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Barbie has a bad name in many households. My wife is particularly ambivalent about the doll's limitless fashion accessories and physical proportions not found in real life.
Barbie proves a role model worthy of Mary Poppins compared with the Bratz -- a popular line of mean-looking, trampily outfitted dolls popular with tweens and younger girls and starring in a theatrical film August 3.
Compared with Barbie's vaguely Aryan ideal, the Bratz seem like more approachable "homegirls." Maybe too approachable; the American Psychological Association says, "Bratz dolls come dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas ... It is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for 4- to 8-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality."
I have no doubt that in the next decade, I'll be making statements such as, "You are not leaving this house dressed like that, young lady." Right now, we're only starting to focus on the distinction between what's fashionable and what's slutty, between modesty and a healthy body image. Sexed-up models and music videos may be an inevitable part of pop culture, but sexed-up toys are intolerable.
In a way, it's comforting at this particular pop-culture moment that some questionable girly role models such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have had such public difficulties. But that won't do me much good when my daughter's a teenager and other bad influences have taken their place. I just know that The Most Annoying and Revealing Fashion Trend in History is waiting for us next decade. I just hope we've taught our daughter enough common sense and self-respect by the time it comes along.
For now, the Seven Deadly Sins of Kid Culture -- or as I like to call them, Blandy, Bratty, Dippy, Bleedy, Gassy, Trampy and Jar Jar -- can be exhausting opponents. Because of them, however, I appreciate the children's arts that my daughter and I discover together all the more, such as the graphic novel Owly by Lilburn's Andy Runton, or the catchy, hook-laden songs of Laurie Berkner, or the new Pixar movies.
But being well-rounded isn't the only virtue I want to encourage in my daughter. The best way to fight the Seven Deadly Sins is to cut off, shut down and unplug all their sources of entry. Even the best things about kid culture, even Ratatouille, can't compare to a walk in the park.