Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cynical marketing: Bratzpack

There's an organization for children that collects Christmas gifts for their charges. The organization provides the name, age, and gender of each child as a paper tree ornament; participants select their ornaments and buy two gifts for each child—one practical (hat, glove) and one fun (toy). There's no official spending limit, but participants are supposed to use common sense so one child doesn't receive something extravagant like a Game Boy in front of children who may have received stuffed animals, trucks, and dolls.

The person managing this program showed me a toy that, to me, could not be more appalling (and which she in good conscience chose not to send along with the rest). It was a doll named "Dana" from the "Bratzpack." "Bratz" comes in all ethnicities, but interestingly they all look exactly alike (clearly cast from the same mold); only the hair, eyes, skin tone, and makeup tints change to indicate ethnicity. So far, "Dana" sounds no worse than a cheap doll. But there's more.

"Dana" is, in fact, a cheap whore. Her makeup is the first clue, but it's the outfit that seals the deal. The halter top and platform shoes are just the beginning; they merely top off a skirt so mini that, were "Dana" anatomically correct (they do have navels), would reveal pubic hair. On the back of the box, her quote is: "Hey! My name is Dana! My friends call me 'Sugar Shoes' because when I step out I do it sweet!" Clearly, she's dressed to "step out."

Yes, "Dana" is decked out exactly like the working girls in certain districts, who lean into stopped cars to negotiate rates with the drivers.

This "doll," which had been donated for a 5-year-old, is recommended for 6-year-olds and up. I imagine that's based solely on parts small enough to swallow, not on appropriateness.

If you gave this trash to my (theoretical) 6-year-old, you'd never see her or me again.

While we were discussing the utter inappropriateness of "Dana," a third person came along who said "Bratz" dolls are hot (in the sales sense) and that some are programmed to talk—including to talk back to their mothers. "And mothers actually buy these things for their kids," she concluded.

I visited the "Bratz" Web site (I'll spare you the link) and noticed that there are even "Bratz" babies—which look exactly like the other dolls, just with shorter torsos and legs.

So people are buying their small children dolls that overtly represent urban prostitutes and sleazy second-rate rock stars and that are rude and smart-mouthed to boot? Who are these parents? Can we provide them with the latest in free and effective birth control before they breed again?

And who are the greedy bastards who developed and proposed marketing this garbage? What discussions went on during those meetings? "No, wait, the skirt's not short enough . . ." "The girls on the corner of X and Y do the black outline lipstick . . ." "That's it! The perfect slut for my little Ashley to cuddle with. We'll be rich!"

Not being a parent and not having friends with children nearby, I have no idea what kids are playing with these days, other than the obvious—computer games. My 44-year-old mind is in a time warp, where Barbies were the raciest toys we had, which we tortured by tearing off their heads and limbs, or by pushing them face down into the dirt. We had dolls that looked like babies or toddlers and that talked, cried, and even wet their diapers. I had one that was about my height, but she still looked like a child. We had Matchbox cars. We had trucks and model trains. We played tag, freeze tag, and redlight/greenlight. We slept with stuffed animals. The most realistic movie we'd ever seen was Charlotte's Web, which made us cry (but not give up ham or pork). When I see things like the "Bratz," I wonder how much the world has changed and why, whether it's for the better, and how much has passed me by.

What happened to giving wide-eyed innocent 5- or 6-year-old girls sweet, soft, comforting dolls like Raggedy Ann and Andy or little stuffed animals?

As for "Dana," I felt relieved that she was encased in plastic. Given her makeup, dress, and demeanor, who knows where that ridiculous mouth has been?

Afterthought: I looked up the correct spelling of Game Boy and clicked on a site where the first ad was for a "Bratz" Game Boy game. The world is officially over the top and beyond all hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment