OK, sit down and hang on to your backpacks, there's big news: Dora the Explorer is growing up. And it's freaking parents out.
Mattel has recently announced that its popular, pint-sized commercial juggernaut will soon debut as an older tween version of the chubby cutie that children and parents have grown to adore-a. And even though Mattel has only released a teaser image in silhouette, parents fear that the shapely shadow suggests well, a real tease. Click here to see a side-by-side comparison of the real Dora and Mattel's new version.
Truth is, until we can all get a good look at Dora's new um, developments, this could be much ado about nothing. I mean, I didn't see a stripper pole in silhouette, so that's encouraging. But what the news of this makeover does tap into is an unsettling truth: the loss of innocence can sometimes throw us into shock. In the big book of life, Childhood -- that time of wide-eyed naivete and unfiltered joy -- is a chapter that is becoming slimmer and slimmer. About as slim as the new hips that Dora has grown into.
Mattel is getting a lot of crap for this in the media, which as we all know guarantees a cash cow once Ms. Dora hits the shelves. People love a good sex scandal, and yes folks, this qualifies; although it's less creepy 'cuz she's a 'toon. Is Mattel unjustly accused of being the purveyor of prepubescent awakening? After all, they took an iconic, trusted brand that parents welcomed into their home and fully embraced -- and then wrenched it out of their arms. The cute girl with bangs and baby fat that kept their kids company is being replaced with a scary harlot cloaked in shadow. And did I mention that Dora is moving to the Big City and wearing designer fashions? Now Mom and Dad know what it feels like when they told Sally to relinquish her security blanket and start acting like a big girl.
We should blame Britney. To put this whole thing in perspective, let's get to the root of this evil. After all, Miss Spears and her other vixen comrades like Christina Aguilera were the original Good Girls gone dirty, trading in their mouse ears and pigtails for push-up bras and piercings. They're the ones who ushered in this wave of premature sexual awareness in young girls. Let's face it, eleven-year old girls sporting bare midriffs and low-rise hip huggers set off Lolita-meters everywhere. Mattel simply took their cue from those who blazed the trail. This is simply how we grow up in today's culture.
Oh but wait, tramp historians, we must go further back in time. We can't dump this steaming pile of stigma on the Brit. The torch was passed to her from her wizened Pop Grandmother -- Madonna. Think back 25 years ago. That tsunami of sex in blond hair and black roots hit when I was in high school. One day the sweet girl in Study Hall who wore Benetton sweaters strutted into class wearing crucifix earrings, fishnet stockings and her bra on the outside. I bet her mother was clutching a rosary and praying for her little girl to return.
I wonder how many Madonna wannabes from the '80s are stressing over the new Dora? Maybe they remember what it felt like to discover the naughtier side of the sandbox. And maybe now they realize what their mothers were freaking out about back then.
Dora my dear -- in all fairness -- we should reserve judgment until the New You sees the light of day. Maybe our panic will subside when we see that you won't be trading in your sense of adventure and smarts for a tube top and an eating disorder. But for now, parents, take this as a sign. Make the most of your child's childhood and remember that it too, shall pass.
Written with pop artist Paul Wolski.
IMPORTANT UPDATE 3.16.09 AT 4:45P EST MATTEL RELEASES DETAILED, FOUR-COLOR VERSION OF THE NEW DORA. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.