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Published March 13 2011

Swift: Boy Toys ‘R’ Us? Doll styles go to extreme

I used to think Barbie was sort of a tart.

With her va-va-voom dimensions and high-heeled wardrobe, she seemed as exotic and worldly as a chain-smoking Reno show-girl-turned-mail-order-bride.

She certainly seemed more experienced than my other dolls, who included the spinsteresque Mrs. Beasley and binge-eating Baby Alive. After all, Barbie could drive anywhere in her own plane or Barbie Dream Van, but my piggy-tailed Baby-Go-Bye-Bye could only ride her car in circles on hard surfaces.

In fact, I was wary enough of Barbie’s feminine wiles to store her in a separate shoebox from Ken, who seemed blandly blond and helplessly ineffectual next to her.

But lately, something has changed. Barbie actually looks sort of, well, matronly.

Maybe it’s because she’s turned 52 and is now sold with her own tiny AARP card and teensy tube of progesterone cream.

Most likely, it’s just that so many other little girls’ dolls have become such hootchie-mommas in comparison.

Have you walked through a toy department lately? Strawberry Shortcake has traded her pantaloons for a miniskirt and a Brazilian Blow-Out. Troll dolls still have problem hair, but they’ve replaced their shapeless tunics with a Hannah Montana wardrobe. And a new line of dolls known as Lollipop Girls look like Lindsay Lohan action figures.

Disney’s once-childlike Tinkerbell is now backed by a posse of curvy, saucy, “oh no you di’int”-spouting friends.

Hollie Hobby used to make Laura Ingalls look like Carrie Bradshaw. Now the former prairie girl has replaced her Wardrobe to Churn Butter By with a Wardrobe to Charm Boys By.

Even the hugely popular Dora, who used to look like a cute preschooler, has received hair extensions, a Gap Kids wardrobe and some kind of spine-lengthening procedure.

But the worst are probably the Monster High Dolls. They look like the love children of a Bratz Doll and Uncle Fester. Their mini-skirted, stripper-heeled ranks include the part-werewolf teen Clawdeen, who has to secretly wax and shave her excess hair. (Wow. What 4-year-old girl wouldn’t love that back story?)

Understandably, many parents and child-development experts are upset by these emaciated, highly sexualized role models. They ask, and rightfully so, why we can’t just let little girls be little girls.

Even Barbie must be shaking her head in disgust. If she doesn’t watch it, Clawdeen will start inviting Ken over to shave her back. This may force Barbie to don ever-shorter skirts and ever-higher heels so she can compete with this younger generation of amoral girl toys.

Talk about putting the skimp on the Barbie.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525