Saturday, August 5th, 2006...7:34 am

MyScene My Bling Bling: Or, how I learned to accept that I’m an old fogey

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It feels a little silly to be expressing my outrage over Mattel’s “MyScene My Bling Bling” dolls when they’ve been out for over a year. When I first saw them in 2005, I wanted to think that they were a misguided experiment. With the success of MGA Entertainment’s Bratz dolls amongst kids, tweens, and young adult toy collectors, Mattel has been under a great amount of pressure to create something equally attractive and modern.

My beloved “Flavaz” dolls (hip-hop and street fashion-inspired dolls with a variety of ethnicities, heights and body builds) were a brave attempt to capture the tween market. “MyScene My Bling Bling” dolls, I suspected, were another foray into the world of cutting-edge “this is what kids are wearing these days” fashion, this time with one foot firmly placed in the comfortingly familiar, eminently respectable Barbie brand name.

I was, quite frankly, astonished to see “MyScene My Bling Bling” continue as a brand. There were My Bling Bling-themed children’s furniture and electronics, accessories, and so forth. I was really astounded last weekend to discover that there was even a swimsuit edition, “My Bling Bling Bikini”.

I have never considered myself a prude. No, that’s a lie; I’m a prude when it comes to my own clothing, which places a focus on comfort and shies away from exposing too much skin. But I’ve always watched over both the Bratz and MyScene lines of dolls with the sort of affection a young aunt might have towards her teenaged nieces. I don’t dress like them, of course, and I don’t always understand them, but I remember what it was like to be teenaged and full of passion.

I’ve often found myself defending Bratz dolls in particular, which often come under attack by more traditional doll-lovers. “Look at how they’re dressed! So inappropriate!” they cry, or “Their faces are so scary, with the big eyes and small nose and big mouth!”

Both of these criticisms are widely bandied about in news media. The truth is, Bratz dolls are incredibly diverse. For a long time, their doll line-up had only one token Caucasian, with all the other dolls being from other ethnicities and visible minorities. There’s a variety of skintones, eye colors, and hair colors. . . and of course, a fascinating assortment of fashion styles.

The Bratz have tried their hand at interpreting FRUITS-style Tokyo teen fashion, elegant gothic fashion, country-western fashion, gypsy-bohemian fashion, and even vintage London punk-style. Although the Bratz versions of these fashions weren’t necessarily accurate to the letter, they gave us a Bratz-i-fied vision: a child’s-eye-view of what these cutting-edge fashions might look like. After all, most princess dolls don’t wear historically accurate costumes that royalty actually wore; they wear what children imagine might be in a princess’s wardrobe.

As for the stylized faces of the Bratz dolls (and, to a lesser extent, MyScene dolls). . . I honestly don’t know what to say. Much like the stylized humanoids seen in Japanese manga and anime, either you like ’em or you don’t. As the years go by, I’ve seen more and more big-headed big-eyed dolls on the market, and I’m fairly certain that the trend is here to stay.

Back to my original point.

Despite my slightly-defensive fondness for Bratz and MyScene dolls, I find myself utterly bewildered and slightly off-put by the “MyScene My Bling Bling” dolls. I know I’m not alone in this; many young adult doll collectors raised an eyebrow when the dolls were first announced. Blogs buzzed with disapprovement or amusement, depending on the writer.

The general consensus seemed to be that the dolls exposed way too much skin, and had way too much make-up. Some people voiced concerns that the dolls were bad role models for young girls. Others, who view playline dolls as a source of fresh new clothing for their collectible or imported dolls, noted that they couldn’t imagine themselves dressing their dolls in those clothes.

Months later, I felt a twinge of sympathy and shame when a “My Bling Bling NoLee” doll was featured in a skit on Comedy Central. I was a bit ashamed of myself for instantly recognizing the doll that was being presented as “a hooker doll”. . . but I felt so bad for the doll being glibly introduced as a prostitute. She wasn’t even the central focus of the joke; she was just the doll that the show had chosen as representative of a sex-trade worker. Without knowing anything about her or her history, they had decided that she looked the part.

And yet I still couldn’t love the dolls. Every time I trawled the Barbie aisle, looking for newly released dolls, I averted my eyes from My Bling Bling Barbie’s outfit. I was scandalized by the My Bling Bling Bikini line, even as I recognized that of course a swimsuit-themed line of fashion dolls is going to be scantily clad. From the moment I heard of the line, I hated the name and all it implied: that “bling” is something that we should all aspire to possess, that it was the height of fashion to be “blinged out”.

To be fair, I’m not part of the “bling” generation. The entire concept of “bling” snuck into society as a whole when I wasn’t looking, and so I am disquieted by mentions of it. I felt betrayed when I found out that a childhood classic toy/craft-device, the BeDazzler, was now being marketed as “Bling It On!” To me, the word “bedazzle” suggests a certain level of class. It suggests the understated elegance of Audrey Hepburn, or perhaps Princess Diana. The word “bling” lacks that certain something, and it sets my teeth on edge.

Then I realized why it was that the “MyScene My Bling Bling” dolls bothered me so.

Back in the halcyon days of the early 1990s, there was a song that defined a generation. A ballad, raw with honesty and emotion, whose celebrated lyrics immediately call to mind all that was great about that era.

That song is Sir Mix-a-Lot’s classic “Baby Got Back”.

The song begins with two stereotypical Valley Girls criticizing another woman. “She looks like one of those rap guys’ girlfriends!” “They only talk to her because she looks like a total prostitute.”

“MyScene My Bling Bling” dolls make me feel like those Valley Girls, close-minded and incapable of understanding what is different. They make me feel classist, racist, ignorant, and (at the risk of being ageist) an old fogey, shaking my fist at those young hooligans who won’t dress decently and refuse to stay off of my lawn.

Maybe it’s part of the natural progression of things. As grown-up kids grow older, they grow more conservative. Their idea of what’s cool fossilizes, and anything new that they don’t understand is dismissed as lame, or a fad, or a sign that the younger generations clearly lack the same class and taste that defined *their* generation. All I can do is hug my now-matronly frame and comfort myself with the knowledge that *my* children, should I ever have any, will never ever be allowed to parade themselves in public dressed like that.

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