Rainbow Brite Receives a Makeover

At left, the old Rainbow Brite, a young, short, very slightly chubby cartoon white girl, wearing a puffy blue outfit with rainbow stripes, and a giant ponytail. Her face is round with big eyes and an upturned nose, and she waves happily. At right, the new Rainbow Brite, an older, tall, thin cartoon white girl. Her outfit is more stylish, her ponytail looking like something pulled out of a fashion magazine. Her face is slim, cheekbones are high, and her nose small and cute. Her eyes are seemingly accented with eyeliner and mascara, and her lips appear tinted with lipstick.

So, Rainbow Brite, that little girl icon of the 80s, received a makeover. (h/t). While the redesign was revealed a few months back, Hallmark is expected to release the dolls this month, and as the above image shows, they are going to look very different from how they once did. Rainbow Brite is older, she is thinner, and she is more stylish. Like many female characters over the years, there were clearly many fundamental, and very human, aspects of her that were found to be gravely flawed.

There were a couple of years of my own childhood where Rainbow Brite was my life.

I had a Rainbow Brite bedroom, and a collection of all the dolls. I tortured my mother endlessly with a live-action half hour film called Rainbow Brite at the San Diego Zoo, to the point where she can still recite much of it from memory. When choosing clothes, I purposely sought out ones with rainbow patterns and designs, and eagerly requested brightly colored hair ties with dangling stars to pull back my ponytail, so that I could more closely resemble her.

I not only worshiped Rainbow Brite, I also wanted to be just like her. I would wear my rainbow belt and dance around the living room with a little rainbow pouch, and throw around the multi-colored star confetti that my mom had found for me somewhere. I think that somewhere in my very young mind, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could be her.

And it is for all of these reasons that this particular makeover hits me hard.

I could understand perfectly well — be sad and stick my nose up at the redesign still, but understand all the same — if Hallmark decided to simply restyle her outfit and haircut. After all, both of these aspects of the original Rainbow Brite are devastatingly 80s. While I imagine that lots of little girls still like big poofy outfits and bright colors (and a part of the charm of Rainbow Brite’s outfit was that she looked like she probably designed it herself), and while I’m not wild about the new hair and outfit styles they chose for her, her overall look could be a little bit more modern — and when the goal is to sell a product, I can see how that kind of makeover could be seen as a dire necessity.

So no, what upsets me is to not just see my childhood hero look different, but how she looks different.

What they’ve done here is changed a round-faced, pug-nosed little girl with baby fat — the kind of role model girls have less and less these days — into a svelte and fashionable young woman who appears to be wearing makeup. It wasn’t enough for Rainbow Brite to be in charge of all the colors in the entire universe, in spite of being only somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10. Apparently she can only be considered marketable if she is older, acceptably thin, image-conscious, and conventionally pretty. As we know, for women professional success, while still a requirement for any sort of personal worth, is absolutely nothing unless you look hot while having it.

The fact that it’s a part of such a trend, as seen with Dora the Explorer last year (and Strawberry Shortcake the year before), just makes it all the more upsetting. I’m tired of the idea that, as Anna puts it, “there’s something wrong with being a round-faced child that’s all child-shaped.” I’m tired of the fact that girls specifically aren’t allowed to look like kids. I’m tired of the idea that it’s not enough for female heroes to just be badasses, but they also have to be all primped up and mindful of their weight.

I’m also tired of the idea that girls can’t be interested in anything unless it’s all super feminized. Checking out the Rainbow Brite website tells us that the main Color Kids — who previously each represented a color of the rainbow, and were specifically responsible for it — have all been ditched. Gone are Lala Orange and Patty O’Green, and in their place are the previously less-central but more “appropriately” hued characters Tickled Pink and Moonglow (who wears pastel blue and lavender). These two have only their hair and outfits to differentiate them, seemingly having been given the exact same face. And, even worse, while one area where Rainbow Brite certainly could have used a makeover is in the diversity of characters, the one character of color, Indigo, is gone, and the entire new crop of characters appears to be white.

So, to tally up: more makeup, more pink, less spunk, less weight, and even less diversity.

I’m not the little girl that I once was, and so I can’t claim to know with absolute accuracy what she would have thought. But as far as I can guess, the new Rainbow Brite isn’t someone I would have been able to relate to. I believe that a part of the reason why I loved her so dearly is that I could relate to her. And I think that for girls especially, in a world where most child protagonists are still boys, that’s incredibly important.

