On 20 Years of Bratz, being jealous of The Weeknd, new season teaser trailers, Love Island concerns, and peepaws going for a walk.
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There used to be this huge toy store somewhere in South Jakarta my parents would take me to. My memory of it is hazy, I can’t remember if it was a Kidz Station or a pre-bankruptcy Toys’R’Us. What I do remember, though, is fearing for my life because they had a giant styrofoam Disney’s Tarzan suspended in mid-air where all the aisles met. I remember the store being massive and dark, almost like a warehouse. My dad’s friend was a manager there, I remember they told me they’d get rid of the Tarzan the next time I came to visit, and of course, they never did. As I got older, I dropped the Play-Dohs, Barbies, and Hot Wheels for a very specific group—or rather brand—of toys: Bratz Dolls.
Call it consistency, but I became hellbent (as only a nine-year-old can) on Bratzifying my entire bedroom. In Kuwait, we never really got the latest in anything so my adventures in Brattitude were limited to whatever the local mall had to offer, and all the googling I would do (well, it was Yahoo!-ing back then) based on the catalogue that came with the toy’s box.
I was obsessed with those tiny catalogues. It was like having mini-magazines. I would cut out the toys that I wanted and stick them in my diary. Those manifestations never came to fruition, but perhaps it was for the better. I hadn’t thought about Bratz dolls for a very long time, at least not until last year where I found myself sequestered in my childhood bedroom. I found all the pirated DVDs of the Bratz animated films and computer games I got from then. It was this surreal nostalgia—immediately reminded of how much all of this used to matter to you, and how differently you feel about it all in the present moment.
Bratz celebrated their 20th anniversary this year. Isn’t that insane? I’m older than this line of dolls, albeit by a small margin. I’d have a flash of recognition whenever screencaps from the animated TVs series make the rounds as memes on Twitter, or a short giggle to myself whenever anyone brings up the 2007 live-action film starring House of Anubis’ very own Nathalia Ramos, Pretty Little Liars’ Janel Parrish, and Dear White People’s Logan Browning. They’re not too far removed from popular culture as we know it.
Bratz didn’t build a Dreamhouse in my mind, they made steady down payments on a Brownstone undergoing renovation. They were always there.
The lead-up to this Bratzaissance doesn’t surprise me. As trends tend to go, things come in and out of fashion again. And with the Y2K looks making a comeback, it’s not at all a shock that the “Girlz with a Passion 4 Fashion” are back with a vengeance. After the big Mattel-MGA legal disputes were settled, the dolls went through hiatuses and recalls around the same time kids really didn’t want to play with dolls anymore. Much like the iCarly reboot, this Bratzaissance is definitely for the kids that grew up with them. And we’re not kids anymore!
For those of you who have zero idea what I’m going on about, the core Bratz characters are Cloe, Jade, Sasha, and Yasmin. Other characters are introduced as the girls roll out new collections i.e. Roxxi from Rock Angelz, Sheridan from Forever Diamondz or Katia from Genie Magic, there’s a line of Bratz Boyz, even iterations like Bratz Kidz and Baby Bratz.
To celebrate 20 years of full lips, big heads, and removable feet instead of shoes, the brand launched a new mobile game, a make-up line with Revolution Beauty, and a new series on TikTok directed by 17-year-old Balinese artist and animator Raja Dava called Talking Bratz.
I’ve been meaning to talk about the new Bratz game, Bratz: Total Fashion Makeover. The premise of the game follows you, the player/new member of the Bratz Pack, moving into Cloe’s old apartment as you embark on a journey of fashion influencing. The apartment, however, has been trashed via house party by longtime Bratz nemeses, the Tweevils. The Bratz set you on these little missions within each Chapter (level) to change the wallpaper, put on a new outfit, or share it on the in-universe Bratz social media. But to complete these missions, you have to spend tokens. And to earn those tokens, you have to complete a round of match 3 puzzles. It’s dress-up doll meets Bejewelled Classic.
You also need Bratz Bucks, which can be earned in the puzzles, to purchase new clothes in the game’s Daily Fashion Show. New clothes mean new photos for social media, and new photos mean new followers. That’s the name of the game. They also have little stories, essentially cut scenes, which you can complete or skip to ultimately earn more followers and Bratz Bucks.
