Why Does Dora Have To Grow Up?

Filed under: Opinions

Dora the Tween - whatEVERNickelodeon and Mattel have released an image of their all-new older Dora. She won't be replacing the original "Dora the Explorer," but what will this new "tween" Dora be called? Dora the Mall Shopper? Dora the Texter?

By releasing the image, the two companies seem to be trying to soothe the minds of troubled parents. It's as if they're saying, "We know you were upset by that weirdly inappropriate silhouette. But look! It's not like she's a Bratz doll or something. She's wearing leggings! And besides -- she's still Dora."

But she isn't, at least not exactly. She's older. And the one question that Mattel and Nickelodeon haven't answered is the one that we think is the most obvious.

Why?In general, cartoon characters don't age. Sure, Wendy (of "Bob the Builder") moved to Sunflower Valley, but she didn't retire. She just wanted to be closer to nature. (She was also probably sick of waiting for Bob to put the moves on her, but that's another topic.)

There are some exceptions to the no-aging rule. Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided a few years ago to have the boys of South Park advance to 4th grade, but they did so specifically because it was "a bad idea." (Several years later, Cartman and Co. still haven't made it out of elementary school.) A better example is Charles M. Schultz's "Peanuts" gang. They aged ever so slightly as time went on, but it was in the name of adding new characters in a more organic way. It was also funny -- Charlie Brown being forced to miss a baseball game because he needed to push his baby sister in the stroller was priceless, as was Sally's eventual crush on Linus when she got older. But once she was old enough to fall for the boy who only had eyes for the Great Pumpkin, Sally stopped growing.

But back to Dora. Does Nickelodeon really think that by introducing a new "tweenier" Dora that they are going to be able to compete with the entertainment juggernaut that is Hannah Montana? Perhaps they are planning to have Dora try out for a musical, you know, at her high school? Why bother? The reason it works to keep kids' characters forever young is that there will always be a new crop of little girls to be fascinated by Dora, Backpack and Boots.

Bottom line: Sometimes change just isn't good. Mattel and Nickelodeon claim that they made this decision based partly on market research and focus groups. That's the same way the Coca-Cola Company decided to ditch their classic cola formula in favor of New Coke, which was one of the greatest marketing disasters of the 20th century. Doesn't corporate America learn from their past mistakes? (Actually, don't answer that question.)

As Dora herself might say, let's stop and think about this for a minute.

If Nickelodeon is really so desperate to break into a new demographic, they could introduce a new character. Perhaps Dora's older cousin. Let's call her Francine. Free advice, guys. Feel free to take it. Future generations will thank you.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.