I’m also aware that Rainbow Brite was not the perfect hero for all. I was, after all, her target market: a white girl whose parents had enough class privilege to be able to afford to buy her all the dolls in the series so that she could proudly display them on her bed. For some girls of color, or girls of lesser class privilege, or girls who weren’t allowed to grow up being acknowledged as girls at all, it may have been harder to see themselves as someone like her. And for wholly different reasons, some just might not have found the idea of a girl who made the world colorful with the help of her horse and short, white, fluffy friend Twink to be all that compelling.

But that’s exactly why we need more, and more diverse, relate-able girl role models. That’s why girls need more options for their interests, and for other girls to look up to and to style themselves after as an inevitable part of growing up. And what we seem to be receiving instead are consistently fewer and fewer.


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64 Responses to Rainbow Brite Receives a Makeover

  1. Persia says:

    She’s not cute any more, she’s…I don’t even know. The Strawberry Shortcake makeover, silly as it was, made a certain amount of sense– in the middle of an obesity epidemic, looking at the body types of kids named after desserts was probably not a bad idea.

    But Rainbow Brite was named after…the rainbow. How ridiculous– and how sad they took away the one character of color.

  2. norbizness says:

    To be fair, her original design and its skull width-to-neck width ratio left her with several cracked vetebrae.

  3. Jill says:

    I loooove Rainbow Brite at San Diego Zoo! Funny store: As a child, I had a wonderful aunt who loved to sew. She made my sister a Rainbow Brite costume for Halloween one year. A few months later, we took a family trip to California — where sister INSISTED that we not only visit the San Diego zoo, but that she also wear her Rainbow Brite costume the entire day. She was maybe four years old, and a chubby little blonde thing. It was adorable, and the pictures are precious.

    But, ugh — I agree, I don’t think that the new hott-ified Rainbow Brite would have quite the same appeal. So sad.

  4. Cara says:

    Someone else actually knows Rainbow Brite at the San Diego Zoo? No way! My family will still spontaneously burst into choruses of “Have you seen Twink?” “Have YOU seen Twink?” “Have you seen Twink?” (in unison) “…TWINK!!!” True story.

  5. Jen says:

    This disappointments me personally, as well. Thank you for so thoughtfully elucidating upon the vague feeling of dread I experienced when I first learned of this ill-conceived change. Even more, for giving special attention to the loss of Indigo, my favorite as a kid, and one of the few dolls of color readily available at that time. Homogenization at its worse.

  6. FashionablyEvil says:

    No one’s given Calvin a makeover and his head his just as disproportionate as Rainbow Brite’s. (Thank god Watterson won’t license Calvin and Hobbes or I fear that would have happened long ago. Or maybe just to Susie.)

  7. thordora says:

    ok, it was bad enough what they did to Strawberry (which I don’t much mind either, and my youngest LOVES her so we’re cool.) But THIS?! NO WAY. I LOVED Rainbow Brite, but there is no way I’m letting…that THING near my daughters.

    Sigh.

  8. Dree says:

    What are those, bedroom eyes? Ugh.

  9. Shinobi says:

    Next they are going to make the Popples lose weight and start wearing slutty skirts.

    I have seen Twink!!! OMG I LOVE THAT SHOW, I wonder if it is on Youtube. I find watching things in my adulthood that I liked as a child is often…enlightening. There was also an animated keep kids off drugs video we must have rented 1000 times, I bet it would be really funny to watch now.

  10. Shinobi says:

    OMG, it is on Youtube! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SNqkuVZ9ck

    It’s a perfect day, come on out and play, it’s a perfect day for the zoo!

  11. geek says:

    Ugh. I alternate between complete disgust at the makeover (yeah she needed one but not a thin teenaged look like that!) and thinking about this that you said:
    “As we know, for women professional success, while still a requirement for any sort of personal worth, is absolutely nothing unless you look hot while having it.”

    It’s hard enough being extremely plain and not knowing how to apply makeup.
    This is a vicious cycle – women and girls are told they need to be pretty, so women working try to be pretty, and the only women we really see are pretty because they get the press coverage, so girls keep getting told they need to be pretty, because look at her!…

  12. Sara says:

    The story showed up in my rss with a broken photo and I hadn’t heard of it before so I was really hoping it would be something wild and techno like her skin would roll thru the colors of the rainbow or something wild.