I’m on the third chapter of the game, a chapter I finished the same day it came out because I loaded up on tokens. When you stockpile as I did, you can go through the game pretty quickly and thus left waiting for new chapter and game updates in the meantime. In the most recent update rollout, they added something called “Street Goals” which are puzzles you can complete to earn more followers by getting your Bratz avatar photographed doing things like eating ice cream or going for a walk. It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s a nice distraction from the day-to-day. To me, it’s a little nothing time. It’s mind-numbing enough to make me forget that my brain feels like it’s in one of those oddly satisfying hydraulic press videos. Plus, I’ve always wanted to be a Bratz doll anyway.
Talking Bratz has enamoured me since it was announced. The animation is miles ahead of Rock Angelz or Genie Magic. The Bratz don’t look out of place in the Instagram-TikTok, Gen Z proliferation era of internet pop culture we live in now. They’ve managed to revitalise their relevancy without giving up their core concept: best friends with a passion 4 fashion. Felicia is a fun and engaging host, she has so much energy for a collection of pixels. I love her. She first interviews Cloe about her new podcast (of course, she has a podcast) then throws it to Yasmin doing her best Ariana Grande post-Sweetener ponytail for a horoscope update where she accidentally sets something on fire. The first episode is charming and self-contained, but transitions into Episode 2 smoothly.
Episode 2 re-introduces Bratz Boy Dylan back into the world, with his original voice actor from the animated show and video games reprising the role. Dylan is confronted with a scene from an old Bratz game, where he makes fun of (presumably) Sasha’s clothes. This episode is definitely more in the pocket with internet culture; Felicia’s tongue-in-cheek interrogation of Dylan mirroring a milder Ziwe interview, and Dylan’s foot-in-mouth apology reminiscent of a rare, sincere Notes app composition. It ends with Dylan falling on his ass and Felicia cutting to commercial: a compilation of the Bratz 20th Anniversary Instagram filter narrated by a British woman. Felicia even says: “Thanks, British Woman!” at the end, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
It’s naive to put any semblance of hope in a toy brand holding on to its glory days and banking on the all too early childhood nostalgia of the in-between Generation; not quite Millenials, and not quite Gen Z, or the overlap of both. Bratz have taken on a bizarre empowering role for me: they are lip-havers and they just want to wear whatever they want. Guess who also fits that bill? Me! And I’m sure many others like me. Though their legacy has been rife with controversy (lawsuits in IP, parent concerns over body image and over-sexualisation of young women), it’s no surprise to me again, that they happen to have always been in tandem with current beauty trends, even vice versa, what with the surge in popularity of fillers and 90s lip lining in the last five or six years.
I personally, and problematically, am only concerned with what this Bratzaissance means for me as someone who doesn’t want to fall into the clutches of capitalism, but can’t seem to escape it either. I really want to get some of the items in their Revolution Beauty collection, but I know I don’t need them. I need to stop acting like novelty won’t buy me anything more than buyer’s remorse. I think all of this is coming from the desire to fulfill what your childhood self was denied. Once the paycheque comes in, sometimes I do have to stop myself from browsing a catalogue of things I’ll ever have or toys I never bought. That’s consumerism, baby. And I am not a fan of her. I am, however, a fan of the Bratz.
That Should Be Me, With An Asteroid In My Living Room, or Whatever It Was Justin Bieber Said
This is me expressing the intention to be sent lovely PR packages celebrating future seasons of Prime Video’s Invincible. This is me manifesting. Even if I have to create Pinterest vision boards, write affirmations, and email people with the blind confidence of an underqualified white man, I will get sent the giant Invincible asteroid.
Now, you may ask, “Ari, is it not counterproductive to your already losing battle against your own ghastly materialism and embarrassing to your Bambi-legged leftism that you’re asking the Universe for free shit from an Amazon show?” Yes and no. I love Invincible, I hate Jeff Bezos. People can do hard things. I can write more if you want me to, Invincible HQ. I can paint more acrylic portraits of our beloved Mark Grayson. I can’t promise you a higher follower count, nor a high engagement rate, which is exactly what you don’t want to hear from someone you’re going to send free stuff to. But I’m a friend. I’m a fan. I adore this show. I can talk about it for days on end. I’m on Volume 6 of my Invincible re-read. Pretty, pretty, pretty, please? Please bestie?
I was both seething with jealousy AND happy as a clam seeing The Weeknd get sent a giant asteroid filled with Invincible goodies. To quote Justin Bieber’s seminal classic, That Should Be Me, that should be me! Holding your hand, making you laugh, Invincible PR asteroid!
