Purim, which comes this year on March 10, is the celebration of the triumph of Queen Esther over the plot of Haman to kill all the Jews. Jewish children love to dress up and to hear the “purim shpiel,” the megillah’s story of how Esther, a Jew, married King Ahasuerus. They shake their groggers (noisemakers) whenever the storyteller mentions Haman, the evil adviser to the king who wore a tri-cornered hat. Haman hated the Jews because Esther’s uncle Mordecai refused to bow to him, saying he would bow only to God.
Here is the opening paragraph of a new press release: Mattel, Inc. (NYSE:MAT) and Nickelodeon/Viacom Consumer Products (NVCP), announced today that Dora the Explorer™ is growing up! The companies have introduced a whole new way to look at Dora for girls five years and up. This groundbreaking initiative, featuring fashion dolls and accessories, is a completely new brand extension that empowers girls to influence and change the lives of Dora and her new friends. It’s innovative, diverse, wholesome, bi-lingual and entertaining.
“A whole new way to look at Dora” and “a completely new brand extension” both translate to “more things for us to sell,” of course. And my heart sinks to hear of plucky little Dora being turned into a “brand extension” “featuring fashion dolls and accessories.” So Dora is going to turn into Barbie now, all about what she wears and has instead of what she does and what she learns? Judy Berman wrote on Salon’s Broadsheet that this makes the new middle schooler Dora “with a whole new fashionable look” sound like she’s becoming a Gossip Girl.
Berman does not think this will go over very well with kids. “You can put a skirt on Dora and cinch her waist, but by the time kids reach kindergarten, they may well think of Dora as ‘baby stuff.'” But the authors of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes, Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D, have put up an online petition calling for Mattel and Nickelodeon to halt Dora’s makeover.
What happened? FIRST it was Dora’s Magic Talking Kitchen, THEN Dora Princess, THEN Dora Babysitter in her cousin’s show, NOW DORA TWEEN.
Alas, we saw the signs. The cute flower lip gloss, the pinkified look, the sudden separation of Dora and Diego shows…What next? Dora the Cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with stylish purse and stilettos? Dora the Pop Star with Hoppin’ Dance Club and “Juice” Bar? We can expect it all, because that’s what passes as “tween” in the toy department these days….
We know that if the original Dora grew up, she wouldn’t be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She’d develop her map reading skills and imagine the places she could go. She’d capitalize on those problem solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world. Maybe she’d become a world class runner or follow her love of animals and become a wildlife preservationist or biologist. We’ll never know because the only way a girl can grow up in tween town, is to narrow that symphony of choices to one note. It’s such a sell out of Dora, of all girls.
I agree. It’s a sell-out of Dora and of her fans, another example of popular culture promoting the idea that any girl over age 5 doesn’t care about anything but how she looks.
I am really intrigued by the new NBC series Kings, “a contemporary re-telling of the timeless tale of David and Goliath. This series is an epic story of greed and power, war and romance, forbidden loves and secret alliances — and a young hero who rises to power in a modern-day kingdom.”
I was lucky enough to get an early peek at the opening episode and found it fascinating to see the classic themes and characters in a modern-day setting. It explores issues and conflicts that resonate with today’s headlines — war, energy, health care — and eternal themes of faith, conflict, loyalty, and family.
David Shepherd (Chris Egan) is a soldier who rescues a wounded hostage, not knowing the man he rescued is the son of the king, Ian McShane (“Deadwood,” “Kung Fu Panda”). In gratitude, the king offers David access and power, but there is treachery that makes the battles of war seem easy. The superb actor Dylan Baker co-stars.
It premieres on March 15. Give it a look. (Note to parents: Mature material including violence and sexual references)
Gustafer is a friendly creature who came to Earth from the sun and has an unusual magnetism for making friends with some of Earth’s odder creatures. His best friend is Forrest Applecrumbie the flightless Pterodactyl. Gustafer and Forrest built a small cottage-style home on the edge of an uncharted wooded area in Minnesota. He has a pet Eel named Slim (short for Slimothy) and a pet Dragon named Asparagus who lives in his fireplace and loves corn on the cob. Gustafer’s pals, the Mustard Slugs practice their math under the shrubbery.
Where did the name Gustafer Yellowgold come from?
I started drawing picture books illustrating the lyrics of some of my more humorous songs and I got to the point where I had to draw the cover for the book. I had this yellow pointy headed guy I had been drawing. I wanted his name to be unusual, slightly tongue-twistery, and warm-sounding. I love worldplay. Gustafer Yellowgold was fun to say and sounded friendly, and projected a confident image. I chose the name and googled it just to make sure it wasn’t taken!
When was this?
It was in the winter 2004, going into 2005. It began with the songs “Tiny Purple Moon” and “Pterodactyl Tuxedo.” I had already written them but they fit in with what I was doing with Gustafer. I looked over the songs I had and asked, “Which songs would fit with this project?” I had been subconsciously creating this whole fictitious world. I had a number of humorous pop songs sung in first person. I knew it wasn’t me, though. They were created in these moments of creative freedom. I had this character but no story around him, but there was something that I always doodled, and then I said “Okay so I’ll use that guy.” I had this “I’m From the Sun” song. Wait a second, the guy is from the sun!
Now I have used up all of my old songs. Four on Mellow Fever are the last of those. The songs for the fourth DVD are all new and almost totally written already.
You have a new baby. Is he your test audience?
He is just turning 11 months and he really perks up when we have the music on. He was there during the mixing and editing, sometimes on my lap. He is just now starting to realize that it’s something; he picks up the doll and looks at it.
Where does Gustafer’s mellow, laid-back sensibility come from?
It comes from my taste in music and song-writing. It is therapy in a way to think about that question and about the genesis of the creative process. When I am creating something, especially music, my creative nucleus exists in about 1976-78. My mom always had the radio on in the kitchen, a soft rock AM station. I think about how I felt at the time getting ready for school, interested in comics and music and filled with creative inspiration. I gravitate toward those feelings, chasing that feeling of safety, oblivious to everything except the immediate surrounding, when I am creating something.
You have some unusual collaborators including some of the people from Wilco and Lisa Loeb helping you with the music. How did that come about?
When I moved in NY in 1999 from Dayton, I met every musician, singer-songwriter in NY and made a bunch of new friends. One of the guys from Wilco was getting ready to tour and asked me to recommend a bass player. I said, “Well dude, I play bass!” “Oh really?” So I toured with them and I guested on their last record. I asked them to come in and mash harmonies for Gustafer. I also played bass on a band that was opening for Lisa Loeb. She became aware of Gustafer and came to our off-Broadway shows and we worked on a couple of songs together. I said, “Hey you want to sing on the new Gustafer record?” There was a song with a counter-melody that I thought would be good for her.
What do kids learn from Gustafer Yellowgold?
They learn the power of imagination, some abstract thoughts, they learn to read because all the text is on the screen, they learn to stop and appreciate some small things, the details in nature, they learn about relationships with people of all different backgrounds and colors. His world is kind of a little melting pot of weird personalities.
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