I've seen some of the newly designed TV shows tie-ins, specifically Strawberry Shortcake. I didn't see anything sexy or provocative. It was different, yes, but in that it seemed like their sugar-based universe was inhabited by average 7 or 8 year old kids as opposed to infant-doll hybrids. There was nothing inappropriate for a 7 or 8 year old involved. I am not seeing this so much as the industries sexualizing children. I am seeing people who fall outside of the target audience applying sexual tones to literally any female out of diapers. Particularly egregious is the attack of Dora The Explorer. To me, the new design looks like Dora if she was 10 years old instead of 4, period. She's wearing a modest dress and leggings, has her hair longer than a bowl cut, and has lost the puppy fat typical of toddlers but not as typical of 10 year olds. That isn't sexy. That is a typical fourth or fifth grade child. The change wasn't a sexual one, it was a realistic one. Ten year olds do not look, dress, or act like 4 year olds, and the show is aimed at a slightly older demographic. We should also take note that she is dressed like a child in late grade school or middle school. She is NOT dressed like a teenager or an adult. Her clothes are not skimpy, her body is not overdeveloped, and as far as I know, her storylines are not child-inappropriate. Yet, most of the complaints are that her modest clothes are too 'sexy,' that the typical grade-school girl hairstyle is 'sexy,' and that since she is no longer pudgy in the way that preschoolers are....she's too 'sexy.' I don't see that as the producers sexualizing a child. I see that as a society treating any female over the age of 4 or 5 as a sexual object, and projecting that mindset onto very innocent things.
Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth — August 12, 2010
Okay, Syd, I'm gonna answer that query about sexualization denoting 'realism' with a link laden supply of data, research, and examples for you to draw from so I don't end up being a blog hog in the comments, as it's more than just the sexualization, it's the commercialization/consumption cues, the body image UNrealism, and 'sesame streetwalker' style of 'Dereon Divas' & others robbing childhood with age compression and acceleration into adolescence.
Manga makeovers & other cartoon capers/facelifts:
Facelifts for Kiddie Characters:
Dora: Discover the World, Not the Mall:
Dereon Divas/Pop Tarts Turning Toddlers Into Sesame Streetwalkers
More? Feel free to visit Shaping Youth/media & marketing's impact on kids or better yet, attend the SPARKsummit 10-22-10 in NYC challenging the ongoing proliferation of sexed up media narrowcasting the roles of girls in our culture.
Baxter — August 12, 2010
i know something weird is going on with all these toys, i just don't know exactly what it is. they're not precisely 'sexual' now, but they're all definitely more about getting dressed up for no reason than about playing.
Liza — August 12, 2010
Trolls! They have ruined them :<
Elena — August 12, 2010
For an example of sexy makeovers that affects me, when I was a kid in the 80s we all played with a series of figures for little kids called Pin y Pon (think of something intermediate between Duplo figs and Lego minifigs or Playmobil toys), like this or this.
After the most recent makeover they look like this. The official website is here. They're cute (I collect pinky:st figures, of course I like them!), but I'd have liked it better if they had created a new line instead of marketing them under the old name.
Anonymous — August 12, 2010
Not the Trolls! Hands off the Trolls! Trooooolllllllssssss.....precioussss.
Why must capitalism keep eating my childhood?
(more seriously, even childhood nostalgia aside, theres something creepy about these very sophisticated and adultified toys. A toy that well personified was a rare luxury when I was a kid - one or two real barbies, things like that - all there rest of my toys were these scruffy dolls and weird colored stuffed animals and goofy (adorable!) trolls and such, and it seems steange to me to imagine a child today surrounded by all these...i'm not even sure how to describe it...by all these very specific *personas*. I think they're catering more to an adult, or at least teenaged sense of 'cool' than to a more childish need for soft silly things to *play with*)
Ruthie G — August 12, 2010
There was a trolls cartoon out around the same time as the Bratz cartoon. The storylines were kinda similar except the trolls' problems were caused by/solved with magic. Which made it kinda cool sometimes (except the part where the magic belly button rings were the root of the magic-extremely not cool). 'Kay now I'm just thinking about cool magic-based kids shows.
Katsuryi — August 12, 2010
There are Lisa Frank characters that are MORE sexualised than this. I'll try to scan them in sometime.
Melanie — August 13, 2010
We wrote about this (with almost the same title) in June: http://www.feministfatale.com/2010/06/toys-receiving-makeovers-new-improved-sexy/
Julie Rossignol — August 13, 2010
Cartoons and figures of girls have definitely changed over time. Regardless of whether they are supposed to represent, pre-teens, teens, or adults, girls are increasingly represented with large eyes, rounder and chubbier faces, and very thin, almost non-existant thighs - all traits often associated with pre-pubescent girls. It's a little creepy. Youth has often been associated with beauty, but seems that beauty is getting younger with every generation.
It seems that girls are being groomed to be materialist consumers. Marketers want girls to grow up to be shopaholics.
