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Dora: From Explorer to… Girly-Girl?

Posted by Rosepixie on October 28, 2009

One of the most popular (and, consequently, marketable) characters for children right now is Dora the Explorer.  She’s been unbelievably popular for a number of years now with kids in the preschool and toddler ages.  Her popularity cuts across both genders, multiple races (she herself is Latina and speaks both English and Spanish in her show), and a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.  She’s one of those characters that you probably know well if you’ve spent much time with a toddler or preschooler in America in the past five years.

Dora’s show tells the stories of her adventures with her best friend, Boots (the monkey).  They go everywhere, from jungles and deserts to pirate ships and imaginary storybook lands.  Dora’s done it all.  And she works hard, she really earns her “explorer” title.  She follows a map for each adventure and must overcome obstacles to achieve the goal set before her.  We know that her adventures can’t all be imaginary because one of her friends is the son of some animal conservationists and she goes on quite a few animal rescue missions with him.  He even earned his own spin-off show (a serious rarity in children’s programming), Go, Diego, Go! Dora is not a girl who stays still.  Here she is:

Dora the Explorer

But apparently someone at Nickelodeon has decided that Dora is a) only a girls’ property and b) in need of a make-over.  So Dora is getting a brand new look and a brand new show – Dora’s Explorer Girls.  This time, Dora is a tween who lives in a city and has a bunch of girl friends (but no boys!) and well… doesn’t go on any adventures.

Here’s Dora and her new friends (click for full size):

From the website:

Moms have grown to love Dora the Explorer almost as much as their little girls do.  She’s the perfect role model, a heroine little girls can relate to, learn from, and play with.

But little girls grow up.  (Sigh.)  Yes, it’s true.  Somewhere along the line that gentle, unassuming nature gives way to bold opinions as her world expands.

And older girls need role models, too.

That’s where Dora’s Explorer Girls come in.  This Dora is the same girl at heart, just a little older and on a whole new kind of adventure.  She’s the leader of her group of school friends: Naiya, Kate, Emma and Alana.  They’re the Explorer Girls, and they work together to solve mysteries, help others in their community and have lots of fun along the way.  They’re a whole group of heroines with varying interests and talents that older girls can learn from.

Of course, there will always be little girls.  (Thank goodness.)  So, the Dora we all know and love won’t change a bit.  She’ll still be the same take-charge girl leading your little ones on adventures for years to come.

And now, older girls can continue the friendship for a few more years.

Maybe your big girl would like to be an Explorer Girl?  Check out the rest of the site to start your child on a new adventure with Dora!

Wow.  So, Dora is apparently only appealing to girls (and their moms).  I wonder what that means for all the little boys and dads that I’ve met who absolutely adore Dora the Explorer?  Beyond that, it’s evidently such a tragedy that little girls (who, of course,  are all gentle and unassuming as small children) grow up to *gasp* have their own opinions and personalities!  “Thank goodness” that “there will always be little girls” who “won’t change one bit.”

Um… guys?  Dora had more spunk and personality as that cute, round little girl up top than she does as a thin, rather generically “hip” tween!  From her “Explorer Girls” bio:

Hola! Thanks for checking out the Explorer Girls site.  Soy Dora.  I live in Puerto Verde with my whole family: mi mama, mi papi, y mi abuela.  Plus my little sister Isabella and my little brother Guillermo.  My best friends and I are the Explorer Girls, and we work together to keep our city clean and green.  Whether starting a Save the Rainforest club at school or figuring out a mystery, we love to do everything together!  Todas juntas!

My favorite food: Arroz con pollo.  My papi makes the yummiest chicken and rice!

My favorite sport: It’s a tie between soccer and baseball!

My must-have: My friends, of course!  They’ve always got my back.

You can find me: All over the place!  If I’m not at school or on the soccer field, I’m probably at the Arco Iris Cafe with the Explorer Girls, or at a beach clean-up, or on a bike-a-thon, or volunteering at the animal shelter… there’s just so many great things to do in the city!