No Clever Title for New Trailers1
Today, we were graced with the first look at Succession Season 3, set to air this fall on HBO. Succession is my bestie. Whilst I’m publicly Team Kendall, there’s a small part of me that’s Team Stewy simply because he’s meaner and sexier. I’m excited to see more Kendall breakdowns, more Tom meltdowns, and Nicholas Braun being Tall. Sexy pathetic men being pathetic just hits a spot. Rich people plotting against each other hits a spot. It’s all a grand ole time. I am also excited to see Shiv spit into a book in context. We’re witnessing L to the OG’s descent into his flop era, and I, for one, love to see it.
Speaking of trailers for shows I care about, my current replacement for last year’s One Direction brain rot, The Walking Dead, released a short teaser for its upcoming final season. The official trailer, with actual footage and whatnot, will hit screens during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
I sure hope nothing is as it seems because this is giving Teen Wolf post-Allison’s death right now. TWD recently switched from filming on film to digital cameras, evidenced in their slate of six COVID episodes released earlier this year, and it doesn’t have the same grit as the last ten seasons do. And for a while, I didn’t mind it. But the more I replayed this trailer, the more I longed for Andrew Lincoln’s unkempt salt and pepper beard burned onto some Kodak.
I’m excited that they’re referencing or at least adapting in some way the Commonwealth plotlines from the comic books. I love that we got to see Michael James Shaw as Mercer in his iconic red armor. I love that despite the greenscreen they’re putting my babes in front of, they all look sexy as hell. I love that Eleanor Matsuura, who is the only British actor on the show that got to keep her accent, got solo screen time. Let’s go, Miss Yumiko! I hope Rosita doesn’t die. I hope Rick and Michonne make some cameos in the final, final episodes of the show, because we can’t do this without them. I miss Rick’s insane ass.
On a similar note, I have a prevailing theory that the more traumatised the Walking Dead character is, the hotter their actor becomes. Shane (Jon Bernthal) shaved his head when he became deranged and became infinitely sexier. Once Glenn (Steven Yeun) endured the death of his father-in-law and an arduous journey to be reunited with his wife, he started sporting that facial hair that cemented his sex symbol status. Michonne (Danai Gurira) in seasons 9-10 gave flashback-Michonne a run for her money. Don’t even get me started on Daryl (Norman Reedus). If I speak, someone sooner or later will suspend me. All I have to say on the subject is that they kept putting him in those slutty little sleeveless shirts, and now they don’t even do that anymore because he just ages like fine wine. Or moonshine. Here’s Rick (Andrew Lincoln), if you still don’t believe me:
What is Hyperfixate if not the evil, objectifying female gaze persevering?
The Love Island Is Still Not Love Islanding Enough For Me
Quick Love Island update column: after 6 episodes, we finally have an ounce—an iota of drama. We need better boys in the Villa; I can’t have Kaz, Liberty, and Rachel going through it like this. Brad is actually demonic, with or without subtitles. Rachel proves the bombshells can still, in fact, be bombshelling, but I am concerned for her. Deeply concerned for her. I don’t like seeing her shed tears for this man that said he likes “dark features” like he was googling synonyms to hit an essay word count. Brad also seems like he’s competing for a Best Actor BAFTA with the way his head is being turned by the two newest arrivals, Millie and Lucinda. I’m sick of hearing the words “blonde” and “petite.” Pick a struggle!
The whole Sharon-Faye-Hugo fillerphobia2 nonsense reeked. All the coded language, skirting around race; so much projection! I’m all for plastic surgery but only in Britain would equating fillers to skin colour air on national television the way it did!
Since Shannon is gone and Sharon and Aaron have coupled up… it’s not on. Mate. Like, Aaron is so scared of her. It’s so funny. But Sharon deserves better than a man that’s both intimidated by her desire to have a career and disgusted by naturally occurring arm hair. We can’t all be whatever fresh hell this is, Aaron:
The tweets that sum up the rest of my thoughts the most succinctly are as follows:
The season’s still dead. I might just watch this wonderful TikTok user recap the show instead, unless, you know, they get fed up with the show too.
Dudes Rock: Moon Knight Edition
It wouldn’t be this newsletter without a Moon Knight update of sorts. I don’t know when this picture was taken. I don’t know what the context of said picture taking truly is. But they look like they’re having a good time. I sincerely hope Ethan Hawke was sending Oscar Isaac sunset photos from Greece whilst he was filming Knives Out 2.
That’s all for this week!
Like No Country for Old Men. But not as clever.
A very hilarious term I’m borrowing from this tweet: