Parents push back against controversial doll: 'Too sexualized for a kids’ toy'

·6 min read

If you came of age in the era of Bratz dolls, it’s likely that you either had one or desperately wished you did.

At least, that’s the narrative spreading on social media, now that the semi-realistic figures are making a massive comeback.

Bratz dolls, which first stepped onto the scene in massive, snap-off shoes in 2001, quickly earned a polarizing reputation among consumers.

The dolls were condemned by some parents and guardians — largely from white and religious families, according to what more than 100 young women told In The Know — for their revealing clothing and “sexualized” appearance. The name, which seemingly endorsed “bratty” behavior, didn’t increase their favor in the eyes of parents, either. 

“My mom never failed to mention how ‘skanky’ they were,” one woman told In The Know. “[She thought] they had bad attitudes or something.”

“Too much makeup and thus too sexualized for a kids’ toy,” another said of her parents’ opinions.

To others — mainly members of non-white households, according to In The Know’s research — Bratz were an essential part of their formative years. 

Many praised the dolls and the accompanying movies for offering an alternative to the eurocentric beauty standards of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbies. The “core four” characters — Cloe, Sasha, Jade and Yasmin — all had different racial identities. 

Credit: MGA Entertainment
Credit: MGA Entertainment

“I liked how they were more diverse than Barbies at the time. Plus, they were bad b****es with looks and great fashion,” a Twitter user told In The Know.

“My mom actually preferred them over Barbies because they were more realistically diverse,” another said, noting that it was “really important” that she “eventually had the potential to look like” the dolls she played with as a child.”

Now that we’ve steadily entered the 2010s and Y2K fashion has settled into its resurgence, it’s no surprise that the dolls of the era with a “passion for fashion” are slowly creeping back into popular culture.

Their most basic looks — crop tops, miniskirts, newsboy hats and so on — are frequently spotted on supermodels and the trendier set. Their big lips, long eyelashes and nearly nonexistent noses appeal to longstanding beauty standards as well.

So, what is it about Bratz that makes the dolls so appealing now compared to the other toys of that era?

Amelia Merrill, a writer who has researched Bratz and all sorts of 2000s-era dolls, noted that while this isn’t the brand’s first attempt at a reboot, this one has certainly stuck.

“They weren’t a constant quite the same way a doll like Barbie is,” she said. “First, they were this taboo thing … when we were too young to understand that. Then, we got older and they vanished. I think the fact they’ve come back now … when their first fanbase is old enough to appreciate their aesthetic more just hits harder.”

It doesn’t hurt that 2021 happens to be the 20th anniversary of the first Bratz doll release, either. 

According to the Bratz team, the same older members of Gen Z and younger Millennials who grew up with the dolls are now reaching a point in their lives in which they want to be unapologetically themselves.

“Growing up is a scary thing, and we’re here to show you that you … can grow up with Bratz,” a representative told In The Know. “Bratz has always been at the forefront of trendsetting and self-expression and fashion. "The brand has gone through changes over time. In the past. it's been more kid-targeted, but in 2021, we're going after an older demographic."

Hours after parent company MGA Entertainment launched the first Bratz reissue at Hot Topic, it sold out — and Bratz’s eccentric social media campaign is certainly contributing to the renaissance.

A Bratz doll recreation of the infamous “I am a god” scene in Jennifer’s Body, the 2009 cult-classic film that has also been experiencing a ton of renewed attention online lately, had social media users questioning what the “target demographic” for Bratz even was at that point. They also posted in honor of National Coming Out Day, shared looks from iconic scary movies for Halloween and settled an apparent beef with Barbie.

The Bratz team told In The Know that the social media posts have been strategic, but Bratz’s comeback extends far beyond just celebrating a 20-year milestone.

“It’s a celebration of what Bratz has meant for these past 20 years and the influence that it has had on pop culture in the past and continues to have today,” she explained.

Jasmin Larian, the creative director for Bratz, said it has been "wonderful to watch the Bratz fanz grow up and be able to witness the influence and stronghold Bratz dolls have had on pop culture."

"We pride ourselves on being inclusive and trend starters and we continue to satiate fans all over the world still," she told In The Know.

While the Bratz team is feeding the dolls' popular streak on social media, it's hard for a certain demographic to even scroll through Tiktok without seeing organic Bratz-related content that the company didn't even pay for.

User-generated tributes to the dolls’ impact on fashion, makeup and young friendships first appeared in 2017 and have only increased in popularity since then.

On TikTok, the adventures of an emotional support Bratz doll, behind-the-scenes looks at Bratz-centric photoshoots and nostalgic throwback posts are wildly popular and entirely community-driven.

Whether playing with Bratz was the dominant indoor activity or strictly banned in the houses of young adults growing up, many of them seem to have forged a strong emotional connection to the toy that remains to this day.

Former fans can satiate their desire for more Bratz content all over the internet. There’s a makeover app game, a real-life shoe collab with Puma and a real-life makeup collaboration with Revolution Beauty. You can also get the original 2001 dolls now re-released at Walmart, Target and Amazon. And of course, you can simply scroll through social media and let Bratz content find you.

In The Know is now available on Apple News — follow us here!

If you liked this story, check out this article about the Y2K nostalgia resurgence.

The post Welcome to the Bratz doll renaissance appeared first on In The Know.

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