(Note: I will be using drag rules while writing this article. When the character is drag, he will be referred to with feminine pronouns and the female name. When Dylan is out of drag, he will be referred to as a male.)
Episode 9, Trading Faces (Part 1, Part 2) starts out by introducing a new Bratz character, Fianna (her nickname is Fragrance and no, I didn’t make that up). Cameron is taking photos of the exotic beauty for the new issue of Bratz magazine.
While she wiggles and jiggles for the camera, Yasmin comments that living in Brazil really improved her dance moves. Fianna then mentions that she’s entering the dance contest at Club Mambo. Excited, the girls immediately offer to help.
Jade offers to pick out her dress. Cloe wants to do her makeup. Just then, Sasha enters and announces that she’s entering the Club Mambo dance contest. Fianna thinks it’s cool that they both will be competing, but Sasha is less than pleased to find out that the Brazilian girl is up against her.
Yasmin announces that the two girls will rule the contest. Dylan enters and he is immediately taken by Fianna. Obviously because she’s female and breathing. Also, she hasn’t rebuffed his advances like every single other girl in town. The girls remind Dylan that he’s met her before.
Driven by hormones and a need to impress, Dylan starts dancing and accidentally knocks over a lamp. Cloe yells at him. Cameron informs him that he’s crashed and burn. Even the object of his affections remarks, “Well, you definitely broke something,” with his impromptu break dance.
Later, in the elevator, Dylan complains to Cameron that he’s never been able to connect with girls. Probably because he treats all girls like potential dates and not like people. They’re just walking sex to him. Each one a commodity that he wants to partake in, not people that should be appreciated for their humanity.
Anyway, Cameron’s advice is telling him to think like a girl. Which, given that they hang out with the Bratz, probably the worst examples of femininity, is terrible advice. But Dylan ponders it anyway and manages to get caught in the elevator’s closing doors. I think the elevator in that office is seriously malfunctioning. That’s not supposed to happen.
Cut to later, the girls are roller blading down the street. Which is nice that they’re actually shown being active and sporty for once. Anyway, they mention that Byron Powell is the guest judge for the Club Mambo competition. Which should be no surprise. Why would anyone want to spend the time or money animating someone new when Byron Powell can inexplicably spend more time in Stilesville?
Anyway, Sasha invites Jade to come to the mall to help pick out her dress. But Jade tells her that she’s meeting Fianna to go dress shopping. She suggests that the all go together. Sasha is not pleased. The girl announces that she doesn’t want to shop with the competition. Sasha then asks Cloe to do her makeup. Cloe says that she already promised Fianna to do her makeup, she can do both. Sasha stops short. She turns to Yasmin and demands to know what she’s doing for Fianna.
Yasmin responds, “Nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” Infuriated, Sasha stalks off. Granted, I can see that Bratz is trying to show how to deal with a problem that might arise in friendship, but Sasha is being so egregiously bitchy and difficult, it doesn’t make it look like a good person is having a lapse in judgment. She looks like a shallow, greedy, controlling, demanding child.
The story picks up outside of the two magazines’ office buildings. Cameron gets off of his motorcycle and someone approaches him, asking for help. From the second the camera pans to the person’s hairy legs, it becomes highly apparent that it’s just Dylan in drag. The boy, who is now wearing a dress, asks Cameron out to dinner and the blonde young man is repulsed. Dylan is not a very attractive woman and because being attractive is so key to being a woman, Cameron ducks from Dylan’s advances and tries to get away.
Before he leaves, Dylan confesses that it’s just him in a dress. He announces that Cameron gave him the idea that he should think like a girl. And apparently, thinking like a girl involves dressing in drag. Because that’s all there is to girls; their clothes. Cameron, meanwhile, tells Dylan that he has some serious issues.
