Sexually Frank: The Rebranding of a Childhood Favorite

Categories: Misogyny
Et tu, Lisa Frank?

The sexualization of little girls' playthings is nothing new. Much ado was made of Dora the Explorer's makeover from regular looking kid to a lithe, feminized version. Even My Little Ponies have been made over to have smaller bodies, longer, skinnier legs, and come-hither poses.
The ultimate example of sexy toys for little girls, of course, are the infamous Bratz Dolls: dolls who wear copious amounts of makeup, mid-riff bearing tops, mini-skits, and platform heels. (Or sometimes just a bikini and a jacket.) There was even a line of Baby Bratz which fulfilled what one assumes the manufacturers thought was an overlooked desire for sexy babies.

As a kid I was never interested in dolls, preferring animals and dinosaurs to Barbies. And like a lot of little girls I loved Lisa Frank. For the uninitiated, Lisa Frank was a branded line of school supplies consisting of Trapper Keepers and folders that looked like they were designed by a six-year-old girl on acid. Dalmatian puppies with rainbow colored spots, Golden Retrievers playing in buckets of upended neon colored paint, and unicorns with rainbow manes were staples of the line.

The Lisa Frank we know and love.

Lisa Frank appealed to me because there were no people in her universe, just technicolor dolphins and polar bears. So, I was more than a little disappointed when I purchased a pad of Lisa Frank stickers at the store yesterday on a whim and flipped the pages open to find myself staring at what looked like Lisa Frank-ified Bratz Dolls populating the pages. The whimsical ponies of my childhood were being straddled by big-headed coquettes in hot-pink midriff tops.

Ostensibly, the purpose of tampering with a brand is to adjust for what the appeals to the audience. And while I'm sure interest in the Lisa Frank line may have waned since the color-saturated '80s and '90s, I have to wonder if little girls actually are more interested in bizarrely proportioned nymphets dressed like sexy hippies than a righteous day-glo tiger cub. And if they aren't, who are these re-designs really for?

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