Femininsting, who I'm a huge fan of 99% of the time, has a link up with cartoon characters that have recently gotten "makeovers." It's titled: Girls' favorite cartoon characters get makeovers (not good ones). Thanks for the parenthesis, because otherwise I might not've been sure. No really, I might not have been sure.
I'm not really sure why two of the characters from the 80s (Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Bright) are still popular other than for the nostalgia factor. Dora the Explorer though is all the rage in the 1-3 year old set, or so I hear from my 18 month old niece.
I guess I'm more concerned as to why there aren't new characters for girls over the age of 3 than I am at the old character makeover. I have to say though, if you are going to bring back a character from the 80s and expect it to be popular with the 4-8 crowd, you're probably going to have to modernize it a bit, which looks to be exactly what happened in the Strawberry Shortcake example. I don't look at the new Srawberry Shortcake and shudder, the slut. (I do, however, question the hat. Unless she is going to start beat boxing, it looks a little silly to me). But who knows, maybe 6 year olds will thinks it's the coolest thing ever.
I do remember reading something about Dora the Explorer being marketed to older kids. And by older, I mean those that can successfully use a toilet. It's pretty much common knowledge that if you're targeting a certain age group, your characters are going to be at least one age bracket over the group you're targeting. Think about it, what did we watch when we were kids? Saved by the Bell - a show about high schoolers, that I watched in 5th grade. 90210 - again with the high schoolers. Dawson's Creek (or "Dawson's Toilet" as I recall one teacher referring to it.) It was like the Gossip Girl of the 90s. Anyways, the point is New Dora looks pretty innocent to me. There's been criticism that she's "too sexy." I am definitely NOT a fan of encouraging young girls to be "sexy". But c'mon, she's wearing a headband! And leggings! And flats! A shirt with bows and flowers! And a supercool necklace! She's freakin' adorable! I mean, if she starts taking a drag off a cigarette, talking in a raspy voice, and propositioning Diego on the streetcorner, ok. Otherwise, I say RELAX.
Which bring us to Rainbow Bright, and if I'm going to have an issue with any of them, it's gonna be this one. Not because of the way she's dressed (except maybe the rainbow stripper boots), but mostly due to her looking kinda anorexic. It looks like new RBs head is 1/8 of the size of old RB. And, her head is bigger than her pelvis. Kinda looks like good ole Ralph Lauren might've had a hand in this one. Anyone remember this little Photoshop "Snafu"?? I DEFINITELY think there is a huge problem with very young girls (and women of all ages) observing and being held to a virtually impossible beauty standard. And this particular new Rainbow Bright DOES look a little bit more grown up than cute little adolescent Dora. It kinda looks like she's wearing eye makeup, and rainbow stripper boots, and her ultra high ponytail kinda makes her look dumb. Ok, so Feministing got 1 of 3 right.
But, you know there have been other cartoon character who were older than their target demographic, like Kim Possible, Lizzie McGuire (I think she was cartoon half the time, Hillary Duff the other half?) and I don't remember a ton of complaints about them. Plus Power Puff girls... I remember thinking they were cool. So, overall, yes we do have to watch the messages we are sending young girls when we create and let them watch these characters who they are supposed to adore and love. But it's ok to let them grow up A LITTLE. I think we need to point out that there's many different body types and that being super skinny isn't really important at all. I think we need to point out that character is more important than anything. So if the Bratz girls look super cute but act like super, well, brats, that's not something to admire. But if modern Strawberry Shortcake is sharing with Huckleberry Pie and new adolescent Dora is super smart and resourceful, maybe we could focus on those things instead of over analyzing a piece of clothing.