Just then, three of the Bratz and Fianna approach. Dylan jumps behind Cameron’s motorcycle to avoid detection, but it’s too late. The girls have already see him. They greet Cameron then ask about the person that just avoided them. Cameron introduces Dylan as Delilah, Dylan’s cousin. Fianna introduces herself and “Delilah” starts to come on to her, but then remembers that he’s supposed to be a girl and not just a girl, but a heterosexual one and stops.
Cloe asks where Dylan is, but doesn’t get a real answer. Jade tells everyone that they were shopping for Fianna’s outfit for the dance competition. Delilah says that she just loves to dance and Fianna invites her to join the contest. Delilah agrees, but asks if Fianna can teach her some dance moves. Every helpful, Jade suggests that all of the girls assist Delilah.
After the girls leave, Delilah tells Cameron that she’s going to enter the contest to find out what kind of guy Fianna is into. Cameron responds, “My guess is the kind who don’t wear dresses.” Delilah agrees and asks for a makeover.
The next scene is at the Bratz Magazine HQ. Delilah is laying on a table with Cameron waxing her legs. He instructs her to, “Just lie down and take it like a man, or whatever.” Yeah, Cameron, whatever. Just when Delilah starts to relax, Cameron rips a wax strip off and lots of screaming ensues.
This scene sends a dubious message to young girls about what it means to be female. According to Cameron and Delilah, beauty procedures equals femininity. Dylan can’t know what it’s like to be a woman until he’s been waxed and plucked.
I usually enjoy seeing men undergoing female beauty culture. It makes the services look ridiculous when applied to men and shows this hyper-grooming culture as what it is; silly and unneeded. Girls Aloud’s video for The Show featured men being groomed and serviced like women have been and it displayed how insane these standards of beauty really are.
But in this case, the beauty culture is shown as essential to being female. If you want to know what it’s like to be a woman, you have to get your legs waxed. That will put you into the female frame of mind. Because that’s all there is to women. There’s no feminine mystique. It’s just takes some leg wax to know about women’s experiences and thoughts.
After Delilah’s makeover, she walks outside with Cameron and the blond boy tells Delilah that she looks like a real girl. However, Delilah is having trouble walking in heels. Just then, the Tweevils approach. Delilah introduces herself.
Kirstee is less than impressed. She asks, “Where are you from anyway? Somewhere where they have tractor throwing contests?” Delilah, who is still Dylan, tells the twin that she looks like she weighs as much as a tractor and chases after her in an attempt to throw her. Kirstee runs in horror.
Just then, Byron Powell, celebrity judge for the Club Mambo contest, catches sight of Dylan in drag. Bryon announces, “You are absolutely, positively the most natural, down-to-earth beauty I’ve ever seen.” The twins watch in surprise as Byron introduces himself to Delilah. Cameron helpfully adds that she’s entering the dance contest that he’ll be judging.
Byron says that he is always looking for new dancers for music videos and asks Delilah to do lunch. Delilah demurs, saying that she’s with Cameron right now. But Cameron insists that he doesn’t mind. Byron takes Delilah’s arm and leads her off towards the restaurant. The Tweevils, who have overheard Byron’s statement about music videos, then decide that they want to enter the dance contest too. They vow to win so that they can be in Byron’s videos. The two head off to plot.
This scene shows that Dylan might be understanding more about being female in American culture than he thinks. He is now able to pass as a girl and as a result, is so beautiful that he warrants attention. Byron, who is seemingly so oblivious that he can’t recognize a teenage boy that’s wearing a dress, thinks Delilah is so beautiful that he doesn’t care if she can dance or has presence on video. She’s pretty, so what other qualifiers could there be?
But Dylan doesn’t question his ability to attract attention as a woman. He’s reluctant to go out with Byron because he knows that he’s being asked out as a woman. But he doesn’t question why he’s being asked out. He had made himself beautiful, so he sees nothing wrong with accepting the benefits of being conventionally attractive.
