On a recent episode of Hey Paula, Paula Abdul found out via Blackberry that her services as executive producer, choreographer, and fashion designer on the set of Bratz were no longer needed. Dutifully uploaded to YouTube, Paula’s hilarious reaction to her firing serves as an example of the former pop star’s lack of forethought, rightfully inspiring one poster (“theirishhateyou”) to assert, “Hahahaha! Crazy bitch.” I get it: Girlfriend’s gotta eat, but just because Jon Voight is in your movie, doesn’t mean it’s gonna be Coming Home. Shit, I could have told you it wasn’t even going to be SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2.
Maybe Paula just doesn’t eat breakfast in front of the television—at least on Saturday mornings, when That’s So Raven spreads the idea of minstrelsy to its tweener demographic. Courtesy of one of its architects, Sean McNamara, the most heinous gesticulations of Raven Simone’s sitcom persist in this adaptation of MGA Entertainment’s Bratz fashion doll line, glamorizing materialism in the guise of valuing individualism and spreading a noxious view of racial diversity. The storyline, which hilariously features a deaf jock appreciating one of the Bratz’ singing voices by putting his hands up to a speaker, is almost too easy to rag on, what with its almost complete incoherence and dead-serious evocation of Mean Girls by way of McNamara’s own Raise Your Voice. The film’s cultural condescension is just as easy to pinpoint but demands elucidation.
Logan Browning, as the Cosbified African-American girl who brings krump to the cheerleading field, and Janel Parrish, as the half Asian science wiz who has to put on a show of submissiveness whenever her mother’s in sight, get off easy compared to Nathalia Ramos. The girl is prone to interjecting completely random bits of Spanish, usually food-related, into everyday conversation (as in “el pollo Jasmin!”), and when she goes down the stairs of her house to leave for school, she doesn’t seem surprised by the Mariachi band eating at her breakfast table. Later she sings “La Cucaracha” in her bedroom with a strange, chocolate-loving woman who is never identified as being her maid or her mother. Perhaps McNamara thinks the roles are synonymous in Hispanic culture, or maybe this persistent stereotyping is meant as a clue. Could it be that the green cosmetic mask on the girl’s face is made of guacamole? Will another film this year elicit such an elevated level of recoil? Will Paula see it and come to her senses?