    But she’s just a pretty little teen. And I’m not sure the hair cut update actually helped make her less 80’s….

  13. Ben says:

    Of all the design elements to keep, they decide on the moonboots.

  14. doner says:

    thats messed up, luckily I was born in the 90’s where a lot of my favorite characters where like this. I still remember Lola Rabbit from Space Jam.

  15. Julie says:

    I loved Rainbow Brite and I want to cry just reading this. I would love to introduce my daughter to Rainbow Brite, but not this Rainbow Brite.

  16. amandaw says:

    I usually don’t worry much about general updating of old-time memories (ah, the ancient memories of an early-20s girl!) to fit with modern styles or ideas.

    But I realized as you said it: they just “updated” Dora, too! And it’s not like Dora wasn’t HIGHLY POPULAR or anything. And it’s not like she had been highly popular until the market moved to a different style; no: she was highly popular during the time that style was in, so it’s not like they can say that the Dora-style doesn’t sell. Clearly she does.

    Maybe we’re better off with talking animal characters. (I wanted to be Simba, though. Simba was more of a punk and troublemaker.) At least they’re so far from resembling human people we don’t form the same expectations of ourselves even as we’re attached to their characters.

  17. Jodie says:

    Girls are pushed to grow up too fast as it is. Why make their cartoons look older then the age they are aiming at?

  18. Trench Kamen says:

    I remember Rainbow Brite and the San Diego Zoo. That was awesome.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. That in itself makes me sad.

  19. Ellestar says:

    I’m so mad they’re getting rid of the color kids. First of all, it really helped me learn the ROY G. BIV color spectrum. I had a character to go with every color.

    Secondly, I had a terrific crush on Red Butler. Me, as a 7-year-old, thought he was the bee’s knees.

  20. Jha says:

    OH NO.

    Damn j00, hypersexualization culture!

  21. Henry G. Tavish says:

    So they made her look more like a sex worker. I thought Feministe would applaud that.

  22. Li says:

    Oh Hai Henry! I hearz that you haz a thought. I has some too!

    1. Feministe is most definitely a homogeneous entity and/or hive mind, and the community all share exactly the same politics.

    2. This post is entirely/at all about sex work, and so your comment is absolutely on topic.

    3. All sexuality and/or sexualisation is the same as becoming/looking like a sex worker and sex workers are themselves a homogeneous entity.

    /sarcasm

    /derail

  23. amandaw says:

    Denegrations of “slutty skirts” and sex workers invoked as some sort of liability.

    Consider my eyes rolled.

  24. Jen says:

    Regarding HGT, a wise person once said, “Do not feed the trolls.”

  25. Marnie says:

    Sorry, I disagree. That image on the right doesn’t look anything like a real kid. If anything, the new image is far more realistically proportioned.

    I tend to deplore the role models and options for girls, I’m raising one myself, but I think this is a big overreaction. In fact, I would encourage you to compare the new Rainbow Brite’s shape and size to the little girl with the rifle on your masthead. Yeah, their costumes are different, but they’re not that far off, really.

    The truth of the matter is, the new character is far closer to the proportions of a 6-10 year old than the character on the left, who resembles a sort of elephant-headed toddler. Yes, I agree that she is slender and that images of slender, blonde, white girls predominate to all our detriment, but I defy you to find a single six year old who has proportions anything like the Rainbow Brite of yore. She and Strawberry Shortcake and others of that era are done in a stylized form that is no longer in vogue. I don’t consider the shift to be symptomatic of a larger slide into sexism and havoc–after all, the 1980s when those big-headed dollies ruled was hardly an idyll of feminist enlightenment.

    • Cara says:

      Marnie, I am aware that the original Rainbow Brite had an unrealistically large head. As a complaint about the size of the new Rainbow Brite’s head did not factor into my post — or about proportions at all, really, only weight — I’m not sure what your point is there.

      But of course you’re more than welcome to disagree that the way they’ve restyled her matters. I’m genuinely very surprised that the word “overreaction” didn’t come up sooner in the thread.

  26. If Rainbow Brite, or any cartoon, is a role model, I’m more concerned with the state of the world than I was five seconds ago.