At lunch, Byron tells Delilah that she has star quality written all over her. He asks if she’s studied dance professionally. It’s at this point that I realized that Dylan is underage and Byron is definitely older. So the entire idea of a man, who is probably in this 30s or 40s (his real life counterpart, Simon Cowell, is in his 50s) is on a date with a 17-year-old is a little creepy.
Anyway, Delilah sees an attractive girl walk by the booth and, forgetting that she’s supposed to be female, Delilah starts to compliment her. When Byron questions it, she reverts the compliment to her shoes. As if she was admiring the girl’s shoes, instead of her body.
However, Fianna is also at the restaurant. Delilah sees her and, attempting to leave Byron’s table to go talk to her, drops her napkin and tries to crawl away. But its time for her to order, so she puts in an order for a mega burger, then finishes her escape.
Fianna is in the hall on the phone. She sees Delilah and hangs up to talk to her. Fianna comments that Byron is cute… for an old guy. Delilah asks her what her type of boy is. She informs Delilah that she wants a romantic guy. Someone into poetry and walks on the beach.
She adds that she doesn’t care what he looks like. Which is bullshit. Someone as superficial as the Bratz are would undoubtedly demand to date a guy as physically attractive as they are. Regardless, Delilah, excited by this new information says goodbye and walks off into the men’s room. She realizes her mistake and heads to the ladies’ next.
Dylan then emerges from the restroom and runs into Fianna in another part of the restaurant. Since he’s dressed like a waiter, Fianna tells him that she didn’t know that he worked there. He told her that he does, but only when he’s not talking walks on the beach. He adds that the restaurant hired him to make their menu items sound more poetic.
He then gives her a brief sample of his genius; “Fillet Mignon with potatoes au gratin. If it makes you vomit, it’s cause the meat was rotten.” Seriously? Seriously, seriously?
Fianna responds with a simple, “nice” before walking into the bathroom. Defeated, Dylan darts into the men’s room and turns back into Delilah to get back to lunch with Byron. He starts eating his massive hamburger to Byron’s interest. Byron remarks how refreshing it is to see a girl who’s not afraid to attack her food with gusto.
This sounds like a positive thing. But he’s saying it to a male character in drag. So the positive thing about the comment is lost on the person it’s given to. Attacking your food is still viewed as a male thing to do and Dylan does it because he’s male.
Meanwhile, the Tweevils have gone to the gym. Still clad in their short pink dresses and wedge shoes, of course. Who wants to take the time to animate workout clothes for anyone? The girls are determined to get fit. Why? As Kirstee explains it, “Byron’s obviously into girls that look like weight lifters with no brains.”
Which, coming from her, a comment about not having a brain really doesn’t have that much sting to it. But the twins see nothing wrong with changing their bodies to suit a man, so they head over to the bicep blaster and turn it on full blast.
I’m not entirely sure how this seemingly automated workout machine is supposed to function. But Kaycee can’t control it and when Kirstee jumps on to help her sister, she is simply along for the ride. Which is a great way to show that pieces of gym equipment are toys.
Back at Bratz HQ, Sasha is practicing her dancing. The other girls enter and tell her that she looks great. Which she might, if she was animated well enough. But due to the crappy style, she just looks like she has tics and possibly a mild seizure during her dancing.
Sasha however, has had enough of the other Bratz, those fake-ass bitches. She calls them the competition and complains that she hasn’t seen them all day because they’ve been out with Fianna. The other girls point out that they offered her equal time, but she blew them off.
Yasmin tells her friend that she’s over reacting. But Sasha just yells at them in retaliation and walks off. Again, Sasha does not look like a rational, balanced person here. She looks like she has an undiagnosed personality disorder and the other Bratz not even being bothered by her sudden demands just makes it look like she does this all the time.
Back at the gym, someone didn’t throw the Tweevils out for fucking up the workout machines and they’ve moved on to something that looks like a stair stepper. The girls get on, but then turn the speed up entirely too high. They scream in pain as the workout intensifies.
