Girl fight
May 5, 2008 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Barbie vs Bratz: Mattel sues MGA, claiming the Bratz designs were created by a Mattel employee and smuggled to its rival.
posted by Artw (39 comments total)
Does this mean that both lines will be suspended until this is over with? Or maybe just the Bratz line, which is an example of urinating into the Uncanny Valley?

Those things creep me the hell out.
posted by mephron at 9:16 AM on May 5, 2008

All those years that Mattel should have had its in-house mathematicians figuring out lost profits, they were out shopping. They have no one to blame but themselves.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 AM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by Dr-Baa at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2008

Barbie and Bratz secretly allies in terrible music
posted by Rubbstone at 9:22 AM on May 5, 2008

I'd like a Germaine Greer doll so I could pound 'em both to a pulp.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

With a middle name like Millicent, no wonder the Bratz are kicking Barbie's ass in the schoolyard!

I believe the employee in question is Paula Treantafelles, who is quoted in this older, but still interesting, article from the Times: How Bratz beat Barbie.
posted by Kabanos at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2008

Bratz are really trashy. They remind me of the girls that hang out at Dufferin Mall.
My daughters laugh at how impossibly giant the heads are.
posted by chococat at 9:29 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I find Bratz repulsive. At least Barbie gets to be a vet, or an astronaut, or an Olympic athlete. All the goddamn Bratz do is shop.
posted by Jilder at 9:30 AM on May 5, 2008 [6 favorites]

There's a really weird sense of trying to figure out whose lawn should be gotten off of by whom, here.
posted by cortex at 9:32 AM on May 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Between my brother and brother-in-law, I have 3 nieces...all of whom know that there is no way Uncle Jared will buy them anything Bratz-related. Mind you, I'm the uncle who buys them steel drums and toys with built-in sirens, so I don't know that I'm scoring any points with their parents.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is this something I would have to be a misogynist to understand?

Seriously though, who buys Barbie? Aren't they universally reviled? And I've never seen any actual little girls playing with them (not that I have a lot of experience monitoring little girl behavior). I know the standard defense is "you can't NOT buy them" but I don't buy that. Our family, which I don't think is that unique in it's resistive powers, has already not bought a lot of stuff that you can't not buy.
posted by DU at 9:36 AM on May 5, 2008

Seriously though, who buys Barbie?

They have a following in certain subsets of the general population.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 AM on May 5, 2008

Good ol' Mattel. They never start to surprise me.

As for Barbie, no they are not universally reviled. You'd be surprised how they're marketed around the world. What IS surprising is that the core age/grade for Barbie is 3-5 years old. Yeah, you thought older, huh? But no. They're aimed for 3-5 year olds, partly on the basis that younger kids want to play with dolls that they think are aimed for older kids. But any child older than 5 who is playing with Barbies is a bonus for Mattel.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:46 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Barbie dolls are primarily bought for little girls by older women who feel victimized because they were not given Barbie as a child but instead were given cheap imitations from Woolworth's with hair permanently shaped in an unfashionable direction, dress made of burlap, and shoes painted on the feet.

Bratz dolls are given by middle-aged women who resent that they gave away sex for free when they could have made a few bucks or at least gotten a better car out of the deal.

But nothing is scarier than women who have bought one of the creepy offspring of Gallery of Dolls on the Home Shopping Network. Those are women who have or will steal children from unattended baby carriages and hospital nurseries.
posted by troybob at 10:05 AM on May 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Seriously though, who buys Barbie? Aren't they universally reviled? And I've never seen any actual little girls playing with them

I think it's more a case of them being given instead of bought. Especially at birthday parties.
I always swore I wouldn't let my daughters have Barbies but it just kind of gradually happened and then, you know, who the hell am I to impose my grouchy hard-assed view of Barbies on them. Ya, their dad, I know. But we try to pick our battles and not just ban everything. They haven't turned into endlessly shopping materialist airheads and we've had many a discussion of body image and (un)realistic portrayals of women, which they totally get. It's role-play for them, they don't see it bigger than that. My 10 year-old wouldn't be caught dead playing with them anymore and my 8 year-old plays with them occasionally, with her door closed. They used to force our 6 year-old boy to be the guy/husband/prince all the time. So ya, there's a small window of Barbie years and as far as I can see it's as big as ever.

I had a harder time with all the princess dress-up stuff; that cheap shiny satiny clothing and those plastic hooker shoes. God I was glad when that phase was over.
posted by chococat at 10:06 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of a number of creepy things about Bratz – they don’t change shoes – they change FEET.
posted by Artw at 10:12 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I blame Bratz for Milly Cyrus. Because I know nothing about either, but am a blowhard.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:24 AM on May 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

> Seriously though, who buys Barbie? Aren't they universally reviled?

