Babyz in the Hood: Girlhood Aspirations Then and Now

Yesterday I came across this amazing song from the Muppet Babies circa 1984:

I had a dawning realisation that 1984 is getting to be quite a long time ago now (*gasp*) and that the kids that would have watched Muppet Babies would already be in their mid to late thirties. With this in mind, I started to think: do the lyrics of the song give us some insight into girls’ childhood aspirations of the time, and, are these aspirations playing out in the lives of the thirty somethings as we speak?

Baby Miss Piggy sings: I’m gonna be a movie star/ And I’m gonna learn to drive a car/ Gonna be a veterinarian too/ And I’m gonna always love you/ I’ll be the cutest model you ever saw/ Then I think I’ll study criminal law/ And I’m gonna scuba dive too/ And I’m gonna always love you/ I’ll be a doctor for diseases/ And help you with your sneezes/ And practice neurosurgery on your brain!/ Gonna climb the Matterhorn/ But only after all our children are born/ ‘Cause I want to be a good mommy too! / And I’m gonna always love you!

The song conveys the idea that baby Miss Piggy aspires to be good looking, outgoing, have children and a successful career. I couldn’t help being reminded of all of the contemporary writing on the “problem” of the modern woman that thinks she can have it all. There’s a lot of writing on it, so I won’t go into the debate here. Suffice to say that my take on it is that perhaps we need to focus more on supporting shared parenting responsibilities and part-time work arrangements rather than arguing either that: women should be and do everything OR that women should simply choose. While I’m not sure that Muppet Babies are to blame for this particular issue, it did get me wondering what kind of girlhood aspirations are currently being represented on television.

Then I came across this (I suggest only watching two minutes maximum, it is quite painful):

This clip is care of the Bratz Babyz film 2006. The lyrics for the song at the beginning of this are: Put on your makeup/ Fix your hair/ No time to take up deciding what to wear/ It’s now or never/ You can’t slow down/ Gotta get it together/ Cos time is running out/ Final count down/ Get ready now/ 5, 4, 3, 2, 1/ Gotta be hotter than hot/ You just have to rock/ No time to stop/ ready or not/ Gotta look hotter than hot/ Gotta show what you got/ No more time on the clock/ Ready or not

As the lyrics and visuals reveal, girlhood aspirations portrayed in Bratz are heavily tied up with wearing makeup and overcoming the burden of choice, that is, what colour dress to wear (!) Amazingly, the characters in the clip shown are babies, not full grown “Bratz”. The baby Bratz world reveals that even toddlers are concerned with matching their lipstick with their outfit. Now, I don’t want to get all down on femininity. I love lipstick. I do. But babies concerned with being “hotter than hot”? I have to admit this is slightly concerning. Not least because it infuses a focus on consumption even further into childhood. As a member of society well and truly down that rabbit hole, I would only hope that people in their younger years could put this off as long as possible.

A girl showing her Bratz inspired face paint

But aside from capitalist concerns, it also seems to flatten aspirations- sure, baby Miss Piggy wanted to be a hot model, but she wanted to perform neurosurgery on your brain too! On the other hand, while some may say it is precisely toys such as Bratz dolls that contribute to the media’s sexualisation of children, the Bratz movie also reveals an abstraction of femininity from sexuality. No longer is femininity about being a perfect woman for a man, it’s just about indulging in femininity, pure and simple…

By my calculations (considering that the Bratz range came out in 2001), the Bratz generation should be in their mid-late teens/ early twenties by now. In the end, what future do these lyrics foretell for the up and coming generation of women? How will they differ from the Muppet Babies generation before them? Only time will tell…

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6 thoughts on “Babyz in the Hood: Girlhood Aspirations Then and Now

  1. Pingback: The Trouble with “Natural Beauty” | BINARYTHIS

  2. That’s a really interesting point about the abstraction of femininity from sexuality (wow, “femininity” is a hard word to type).

    I’ve been thinking lately that the moral panic about the sexualization of children says a lot about the connection between femininity and sexuality in many people’s minds. When we see little girls dressed in hyper-feminine princess clothes and make-up we accuse their parents/guardians of sexualizing them; but no-one seems to think dressing a little boy up as a fireman is sexualizing him. Even though an adult male dressed as a fireman is just as likely to be a stripper as an actual fireman. And strippers are more sexual than princesses right? Apparently not…

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