You’d think that showing teenage girls working out to the point of discomfort in an effort to please a man wouldn’t be something people would be eager to show to children. But here it is! Not only that, but this is shown as comedy. Something kids should happily laugh at. Nothing wrong here, it’s just a joke.
At the restaurant, Delilah finally manages to leave Byron. He turns into Fianna and can’t stop himself from burping. He admits that it was the triple burger and she had been holding that in. Fianna laughs, knowingly. “What we go through for guys,” she comments.
Delilah then takes the opportunity to talk about her “cousin”, Dylan. She compliments him, but Fianna is skeptical. She says that he seems insensitive. Delilah insists that he’s very sensitive and totally her type. Fianna realizes that she left the restaurant without saying goodbye to him and heads to go get him.
Delilah stops her, announcing that she will go get him for her. Delilah disappears into the restaurant and reemerges as Dylan. Dylan with large, hoop earrings. When Fianna notices his rather feminine jewelry, he explains that he took them from Delilah as her ears were tried and didn’t want to lose them in his pocket, so he put them in.
Impressed, Fianna says that that’s sweet, albeit a little weird. Fianna then wonders where Delilah went. She wanted to ask her something about the contest. And because this drag quick change is non-stop hilarity, Dylan volunteers to go get his cousin and runs back into the restaurant.
Reemerging as Delilah, Fianna says that they should go together to the Club Mambo contest. She adds to invite Dylan along. Delilah agrees and Fianna leaves. After she’s gone, Delilah collapses on the pavement in exhaustion.
The next scene picks up at the Bratz’s HQ. Fianna is trying to teach Delilah some new moves, but Delilah is not doing very well. She falls and crashes into the furniture. Fianna says that Dylan knows some really hot break dance moves that would go great with her music, but he’s not ther.
Ever the helpful one, Delilah volunteers to go find him. When she leaves, Sasha gets angry again. She announces that sher doesn’t want to go to the contest. Just then, Dylan returns and does some break dancing moves for Fianna. The girl then wonders where Delilah is as the entire point of having Dylan show up as to teach her the dance moves.
Dylan says that he’ll go find her and leaves, returning a second later as Delilah. She hops down the steps, but forget she was wearing high heels and hurts herself. Fianna asks where Dylan went. Delilah leaves and turns as Dylan. He’s panting at this point from all of the clothes changes.
When he talks, he starts out in the high voice that he had been using for Delilah and has to claim that he just swallowed some helium to explain it. Because we all know how much helium is just laying around in our normal lives, right? He tells the girls that Delilah went to the club already because she had to run some errands and says that he’ll walk with the girls to the contest.
At this point, the girls not being able to figure out that they’re the same person, just reflects poorly on their intelligence. No one noticed that these two people are never in the same room together? No one is even slightly suspicious who she is or even Dylan well enough to know that he doesn’t have a cousin named Delilah?
While all of this is going on, Burdine is over at Your Thing HQ instructing the Tweevils. She tells them to mention the magazine in their acceptance speech at least 10 times. But the girls are far from winning the contest. They are so exhausted from their workout that they can barely walk.
At the club, Dylan fishes Fianna good luck and notes later, “I’m wearing her down.” Fianna asks him about his cousin. Dylan explains that she got stage fright and backed out at the last minute. Fianna insists that he has to go get her back. Dylan, wanting to seem like the sensitive guy that will go out of his way to help someone, says that he’ll see what he can do.
The contest is about to start and Byron sees Burdine in the crowd. Their relationship hasn’t improved since they first met in Bratz Rock Angelz. Byron calls her a “geriatric shrew”. Keep in mind that she’s 31. If 31 qualifies as geriatric, I think we’re all in trouble. But, doing herself no favors, Burdine claims to be 25. Perhaps if people weren’t so critical about her age she wouldn’t feel the need to lie about it.
Backstage, Fianna tells Sasha good luck and the mega bitch is a little humbled. Just slightly. The contest starts and Sasha is first out. She dances while her friends cheer her on, seemingly not bothered by the horrible way she’s been treating them this entire time.