  27. Jha says:

    ThickRedGlasses: Seriously? When I was a little girl, I totally looked up to She-ra and the like. Cartoons are a great way to impart messages to kids when they’re very young and impressionable. Good ones stick with you up to adulthood.

  28. PrettyAmiable says:

    This may be random, but has anyone else noticed that on female kids, when animated, there’s a tendency to put them in some kind of v-neck top? I feel like they’re alluding to breasts that the characters will eventually grow into. It makes me feel icky. Boy kids, when animated, don’t have randomly front-bulging pants.

  29. SomePerson says:

    They say fads work in a twenty year cycle so wouldn’t a new Rainbow Brite be a little late?
    The “new” style still seems a bit eighties to me.

    Now all she needs is a multi-colored mohawk and a skateboard.
    I wonder what the next childhood icon will receive and update will be.

  30. fullerenedream says:

    @ Ben: What are you talking about, the moonboots are AWESOME. I would LOVE to have a pair of boots like that!

  31. BL1Y says:

    Regarding the weight issue…the new Rainbow Brite is supposed to look a few years older, right? And don’t most people, boys and girls, become a little bit thinner as they grow taller? I have several younger female cousins who were chubby as babies (as most babies are) and are now rail thin despite eating like Michael Phelps (because a lot of kids that age are hogging all the metabolism).

    I’d think the bigger problem would be the skirt, though it’s a problem with both the original and the new versions. That thing is pretty damn short. I hope she doesn’t ever need to walk up a flight of stairs.

    At least when Rainbow Brite fans get older they can watch The Simpsons. It’d be hard to find a role model better than Lisa. She is smart, virtuous, artistic and courageous (and a badass hockey goalie). And, though some people might take issue with her also being stereotypically girly (especially in her obsession with ponies and dolls), she is aware of cultural norms and chooses the traditionally feminine because that’s what she honestly enjoys.

  32. Melissa says:

    Nooooooooooooooooooo! My childhood! My poor little cousins! :sobs:

  33. Katy says:

    Don’t give up on the Color Kids just yet. This new line is only just getting started. We haven’t even been introduced to the villain(s) yet – so I don’t believe we’ve seen all of the “good guys” either. An email from Hallmark said that the kids will now be called the “Color Wave Kids” or something similar, so I have hope that they’ll be making an appearance in the future. I’m sure it all depends on sales and how successful the line is. But asking for more characters while poo poo’ing the redesign is a bit counterproductive. Just saying.

    We had our share of skinny, hot, animated female role models in the 80’s. Jem, She-Ra, Barbie anyone? And I, for one, did not feel that I had to look like them to be accepted. They’re cartoon characters for goodness sake. I might as well try to look like Mickey Mouse. It’s more the actresses and singers you have to worry about – and yes, it’s extremely rare that you see a plain jane on tv. That needs to change.

    Personally, I think the new dolls are cute (they’re already out in Target and Meijer stores by the way) and will be buying one for my niece. I already bought several for myself ;)

  34. southern students for choice-athens says:

    Nice, a break from political blogging. Well, almost a break.

    The updated “Rainbow Brite” does appear to have some body image issues (note her waist is about as wide as one of her upper legs/thighs), and it’s reasonable to be sensitive to triggering dysmorphic thoughts in young girls (and maybe even young guys) minds by overly thin cartoon characters. But to point out the obvious, they are cartoons, after all, they are caricatures as much (and maybe more fundamentally) than they are role models.

    The “big head” thread above is worth noting but it’s also worth noting that large heads are a stereotype of babies and young children, just like disproportionally long legs and a loss of body fat are stereotypes of adolescence in girls and boys. A loss of body fat in a cartoon character may not necessarily imply sexualization as much as it may imply an exaggerated loss of baby fat replaced by muscle, which in adolescent girls doesn’t hypertrophy as much it does in adolescent boys when strengthened by exercise – all of these are near-universal stereotypes of puberty and adolescence and not just a fad of late-20th century Caucasian western culture. And looking again at the tweenage Rainbow’s legs, they do look pretty muscular and they don’t appear to be more than half the length of her body, head to foot, and not like a stereotype of long, skinny adolescent girl’s legs that might make up more than half the length of a stereotypic adolescent girl’s body. If the artist was to change one thing to make her more realistic (and none the less heroic) it would be to add some implied abdominal muscles and upper arm muscles, which she’d surely build wielding that magic wand.

