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March 22, 2009

Take the tramp stamp off Dora

-14 Mattel and Nickelodeon announced last month that Dora the Explorer is getting a tween makeover, and moms across the country are afraid the girl's gone "prehab."

I say, call off the dogs ... or, in this case, Swiper the fox or even the little monkey with no pants. Let's see what this girl has to offer.

When the companies first made the announcement, they stoked the maternal fires by providing a shapely silhouette of a girl with long hair to match long legs barely covered by what looked like a micro miniskirt. Were these guys just being cheeky or did they really not know they were throwing fresh meat to mama wolves ready to pounce?

Now I consider myself a reasonable human being -- I don't hiss or foam at the mouth. Usually. -- but I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I first saw cute little tomboyish Dora, with her bowl-cut hair and huggable figure, next to this she-devil shadow of a preteen girl. I imagined the worst. What about the boys? The makeup? And, God help us, the tween 'tude?

But as Mattel and Nickelodeon explained, they want girls who are on the verge of outgrowing Dora to have something similar to grow into. She might look different, as normal girls do when they grow and mature, but this Dora will still have the same adventurous spirit as well as new girlfriends with whom to explore. And, what's even better, this doll isn't replacing the original D girl, the one my 2-year-old knows and loves. She'll just be a middle-school version, appealing to older kids.

The outrage I read from various moms was sometimes glib and often snide. They didn't want a toy company to manufacture a doll that encouraged girls to, gasp, shop (!) and get all, er, dolled up.

Truthfully, I'm not really into toys that promote only the superficial, but guess what? A lot of girls like clothes and shopping and playing dress-up. I don't think those qualities are mutually exclusive with being curious, bright and adventurous. Heck, shouldn't we be encouraging our girls to pursue the avenues that interest them, as long as they're not dangerous?

When Mattel and Nickelodeon finally released the actual photo of what Tween Dora would look like, I have to say I was a little relieved. She's older-looking, sure. And the big brown eyes are the nominal physical quality that ties her to her younger self. But she doesn't look "trampy," as some moms fretted. She just looks like a cute girl.

Now time will tell if girls accept this new kid into their clan. Maybe it was the wrong marketing move. Maybe it was a purely cynical way to extend a brand despite its already gangbusters performance with smaller girls. Maybe they just messed up.

But, moms, let's wait until her fall debut before we dump her into the trash heap of Tweens Gone Bad. I mean, wouldn't it be nice if this new, older Dora showed a new group of girls a great example of how they can pick pretty clothes while still showing they've got a brain?

I think it would be a nice alternative to what we read in the gossip mags. At least with this animated girl, we won't have to worry about explaining to our daughters what Promises in Malibu is and why Tween Dora had to "recover from exhaustion" there for a few months.

An original L.A. Moms Blog post.

When Laura Clark isn't recovering from exhaustion for other reasons, she's writing about her own L.A. adventures with her daughter at L.A. Story.


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