Sexualization of Toys Sends Bad Message to Kids

Sophia Bollag, Staff Writer

“Peter Pan may never grow-up, but Tinkerbell sure has.”

I was intrigued. Out of all the e-mails I had been sent that day, this subject line was by far the most promising.

I clicked the link and found myself directed to a photo gallery on The Today Show’s website chronicling the recent glamorization of different children’s toys, a trend which is detrimental to children’s self-images and which prompts children to want to act and look much older than they actually are.

Tinkerbell, Peter Pan’s fairy sidekick, was the first character on the list, appearing in a picture with four other scantily clad Disney fairies. Dora, the main character in the popular children’s show Dora the Explorer, was also on the list, pictured as both her pre-2009 child-self with her plain pink t-shirt and sneakers, and as her updated tweenage version, wearing colored leggings and flats.

Additionally, the gallery featured brand-new toys, such as the Struts ponies, manufactured by Playmates Toys, which wear high heels and carry stylish handbags, and the Lollipop Girls, a product of Jan McLean Designs, who also wear heels, in addition to micro-mini skirts.

As ridiculous as I found these toys and pictures to be, I was not truly offended until I reached the Trollz.

The original Dam Trolls, a sensation from the 60’s, were manufactured by Dam Things, a company based in Denmark, and were designed by the woodcutter Thomas Dam. Dam Trolls, with their cherubic bodies, toga-like felt clothing, giant feet (much too wide for heels), and famously unruly hair, are so charming because of their cheerful appearance. Without fashionable clothing, without shapely figures, their smiling, wrinkled faces show that they are happy just the way they are.

Trollz, created by DiC Entertainment, are clearly based off of the original Dam Trolls, but retain none of their original appeal. The Trollz wear revealing clothing, have ridiculously long, sticklike legs, impractical shoes, and, most offensively, styled hair. They retain none of the cheerful innocence of their felt-clad predecessors, swapping large glass eyes and faces furrowed into inquisitive expressions for heavily made-up, plastic faces and painted eyes.

Perhaps the most disgusting feature of the new Trollz is the general trend they represent in the marketing and design of modern children’s toys. Modern toys must make children feel that they need to be glamorous and shapely, themselves, in order to be “pretty” like their toys.

This is highly inappropriate. Children should be allowed to act like children, and not like little adults. The modern trend of glamorizing toys does just the opposite.

Obviously these sexed-up toys following in the tradition of Barbie, the original curvaceous doll, would not be manufactured if they did not sell. The Barbie that Mattel created almost 60 years ago filled a marketing niche, because back in the 60’s, little Susie wanted more than just a baby-doll to play with, she also wanted a doll that looked like Mommy.

The question we must now ask ourselves is: can a doll look like Mommy without being sexy? And, a better question: in addition to her mom-doll, might Susie also want a doll that looks like herself?
Barbie most certainly filled a niche, to spectacular success, but so does her kid-sister, Kelly, a pint-sized version of Barbie, who has reasonable body proportions and appropriate clothing.

I had several Barbie dolls as a kid, but I much preferred my Kelly dolls because they could more realistically do things that I, myself, wanted to do. (This was because they looked more like me, not because they wore more practical shoes, though, in hindsight, this perhaps should have been a factor as well.)

Small children should not be made to feel that they need to look like miniaturized adults. Like the original Dam Trolls, children should be allowed to be happy with their appearances just the way they are.

There is ample room in a little girl’s heart for many different types of dolls–sexy dolls, however need not have a place.