Nip-Tuck for Strawberry Shortcake and Friends: Less Belly Fat, More Muscles, and a CellPhone

It appears that our yesterday’s favorite cartoon characters are getting extreme makeovers to cater to the modern tastes of today’s kids. According to the New York Times, these classic characters are being “freshened up” in order to add upward momentum to the rough sloping economy.

Apparently, the YouTube generation is interested in less belly fat and more muscles. Less “cutesy” and more streamline. Fewer calories and more cell phones. Seriously. What ever happened to nostalgia for days when we didn’t need to think about all that stuff?

Impossibly thin waists and the buff bods have been popular among fairy princesses and hulky princes, respectively, but how about the Care-bears and Little Miss Shortcake?

Strawberry Shortcake went under the figurative knife and was revealed this past Tuesday. Labeled a “fruit-forward” makeover, she was stripped of her bloomers, went on a diet (no more sweets, more fruit!), put down her cat, and picked up a cell phone. No more freckles and of course, more pink—now her signature color in place of her customary red. She looks a lot more “little mermaid” than “strawberry sweetie” from yesteryear.

Toys and toons aimed at boys are also getting a little nip-tuck. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are loosing a bit of their ‘tude and gaining more muscles. Think—turtles on steroids.

Other nostalgic characters getting a face—and body-lift? Bugs bunny, Scoobie Doo, and the Care bears, the latter getting a little lipo to loose the belly fat and eyelash extensions to enhance the eyes.

The companies are trying to appeal to the kids without going too far—attempting to stay away from the hypersexualized and increasingly violent media landscape ever-present today. Even Mickey Mouse will be getting into the action.

Companies like Disney are giving nostalgic characters an update in an attempt to appeal to both modern kids and today’s parents–parents who are trying to protect their youngsters from seeing too much, considering the recent Miley Cyrus exposure and other young stars who are becoming less predictable and more out of control. Not to mention other brands that have gone way to far towards sexualizing the most mundane toys to appeal to Paris-Hilton-like children such as the Disney HorsesStrutz (for girls who are on the cutting edge of what’s hot in fashion)

They’re also wary of changing their brand too much or sending out items that parents don’t like as Mattel did in 1993 when they spruced up the classic Ken doll with a poorly chosen purple mesh T-shirt, leather vest, earring, and high-lighted coif. Warner Brothers made a similar marketing mistake when they revamped Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in 2005, full with mohawks and crazy eyes in the series “Lunatics.”

Are cartoon portrayals such a big deal?

According to numerous studies, it may be.

“the depictions about gender roles seen by children could impact and interact with both the expectations they develop about relationships and appropriate behavior, and their future life decisions. It is important to keep in mind, too, that the concern about stereotyping is not less severe because these are cartoons and not “real life.” Although this issue has not been definitely settled by research, several studies have indicated that young children accept fantasy as reality and cannot always distinguish well between the two. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research by Thompson et al.

WEIGH IN

What do you think? Is it a good thing for these toy and cartoon companies to reflect a more streamline, beauty-oriented, techno-culture in our children’s cartoons or should they be leaving things the way they are? Are cartoons getting too sexed up for the kids or are people making too much of a big deal about the whole thing?

Please comment below!

Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Photo credits: New York Times, Google, Strutz Site, TOFC, themanbehindtheearring.com, wikipedia

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10 Responses

  1. I agree with the premise that cartoons and figures are being sexed up. It’s unfortunate but to be expected, I think. We, as a nation, are obsessed with youth, beauty, power, influence, wealth and popularity. If you look at the Strawberry Shortcake of my youth and the Strawberry Shortcake of my daughter’s which one would you think had more of the qualities I just mentioned?

    It all starts with someone/thing pushing the edge, just a little. Think about Britney Spears in her video where she’s wearing that school uniform in a revealing way. After this initial shock it soon becomes the norm. Then someone/thing else has to go a little bit farther to push the edge. Then comes Bratz dolls, and now Bratz-looking horses?!?! (I can’t really speak to the boys’ side not having any myself.) Kids who watch tv, movies, commercials, etc. believe what they’re being shown is “normal”.

    I think the worst thing about it all is that parents don’t seem to be taking an interest in combatting this hypersexualization. Let’s allow our kids to stay young!

  2. […] Of Tots, Tweens, Tarts & Tummytucks Posted on June 12, 2008 by pdxmogo Ah, childhood. The fun, the games, the high heels, the weight control regimens, the thong underwear, the moms and tots classes for practicing come hither looks. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the products being marketed to our kids have gotten a major facelift (and lipo), and the ‘tudes they’re promoting have become more than a little sexualized. When I saw this article (free registration required) in the NY Times about “beloved” characters being “reimagined” for the 21st century, I was inspired to write about it, but then I saw that Dr. Robyn over at Kiss My Assets beat me to it and wrote a great post analyzing this new trend. […]

  3. No doubt about it, cartoons are certainly being sexed-up, beefed-up and toned-up to fit in with popular culture’s ideal of beauty. I remember seeing this trend start with Disney’s Pocohantas, who was touted as being the most “beautiful and realistically proportined Disney heroine ever… ” (I actually remember that from their promotion of the movie!). Forget the fact that the real Pocahontas was a girl of 11 or 12, not a voluptuous glamazon in an off-the-shoulder mini-dress.