This thought struck me as yesterday as I wandered unsuspecting into a Toys R Us store to buy my 2 year old niece a birthday gift. There was definitely gendering of toys for younger children, but when I hit the aisles for older children, I noticed that half of the store was pink, and the other half had a lot of black and primary colours. Moreover, the pink side of the store with filled with barbies and other similar fashion figurines. There were also toy cellphones and fashionista bags and such. The other side of the store also had costumey things - a section devoted to toy tools, costumes for all sorts of careers - doctor, fireman, and such. And the other side had figures too - action heroes.
Think of all the stereotypes associated with girls and boys, and there you have it. I thought I had just wandered into a pop culture representation of the 1950s. It's bewildering that in the year 2010, a year where the women make up about half of the workforce in the U.S., girls are being groomed to be passive shopping machines, with a baby in one arm and a coach purse on the other arm. If we look at figurines as role models for children to emulate, figurines targeted at girls are mainly about looking pretty. Even the career Barbie dolls are more about snazzy looking uniforms than about the actual career. But boys get action figures - big tough looking men who save people and actually do things, usually violent things.
And I wonder about all this gendered marketing - when these kids grow up, will they strive to restore more gendered roles in society? Maybe not. I was exposed to plenty of girly toys growing up, but it didn't make me a girly shopaholic or a homemaker. But it doesn't mean that the gendering of toys isn't harmful or regressive, because the toys, the images, and the marketing force children to grow up with these associations of what signifies male and what signifies female. So that even if a girl decides she likes action figures and tools, she probably won't think of herself as a normal kid, she'll think of herself as a tomboy - a boy in a girl's body, not like those other girly girls who play with dolls. Why can't she just be a girl and like tools? Because all the messages she receives from the media tell her that girls aren't supposed to like tools.
The messages that the media sends to kids do matter. And one of the most disturbing messages is the one sent by constant images of the sexualized preteen. Why would a ten year old go on a diet or try to make herself throw up to lose weight? Why would she put on her mother's makeup? Why does she push her parents to buy her the latest fashions. Well, she's been told over and over by the media and the other kids around her that have been influenced by the media, that this is what a girl is supposed to look like. It's one thing to show a girl images of adult women in fashionista getups. She will probably want to emulate them, because being an adult is cool. But the stakes are higher for her self-esteem when it's her body i.e. representations of younger girls's bodies - that is being represented.
Shaping Youth » Manga Makeovers and Other Body Image Cartoon Capers (Part 2) — August 13, 2010
[...] More Sexy Toy Makeovers: Lisa Frank, Trolls & Cabbage Patch Kids (Sociological Images) [...]
Shaping Youth » Facelifts for Kiddie Characters: Rebranding ’80s Icons? — August 13, 2010
[...] More Sexy Toy Makeovers: Lisa Frank, Trolls & Cabbage Patch Kids (Sociological Images) [...]
Shara — August 16, 2010
It's pretty hard to make an argument that Dora, the beloved children's character, is NOT being sexualized, with a line like this pulled directly from Fisher-Price's recent press release for its newest Dora doll:
"This year, Dora moves her arms, swings her beautiful long hair and swivels her body to the beat as she teaches kids the steps to her signature dance."
You can watch a video of gyrating Dora here: http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/fisher-price/45526/
finette — August 16, 2010
My Little Pony has been Bratzed as well. Their heads and eyes are larger than the older models', while their back thighs are oddly thin and they've lost the authentically horselike paunch that some of them used to have.
I had a lot of the old ones, and my mom mentioned later on that she got those instead of Barbie because I (and she!) did enjoy combing and braiding doll hair, dressing them up, and so on, but she wanted to avoid the Barbie body image issues. So much for that alternative for kids today.
Roxy — September 10, 2010
hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahazhahahahahahahaahahahahahahhahahahahaahahahahahahahahhahaahahahahahahahahahahhaahhahAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH SSOOOOO N OT SEXY
If you call yourself a “classy b*tch” please read this post. | Steppin' in Divine Sunshine — January 30, 2011
[...] do not know what the source is. It could be Bratz dollz, The Pussycat Dolls, or this. I know that I am finger pointing. Drunk cleavage showing “divas” are everywhere and [...]
i like looking like crap — August 6, 2011
Growing up with these 15 years ago, I got my girly-girl fix from Lisa Frank and Barbie, but stuff like Trolls and Cabbage Patch made it okay that I was a fat girl who didn't wear makeup or tight clothes. If everything was as glammed up then as it's become? I'd probably hate myself a lot more than I do.
Beauty and the New LEGO Line for Girls : Ms Magazine Blog — January 10, 2012
[...] that we’ve seen in recent years with Dora the Explorer, Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobbie, Lisa Frank, Trolls and Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, and Candy Land (or visit Sociological Images’ Pinterest [...]
carol — April 17, 2013
I have sort of the opposite complaint about toys. When my son was little he had a little boy doll called My Buddy. That thing went everywhere with him. He's 32 now and at some point between his childhood and now that whole concept has disappeared. I have 4 1/2 grandsons and no granddaughters. I'd like my grandsons to grow up to be loving, nurturing fathers someday.
M. Baggs — December 23, 2021
Gotta love these "back in my day" posts. Things change. Get over it.
If you're worried about young women being sexualized too young, why don't you get involved in fighting the pollution and hormones in food that are literally causing them to start puberty 2 years younger than they used to. Toys are not the systemic issue, they're a symptom. Do something helpful.