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Originally published Monday, March 9, 2009 at 12:26 PM

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Tweenage Dora the Explorer doll sparks debate

Should Dora the Explorer venture into the teen world? Some parents and two psychologists think a new tween doll might be taking the popular character in the wrong direction.

Chicago Tribune

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Dora the Explorer is exploring ... Judy Blume territory.

A childhood fixture for millions, the intrepid bilingual tot who shares word-centric adventures with a talking monkey is growing up. Dios mio, is she.

And if you stick your head out the window, you can hear the cries of outraged parents from coast to coast.

Viacom, the parent of Nickelodeon, which produces the Dora cartoon, has partnered with Mattel to release a new line of Dora dolls. And this is so not your daughter's Dora. Bid adios to the gender-neutral ensemble — spunky shorts, the backpack, the purple T-shirt — that made Dora a preschool icon, and say hello to a short skirt and pointed shoes.

"As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look," Mattel says in a press release. Yes, it really does say that.

While Mattel hasn't yet revealed the new Dora — which will supplement, not replace, the standard one — a recently released "teaser" silhouette which features a girl with long, flowing hair and a more angular figure has already sparked massive criticism and a petition drive launched by two child psychologists, Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown.

"What next? Dora the Cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with stylish purse and stilettos?," they write on the petition's preamble. The real Dora, they suggest, would never grow up to be a fashion icon or shopaholic. "She'd capitalize on those problem-solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world," they write. Parents nationwide greeted the news with dismay, saying that Dora is a crucial role model who spurs young girls' interest in nature, math and science.

"This makes me both mad and sad," said Stephanie Raleigh of Cleveland, the mother of two girls under 4. "Dora "growing up" in the stereotypical way just reinforces the issues that young girls face today."

And what's in store for Dora's animal-loving cousin, Diego? Perhaps he becomes a hip-hop star with plenty of bling and an appetite for gunplay? Or a rough-around-the edges street-racer?

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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