    Considering that, the redesigned Rainbow Brite doesn’t really appear to be overly sexualized, certainly not like some of the Bratz dolls are, she appears to be proportioned for her age (a tween) much like many of the stereotypes of popular and minimally criticized tweenage and teenage superheroes might have been at her age – like Wonder Woman a decade younger, or Supergirl, Kim Possible, Susan Murphy/Ginormica, and most of the female characters in the Marvel mulitverse. Of course Rainbow Brite’s character wasn’t so much meant to be seen as a child superhero, but looking at the tweenage Brite it’s probably something that’s occurred to her would be a neat career when she’s a little older.

    Maybe the greatest loss here is not that we’ve lost Rainbow Brite to a stereotype of a sexualized teenager, it’s that there aren’t as many examples of cartoons and heroines/superheroines portraying adolescent girls with something other than a cross country runner’s (or maybe soccer player’s) physique, and the impact that has on girls — and boys — images of what heros and heroines can be like. Velma Dinkley from the Scooby-Doo series is probably the most famous example of that:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velma_Dinkley

    A close second might be Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s interesting that among the characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the core characters call themselves the “Scooby Gang”. The Buffy franchise seems to draw a lot from the old Scooby Doo series, especially in the character development of its female lead characters.

    There will be other Rainbows, Strawberries, and Doras to come, but where will the next Velmas and Willows come from? A greater diversity of characters like Velma and Willow would help offset whatever has been lost with the tweenage Rainbow, Strawberry, and Dora.

  35. Natalie says:

    Yeah, I don’t see a “P” in ROY G. BIV.

    I feel like they’re alluding to breasts that the characters will eventually grow into. It makes me feel icky. Boy kids, when animated, don’t have randomly front-bulging pants.

    Ha! I agree, it’s icky and weird.

  36. torri says:

    I watched one of the animations on the website… she doesn’t even sound like a child ;_;

    at least there’s still ghibli where kids can still be pudgy and child-like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BfNtYF94cQ

  37. Nicole says:

    What bothers me about all these aged-up children’s cartoons is that INVARIABLY they remove their round faces and baby bellies and give them slim figures. The tiny waistline is especially pronounced here. It’s nigh on *impossible* for girls of the target age to live up to that body type yet, some of them never will, and it saddens me that yet another cultural icon is going to tell them that’s not okay. It seems like little girls are picking up the message that they should be self-conscious about their weight earlier and earlier.

  38. “Seriously Henry, GTFO.”

    I’m pretty sure that “Henry” Tavish has been posting on other threads as “Henrietta” Tavish. Or something to that effect…

    RE: The post…

    I was a huge a Rainbow Brite fan growing up. The transformation is saddening to me as well. To those who have said that her new proportions are actually more realistic, I’d have to disagree. That is not the body of a 6-10 year old girl. That’s the body of a young slender teenager. She’s also obviously sexualized and glamourized, whereas the original R.B. was intended to be cute, lovable, cuddly etc.

  39. Amajal says:

    This really pisses me off. I don’t frequently cave to nostalgia, but I had a serious Rainbow Brite/Carebears/My Little Pony habit when I was a kid (somebody also mentioned Popples – I had one of the originals! Anyone else remember Wuzzles?).

    My daughter is 2, and I have sworn that I will never buy dolls like the Bratz for her – and now that rule seems to exclude the new Rainbow Brite, as well. Sigh. At least I can share my box of original MLPs with her. Maybe. Precioussssssssssssss… :)

  40. P.T. Smith says:

    “I’m genuinely very surprised that the word “overreaction” didn’t come up sooner in the thread.”

    I’d say that if anything, you underreacted. The new Rainbow Brite might be more “realistically” proportioned (though I don’t get the comparison to the awesomely shotgun waving girl in the banner; she’s the most realistic looking of the three) but she is also completely idealized yet bland at the same time. Kids may often be a lot scrawnier than the original Rainbow Brite but they aren’t exactly svelte and composed, more gangly and awkward. I think it is a lot easier for a gangly awkward child to identify with a cartoon that while it may not look exactly like them, is still not a fake, imagined ideal.

