The Verdict on the new Dora the Explorah

Julia and I looked into this and we have concurred, and this Jury of Two is prepared to pass judgment.

This is the original Dora the Explorer:

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And here (below the fold) is the new Dora:


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The original Dora had a backpack and a monkey, she had boot-like explorer shoes, sensible clothing, what looks to me like a watch with a compass built into it, a very sensible haircut, and a thirst for knowledge. When Julia saw the new Dora, she was a bit shocked. “No backpack. What about the monkey? Pockets? How can you be an explorer with no pockets? They turned her into a Barbie.”

“But what about her shoes?” I said, on Dora’s behalf, just in case.

“The shoes suck, if you’re an explorer.”

I had to agree.

And it gets worse. It is obvious that the new Dora has been somehow de-ethnic-isized (though Julia and I were both unsure of what Dora’s ethnicity was to begin with) and as La Feminista points out, you can’t be the Number One Latina Sciencey Role Model and have the option to change eye color in the computerized version, which apparently is the case.

La Feminista confirms that Boots the Monkey is out. And, the shift from sensible to cute footwear is outrageous. For an explorer.

What IS interesting about this Dora thing, and may well in the end be a success, is this whole idea of tracking the age of the generation to which Dora was introduced. It will be interesting to see what happens over the years as Dora experiences high school, with the social pressures to be stupid and to not be good at math because she is a girl; college, with the drinking parties and obnoxious frat boys; graduate school with the feudal patriarchal system, where someone gets to put their name on your written work because they bought some expensive machine that they let you use; and the job market where Dora may have to spend 12 years as a nomad before she can have any sort of job security at all.

Right. I can see the 35 year olds of 22 years from now coming home from a long day at The Lab and checking whatever the mid 21st century has to offer in lieu of Tivo to catch up on the latest episode.

When she’s 32, I’ll bet Dora gets the monkey back. Because it’s science. And you know what they say about science.

If you want a friend, get a monkey.

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0 thoughts on “The Verdict on the new Dora the Explorah

  1. And it gets worse. It is obvious that the new Dora has been somehow de-ethnic-isized (though Julia and I were both unsure of what Dora’s ethnicity was to begin with)

    Really, Greg? How is it obvious that they have “de-ethnic-isized” Dora from looking at her, oh king of “there is not race”? La Feminista points out that you can change her eye color, but do you really think people don’t look at her and think “Latina” anymore?

    You seem to have strange ideas about who can belong to a particular group. As soon as they are not brown enough or ethnic enough for you, you judge?

  2. It is obvious that Dora has been converted to a Barbie-esque character, resulting in a loss of character. The old dora did not bring up issues of marketing-driven sexualized imagery. This one does. This is a marketing ploy that some people will buy into and some people will see for what it is.

  3. Ha! This is not even slightly subtle. Dora is a total sellout to American prurience. Isis, I think, might be working for Dora’s marketing firm.

  4. The new Dora is fine. The old Dora was fine. Swapping the old Dora out for the New Dora is icky. This sends a rather explicit message. Kids who related to the old Dora in part because the old Dora was not a classic hotty cute chick are getting a little elbow in the gut with this change. Thank you Mattel.

  5. Laden, don’t you understand that Isis The Scientist is really known as Isis the Queen of the Hot Latina Club, and no one shall opine in this area without her approval?

    As for Dora, this is the first I have ever heard of her or certainly ever seen a picture of her, and I agree with Julia’s assessment. If I had to pick one of these Doras to be stranded in the woods with, I would pick the one with the backpack and the monkey. There might be snacks in the back pack and the monkey is one who could climb to the top of the tallest tree and tell us … oh no, monkeys can’t talk. Never mind. But at least we would have the tasty snacks. And if necessary we could eat the monkey.

    Sorry, I am distracting myself. I’d take either Dora, I do not really care.

  6. I just heard that they are going to change Saint Patrick’s Day to Shamrock Day. This will join the makeover of Dora in the pantheon of cultural homogenization. It started with the preppies. We should have killed them all when there were only a few. But now it is too late.

  7. The old Dora was Mayan and the new Dora is Brazillian OBVIOUSLY. Oh, and Boots – a Lemur/Rooster hybrid. I am hanging on to the thin hope that the new Dora doesn’t spend ALL her time exploring the mall or her growing infatuation with the school quarterback.

  8. Eric, you speak the uncomfortable truth. Innocent curiosity has been replaced by ditsy protohormonic shoppingmallitude.

  9. At least one outlet labels Dora as “the new sexy explorer” and mentions Nickelodeon “teasing” consumers with the silhouette.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/detail?entry_id=37198

    The word “skank” has been used. Bitch had an explicit study of Dora’s ethnicity and put it in relationship to some of the issues being discussed here, before the new Dora was teasing us. Before she was transformed she was part of the exploitation process:

    Doraâ??s starring role in the lucrative global television market stands in sharp contrast to the role real Latinas have played in a more literal form of television production, in which maquiladora trumps exploradora. First created in the 1960s, maquiladoras are foreign-owned Mexican factories in which imported raw materials and components are assembled into products that are exported for sale. Women constitute about 80 percent of the maquiladora workforce; according to Maquilapolis, a documentary by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, women are recruited because factory owners consider them docile low-wage laborers.

