Surprise! Dora outrage mischaracterized by internet news media

Mattel recently teamed up with Nickelodeon to create a doll based on an updated, more grown-up version of the popular cartoon character Dora the Explorer.

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Parents got up in arms about the transformation, and as news outlets picked up the story, they published stories about people characterizing the new Dora as “too sexy.” Here are some samples:

Huffington Post:

Did Mattel turn Dora The Explorer into a tramp?

…parents fear that the shapely shadow suggests well, a real tease.

The cute girl with bangs and baby fat that kept their kids company is being replaced with a scary harlot cloaked in shadow.

Entertainment weekly:

While there was plenty of excitement, it was more of the “How dare they turn our beloved-if-squeaky heroine into a little hussy?” variety.

Yahoo News:

Dora the streetwalker.

Now, I can understand why parents might get upset about a bilingual child explorer being turned into a fashionable tween, because it buys into certain feminine stereotypes about the importance of looking cute, having an expensive hairstyle, and buying fashionable accessories. But since when has it been reasonable to refer to someone as a tramp, a harlot, a hussy or a whore based on what they wear? When these people see young preteens walking down the street wearing leggings and flats, it this what goes through their head? Is a woman not free from accusations of sexual promiscuity unless she is unattractive? Most of the complaints about Dora that originated from real parents, such as the ones associated with the petition at Packaging Girlhood, were reasonable and had very little to do with the sexualization of the new character – they tended to focus on the doll’s advocacy of consumer culture, the erasure of her Latina identity, the capitalist implications of the transformation, and the environmental implications of moving Dora from the jungle into the “city,” effectively. However, it’s sad and distressing to see this twisted around by the news reports who mock the parents’ concerns by reproducing and exacerbating, in a horribly offensive way, the very stereotypes that the parents are conscientiously fighting.

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