    Does it have an impact on our kids? BIG TIME. I just had a conversation with a co-worker whose perfectly fit and healthy 9-year-old daughter mentioned that she would be in the basement “working out her abs.”

    Should toy/cartoon developers move with the times to remain relevant? Certainly..but with everyone offering the same, limited ideals (youth, beauty, fame, wealth, and “hotness” as king) our kids are getting a raw deal.

  4. Agreed with you both about the hypersexualization of Bratz! That show is much to unreal and shows harmful idealization to the youth.

    However, the converse appears to be occuring with Strawberry Shortcake and correctly so to benefit today’s growing and influential youngset. (They will determine our mutual future much faster than we will ever anticipate… this invioably is the main Flow of Nature… what comes after surpasses what was before… 😉

    Eating healthier – fruit is always going to insure a healthy child while a pastry with so many wasteful layers of processed (read as ‘zombie’ 😉 foodstuff and processed dead sugars directly cause sooo many diseases and problems, looking more like a normal kid that age looks now tends to allow a more direct and identifiable connection to whatever lesson of life is being shared – Youth these days are immersed in exageration, amplification, and skewing of outer appearances in sooo many ways that they get jaded QUICKLY with something that is to outlandishly cartoony and Alien to what they will experience directly or via net and media. in the 80’s we were so sheltered by our parents and the reality around us…

    Americans had the Big Red scare and shackle pinned onto the lapels of the world by hard, cold scary men on every side of that overhanging story… We were given media to match our need to distract us form of soft and cuddly, round and fluffy, warm and fantastic – all anditodal antonyms to the world we felt locked into… Nowadays, my brother could be babysitting 5th and 6th graders that regularly webcast classes with cocreative 5th and 6th graders in Japan and India… They very easily learn more each day than the later generations will ever be able to. If we and the media can share relevant stories of how to better life in a frame that they can recognise and identify with as something they really experience, we can make our world a better place through guiding the young to improve themselves and each other rather than being desenstized ala blatant fantasy exageration aka Bratz or through harmful, empty and ignorant gluttony ala 80’s Strawbery Shortcake.

    Youth today want to some time to be real along with all the super-saturational distractions and increasingly cacophanous conditions that they’re much more aware of than is accptable to the current ’status quo’… Cowardly lot most of them.

  5. Actually, if you look at some of the TV archives, some of the retro cartoons are equally sexed up…Betty Boop and the teeny weeny waisted black and white ad icons of the 50s, and color iconic Jetsons and Wilmas and I Dream of Jeannies of the 60s, etc.—But the difference to me is this:

    Our current media POP CULTURE in general is so overtly hypersexualized that the CONTEXT shifts into toxic terrain…
    What might have once been ‘just a cartoon’ is now an aspirational model of expectation and normative cues with surround sound exposure of shoulds and coulds and ‘oughtas’ which we didn’t have blaring in Dolby back then.

    In fact, when the S.F. Chronicle ran this article re: overhauling the Nancy Drew icon and ‘sexed her up’ to maker her relevant for ‘today,’ I wrote this letter to the editor:

    “Nancy Drew needs updated body image” Editor — Kudos to talented artist Sho Murase for the superhero update (“Now 75, sleuth Nancy Drew looks younger, hipper in graphic novels drawn by S.F. artist Sho Murase,” Sept. 2), but why not update body image messaging while we’re at it?

    It saddens me that the worldview for our daughters repeatedly gravitates to the doe-eyed, chest-thrusting, teeny-waisted teen as an “aspirational” illustrative icon.

    Granted, Sho’s new Nancy Drew is at least fully clothed (unlike the cleavage-baring, nearly naked “Lara Croft, Tomb Raider”), but the ample bosom drawn under her tight sweater-hugging style will feed an entirely new generation of angst-ridden girls wondering why they don’t look like that.

    Let’s show some responsibility in our media messaging. I’m not asking for “realism,” but if we’re going to overhaul outdated images and story lines, the least we could do is make the new characters more positive.”

    AMY JUSSEL, Founder, Exec. Director Shaping Youth.org

  6. Oh, yeah, in case you want to see what Miss Nancy looks like in anime now, check her out here:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2005/09/02/DDGN5EF0BM79.DTL&o=2

  7. […] Two tomorrow, as we visit Shaping Youth Correspondent and body image expert Dr. Robyn’s views on same and my own take on the ’twas ever thus’ […]

  8. […] average five – seven year old consumer. (Barbie,2008). This doll, along with the newly remodeled Strawberry Shortcake, Polly Pocket and slew of Disney characters have been dressed for success – a cell phone, […]

  9. […] think and feel about themselves.  And we should. And, well,  nobody likes change.  They changed Strawberry Shortcake from a pudgy, cat-carrying kid to a slimmed-down tween and that was tough.  Perhaps something to do […]

  10. […] Comments Dora the Explorer Be… on Nip-Tuck for Strawberry Shortc…Felicia (aka Mommy B… on Half of Teens Say Rihanna is a…Dr. Robyn on Janice Dickinson […]

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