2000s Icons: To the Dolls That Raised Me, Bratz

My childhood room smells of plastic and sweet strawberry lipstick that came in a pack of five, with Lisa Frank folders shoved under the bed. When I plop down on my purple inflatable couch, it sticks to my skin and I can feel the heat of the South Florida summer seeping in through an open window. At my feet, Cloe, Sasha, Jade and Yasmin are scattered on the floor. The year is 2001 and the Bratz dolls have just been released into the world, quickly finding their place in the lives of many young girls. 

In the same year Bratz were released, a flurry of angry mothers would also cite the immorality of the Bratz dolls, going as far as to call them the “sluts in every Barbie dream house.” The majority of the concerns came from the point of view of the dolls being too sexualized; mothers were concerned that the skimpy clothes and makeup style would negatively influence young girls. One thing to consider, however, is that this was also the time before the #MeToo movement and of #OscarsSoWhite; much of this worry came from ignorance. 

Interestingly enough, a study also found a connection between the sexuality of the Bratz dolls and the gendered roles of young girls. Children who would later identify as androgynous, or who preferred a more masculine aesthetic, would prefer the Bratz dolls over Barbie dolls because of their street-style fashion. The dichotomy between the overtly feminine Barbie doll and a hyper-sexualized Bratz doll was an interesting occurrence because while the Bratz had features that would later prove to become popular among young adults and teens (see: MGA Entertainments fascination with Kylie Jenner, the “real-life Bratz doll"). Their characters were not defined by the clothes they wore, rather the personality of each individual Brat. 

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The Bratz dolls were a vital part of growing up in the early 2000s, even more so within Black and Hispanic communities because of the dolls' darker complexions and pronounced features. Unlike their counterpart, Barbie, who featured brown and black dolls as an alternative to the “standard” doll, the Bratz line came with “racially ambiguous” dolls that were the considered norm. This racial ambiguity would result in a doll that could be easily transformed in the eyes of children. Yasmin (far left), for example, was a doll that could pass as a tan Caucasian doll or as a Hispanic/Latinx doll. A personal favorite, Yasmin would also remind me of the cholas that I would see in my neighborhood with their over-lined lips and hoops. In addition, Cloe, Jade and Sasha (left to right) strongly resembled the children I used to play with.

The Bratz dolls have since been discontinued in 2008 after an allegation by Mattel that the toy-line violated copyright laws because, during its creation, the maker of the Bratz dolls was still employed at Mattel. Regardless, the Bratz dolls will continue to be a staple of the early 2000s.