Big plans: I’m going to volunteer at the neighborhood animal shelter.  I love my dog, Cora, SOOOO much, and I know we can make a big difference for lots of animals who need a helping hand.  Or paw. 🙂

I don’t like: Litterbugs.

Litterbugs?  Seriously?  That’s the best you could do?  Ok, so Dora went from an “I can (literally) do anything” girl to a rather stereotyped, although clearly well intentioned, and kind of bland tween.  What about her friends?  Are they well rounded characters?  Let’s see – Naiya’s bio should be subtitled “Science Girl”, Kate is the actress (she thanks you for being her audience when you click on her bio), Emma is the musician and Alana is the athlete (soccer may be her only sport, but clearly it’s her identity).  Oh yeah, this is a well-rounded bunch.

And, again, no boys to be seen.  Because you couldn’t really be a tweenaged girl if you even acknowledged that boys exist.  Dora’s best friend was Diego – a boy!  What happened to him?  And what happened to Boots?  Admittedly, it might be hard to explain why there’s a monkey hanging around outside the middle school waiting for you, but still…  Does Dora really seem like the kind of girl who would care?  She’d be off on her way to an adventure in Antarctica before anyone finished asking the question anyway!

But this is clearly being marketed as pink, fashionable and girly.  And being an explorer is none of those things.  Being an explorer means getting dirty, asking questions and forming your own opinions.  And none of those are things that we want girls doing, are they?Of course, it would all be better if they could just stay little girls forever.


7 Responses to “Dora: From Explorer to… Girly-Girl?”

  1. Eva said

    It’s vile enough when they come up with those sorts of properties stand alone, subverting a good show that teaches healthy ideals is just disgusting. Urg. Things like this make me feel very stabby.

  2. Kathleen said

    “Somewhere along the line that gentle, unassuming nature gives way to bold opinions as her world expands.”

    Oh yeah. That made me stabby too. In fact, every little thing about this makeover makes me stabby. I’m revolted by these powers-that-be who clearly have no respect for real girls and wish to reinforce bland conformity. ARG!


  3. Rosepixie said

    Yeah, there were just too many things about this one that made me very angry. I thought it deserved to be written about. Dora is one of the few really awesome female characters on television right now for young girls and the fact that they decided to do this to her just makes me sick.

  4. chanda said

    I would just like to know her age? Also, Diego, was her cousin, not just best friend,and boots, could have easily been replaced by a cat or dog. I think this was a good transition for Dora, as my 7 old, about to turn 8 became bored with her and we have been frantically trying to find a replacement.

    One thing, I know Dora is spanish, but she still lives and plays out her life in AMERICA, so ease up on the Spanish culture, please?

    • Rosepixie said

      She’s supposed to be a “tween”, no specific age given, but that probably puts her somewhere between 10 and 12. I did know that Diego was her cousin, but being a cousin doesn’t necessarily mean being a friend, so I chose to point out that they were friends, not just relatives who met every holiday or something. Boots was her best friend and companion, though, so I really find it odd that he’s so completely gone. I really don’t think she’d just replace him with a dog or cat!

      Dora isn’t Spanish, she’s a Latina, there’s a difference. She *speaks* Spanish, but she isn’t from Spain. She’s American and her Latina culture is as American as anything else. I didn’t focus on this at all here, so anything you’re seeing about it in the post is from the website and press from Nickelodeon, not from me.

  5. hippygirl said

    OK, when I clicked over here from the Carnival of Feminist Parenting, this was not what I was expecting. But I mean that in a good way! I had NO IDEA about this new tween Dora (we live in the country and have no TV so I’m a bit out of touch, I think). Anyway, what I was expecting was in your post – about how Dora started out as an adventurer who happened to be a girl. She did appeal to both boys and girls and the marketing was not directed solely at girls. I am not sure when that changed (maybe a little before Diego started?). Maybe once the producers had a show they could market directly to boys, they figured it was OK to market Dora solely to girls.

    Anyway this new tween Dora seems wrong on so many levels. It seems to me that it is about money more than anything else. There is still Dora and Diego, and now there’s tween Dora AND all her friends. Just think of the dolls and clothes and bedding they can sell now!

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