So, I just got wind Dora the Explorer is about to become a pre-pubescent, or rather "a Tween'' -- the demographic that makes marketers drool and mothers bang their heads.
We have loved Dora. When Maria was 3 and refusing to speak Spanish, I purposely turned on the Dora videos and celebrated Dora's Hispanic heritage, bilingualism and adventurous spirit. I did the same with Diego, who I actually like better because he doesn't have that high voice or suffer from constant catastrophes. Diego even became Maria's invisible friend for a good long while. "Come on, Diego!'' she would say as she ran circles around the living room, looking behind her at a child only she could see.
Plenty of folks already have dissed the idea of aging Dora, of getting rid of her big pre-schooler head and orange shorts and replacing them with a dress, long legs and flowing hair. It is, they say, one more piece of evidence that young girls are too sexualized, that innocence fades too quickly.
I would agree. But, what gives me most angst over Dora's change is that when I look at popular images of Latinas -- even in Latin-run media -- I mostly see barely dressed women, gigantic tatas, mini-dresses and stripper stilettos. Trust me, folks, not all Latinas wear hula hoop-sized earrings and this one in particular never has owned stilettos. (The stiletto thing is much to my husband's sadness, of course, but whatever.)
A beautiful Latina actress who plays a housekeeper in a popular sitcom was asked in a magazine article this month why Latina actresses always have to play the maid. She answered: "I've got two stereotypes going: the maid and stripper. Ask me in 10 years and I will tell you if it's a concern. This is my first big job in Hollywood, so I'm in no position to complain.''
When I read that the other night, I wanted to poke a very sharp stick in my eye.
Fortunately, the new Dora -- to be released this fall -- is not expected to be a maid or stripper. I'm waiting, however, to see if she looks like a stereotypical "hot tamale."
Word is she will be letting go of childish things like animal friends and jungle adventures. She's going to be a city girl and a solver of mysteries -- with her own line of fashion accessories and a doll that can plug into a computer to access an on-line world. Girls also will be able to change Dora's look online and help her shop.
So, I dread to see the upcoming changes to sweet Dora, of potentially losing a decent representation of both ethnicity and innocent girl power. It would be a thrill to have my daughter mature in a time when women of her culture are reflected in popular media as more than maids and strippers. (Thank you, Salma Hayek!)
The only good thing I see in new Dora? Goodbye, Tico the Squirrel.