    So, how do I think you underreacted? Just by the emphasis on this specific update, and then the larger picture being other female cartoon characters. It’s and underreaction that makes total sense and is focused in a good way, this being a feminist blog, but it is still an underreaction (okay, maybe just saying it is more focused is better wording) because this type of update is going on all over, male and female characters. Kids cartoons are kids anymore, male or female they are all updated to be “hipper,” “prettier,” more boring, bland, and all alike. In other words, less and less for actual human children. So, overreaction? Not so much.

  41. Lucy Gillam says:

    This makes me really sad. I know that kids tend to want to watch/read about characters who are a few years older than they are, but geez. There’s a reason we stick mostly to Sesame Street. At least no one’s trying to skinny up Abby Cadabby.

  42. Robin says:

    This one hit me hard too. I’d been scourging for years to find Rainbow Brite…anything…and was getting so frustrated at how they seem to be bringing everything back except Rainbow Brite. And now this…

  43. roro says:

    Wow…they actually whitewashed the color kids. That takes a little cognitive dissonance, doesn’t it? Like, wasn’t the original point, like, the overarching goodness of having a diversity of beauty in the world? Now we’ve got Rainbow Bright as portrayed by a Bratz/Barbie hybrid. Fan-fucking-tastic.

  44. Jha: “Seriously? When I was a little girl, I totally looked up to She-ra and the like. Cartoons are a great way to impart messages to kids when they’re very young and impressionable. Good ones stick with you up to adulthood.”

    Yes, seriously. I liked Rainbow Brite as much as the next 4-year-old in the ’80s. She was as much of a role model to me as the Ninja Turtles and Big Bird. These are fictional cartoon characters. Likable fictional characters, but fictional characters nonetheless. Girls need some real human women to look up to. We all got pissed when two horses were contenders for Female Athlete of the Year, because there are plenty of athletes out there who are actually women (and if there aren’t, then that’s just as big of a problem). Including Rainbow Brite as a role model cheapens the hard work that women have been doing since the beginning of time.

  45. P.T. Smith says:

    Yes, seriously. I liked Rainbow Brite as much as the next 4-year-old in the ’80s. She was as much of a role model to me as the Ninja Turtles and Big Bird. These are fictional cartoon characters. Likable fictional characters, but fictional characters nonetheless. Girls need some real human women to look up to. We all got pissed when two horses were contenders for Female Athlete of the Year, because there are plenty of athletes out there who are actually women (and if there aren’t, then that’s just as big of a problem). Including Rainbow Brite as a role model cheapens the hard work that women have been doing since the beginning of time.

    Is a four-year-old supposed to understand and appreciate the complexities of an adult role model? It’s important to have all different types of role models for all different ages and levels of maturity.

  46. “Is a four-year-old supposed to understand and appreciate the complexities of an adult role model?”

    Whether or not a 4-year-old fully appreciates or understands the complexity of adult role models, they most certainly do look up to them and will both learn from and emulate them.

  47. Athenia says:

    If it makes you feel any better, Sailor Moon, a pretty, blonde 14 year old is (and I think always has been) marketed to 4 year olds.

    Her daughter Sailor Chibi/Mini moon was brought in, but even when she aged up Chibichibi came in to provide the “cute.”

  48. P.T. Smith says:

    “Whether or not a 4-year-old fully appreciates or understands the complexity of adult role models, they most certainly do look up to them and will both learn from and emulate them.”

    So because a four-year-old should look up to someone they have little understanding of, a cartoon character who does exist in a manner that they comprehend and relate to shouldn’t be a role model?

  49. “So because a four-year-old should look up to someone they have little understanding of, a cartoon character who does exist in a manner that they comprehend and relate to shouldn’t be a role model?”

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying. I -do- believe that Rainbow Brite is a role model, whether she should be or not. And I didn’t say anything about “should”, I only talked about what young children actually do.

  50. Rob says:

    Yeah, I’d say regardless of how relevant the topic itself is in the wider world, it pretty much is an overreaction to say this is going to give young girls body image problems. As many people have said, it is a cartoon and in most cases is going to have very little bearing on their self image. I’d say it’s more important to have female characters who are active and don’t play second fiddle or conform because of their gender, and for kids to discover these things on their own instead of having their exposure to TV and stories monitored and controlled by admittedly well-wishing parents.