Except Barbie is pretty much a million times less nasty than Bratz and Bratz (By all accounts I've heard from people who actually know real, actual kids) are pretty much bigger than god and Hannah Montana right now.

When we're talking about the lowest common denominator, we're talking about the mean, the median and the mode and not the long tail. Maybe you're living in the long tail? Never underestimate the ability of pure, unbridled capitalism to race to the bottom. Especially when kids are involved.

Well, okay, I might be exaggerating about that Hannah Montana thing.
posted by Skwirl at 10:25 AM on May 5, 2008

I sort of think of Barbie as one of those things that is pretty loathsome when you evaluate it in any logical way, but for a kid playing with it it's not doing them near the damage that we think it is. See: GI Joe, violent videogames, milk.

On the other hand, in Target yesterday, I happened to see the "America's next Top Model" dolls, and that is some seriously twisted shit. I mean, Barbie is grossly mis-proportioned, and weirdly sexualized, and dumb (math is hard!), but she doesn't seem quite so much like a pole dancer as these ladies do.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:27 AM on May 5, 2008

True fact discovered by little 8-year old DenofSizer: to make your own dildo, rip the arms off of Barbie and shave her head.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:28 AM on May 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

Can we at least all agree on one thing? While Barbie may be responsible for establishing a poor self image in girls by providing an unattainable body standard, at least Barbie isn't a creepy fucking giant-headed, village-of-the-damned, nightmare inducing, pod creature who feasts on the blood of the innocent* like those evil soulless Bratz chimeras.

*: At least not by default. I hear you have to buy Barbie's Dream-pit-of-despair-on-the-edge-of-nothingness to get those functions.
posted by quin at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

Our family, which I don't think is that unique in it's resistive powers, has already not bought a lot of stuff that you can't not buy.

Uh -- wait, here. That's a lot of piling-on of double negatives. I'm not saying that you can not not buy things that you can't buy, or shouldn't, but if.. no. Wait.

posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:39 AM on May 5, 2008

I have much greater scorn for the incredibly sue-happy Land Of Mattel. Jesus, people, it's okay for someone else to profit off of a fucking doll that the kids will outgrow in a few years.
posted by desuetude at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2008

Well, there are actually a lot of girls who WANT to collect Barbies. The appeal Barbie has for little girls is kind of akin to the way many gay men are drawn to celebrate women who represent larger than life femininity. Barbie represents the fantasy of what a grown up girl is, something she doesn't yet have and knows she wants. Little girls want to be big girls and the little girls who get really into collecting them see Barbie's fantasy as appealing. For some girls, it's almost like by owning more Barbies they think they're more grown up (LIKE Barbie) than the girls with fewer. I've watched this firsthand more than a few times.

While yeah, many of us hate the misogynistic bimbo qualities she represents, Barbie does represent womanhood in its simplest form. And usually girls that are into Barbie will just one day get over it, suddenly the little girl doesn't need that fantasy anymore. And then pretends she never liked Barbie to begin with, just like the rest of us that hate her. But for a little while, Barbie gave her something she needed.

As for me, I usually just cut off her hair.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Meh. I played with Barbies when I was about eight; the two friends and I who were into Barbies usually ended up acting out profoundly involved soap operatic psychodrama with them.

Then we got a little older and played "office", where the three of us pretended we were the CEOs of this sort of combination concierge and travel agency and spent hours huddled at each of our "desks" in Amy's room "taking calls from clients" and "processing paperwork."

...Now that I type that out, I honestly have no idea which pastime sounds weirder.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on May 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think 8-year-old DenOfSizer has you beat, Empress.
posted by emelenjr at 11:04 AM on May 5, 2008

I'll take your Bratz and raise you four Whorses.
posted by maryh at 11:19 AM on May 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

My 4 year old likes barbie because she can change the clothes on it and her legs move well and has cool hair. Although its frequently riding a bicycle naked and such.... We have to-one I bought used and one as a gift. She loves all dolls and we have all kinds but I will flat out THROW OUT a bratz doll if it shows up. Little sluts in little tramp suits and make up and bullshit like that. Isn't a normal looking one in the bunch. Ugh, makes me shiver.

Lucy and I talk about how people are all different sizes and shapes and colors and she gets that. She just likes the clothes and fantasy play with them...barbies can be a lot of things in her little mind!

I figure with a hard-assed, successful, feminist mom and grandmother, she isn't going to get her self-image from a barbie..but it does make me sad sometimes to see her playing with them. I have a little guilt..but when girls like dolls, you end up with Barbies usually. And I can't afford those $150 "American girls" dolls, for sure!

