As a parent you watch a lot of children’s television. You realise exactly how much when you discover you know the outcome of every episode of Team Umizoomi.
So I have spotted something quite disturbing. That is the girlification of Dora the Explorer.
Now Dora has always been a girl, albeit one with a rather peculiar large head and the visual appearance of a ZX Spectrum graphic. It was part of the ‘charm’.
I was disappointed when my son started to watch her. But gradually I realised the show wasn’t all bad – there was interactivity for the kids and, at the end of the day, Dora wasn’t the worst character. A little girl, in shorts and T-shirt, assisted by a monkey who wears boots, presumably that’s because he’s called Boots.
But she was quite the tomboy and, as much as is possible in a programme that is enjoyed by pre-school children, quite a decent role model in that she didn’t conform to outdated stereotypes.
For early years children, she was almost a feminist icon.
Sure, there were faults. They kept telling Swiper the fox to stop swiping, but what is a fox called Swiper meant to do?
And hopefully children don’t emulate her walking style, otherwise they’ll all be hitting walls – with the side of their heads (it could explain the peculiar shape of our heroine’s bonce).
But Dora was pretty cool, I had to accept.
But there has been a disturbing development over the most recent episodes. Suddenly Dora is less interested in having adventures in jungles, outfoxing grumpy trolls under bridges and doing everything that, in conventional cartoon world, would normally be done by the boy.
Now, all of a sudden, at almost every opportunity, she’s swapping her androgynous shorts and T-shirt combo for a ballerina’s outfit of a pretty dress.
Dora’s Ballet Adventure was the start of it. You can guess the outfit she ended up in.
But it was the Knighthood Adventure that showed that the jig was up for Dora as a tomboy. Of course, dealing with medieval knights obviously requires an outfit. A suit of armour should have done the trick but, for some reason, while her top half is armour, the bottom half of the Dora wardrobe is a dress.
It’s not on.
Has Dora reached puberty and suddenly decided she wants to be a little more feminine?
Or is it that the marketing people sense there are many more opportunities to part little girls from their limited pocket money – or the parents of little girls from their hard earned wages – by having a variety of Dora dresses that can be sold, and a selection of different Dora characters?
The new advert for a Mermaid Dora toy, that ‘actually swims’ probably answers the question.
It’s all rather depressing.
The stereotypical placing of roles for boys and girls in children’s TV is something that we need to be careful about.
And it’s not just the boy/girl thing.
Who was the cleverest one in Scooby Doo? The girl with the glasses.
At least that was devised a few years ago and since then we’ve had a whole new meaning for Scooby Snacks, so it’s probably fair to say it was of its time.
But it’s all still there.
And it’s actually between the programmes that the worst crimes are committed. The Dora toys may annoy me, but they don’t make me actually want to rip the television off the wall and ram it down the throat of whoever was responsible.
No, that reaction is reserved for the makers of Lalaloopsy.
Not only is Lalaloopsy a range of ‘sew cute’ toys that make the Cabbage Patch Kids look like the Chelsea Headhunters.
Not only does the tune on the advert sound like several choirgirls are being fed through a mincer as they reach the chorus.
The biggest crime is the character Specs. Or to give her full name: Specs Reads A Lot. You guessed it; she wears glasses, so obviously has to read books. Just in case you didn’t get the message, she also has a pet bookworm. Who appears to also wear glasses.
I had to start wearing glasses when I was seven. It was a traumatic time for a young boy. But at least I never had to worry about my peers adopting falsetto tones and singing ‘Specs reads a lot’ to me.
I suspect some of today’s children will not be so lucky.
Follow Paul Speller on Twitter: @Norbertsdad
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