So, when I heard Dora the Explorer was about to become a pre-pubescent, or rather “a Tween” — the demographic that makes marketers drool and mothers bang their heads — I went all blah blah blah-ger and dissed Mattel and Nickelodeon.
And in a smart public relations move, the companies released an image of Tween Dora months before they were expected to. The effort was to satisfy big mouths like me who were blah-ging all over the place on the interwebs that the toy maker and the kids’ network made a mucho grande mistake-oh. In releasing the image early, they sent reassurances that the popular Dora the Explorer will continue on the tube, big head and all. The Tween Dora is a doll. Nada mas.
At our house, we have loved Dora. When Maria was 3 and refusing to speak Spanish, I purposely turned on the Dora videos and celebrated Dora’s Hispanic heritage, bilingualism and adventurous spirit. I did the same with Diego, who I actually like better because he doesn’t have that high voice or suffer from constant catastrophes. Diego even became Maria’s invisible friend for a good long while. “Come on, Diego!” she would say as she ran circles around the living room, looking behind her at a child only she could see.
Plenty of folks already have dissed the idea of aging Dora, of getting rid of her big pre-schooler head and orange shorts and replacing them with a dress, long legs and flowing hair. It is, they say, one more piece of evidence that young girls are too sexualized, that innocence fades too quickly.
I would agree. But, what gives me most angst over Dora’s change is that when I look at popular images of Latinas — even in Latin-run media — I mostly see barely dressed women, gigantic tatas, mini-dresses and stripper stilettos. Trust me, folks, not all Latinas wear hula hoop-sized earrings and this one in particular never has owned stilettos. (The stiletto thing is much to my husband’s sadness, of course, but whatever.)
A beautiful Latina actress who plays a housekeeper in a popular sitcom was asked in a magazine article this month why Latina actresses always have to play the maid. She answered: “I’ve got two stereotypes going: the maid and stripper. Ask me in 10 years and I will tell you if it’s a concern. This is my first big job in Hollywood, so I’m in no position to complain.”
When I read that, I wanted to poke a very sharp stick in my eye.
Fortunately, the new Dora — to be released this Fall — is not expected to be a maid or stripper. She’s actually kind of cute and she doesn’t look chonga at all.
Word is she will be letting go of childish things like animal friends and jungle adventures. She’s going to be a city girl and a solver of mysteries — with her own line of fashion accessories and a doll that can plug into a computer to access an on-line world. Girls also will be able to change Dora’s look online and help her shop. (Um, not on my computer nena…)
So, I dread to see the upcoming changes to sweet Dora, of potentially losing a decent representation of both ethnicity and innocent girl power. It would be a thrill to have my daughter mature in a time when women of her culture are reflected in popular media as more than maids and strippers. (Thank you, Salma Hayek!)
The only good thing I see in new Dora? Goodbye, Tico the Squirrel.