The Bratz Pack

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BRATZ’s movie debut last week was no match for the Transformers–it made $4.2 million in its opening weekend vs. $155.4 million for Transformers–but when it comes to toy sales, it’s no contest. BRATZ has generated more than $2 billion in revenue, and its sales are closing the gap on the most successful girl’s toy in history, Barbie.

So what–or who–are Bratz? They’re the anti-Barbie, large-headed, wide-eyed, multiethnic dolls who wear skimpy clothes and are supposed to be teenagers, unlike the mature, demure 20-something Barbie. Like Barbie, they were created by a Jewish entrepreneur and like Barbie, they reflect the ethos of the time. When Barbie debuted in 1959, the ideal of feminine happiness was white, blonde, rich and monogamous; in 2007, the ideal is younger, more racially diverse, sassier and independent.

In the new movie, many of the Bratz come from interracial and interreligious homes. One, Yasmin, is half-Jewish and half-Latina and calls her grandmother “Bubbe,” even though they sing “La Cucaracha” together. (The actress who plays Yasmin, Nathalia Ramos, is the daughter of a Spanish father and an Australian Jewish mother.)

This proud display of the character’s multi-ethnic roots is reflective of the increasing acceptability, and frankly, coolness, of having roots in different cultures. More and more of the country’s most popular celebrities–Jessica Alba, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alicia Keys, to name a few–hail from diverse backgrounds, and tweener and kids’ shows are littered with multiethnic characters.

I’ll leave it to others to bemoan the apocalyptic consequences of overly sexualized children’s dolls. Most guys I knew with played with G.I. Joe and He-Man as kids and haven’t become violent steroid-raging alpha-males.

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