    Also, you have to remember cartoon designers and writers in the eighties were on a lot of drugs. Disney and co. won’t stand for that kind of shit these days.

    • Cara says:

      Yeah, I’d say regardless of how relevant the topic itself is in the wider world, it pretty much is an overreaction to say this is going to give young girls body image problems.

      Good thing I didn’t say that. I’m not sure where those who are arguing against such a notion think that I did.

      re: “role models.” You know, I’ve thought of lots and lots of snarky things to say, but I’m really just sad that the idea that children have fantasies which don’t align perfectly with the real world makes other people sad.

  51. Denise Mailo says:

    I thought the other day about how girls used to play with baby dolls. You know, the kind that might wet or say “Mama”. Now the dolls they get are like the Bratz dolls or Barbies. They are conditioned from the get go to dress provocatively and pay most of their attention to their hair, makeup and clothes. We are not teaching our girl children anything but that appearance is primary. My 18 year old prefaces every judgement about someone by saying “They’re not cute” or “They’re hot!” I think that the whole Rainbow Brite makeover reflects the values that our culture today is trying (successfully) to instill in young girls. That is, not to care about intelligence, personality, talent etc…, just the outside appearance.

  52. Ginsu Shark says:

    Just looks like a generic shoujo character to me (better drawn than many, at that)…

  53. “Is a four-year-old supposed to understand and appreciate the complexities of an adult role model? It’s important to have all different types of role models for all different ages and levels of maturity.”

    Not an adult role model. A human one. I don’t think it takes a certain level of maturity to look up to humans. When I watched cartoons or read picture books, I wanted to be the person who created them. I didn’t want to become Rainbow Brite or Madeline or Arthur the aardvark. I wanted to write the stories and draw the cartoons and maybe go to France. I had as many fantasies and as active of an imagination as anyone else when I was a little kid. But maybe that makes me crazy.

  54. BL1Y says:

    Here’s something I don’t get about debates over role models…So many people complain that role models aren’t realistic, but isn’t that the point? Role models are supposed to be aspirational. If the reflected what we’re already like, they wouldn’t serve a purpose.

    No one faults an multiple-gold medal winning olympic swimmer for being an being an unrealistic role model (I’m thinking of that german athlete is not just amazingly talented, but also extremely beautiful, her name escapes me). But yet, athletes, astronauts, and Supreme Court justices are probably less realistic than the women in magazines. Out of the people I’ve known, 4 have literally been the “negative” role models, while only one (a female astronaut) has been the “positive” role model. Kinda seems like the role models we condemn are actually more realistic. [This of course says nothing about the desirability of their traits, just what value we should put in having realistic role models.]

  55. Jha says:

    ThickRedGlasses: Part of a role model’s function is to give children a person they can be like, whose shoes they can see themselves in, whose stories they can use for their own.

    Role-playing was never in your books, eh?

  56. southern students for choice-athens says:

    Rob wrote:

    Yeah, I’d say regardless of how relevant the topic itself is in the wider world, it pretty much is an overreaction to say this is going to give young girls body image problems.

    Yes, that would be an overreaction, but to add to Cara’s comments above, it’s so obviously an overreaction that no one says it quite that way unless they’re trying to make some straw-man argument that they’ll go on to knock down. Whether it’s age-progressed cartoon children, Bratz dolls, or waif-thin heroin-chic supermodels, none of that is going to “give” young girls “body image problems” like some sort of communicable disease. Psychologically healthy children are obviously going to be less affected by imagery that might make others feel inadequate or pressured.

    But girls who already have body image problems or preexisting psychological problems may be more easily affected by media images of rail-thin, inappropriately sexualized girls and women. In particular, there’s times when pop culture seizes on images like that where a sort of domination of a particular image can take hold. Images like that needn’t explicitly say “you are less of a woman (or girl) if you don’t look like me” to pretty much consistently say “if you look and act like me, you’ll be more …” fill in the positive attribute: popular, smart, invulnerable to taunts, attractive to boys, etc. That’s what advertising is about, after all.

    You can see the same thing in different ways in boys. Slacker culture isn’t going to motivate successful students to drop out of school any more than deviant humor like the MTV shows “Beavis and Butthead” and “Jackass” is likely to commonly inspire young people to commit arson or engage in painful, humiliating stunts, but there are numerous cases of young people into cultures and media imagery like that acting out in especially dysfunctional ways which the probably wouldn’t have engaged in if not for that media exposure, and creating a kind of microclimate that makes inspiring dysfunctional behavior in their peers more likely.

