As a child, I was a Barbie girl. I spent countless hours playing with Barbie and her friends, and—except for when Barbie joined me at the Passover seder—religion rarely mixed with my dolls. Isaac Larian, an Iranian Jewish immigrant, changed the anonymous, nonreligious doll when he created the Bratz line of dolls, which each come with their own personality and background. In the case of Bratz doll Yasmin, that background is of half-Latina, half-Jewish descent.
Unlike Barbie — with her WASP-y blonde hair, penchant for pink and lame steady boyfriend, Ken — Bratz represents a different type of feminine ideal. They reflect the mixed messages that are fed to young girls today — a “Girl Power!” mantra combined with a tarty, sexed-up image a la Britney Spears. With ethnicities ranging from Asian to African American to a unique blend of Jewish-Latina, the dolls trumpet their message loud and clear: It’s okay to be yourself — as long as you look totally hot when the boys are around.
In one sense, the Bratz doll Yasmin is a positive and tangible role model for multiethnic, Jewish girls. But even as we applaud the fact that a popular line of dolls features a character with a multiethnic and half-Jewish background, do the Bratz’ revealing clothing and overwhelming sense of vanity outweigh their positive “girl power” image? Should the Jewish community embrace Yasmin as a representative of the modern, diverse Jewish community despite her literal shortcomings when it comes to clothing? (And if not, is our only other alternative Tefillin Barbie?!)