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Bratz pack

Movies | Don't be fooled by preteen film's PG rating: Bratz is insidious

Issue: "Tough love," Aug. 18, 2007

Woe to young men in America. To the extent that the worldview espoused in the theatrical release of Bratz and the billion-dollar toy franchise introduced in 2001 takes hold among preteen girls, its target audience, young men looking to marry in the next two decades may be in for trouble.

Bratz earned a PG rating from the MPAA for "thematic elements"-the MPAA's catch-all phrase-but the rating doesn't give the full story on just how insidious Bratz can be. Boston Globe reviewer Ty Burr sarcastically advised parents to rent a copy of Midnight Cowboy as a less damaging alternative to the Sean McNamara film.

The Bratz story begins the first day of high school with four incoming freshman girls who video conference at 7 a.m. using iChat to coordinate important issues like what they will wear and how they will make a glorious entrance into school.

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The girls are caricatures of multiculturalism: Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos) speaks Spanglish to her mother, a new world Doña. Cloe (Skyler Shaye) stars in soccer and lives in supposed poverty despite her vast wardrobe and expensive computer. The half-Asian Jade (Janel Parrish) excels in-wait for it-science and math, but also moonlights as a costume designer. Logan Browning plays cheerleader Sasha, whose affluent African-American parents' divorce apparently causes her only minor stress. Boys are just bit players and eye candy in the Bratz world.

The Bratz predicament and solution seem predictable to anyone who has seen Mean Girls or High School Musical. A platinum blonde named Meredith (Chelsea Staub) rules the school with an iron fistful of blackmail and an accessorized dog named Paris that accompanies her in a studded shoulder bag. The Bratz are right to fight back against Meredith.

But in doing so, the Bratz send horrifying cues to the elementary and junior-high girls filling theaters for the movie. The best weapon in the Bratz arsenal-fashion sense-crosses the line between looking pretty and hypersexualization.

Even worse is the worldview Bratz promotes: Who would be surprised if girls who subscribe to it grow into women who, out of reliance on makeup and a false standard of beauty, simply go without encounters with the outside world that don't first involve getting made up?

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