“Bratz” on the big screen: Should I care?


One of the tag lines for The Bratz Film (released this Friday)
is “For Friendship. For Fashion. For Real.” — and that’s exactly what
I’m thinking. For real? Someone at Lionsgate wants me to believe that
this is an actual film and not just a 110-minute commercial?

I don’t buy it. Sure, Hollywood is overrun with marketing machines (Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, anyone?), but
even Transformers transformed from the most expensive ad ever
made into an independent cultural phenomenon.

For the live-action Bratz, based on the best-selling line
dolls with a rather controversial history, I have little such hope.
Just check out the trailer:


They clearly didn’t follow Sarah’s suggestion for a Dinah Shore plot, but
theoretically Bratz has a few other things going for it:

1. Diversity
At first glance, the girls do look like a veritable Benetton ad. However, MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac
Larian belies his priorities when he announces proudly that Bratz “has
become the number one lifestyle brand for girls ages 7 to 11 in almost
every country it is sold in around the world.” Explain to me how a
“lifestyle brand” that’s the same in every country promotes diversity,
and I might change my mind on this one. Or I might just launch into a
diatribe about the whole May Lin debacle. ‘Cause really, I don’t think it
counts if it’s simply to sell more dolls.

2. BFFs before boyfriends
According to press and previews, the focus of the “film” is on
friendship rather than on finding Boyz, and indeed most of the stills
and clips are strictly Bratz.

Thankfully, the movie doesn’t seem to subscribe to the alarming Greek system of attraction. However,
boy craziness has been supplanted by materialistic
clothing craziness, I’m reaching the same conclusion on this one: It
doesn’t count if it’s simply to sell more dolls.

3. The geek quotient
Brat Jade is a chemistry whiz, standing in for the
idea that sexy
girls can be smart, too. Or is it that smart girls can be sexy? (Either
way, the idea of sexy girls is wrong on so many levels. Just ask
the APA
). CEO Larian again: “Bratz are about teaching and
education.” Hmmmm … considering the fact that the movie character
bios talk about fashion far more than they do about favorite classes,
I’m not so sure. Even the messages I get while the pages load are cool
rather than correct.

No stack of textbooks there. Nope, just more things to buy — but
remember, smart girls can spend money, too.

4. A tidy moral
Every tweener movie needs its redeeming Full
moment, right? During their moment of revelation, the
Bratz — who have been split into separate cliques by the ultimate high
school meanie — decide that the only way forward is to “be ourselves,
just like we used to be.” Messages about individuality are great, and
I’m glad I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing the Bratz eventually
make up, but I’m with Variety critic John Anderson on this one: “It’s really about
furthering an MTV-defined version of cool, which means too many
clothes, too little education, and too much money.” And very little
genuine individuality.

Is it fair for me to judge so harshly when I’ve only seen clips and read reviews? Probably not. But what’s even less
fair is that girls are subject to this movie at all. Turns out I do
care about Bratz on the big screen, and I’m not the only one.

What do you think, readers? Is Bratz just one more cog in
the homogenizing wheel? Or is it sending some sort of subversive
message about diversity and individuality, delivered with a spoonful
(or eight) of the sugar that’s oh-so-popular these days?

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