Saying they’re simply appealing to the market, Mattel has unveiled a new line of hip-hop dolls sporting miniskirts, street-wise hairdos and tattoos – proudly aimed at the 6-12 age bracket.
While “Flavas” are being sold by the company that makes the American icon Barbie, they have little in common with the more traditional dolls.
“Our research told us that a lot of young girls are now aspiring to the world of rap and hip-hop music,” Mattel spokeswoman Julia Jensen told the London Independent.
Mattel’s new Flava dolls
Each of the six dolls, known as “the crew,” comes with accessories including ghetto blasters, cell phones and stick-on tattoos. According to the London paper, one character, “Tre,” is a black track-suited doll in the “P. Diddy” mold – with goatee, string vest and diamond earrings. The Flavas’ (pronounced flay-vuhs) names include: Happy D, P. Bo, Tika and Kiyoni Brown.
Val Stedham, chairman of the British Association of Toy Retailers, says the new line of dolls speaks to the nature of the culture surrounding children.
“Kids are getting older younger,” he told the Independent. “Mattel can’t afford to stand still, and if Barbie isn’t fitting in with the desire of an 8-year-old girl, they have to do something about it. I’d like to be more moralistic about some of these things, but this is what the kids want.”
On the company’s website, Mattel describes the new line as “the first reality-based fashion doll brand that celebrates today’s teen culture. …
“Guaranteeing the Flavas crew maintains its distinct identity, each character has an individual face sculpt, ensuring that all six Flavas crew members reflect the look of real teens while differentiating each character from the other.”
While the website says the dolls are meant for the “older girl” age range, Amazon.com’s description states the manufacturer sees the product as appropriate for ages “4 years and up.”
One young reviewer on the Amazon site enthused: “When I first saw these dolls on TV, I was like wow! I want one of those, they look so cool. Especially the girl with the braided hair.”
Said John Baulch, publisher of industry magazine Toys and Playthings, “Everything has to have ‘attitude.’ Parents might not like the dolls, but that will make them appeal to children even more.”