In July, the Bratz doll collection was relaunched after a two-year hiatus. The little coverage that the relaunch received was mostly positive. But while popular, the heavily made-up and big-eyed franchise has received a ton of criticism for the characters’ hypersexualized make-up and clothes, grossly disproportionate figures, and overall mockery of what it is to be a girl.
So, in attempt to connect with the “modern girl” of 2015, the Bratz gang – Jade, Yasmin, Cloe, Sasha, and Raya – have all returned from their trips abroad, and while encouraging international travel and education is a good thing, the hollow Bratz international experience is nothing short of comical, and the cons outweigh the pros in this equation.
The greatest gifts you get from travelling, studying, or living abroad are the things you can’t shop for, the things you can’t plan out, the humbling and unexpected situations that arise: spending Christmas in the hills of Yorkshire with my best friend’s family; getting my suitcase stuck in a Paris metro turnstile and waiting a full fifteen minutes for what I can assume was the only nice person in all of Paris to help me unhook the suitcase handle and make my train back to London in time; my Costa Rican abuelita, Nena, sitting with me on her smooth, tiled porch almost exactly two years after my own grandmother had died, holding my hand while the sky erupted into the most ferocious rain I’d ever seen or smelled or felt.
Instead, the entire Bratz squad comes back with a bunch of superficial garbage, thus showing young girls all over America that the most exciting part of an international education is the jewelry.
The embarrassing stereotypes are in their own realm of hilarious – Raya comes back from Mexico with a poncho and a piñata; Jade returns from Russia with a “yellow pleather mini” and some choking hazard Matryoshka dolls; Yasmin comes back with a “tropical satin skirt,” pineapple earrings and apparently, some Spanish lessons — “Hola, America!” — from Portuguese-speaking Brazil; and what would Sasha’s visit to the UK be without some scones and a Union Jack crop-top? But hats off to Cloe, who goes to China — or as Bratz parent company MGA Entertainment calls it, “The Orient” — and comes back with a teapot and a fortune cookie. I can’t help but wonder if she visited the factory in southern China where she was made for whopping 17 cents during a 94-hour work week.
International travel is an empowering thing. Time reported that people who have studied abroad come back smarter. Learning a language, volunteering, doing an internship, and teaching English are all ways to educate and empower yourself. And while study abroad used to be the icing on the cake for the privileged college elite, universities and study abroad companies are making it a more realistic option for underrepresented students with grants, scholarships, and more realistic program opportunities. Studying abroad as a woman can be particularly empowering – notions of gender and place in society vary from country to country, and understanding the many different cultural nuances of your new home makes for a more compassionate and open-minded person.
And so there are a few benefits of these dolls, in theory: they are a diverse bunch, and the countries visited are as well. Studying abroad also inherently implies that the Bratz dolls are enrolled in some kind of higher education – an inspired change from the otherwise tired pastimes that mostly include hair-brushing and pouting.
But until the Bratz dolls disappear entirely, they’ll remain a mockery of what “girlhood” actually is – playing, creating, learning, imagining, and exploring. And while it’s hard to personify a life-changing international experience and manufacture it into doll form, lazy stereotypes and heavy eye shadow miss the mark entirely.
Photo via Bratz.com
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