Dora Makeover another Blow to Girl’s Body Image?

dora the explorersil_dora_newdora the explorer as a tween

Dora too Modelesque to Be a Girl’s Role Model?

Dr. Robyn Silverman


Many parents and my fellow bloggers were feeling a bit queasy when Mattel released their controversial silhouette on March 6th. We couldn’t help but wonder if Dora was becoming the new Diva– the new Bratz, or the new Lindsey Lohan or Miley Cyrus Look-a-like. There was worry that she could compromise body image, threaten her ability to empower our powerful girls, and stomp on their confidence. There was even a petition…that I was ready and willing to sign as soon as I got to see the full Dora (as of March 8th over 2000 signed).

But parents and bloggers are changing their tune for this toon.

Dora isn’t wearing a micro-mini as originally feared, but rather, a long shirt over leggings. How nice of Mattel to get so much extra media play before the reveal– only to dish out the final reveal with a heaping helping of crow for all those who pointed fingers. Not nice. Smart marketing. But not nice at all.

strawberry shortcake

We are programmed to criticize, aren’t we? But as parents, we are sensitive to media influence on our children as well as change that can affect how our children think and feel about themselves. And we should. And, well, nobody likes change. Remember how they changed Strawberry Shortcake from a pudgy, cat-carrying kid to a slimmed-down tween and that was tough. Perhaps something to do with nostalgia? Leaving well enough alone? Or, as a body image specialist, we can say that it’s also about taking down that belly fat and strapping on some shape-skimming outfit can have a negative effect on our girls. Somehow “freshening up” means going on a diet these days and of course, getting a little nip-tuck.

Well, back to our explorer in question. Well, she’s not a Sesame Street Walker as we might have assumed. But there are some issues. She’s traded in her exploring boots for ballet slippers and her practical exploring shorts for a fashionable frock and leggings– what does that mean? Well, no more jungle explorations. Which hurts. I kind of liked how Dora wasn’t afraid to get dirty while traipsing along with her jungle friends. She lost her stocky toddler-like body and traded it in for a stream-line look. A distinct lack of Latin curves is obvious. Did you really expect them to be included?

And yes, she’s pink-afied. And appears to be wearing some kind of lip gloss or lipstick. Not so great. And let’s not forget that on her interactive computer games, girls can change her eye color and hair– which threatens her Latina roots once again. Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Packaging Girlhood and co-founder of Hardy Girls, Healthy Women in Waterville, Maine, and a person who I admire and appreciate, questions, “why change her appearance at all? Why is appearance so important?” Exactly. As we’ve seen all over this blog, appearance is highly praised and highly criticized.  It has to be just right.

The good thing is that Mattel states that Dora “will expand into the world of solving mysteries that have overt and relatable pro-social themes — like volunteerism, water conservation, or planting trees to help the environment.” Yeah, we like that. That’s what we stress for Powerful Words— and any role model doing that is helpful.

Well, what do you think? Sell out or upgrade? Sign of despair or sign of the times?

Let us have your opinion.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


10 Responses

  1. Dora stands for so much more than Nickelodeon can fathom. It is an icon to us moms wanting more for our children so how dare they think they can get away with this. Together we can tell them to “Leave our Dora alone!”.

  2. I agree!! I just signed a petition against it.

  3. I don’t know any preteens who are interested in Dora.
    They shouldn’t change Dora’s appearance.

  4. They are not replacing the original Dora; she will continue and remain as is. They are just creating an older, still wholesome, Dora for older kids who would probably not be watching the original anymore; younger kids can continue to watch the original. Obviously you prefer that your tweens watch Lohan, Britney, and all the other trash on tv rather than conceiving that its ok for Dora to grow up and still maintain the same wholesome image. Additionally, her look is more demure than anything eight to twelve year olds wear these days, for god’s sake its only a tunic, leggings, flats, and some accessories, oh an god forbid she wears her hair long and down.

  5. Why do we want to show are kids that we have to be sexy? Dora is an explorer right? Not a sex model! maybe thats the reason kids like her because she’s realistic and and doesn’t portray sex like everything else in our world. This is just another reason our children are so messed up, spending all there money on make-up and botox and plastic surgery. We should be teaching our children that it does not matter how they look, I thought it was on the inside that matters? isn’t that kinda racist to judge Dora on her appearance? If you turn Dora into a sexy model just remember that models are one step under strippers and strippers are one step under prostitutes, and I won’t let my children be a part of that!

  6. LOL, So, let me get this straight… Parents are freaking out about Dora because she looks a little older and prettier? And if you’re older and a little prettier that means you’re SEXING UP a cartoon? SO, I guess that means these parents want their kids to be watching toddler dora until they’re 13 or something?

  7. some parents are CRAZY. Your kids are not going to become whores because of a stupid cartoon on nick. They will become whores if you aren’t involved in their lives OR if you are TOO involved in their lives and suppress their sexuality when they hit puberty and teach them that sex (femininity/masculinity) is evil when it’s natural and it should be treated with respect.

    I bet you a billion dollars parents wouldn’t have gotten this upset if they saw a popular male character look 7-9 instead of 3-5. What about Rugrats? they grew up too. No one freaked out then. What about Ben 10? he grew up no one freaked out. Dora doesn’t even have tits on her for christ sake! She looks like she got her clothes from Walmart and has lip gloss on. How is that sexed up? She looks more feminine, but is that a sin? What is this, the middle east?


  8. […] kid has an evolving playlist of shows, dominated at different times by Teletubbies, the Wiggles, a pre-sexy Dora, and Kim Possible. It took a long time before they discovered commercials. When we travel, there is […]

  9. […] kid has an evolving playlist of shows, dominated at different times by Teletubbies, the Wiggles, a pre-sexy Dora, and Kim Possible. It took a long time before they discovered commercials. When we travel, there is […]

  10. There are plenty of characters that are wholesome for tweens, but they are all “girly”. How many smart, energetic, adventurous, Latina, tomboys are there? I am a librarian in a small school in Maine and very few of the tween girls I have in class dress like the new Dora. In fact, the girls are more likely to wear dresses in first and second grade then in older grades. There are a fair number of tomboys out there – don’t they deserve someone to represent them in the media? Dora is a soft tomboy. Girls who are not tomboys can still identify with her and yet she is not too overtly feminine to alienate her male viewers. The whole concept of changing the eye and hair color is creepy. As a 6th grade boy commented during our exploration on the topic ,”that is so stupid! She is a Mexican -that is who she is.” However I also see that the fave website of the 2nd grade is the site that allows you to change the eye color, hair color, and clothes of different characters. So i get the marketing potential. It’s still icky. Let’s face it-creating a new generation of insecure(no one will ever be be as thin as the new Dora) girls, who will use shopping and body altering cosmetics and surgery as a panacea, will be far more lucrative to the marketing moguls. Would the old Dora worry about the color of her clothes or even her weight?She didn’t have the time to waste on that. The new Dora embodies a stereotypical focus on fashion and looks that boys actually look down on. The boys in my class were unanimous in their disdain for the new Dora.” She’s like ‘oh my God, I broke a nail'”,commented one boy. Great-imprint more girls with crazy ideas that cause boys to look down on them. That’s healthy. So , how can we start an alternative media that let’s kids be hip and cool and immune to the pressure to all be the same? It’s okay to have some really fem girls ,I just would like to see more of the norm and then some of the girls who are tom boys -maybe even some that are even more tomboyish than Dora. That is what our kids are really like, aren’t they. Can we create a new cast of characters?Can we start a cartoon that questions some of the images that bombard our kids? Well, I am hoping that I can at least get my students to think about this issue. that’s a start.

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