Vamp Tramp Toys: A Monster Problem

Mar. 16, 2011 Show and tell time on this  Wordless Wednesday.

Not going to give them the pleasure of naming names here to add to their search engine buzz, since  research has shown that one of mega-marketer’s favorite ploys is now baiting parents for “outrage”(yes, there are even strategic microsites like “your mom hates this” to serve as catnip for older kids, sigh, how cynical to use kids for fools fodder)

Instead, I’ll quietly remind that these dolls have been around for awhile targeting ‘tweens’ at stores like Justice, (which means age-compression will plop it into the 6-year old bracket). But frankly, the commercial crassness alone should put the APA Task Force findings into ‘follow up mode’ for their 72pp report on the harm of early sexualization with make-up laden appearance-based beauty mythology as its primary focus. (update: see Peggy Orenstein’s blog and book with examples ad infinitum!)

Toxic cues to prepubescent kids with anorexic stick figure imagery in dolls that purport to  “wax,  pluck and shave” as a “full-time job to be fabulous” (ostensibly she’s a werewolf, so needs that extra grooming boost) are not only brazenly bratified, hyper-sexualized, objectified, vapid head-spinning crud…They’re also an unoriginal riff off of the ill-fated Hasbro Pussycat Dolls (stripper dolls for six-year olds that allies at CCFC successfully nixed) with Brattitude and a side of monster Twilight tonic mixed in to howl about.

As I wrote during the Pussycat Dolls RealityTV show kerfluffle,  appearance-driven recruitment into ‘doll-like’ personas (particularly with bodycentric, blinged out-softcore strip tease corporate pedophilia in play) is not a ‘pearl-clutching prude’ issue, it’s a children’s rights issue to access childhood without physical and psychological harm at the hands of profiteering adults with a broken moral compass shooting springs out the sides.

Knock it off, corporations.

Parents? Try not to over-react and aid/abet with free publicity and complicity.

And for the ‘it’s just another doll’ crowd, check out the videos at the bottom for full cultural context.

For all of those who ask  “is it really all that bad?” And “what’s changed since the Barbie era?”

MUST READ FACT SHEET: Sexualizing Childhood

Quite simply…

…In just 5 years, the lil’ monsters made it to market, even though in 2006 we applauded Hasbro (at left) for taking the high road with a turn around on the production of their Pussycat Dolls with universal acknowledgment that targeting 6 year olds with stripper dolls was deemed unacceptable.

Now? Not so much. Same look. Different company. With some snippy snipey ‘mean girl’ monster messaging in there to boot…”

Are we devolving en masse? Have giveupitis?

Or are we too desensitized to be unshockable as girls pay the price for hawking hopes of being treated as humans instead of ‘hottie-babelicious’ drool fests?

Here’s some ‘not so pleasurable’ reading on “why it’s a problem” from the early hyper-sexualization of childhood buried deep in our archives…And yes, I’ve been writing about this for a loooooooong time.

See any correlation with the post on the holiday gifts issue of  “Vogue Cadeaux” in this photo spread below?

Let that one sink in for awhile.

Marketers are selling out (and selling off) our daughters. Period. Exclamation point. In red. Same color as a STOP sign.

Related Posts On Sexualized Childhood

by Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth

Vogue Cadeaux: Children ARE Gifts, NOT To be Wrapped and Sold

Girls Are Not Candies, Tweens Are Not Teens, Thongs Are Not Undies

Sexualization Summit to Spark Change!

Spark Ignites a Summit of Powerhouses, Geena Davis & More

The Girl Revolution: Empowering Girls Vs. Consuming Them

New Moon Girl Media Community Online

Girls Prescription for Self-Worth: Respect Rx

Bottom Feeders Like American Apparel Need Whacked in The Assets

Raising Girls Amidst Meat Marketing: Carl’s Jr, Burger King Raunch

Taking Aim at Target: Think That V is a Coinkydink?

When It’s Not Hip to Be Square, Sexist Spongebob & Burger Shots

Sexed Up M&Ms Sell Fashionably Decadent Premium Sleaze

K-Mart/Alloy Episodic: First Day Series (Cwappy cues to kids)

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag…Er…Face. Nose. Belly.

Body Blitz: APA Shows Harm of Early Sexualization

Body Image: Tips for Teens (Both Genders!) To Survive the Media Morass

What Sells: Infants As Fashion Statements & Joke Props?

So Sexy So Soon, Shaping Youth Talks to Jean Kilbourne

Beyonce’s Dereon Divas: PopTarts and Sesame Streetwalkers?

Sexist Undies: Slimy Santa Innuendo Gets the Heave Ho-Ho-Ho!

Bratz Movie Seeps Bratitude Into Kid Culture

Where My Dogs At? A Misogynistic Misfire-MTV2

Pussycat Dolls Vamp for Lame TV-the ‘F’ Word is Feminist? Hardly.

Celeb Pop Culture and Media’s Tipping Point of Toxicity

Hollywood Walk of Lame—Victoria’s Secret Models ‘Earn’ Star? For WHAT?