    The threat of this is probably overstated, but some overstatement is inevitable when a large group of people tries to critique something they think might cause harm. It’s probably the case that a lot of fear over the movie “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” causing girls to act in self-destructive, suicidal ways, or to bond with abusive boys was overblown, at least that stories of girls actually inspired by the movie to hurt themselves with the depressive, self-destructive behavior that the character Bella engaged in have thankfully been rare to nearly nonexistent in the mainstream media, the same media that had numerous stories come out raising concerns of how the movie portrayed these issues.

    On balance, the Twilight:New Moon movie might even have had a positive effect in that it gave the media, parents, and young people an opportunity to talk about these issues. Maybe that’s one of the better ways to make the most of the maturing images we see in cartoons like Rainbow Brite, whose namesake, after all, is often associated with happy endings.

  57. Sara says:

    Aw, I loved Rainbow Brite, and was her for Halloween in the 80s. And I love the nostalgic Sanrio look (there’s a reason I still want to watch Unico when I babysit!). This does look like, to me, as the evolution of Japanese cartoons, she still has the anime look, but it’s more of an anime look nowadays. I’m going to miss the old Rainbow Brite!

    As for her body shape, she looks like a caricature of an athletic kid, to me. There’s a lot of obesity in my family, and my nieces and younger cousins are all just skinny and gangly at this stage. I don’t think skinny necessarily equals pretty either, because it’s just a tough age to be telegenic. So I guess I’m reluctantly okay with it – she’s more like the kids I know 7-10, without the awkwardness (which you expect for television).

  58. “When I watched cartoons or read picture books, I wanted to be the person who created them.”

    Personally, I wanted to be She-Ra. I didn’t want to be the writers or artists. I was a kid. I didn’t understand that there were writers and artists. I also didn’t understand that there was no Santa Clause either. Kids aren’t really supposed to understand these things.

    I also wanted to be many other -male- characters. But not because I actually wanted to be male, but because most of the awesome kick ass characters had penises. I felt the same way about real live action heroes like Indiana Jones.

  59. Clara Princess says:

    Brand New Day from the movie was my favorite song. Still is. *sigh* I can’t believe they did this to my Rainbow Brite. I’m never going to be able to show this to my kids when and if I have them.

    I watched all the short videos on the new site. It seems to me they got rid of all the other characters so they could give Moonglow and Tickeled Pink their own horses (Sunriser who was originally “wild”, Skydancer got turned into Shimmer and was taken away from Stormy, wtf.) And they were all given a baton like some weird Sailormoon wannabe. What is wrong with the Colorbelt and the star sprinkles?

    I am definately dissapointed and worried about Rainbows bodyimage… ugh.

  60. Jackie says:

    I was talking about this with my mom yesterday, and trying to view this from the company’s point of view. They don’t know if this will be a popular show or not, so they’re probably trying to be cost effective.

    It costs less money to take a stock image of a female character, and make them over to look like Rainbow Brite, rather than hire an animator, and take the time to make the character unique. It’s like organic vs processed food, it takes time to grow plants and harvest, instead of just throwing everything into a machine to be sorted out. So I think this is the processed version of Rainbow Brite, where the one in the 80’s was highly developed.

    As far as their not being as many color kids, again they may just be testing the market and decided it’s less money to have less characters to produce. With Strawberry Shortcake, once they saw the series was popular they re-introduced more of the orginal characters like the berrykins. Perhaps if Rainbow Brite is successful, they’ll see it as a merchandise worth putting more money into, and there will be more color kids represented.

    So it’s understandable if you look at the cost on testing a show that might not even go through, that they’re not bringing back every aspect from the 80’s show. For most of the remakes, it’s like they’re trying to squeeze out the last bit of money that can be made out of an old series.

    I think the best we can hope from this, is that this show may encourage other companies to re-issue old Rainbow Brite shows on to DVD. I think the notion that Rainbow Brite is thinner, is something that didn’t even cross the producer’s mind. It’s simply easier to go with female type #8 then hire a animator, and set up a deal with them for a series that might not even go over.

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