As a child, I was never really into Barbie or baby dolls, but there was something different about Bratz. The way they looked and what they represented. Four girls, three of which are ethnically diverse. Wearing the sort of fashion you would see celebrities like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in. Preaching messages of friendship and individuality.
As a little mixed girl, I wanted to play with something I could see my older self and friends as, this was Yasmin, Sasha, Jade and Cloe. I wanted a doll to match the club fashion I saw on TV and the Bratz dolls embodied that more than anyone else.
The blame game
When Bratz first came out in 2001, I was too young to see the ‘controversy’, but there was many upset parents who especially hated the brand. I didn’t realise there was so much material humiliating the dolls, taking one look at them and deeming them unacceptable for promoting promiscuity to young girls.
"Could they be destroying the next generation of females with their future-Maxim-cover-girl look?" Abby West
I know Bratz body standards aren’t realistic, show me an older toy that is - but as a kid I really didn’t care, all I saw was the stylish clothes older girls and celebs were wearing, just owning the doll made me feel cool. Bratz created a sense of community by focusing on friendship and having fun, by releasing a collection of four dolls and allowing each of them to shine individually without specific focus on just one. It was giving kids the freedom to express themselves more by picking and choosing aspects and items from the other characters, creating a new identity.
Take the iconic Bratz (2007) movie, the whole message of that was that you can be friends with anyone despite your differences. Jade in the movie shows how you can love science and maths and don’t have to be embarrassed. You can have a passion for fashion and express yourself - there isn’t just one box people can put you in.
If only the angry parents would have looked beyond the clothes and seen it this way, they would have noticed that Bratz instilled good morals onto young kids.
Passion for more than fashion
I already knew a lot about the Bratz dolls, games, and the movie. Having enjoyed the nostalgia I was keen to bring it up to date. I wanted to see what Bratz are doing now in 2021 where the focus has moved online.
This is when I discovered their Instagram page, which they appear to be the most active on. I was not disappointed. Their page looks like an IG model. Its co-ordinated, fun and fashionable undeniably Bratz.
It’s not only the looks that are captured here as they speak out on social injustice. They have been vocal about fighting racism by spreading resources and supporting the BLM movement and working to #stopasianhate. Even during US elections they strongly encouraged people to get their voices heard.
They also celebrated Pride month with a coming out post of their two queer dolls Rox and Nevs, who appear to be in a relationship. Whilst educating and celebrating inspiring people on ‘Bratz diaries’. This is the kind of representation that I wish was more prevalent when I was younger. Yet I feel happy sharing the same values, and knowing that the company is taking a stand with this generation to make it better for the next.
Forbes commented on Gen Z ‘They are prepared to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of the cost'. Which is evident with social media being the platform of choice, reaching a global audience. It’s no surprise Gen Z are calling for change when the dolls we played with encouraged us to speak out, which they continue to do now.
Styling it out
As Y2K is growing back in popularity, it is clear that Gen Z take inspiration from Bratz and Bratz from Gen Z. There is a sense of nostalgia in Y2K wear, because those who were too young to get to wear the clothes then, now can.
Bratz have always embodied the current trend, their clothes being trends of the late 90s/early 2000s, but the make-up which some deemed as ‘too much’ is more relatable to now - with shiny gloss and cut creased eye shadow.
"Not to mention how many barriers their clothes and makeup were breaking in the fashion and toy industry." Tanaia Freeman
Bratz also proves to be still relevant and relatable with its audience, with the viral #Bratzchallenge make up trend, where people would paint their face to match the Bratz doll famous big eyes and lips features.
Bratz didn’t just define the fashion of the 2000s. Their influence is evident in 2021. People are still drawing inspiration from the dolls with colourful eyes, low rise jeans, platform shoes, and baby tees.
I think it’s fair to say that Bratz did help style a generation, they defined fashion then and draw similarities now and still manage to remain popular on social media. They continue to post the original four, but also by posting dolls dressed as iconic 2000 and present characters/people such as; Elle Woods, Normani, and Beyoncé to name a few. This adds some fun and brings the brand up to speed in 2021 with splashes of nostalgia for the OG Bratz kids.
Although the physical dolls aren’t stocked high in stores anymore, at least the Bratz morals don’t go unmissed. The younger generation can enjoy Bratz in their digital form.