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Bratz has been a massive phenomenon in the toy industry for years. Now, with the upcoming Bratz movie, the brand is set to become, if possible, even more widely recognized.
However, there has been a debate for some time over the suitability of Bratz as a toy for young children. The argument has raged across the world, and has left parents and care-givers with an extremely difficult choice to make. Do they allow Bratz into their households or do they risk incurring their children's wrath by condemning them the toy that 'everyone has'.
MGA Entertainment will tell you that their dolls are aimed at the 8-12 year old market. Experience shows, however, that children of a much younger age, often only four or five years old are attracted to the brand.
Marketing Experts talk of a phenomenon, which they call Kids Getting Older Younger. They seem to believe that firstly this is a fact of the modern world, secondly it's not a problem and thirdly that they are merely reflecting this in their brands rather than in many ways being responsible for the trend. Regardless of blame, our children are more sophisticated than ever before. Even so, does the Bratz brand promote values that any parent would be happy for a twelve year old to experience, let alone a child of four?
From the outside, a word that you'll hear used time and time again in the marketing of Bratz is 'Sassy'. Leaving aside, for a moment, that this is the toy industry's favorite euphemism for 'sexy', what does the dictionary tell us about the word 'sassy'? Impudent, improperly forward or bold, rude and disrespectful. Any child psychologist will tell you that doll play is an extremely important part of a child learning appropriate behavior for real life. Are these really the values we want to teach our children?
The blatant commercialism of Bratz also causes many parents to baulk. Children are taught by Bratz that the most important things in a girl's life are appearance, make-up, clothes, boys and dating. This encourages them to skip the important developmental stages of middle childhood and travel straight to the pre-occupations of an adolescent world, creating a new generation of good little consumers along the way.
Of course, it's not all bad. Bratz are the first fashion dolls to sell in any numbers that move away from the 'white and blonde' cliché of Cindy and Barbie, supplying dolls with a mixture of ethnicities. They also have slightly more realistic figures than their predecessors. Friendship is one value which is positive and is ever present in descriptions of the dolls.
Although probably the largest criticism made by parents of Bratz is their clothing. In the past, Bratz dolls have appeared in miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas. Of course, children will inevitably wish to copy. Whilst discussing this issue of the sexualization of young children, the American Psychological Association was heavily critical of Bratz. They stated that evidence showed that this kind of sexualization had a negative impact on a girl's self-confidence, body image, self-esteem, sexual development and mental health.
Of course, MGA Entertainment will tell you that it's up to the individual parent to decide if Bratz dolls are suitable for their kids. However, so called Children's Marketing Gurus have been teaching a different philosophy for a long time. They tell the toy companies quite simply not to worry about whether or not parents like their products. Just pitch at the kids, and let the nagging factor do the rest.
Whatever you decide to do as a parent, it's a tough choice. Good luck!