Delilah is next. She performs some of the break dance moves and Byron dubs her performance a “unique and idiosyncratic interpretation.” Whatever. Then it’s Fianna’s turn. Her movements are just as jerky, strange looking and segmented as everyone else’s.
The Tweevils are then supposed to take the stage, but they are in so much pain that they refuse. Burdine shoves them out there and they fail around helplessly before collapsing into a pile in front of everyone. Byron comes back on stage to declare that that’s a terrible interpretation of the robot.
Burdine comes on stage to yell at her interns. Byron then amends his last statement to say that Burdine is wost robot he’s ever seen. Then it’s Delilah’s turn again. She loses one of the tennis balls that she’s been using as breasts, but quickly stuffs it back down her shirt. She comes out on stage and dances.
During this performance she loses the tennis balls, then her wig and finally, it’s revealed the Delilah is really Dylan. Byron is grossed out that the attractive girl he came onto earlier is really a boy. The girls are shocked that their friend was dressing in drag the entire time and everyone else at the club laughs like it’s a joke that they just figured out.
Dylan’s reveal is treated as a comedy routine. Just as was his entire attempt to think like a girl by wearing a dress and waxing his legs. What did Dylan learn as a girl? Nothing, really. He used his time in drag to manipulate someone he wanted to date and use the information to his advantage.
He shows girls that being true to who you are is secondary when an attractive person wants you to be a certain way. He also makes girls seem as simple and easy to live as whenever you put on some makeup and a pair of high heels. If the outward trappings of womanhood are as female as these young girls are taught to be, how is this audience ever going to respect themselves as women?
Regardless, Fianna wins the dance contest. She graciously accepts a trophy and thanks all of the girls for their help as they walk out of the club. Back at Bratz HQ, Sasha had left early, and now has a surprise congratulations party set up for the girl she completely hated a few minutes ago.
She happily tells her once bitter rival that she ruled. Sasha figures that she’ll win the trophy next year. She tells everyone that she’s mad at herself for pushing her friends away. But she manages not to apologize.
Just then, Dylan shows up and Fianna asks him what he was thinking. He explains that he wanted to find out what kind of guy Fianna liked. Which he could have done by asking her directly or getting one of the Bratz to do it, but let’s not hold him to too high of a standard.
Fianna remarks, “That is the dumbest, most manipulative thing I’ve ever heard.” And just when you think someone is going to learn a lesson here, she adds, “It’s also the sweetest.” She informs Dylan that he was willing to make a fool of himself for her and agrees to go on one date with him before she goes back to Brazil.
No one questions why wearing a dress and putting on high heels amount to making a fool of himself. Why is this shameful behavior for a man, but perfectly acceptable and encouraged for a woman? Dressing in drag should be seen as a compliment to women, not men making a fool of themselves by adopting the same clothes and affectations that women have. But in the Bratz world, the place of men is higher than that of women and Dylan has lowered himself in this episode to experience it.
In the wrap up, Dylan goes out on his one date with Fianna. But his time in drag was also served by writing an article about his experience. It was entitled Dude Undercover: My Life as a Girl. All of the Bratz party and dance at the HQ and that’s the end of the episode.
It’s hardly considered a “life” to intermittently dress as a girl for a few days in order to manipulate someone into going out with you. But the overall problem with this episode remains the same; drag is seen as an insult instead of a form of expression and art. It’s a source of cheap laughs instead of building a dialogue on gender and gender roles.
While I wasn’t expecting much from the Bratz at this point, it still saddens me that something as powerful and transformative as drag has been taken as a cheap punchline to their already unfunny comedy. It leaves children with the impression that men dressing as women are comical and silly. Women are even more unintelligent for doing all of those uncomfortable things all the time.
It also presents femininity as comprising of heels, dresses, purses, and jewelry. How do you be a girl? You dress like one. You remove hair from your body. That’s the female experience. But it’s not. It’s not that at all.