Remember when Dora used to attract the boys? It seems a lot of people have forgotten.
This weekend's special celebrating 10 years of Dora the Explorer left out this key part of her past. (I know, hard to believe it’s been 10 years. If you’ve sat through enough of them, it feels more like 20.)
The documentary airing after the birthday episode rightly pointed out the way Dora revolutionized kids' TV and brought a rare Latina presence to television. But love her or hate her, she was also the rare girl character meant to appeal to boys, too. (Blue's Clues was another good example from the same era. But who the hell knew Blue was a girl? It took me like a year to figure it out.)
Dora wore pink, but on a t-shirt, not a flouncy gown. Her adventures were rugged, climbing mountains, crossing rivers, shouting down thieves. She was stocky and sturdy, not a fairy-waif. She was not afraid to be assertive, even a little bit of a dictator at times (though not as much as her evil twin Maraka). Dora was not a princess. She saved princesses.
And in many ways it worked. Little boys adored her, at least the ones I was around. It gave them a rare chance to identify with a little girl, something girls are asked to do with boys constantly.
But Nickelodeon blew it. In an era when even Happy Meal toys are separated by sex, they couldn't resist the urge to stick a tiara on her. They had to roll out a boy version, the loud and unbearable Diego. Every toddler testimonial to her greatness on Sunday night's show came from a little girl. (There were plenty of adult males praising her.) That was just sad.
And last year came news of the god-awful tween version, in which she was slim-legged and decked with bling. This made for some pissed-off parents, most them angry at how sexual Dora seemed, or worried they were getting rid of the old one (there were never any plans for that).
My problem with tween Dora is how unbearably soft she looks. That girl ain't gonna climb any mountain or forge through any forest, unless there are boys there waiting. And she'd probably ask Swiper nicely to stop swiping. Since the initial pictures were leaked, there has been almost no word of tween Dora, and if there has been a product roll-out, it has been a quiet one.
I'm still worried she may have been hanging out with a scuzzy crowd, though.
There is plenty of unisex toddler TV -- Yo Gabba Gabba! does a great job of bringing the genders together -- but little-girl leads who take charge and command the attention of little boys are way too rare.
Does your boy still dig Dora? Or does he have any other girl idols? What does your daughter think of Dora?
Image via ShawnZehnderLee/Flickr