Over the past six years, Barbie, now 48, has been given a run for her money. The blond-haired, blue-eyed doll with impossible proportions has had to compete with Bratz, a collection of multicultural tweens with such names as Sasha and Jade. The impetus behind these dolls is an Iranian Jew by the name of Jasmin Larian whose father, Isaac, owns the company that puts out the line.
In 2000, Larian had a toy designer come over and present him with a few sketches. He was repulsed. To him, the oversized heads, bug eyes and short bodies — standard characteristics of the line — seemed awkward. But to his daughter Jasmin, then 11, the image was most certainly lovable. Six years later, Bratz — made up of Sasha, Jade, Yasmin and Cloe, all ambiguously multicultural — rival Barbie in toy sales, selling more than 100 million.
Now, Bratz’s popularity has culminated in a live-action film — set for release today — based on the dolls. In it, the character Yasmin, named after Jasmin, is a Hispanic Jewish teen living in Los Angeles, fully equipped with a bubbe played by Lainie Kazan.
For the film, Kazan, who is of mixed Ashkenazic and Sephardic heritage and is a grandmother in reality, said she used herself as inspiration.
“I did it with a Spanish accent, but with a little Yiddish thrown in,” she told The Shmooze.
As the only grandmother in the film, she is a source of comfort and wisdom for the teen characters.
Initially, Kazan was weary of the effect that the dolls, with their pouty lips and heavily lined eyes, would have on girls. “At first I wasn’t too happy about Bratz dolls; I thought the girls looked a little cheap. But this film has taken the image and turned it around.”
Kazan said that above all, the movie is quite moral, and pushes friendship, acceptance and the importance of embracing people from all backgrounds — no matter how different they look from Barbie.