Since 2007, the company that brought us Beanie Babies has been steadily feeding the glutted toy market a line of new dolls, the Girlz. Not surprisingly, more than a few of Ty’s Girlz bear passing resemblances to famous femmes. The red-headed Lucky Lindsay is as dead a ringer for La Lohan as you can get in plush. Bubbly Britney (one ‘t,’ just like a famous ex-Mouseketeer) is a pony-tailed blonde, and Precious Paris has a stylish pink jacket and a bit of a vapid stare.
Despite this, Ty claims that their latest two Girlz — Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia — were not modeled after the Obama children. And you know what? Maybe it is a bit presumptuous, perhaps even a bit racist, to claim that because these dolls have a darker skin tone, and because they happen to share names with the First Daughters, and because they were released within weeks of the inauguration, that they are one and the same. Maybe, but not very likely. Not even the fact that Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia have . . . how do I put this . . . boobs, whereas the real-life Sasha and Malia are seven and 10, respectively, makes this particular act of corporate opportunism any less gruesome. If anything, it makes it worse.
I don’t know who Ty think they’re fooling. They have certainly not put one over on the First Lady, who is understandably unimpressed. But it’s all so completely unnecessary. The two First Girlz are modestly, almost prudishly dressed (both sport wrist-length, neck-high shirts, and if Sweet Sasha’s skirt is a bit short, at least she’s thrown on a pair of leggings), and, despite decades of so-called desegregation, there’s still a dearth of dark-skinned dolls on the market. If the toy tycoons had simply had the manners to ask first, it’s entirely possible that the entire scheme would have been given the thumbs-up, especially if part of the proceeds were donated to charity. Fans of the two newest Girlz are calling them role-models, and that’s bait I could see Michelle Obama snapping up.
But no one in the Obama party was approached for permission to use the girls’ names and implied resemblances, and so Ty deserves all the derision it gets. It’s one thing to produce toy-likenesses of grown women who’ve chosen to market themselves as playthings; it’s quite another to exploit children who never asked to be famous in the first place. And especially to put them through forced puberty. How long until we see a Sassy Sasha and a Minxy Malia, with alien-eyes, full make-up, and half-inch skirts?
Ty’s representations may be fairly innocuous now, but wait till they can market a line of First Tweens. Unless, of course, the Obamas tell them No, You Can’t and shut them down. Which they should. Using anybody’s name and implied resemblance without permission isn’t kids’ play.