Mommy, Why Are Her Legs Spread Like That?

Shaping Youth Is In the L.A. Times (Miley Mess

Kids Are A Captive Audience With Ambient Advertising

Race, Gender, Sexism: Pop Culture Cues & Kids (3-part series)

Commodification of Kids: The Backlash Has Begun

Shaping Youth Through Ambient Advertising

Manga Makeovers And Other Body Image Cartoon Capers

Facelifts for Kiddie Characters?

Gender, Race & Sexism: Shaping Youth Through Pop Culture Cues

Girls As Boy Toys Takes an Even More Toxic Turn

Preteen Tips/How to Say it To Girls

America the Beautiful: See it. Support it.

Childhood Matters Radio Show: Raising Strong, Healthy Girls Today

Packaging Boyhood Authors/Interview: What ABOUT the Boys?

Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Turning Boys Into Monsters: Energy Drink Leaves A Foul Taste (Again!)

Buffed Boy, Body Image and Tween Scene ‘Hottie’ Factor

Take action? Advocates at CCFC are always a good bet



  1. A few more notes to add: Great dialog going on over at Peggy Orenstein’s blog about this:

    And, the comments on HuffPo and poll are pretty evenly split on the ‘it’s just a doll’ bit vs the ‘never will I ever’ with 12% undecided…

    This says MUCH about the pop culture/societal norming we’re dealing with from both a consumer standpoint and a parent power ‘what’s the big deal’ contextualization…

    Also, I just got back from ToysRUs to see more of the merchandising starting to ramp up (and yes, there will be a movie, and yes, I’ve reviewed the freakin webisodes and mean girl antics/partying cues/fashionista vapidity etc…so what’s left to raise eyebrows?

    For me, a former merchandising/back of box copywriter (the ‘why to buy’ and market positioning of new product development) I have to say I’m most gobsmacked by the ‘appearance is everything’ dominance (see bags with ‘drop dead gorgeous’ —walkie talkie w/”hidden mirrors” (huh?) etc.) and the details on the write-ups of the dolls’ personality profiles.

    For example, One of the male dolls, “Holt Hyde” has a ‘freaky flaw’ of a ‘bad temper’ and has to ‘spend a lot of time apologizing for it’ —Now THAT is a creepy cue for ANY doll, IMO. (Is this the Charlie Sheen DV version? egad!)

    A dossier that weaves in moody/teen drama/hotheaded dating violence into the character storyline, wth? And “partying” as the biggest focal point? AND mean girl antics?

    Geezus, I thought the Bratz hot tub bit was lame…I just don’t know how you could possibly come up with a shoulder shrug on this one for the 6-8 year old set…

  2. Love Monster High.Why do all blogs that hate MH read the cover only.Sigh Spreading love is not as easy as it seams.You adults just see short skirt tank top lets get rid of it instead of going well lets learn more about these dolls before we make any rash decisions.I’ll save you my story for now,but book cover readers will just keep popping up.SIGH hope the Manatee hello fans see this soon to see what they say.

  3. Sorry to disappoint, but this is FAR from a superficial assessment or judging a ‘book by its cover’ issue… Of course, it’s not even a print platform we’re speaking of in this instance, if you’d read the full article about merchandising, webisodes and pervasive marketing tapping the K-5 Mattel toys bracket (but yes, they have books too, and a movie in the works, gah)

    Rather than ‘protect and defend’ a raunchy, vapid, sexualized product put forth for profiteering that’s then been ‘goodwashed’ to attempt to reframe their toxic ‘mean girl’ behavioral personas by teaming w/the Kind campaign, you might want to look at the ‘monster’ motives and mindset that got caught in the media backlash.

    Mattel should’ve thought this through BEFORE bringing this drek to market rather than try to patch up personas to re-serve it to the public like overheated leftovers. I’m not buying their spin, their ‘be yourself’ reframing or their dolls for that matter.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s irritating to see the dumbing down of our culture sans understanding of the APA harm of sexualization msgs and the report outcomes showing the impact on girls. You might also want to take a peek at the extensive logging of content and character traits to reveal just how ‘UNkind’ these messages and characters put forth are: The concerns are well-founded.

    p.s. Not saying this applies, but last thing we need is a corp PR machine cranking out pay for play ‘defenders’ (or even bots) deployed to lob comments onto blogs in an attempt to ‘fix’ a deeply rooted problem (I’m seeing countless examples)

    In fact, I’d love to “hear your story” and have an intelligent conversation about this…

    (update: sigh…just googled your ‘hello’ mention above, and it’s just another spam/sales/opportunistic SEO play, quel surprise)

  4. No sense judging ALL dolls by the likes of Bratz and Monster High Vamp Tramp dolls (I like your accurate name for the latter)!

  5. Nope, agree, never have, never will. The article is about the specificity of this type of ‘toy’ with behavioral cues sent to kids, not about dolls in general.

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