I don't know why I think barbie is okay but Bratz scare the shit out of me. Barbie can look normal, I guess. But Bratz are just so shockingly and brazanly slutty and trampy and vampy it creeps me out.
posted by aacheson at 11:42 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll take your Bratz and raise you four Whorses.
What a nightmare. One of the principal, generally agreed-upon benefits of shacking up with animals is that at least they don't shop.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:48 AM on May 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

I have been told by a friend of mine - an industrial designer and product development consultant - that just to secure an audience with Mattel, a designer has to sign a waiver granting Mattel exclusive right to the product idea for an entire year, whether they take the idea or not. Plenty of time for their lawyers to find ways around you possible patents.

I won't Godwinize this by calling Mattel what they are, but an action like this is no surprise whatsoever.

Bratz are clearly hoe-bags, but hooray for them for scoring one against Mattel.

Oh, and the Whorses link is postively weird. I mean, dude. Thanks maryh.
posted by Xoebe at 11:53 AM on May 5, 2008

True fact discovered by little 8-year old DenofSizer: to make your own dildo, rip the arms off of Barbie and shave her head.


I'll take your Bratz and raise you four Whorses.

posted by Avenger at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I realize this is now a considerable tangent but one link led to another, and, well - the words "not child-safe" have seldom been more accurate.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:13 PM on May 5, 2008

I hope Mattel loses this one. Not least because "we automatically own anything and everything you might invent, discover, or develop in your spare time" clauses in employment contracts are evil and do not deserve enforcement.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:15 PM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

they should just bring back jem and the holograms.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 5:49 PM on May 5, 2008

Bratz have made Barbie wholesome
posted by hpsell at 7:43 PM on May 5, 2008

This older article that Kabanos linked to upthread actually exposes some good things about Bratz: unlike Barbies, the Bratz dolls don't come explicitly pre-assigned with racial stereotypes and career paths — they leave that up to the kids.

The XBOX HUEG heads, detachable feet, and other odd proportions were an attempt to get away from the 'anorexic Barbie' problem: it's obvious that your body is not supposed to look like a Bratz doll, unlike the realistic-if-you're-seven-feet-tall Barbie.

Of course, they're also dressed like whores, and their defense is that "it's the current fashion"

If I ever have a daughter I might have to get her some Bratz, but repaint the makeup and make new clothes before handing them over.
posted by blasdelf at 8:46 PM on May 5, 2008

Interesting. A few years ago I went shopping for Christmas gifts for my little nephew (we are not in the U.S.); I wandered around the toy store looking for things that were different, since I figured everyone would be giving him cars and trucks and Legos, and one of the things I hoped to find was a boy doll that wasn't a baby doll. I knew that nobody would give him a doll, and I liked the idea of a toy that might serve as a figure he could play with and possibly project his own ideas of what he wanted to be or do - so I absolutely didn't want some army, policeman, firefighter, or farmer figure. I just wanted a young-type doll, not too big or too small, and sort of innocent of any predetermined set of responsibilities or skills, blah, blah.

I also wanted something that had accessories - the more the better, to help him with his hand coordination - stuff that wasn't too small and fiddly, but also not so big that it wouldn't be a little bit of a challenge, and stuff that was cool and fun. I didn't really think I would find anything like that, but those were my thoughts... and then I saw the Bratz, which I had never heard of before. The first thing that I noticed and loved was that they weren't all white and blond. I don't know if the clothes and makeup have become a little more risque over the years, but I don't remember them as seeming especially trampy to me at that time. I thought they were kind of weird in a fun, fresh way, and I found a boy that suited all my requirements. He was something like this one, in that he had a backpack, sunglasses, watch, bracelet... I looked for one with as many doodads as possible.

And that gift was a huge success. I don't remember how old my nephew was then, but young - younger than the target market, I'm sure. I remember him talking about his Bratzboy! in such an excited tone (he also wasn't familiar with them at all from advertising, or any form of marketing), and playing with him a lot.

So, while I definitely agree with the general distaste for the streetwalker-style outfits, sex-face makeup, and the focus on shopping/fashion that is apparent, I also do definitely understand how they can appeal. There was room for some of the ideas invested in these dolls. I do like the fact that the bodies are not meant to represent some impossible Playboy ideal, the kind of adolescent goofiness of the big heads and feet (because young teenagers are kind of physically awkward, yet endearing, that way), that they are younger than the Barbie model, that they are ethnically diverse, and not burdened with hard-wired "roles" to be played out. I really wouldn't want to get a little girl one of these because of the whole sassy/sexy-sex-sex thing, but aside from that, I do understand why they can (and maybe should) beat Barbie's ass.
posted by taz at 11:17 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow; I found him. It was a first edition, spring, 2003. I still like him. :)
posted by taz at 11:46 PM on May 5, 2008

Why would anyone want to take credit for the Bratz designs?
posted by Nattie at 12:21 AM on May 7, 2008

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