As they say,the girl is the mother of the woman. And what your little girl watches could affect how she sees the world around her, and her place in it.
DORA: ROLE MODEL-O-METER: 5/5
Optimistic, inquisitive, helpful and intelligent at the same time, “Dora the Explorer” stands out as an excellent role model for young girls… and boys! Dora’s innocent adventures are crusades against myths about women — Dora shows that girls can successfully navigate unfamiliar territory, enjoy outdoor adventures and have excellent leadership skills — all without being overbearing in the least. She listens carefully to her friend, Boots the monkey, frequently asks the viewer for help and often shows affection for Boots and her family. Dora radiates positivity, even when dealing with the antagonist of the show, the sneaky fox Swiper, who loves stealing things. She assertively tries to stop him, often explaining why he shouldn’t do what he’s about to. However, even when she fails, instead of focusing on Swiper’s naughtiness, she constructively sets about recovering what Swiper has thrown away. You may think that a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish is one of the best things your kid will pick up from the show but for me, the show’s most valuable lesson is the importance of listening to others’ perspectives.
POWERPUFF GIRLS: ROLE MODEL-O-METER: 4/5
Sugar, spice and everything nice. Literally. No seriously, that’s what the Powerpuff girls are actually made of… along with a dose of chemical X of course. These super-powered siblings fight crime, save the day, attend school, do their homework and are in bed by nine. Along the way they also deal with sibling rivalry and some very familiar moral dilemmas. And these role models have role models of their own: the mayors’ gorgeous secretary Mrs Bellum is also super-smart and is the real power behind the mayoral throne, while Mrs Keane, their kindergarten teacher, is kind and tough at the same time. By contrast, the female villains use their sexuality for evil ends. Sedusa, for example, poses as an innocent after committing crimes and the femme fatale uses feminist rhetoric to justify her own robberies. All in all, you can’t go wrong with “The Powerpuff Girls”.
BARBIE: ROLE MODEL-O-METER 3/5
The reigning queen of unrealistic body image, Barbie’s been hailed and reviled in equal measure. But let’s face it, our plastic prima donna gets a bad rap… ok so she does look like the poster girl for the Aryan Nation, and she does have a hip to waist ratio no amount of rib removal would ever achieve… but Barbie’s also a working woman! She’s been an astronaut, a doctor and even a presidential candidate. She does love her wardrobes and accessories but one can hardly fault her for that. All in all, girls could do a lot worse as far as role models are concerned.
BRATZ: ROLE MODEL-O-METER 0/5
And speaking of far worse… the prize for worst role models ever go to the ‘prosti-tots’ known as the Bratz dolls. Overly made-up, dressed in fashions (fishnet stockings, stiletto heels and miniskirts) that a streetwalker would draw the line at and obsessed with boys and shopping, the Bratz are any sane parent’s worst nightmare. They’re the girls you don’t want your daughter hanging out with, or your son bringing home. And naturally, they’re a mega-hit. Amazing what millions of dollars of marketing money will do for you.
WINX CLUB: ROLE MODEL-O-METER 3/5
Marketed directly at ‘tweens (9-14+) the “Winx Club” is about a group of fairies who battle evil forces with their magical powers. On the plus side, the Winx also stand up for each other, displaying strong bonds of friendship and love. While many of them are in relationships with the opposite sex, they don’t go in for flings and their relationships tend to be long-term (a few are even engaged). On the downside, they are all drawn like supermodels, with chiseled features, lots of make-up and waists that are smaller than their hands! They also seem to uniformly dress in miniskirts, short shorts, belly-baring shirts and high heels. Not the best role models when it comes to fostering a realistic body image, but they get high points for their confidence and poise… these girls end up rescuing the boys on more than one occasion.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 6th, 2011.
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