    And now the new version seems more suited to the a different setting entirely, which I will not even say out loud. From Fourth Wave, which I think captures my thinking on this well enough:

    “Have you seen how Dora the Explorer is being marketed nowadays? This once-proud symbol of girl agency & power now stars in sexed-up, passive incarnations in toy stores, on cereal boxesâ?¦and even, more and more, on her TV show.”

    source:
    http://www.fourthwavefeminism.com/2009/03/whats-happening-to-dora-explorer.html

    It is always more of the same in pop culture.

  10. Isis, how does the generation of whiteness in an animated character with an explicit ethnicity not jive with a concept that race is an invalid construct? I think people look at her now and say “Dondi.” I believe Dondi was an Italian boy and he liked shopping.

  11. The dialectic transformation reifies the barbionormative.

    I love the barbionormative! Meaning I hate the barbionormative.

  12. Ditzy? Skanky?

    Look, it’s bad enough they’ve gotten rid of the cute little round-bellied kid and the things that actually make her exploring practical. No need to project. I’m perfectly happy to let these things stay in your head where I don’t need to see them.

  13. I am not sure what a Skanky is. But I’ll take two just in case. The new Dora does have “ditzy” body language.

  14. I’m not too bothered, really. My daughter likes Dora, but has mostly outgrown her. I think Mattel was looking for a way to fill a less-expensive niche than the American Girl dolls. And if I had to choose between being begged for Bratz or Barbie and being begged for a “big girl” Dora, I’d go for the Dora every time.

  15. i would say that new dora i globalized version and definitively no spirit at all, it looks like Britney spears and totally non-interesting comparing to old Dora, also i think kids will not like new one ,its just spirit-less!!!!

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  17. When my kids first found Dora (they were very young), my daughter from China was convinced that Dora was Chinese. My daughter from India was convinced that the character was Indian. I let them think what they wished, until they eventually figured it out.

    The new Dora is cute, but she has lost all her charm and individuality. And she will probably lose all the little boys that watched.

    I wonder how the original creators/illustrators feel. I also wonder how an older Dora will affect the format designed for preschoolers.

  18. Maybe it’s a simply a ploy aimed at hitherto untapped markets. Perhaps by slimming down the new Dora, her owners hope to penetrate third world populations?

  19. The first Dora was flat and one-dimensional. Just as Betty Crocker gets a once-a-decade makeover to keep her contemporary, so did Dora. Geez, people, she is not sexy or skanky, she is just more reflective of her current generation. Scroll up and take a look at old Dora. I’m not seeing a lot to like. She’s animated, and not very well at that.

    I’m not sure if both Doras exist in Nickelodeon world as TV shows for both the toddlers and pre-schoolers (and to enhance their reach from a retail/marketing perspective), or if they’ve swapped the old for the new, or what…but y’all sound to me like a bunch of people who like to get fired up over a steaming pile of nothing. If you have kids in this young age group they’ll be over Dora in a year, and onto characters/personalities which are much more offensive than an explorer sans backpack.

    Interesting subject, Greg. 🙂

  20. She still looks Latina to me, but the thing that disturbs me is that she is shedding her “tomboy” ways so she is less threatening to boys. Wearing a teddy, pedal pushers, ballet shoes; she is ready to move from outdoorsy things that boys do to more indoorsy things that girls do.

    Dora explores dance class, Dora explores Little Victoria’s Secret, Dora doesn’t get dirty anymore. (Nothing wrong with dance class, by the way.)

  21. I am utterly puzzled by the idea of what a “Latina” should look like. Can someone describe this mythical/mystical ideal?

    I don’t think the monkey is any great loss. Monkeys shriek, bite, scratch, pull hair, fling sh*%, and masturbate publicly and frequently. Rather like certain bloggers, now that I think of it.

    Metaphorically speaking, of course.

  22. Barn Owl, who’s talking about what a Latina should look like? We’re talking about what this specific Latina has looked like and how that’s changed and how it’s hard to make a change without implying there was something wrong with the original.

  23. I don’t know what all the fuss is. The producers of Dora indeed wish to follow their support base through life, and in order to do so, must expand the character. Who is to say that the new Dora will not have explorer boots, backpacks and a guide moneky? They may have Dora teach kids how to prepare for the many adversities they may encounter before setting out? Like don good hiking shoes, a backpack full of useful items, etcetera, regardless if it is to the mountains across the bridge and to the ocean … or to the urban jungle…the mall.

  24. I showed my daughter(9) (who grew up on Dora and learned some spanish) the image of the new Dora and asked her who it was. Immediate response was ‘Barbie’ followed one second later by ‘Dora’. The marketing is working.

  25. @ Stephanie Z: Greg is the one who noted that Dora has been “de-ethnic-isized” and that an eye color change somehow eliminates Latina-ness. The new Dora is in a different graphic style, and so I don’t see how comparison with the old Dora necessarily reveals anything about her Latina-ness. Dora now reads as a more fashion doll-like character to me, but “Latina” brings to mind so many different women whom I know, that I just don’t register a cartoon character as reflecting any of them in particular.

    Also, it may be that you are seeing a critic or enemy, where there is none. It’s entirely possible that I didn’t have Greg in mind when I referred to monkey-like bloggers.

  26. My original take on TransDora was not about the ethnicity bit. This was pointed out to me by Feminista and my daughter. I hold no great claim on that observation nor do I care much. If the new Dora claims Latina as her identity, and speaks Spanish and stuff, then she’s Latina.

    Having said that, there probably is an argument for the reconstruction of Dora as something else. Studies have shown that individuals who self identify as non-white prefer white dolls. This applies variously to the kids and the parents. I have to think that such preferences are highly variable across time and space, but I also KNOW (as do you, dear reader) that Mattel has this under control. They have the studies you and I do not have. The Barbi-ization of Dora is an obvious marketing strategy, and having the main character in a product line be less-ethnic is probably a marketing strategy as well.

  27. Barn Owl, it’s also possible that you’re seeing defensiveness where none exists.

    It isn’t that changing her skin or hair color makes her less Latina because all Latinas are any one thing. It’s that changing her skin or hair color makes people more likely to assume she’s Anglo.

    There’s been quite a bit of talk about writers creating characters of color in the other parts of the blogosphere in which I hang out. One of the things being pointed out in that discussion is that the specific details of an individual’s ethnic identity are just as important as the specifics of any other part of their identity. Going generic isn’t only lazy. Generic characters tend to read as being part of the dominant group represented in a culture. So moving Dora closer to the dominant group means that people who are not of the dominant group will likely see her less as someone they identify with.

    As for the eyes, I’ll view that with much less skepticism when kids can change Barbie’s eye color too.

  28. Are we sure they’re actually dumping the old Dora? My guess is that they’re going to keep the old Dora that’s marketed towards preschool kids intact, and are just creating a parallel Dora marketed towards older girls, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    I watch more Dora and Diego than is healthy for an adult (I have a two and a half year old boy who’s nuts for both of them), and the series are so intertwined that I don’t think they could update Dora without updating Diego as well, or abandoning Diego altogether. I can’t find evidence that they’re doing either.

  29. Elizabeth | March 20, 2009 11:28 PM

    The new Dora is fine. The old Dora was fine. Swapping the old Dora out for the New Dora is icky. This sends a rather explicit message. Kids who related to the old Dora in part because the old Dora was not a classic hotty cute chick are getting a little elbow in the gut with this change. Thank you Mattel.

    I agree. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either image of Dora but there’s definitely something disturbing about the transition from the former to the latter. It comes cross as an affirmation of the Barbified image to which girls are expected to conform – both in body image and behaviour.

  30. Can I be brutally honest about one thing? I want to at least hope that there’s some upgrade in the programming. The original Dora show was stupid, stupid, stupid — painfully repetitive crap that somehow managed to not even measure up to some of the most basic children’s books. There is an astonishing amount of potential in that character that has never even come slightly close to being realized.

    In conclusion, bring the monkey back and lose the shoes — give the girl, you know, some boots. Flat heels. I don’t much care about the clothes.

  31. @Brian X

    The original Dora show was stupid, stupid, stupid — painfully repetitive crap that somehow managed to not even measure up to some of the most basic children’s books.

    I disagree. While watching show like Dora, Diego, and Blues Clues makes me want to shoot myself in the head, I can’t deny they’ve had a positive effect on my son. They’re interactive, keep kids engaged, and do teach them some surprising things. I remember on my sons 2nd birthday, we pulled into a parking garage, and my son said, â??Look! We’re in a cave! Echo! Papa, did you know that bats use echovucation to see in the dark.â? It turned out he had learned that from one of those horribly repetitive Diego sequences.

  32. Sheril, excellent point about the monkey, I had not thought of that, and thanks for the links.

    And it is true that everything will depend on what Dora ultimately does. I just hope she can take the pressure!!!!

  33. My 3 year old will be the ultimate test for this
    But Dora now matches her cousin Diego in style
    And he still knows talking animals and has atalking bag

    So there is hope – we’ll see

  34. The original Dora had a backpack and a monkey, she had boot-like explorer shoes, sensible clothing, what looks to me like a watch with a compass built into it, a very sensible haircut, and a thirst for knowledge. When Julia saw the new Dora, she was a bit shocked. “No backpack. What about the monkey? Pockets? How can you be an explorer with no pockets? They turned her into a Barbie.”

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