|You gotta spin it to win it|
|Stop the presses!|
|We want pictures|
American Girl is an American line of 18 inch (46 cm) dolls initially released in by the Pleasant Company and later acquired by Mattel in 1998. As the name implies, the doll line revolves around children of various walks of life throughout American history, with dolls which came with books telling of their backstory and the era the dolls' stories take place in. Although the books are written for girls who are at least eight years old, they endeavor to cover significant topics such as child labor, child abuse, poverty, racism, slavery, animal cruelty and war in manners appropriate for the understanding and sensibilities of their young audience.
Considering the above mentioned topics portrayed by the doll line as well as America's colorful sociopolitical history, the toy line garnered both criticism and controversy from various political and social commentators.
Doll of a kind
The American Girl line started in 1986 as the brainchild of Pleasant Rowland, a former news reporter and educator who sought to come up with a more educational alternative to the wildly popular Barbie fashion dolls by way of characters who are around the same (canonical) age as their owners. Rowland enlisted her book author friend Valerie Tripp and German toymaker Götz, who supplied them with the face sculpt and body design used by the dolls to this day.
The upscale marketing of the dolls, which cost $115 as of 2022 without extras, drew scrutiny which led to budget-price alternatives and questions about the doll line's backstories being hypocritical in the face of commercialism, e.g. the character of Kit Kittredge having her family endure the hardships of the Great Depression, on top of Kit's doll line and associated collection selling for a price that flies in the face of those who suffered the Depression, not to mention that the movie starring Abigail Breslin as Kit is effectively a toyetic feature film plugging the toy line.
Will make a toothy grin for food
A popular line in American Girl's catalogue is the Girl of the Year doll, where they release a limited-edition character each year with a backstory based on contemporary American life, usually revolving around subject matters and hobbies (stereotypically) associated with little girls such as gymnastics, painting and the like. One of these characters was Gwen Thompson, who is marketed as a companion to the actual 2009 girl of the year Chrissa Maxwell. The doll itself is fine and all, but what drew controversy was Gwen's story as a victim of homelessness, not helping matters was when the doll, like others in the line, was marketed at a premium of about a hundred dollars. Gwen's reception took a turn for the worse when media outlets and political pundits spun exaggerated and out-of-context tales about the tastefulness of making an upscale toy out of a serious social issue; An unnamed representative of American Girl later responded: "The doll is meant to teach tolerance and is part of an outreach program teaching young girls how to spot bullying and stand up and speak out against it," stating that the characters "offer valuable lessons about life" and they were disheartened that there had been any confusion over their fictional characters.
Nine years a slave?
The choice of story for Addy Walker, an African-American doll whose story is set in the Civil War era, was seen as questionable as she was initially depicted as a slave; she later gained her freedom along with her family later in the storyline. Some have also expressed concerns about American Girl's other characters of color, like Kaya'aton'my, a Nez Perce character whose story takes place in 1764, and Josefina, a Latina girl from New Mexico in 1824, are both set before colonization and have been criticized for avoiding the topic of genocide through these pre-Western contact settings. The character of Kaya, for one, was seen by critics as perpetuating the myth that native people are set in the past and ignores modern-day natives. Setting Kaya'aton'my in the past also perpetuates the “memory of the Indian” as a fixture of the past and being necessary to the American manifest destiny belief that resulted in the genocide of native people across north America. Hawaiian Nanea Mitchell, whose story took place in Pearl Harbor during World War II, was also seen as ignoring the prior issues native Hawaiians faced when their (former) kingdom was subsumed under U.S. control by way of fiendish fruit companies, instead depicting Hawaiians to be happy to be a part of the United States as per United States military pamphlets portray of the same time period. And while consultants from ethnic groups were hired to maintain veritas within the context of the books and their target audience, the dolls' expense posed a barrier to entry for those represented, making them more of a luxury for affluent families than an educational tool for children.
Gays, gays everywhere
That's it, I'm Bailey-ing out!
Kira Bailey, 2021 girl of the year and tourist in the glorious country of 'Straya, also became victim to the cultural zeitgeist when One Million Moms (OMM), a front group for the reactionary Christian cesspool American Family Association, took umbrage at what they saw as the homosexual agenda infiltrating children's media by way of Kira's backstory where one of her aunts who lives down under has a lesbian relationship. They whined:
Why can’t the toy manufacturer let kids be kids instead of glamorizing a sinful lifestyle? […] American Girl is confusing our innocent children by attempting to normalize same-sex marriage. The doll company did not even include a warning so parents would have a heads-up.
The Ballad of the Black Girl with Two Dads
Prior to Kira's release, an article in the doll line's official magazine also came into OMM's crosshairs, when the magazine featured an African-American girl named Amaya Scheer who was adopted by a white gay couple; the latter having been heartbroken by the negative response towards the article and the hate mail ensuing from it. OMM's threatened boycott spectacularly backfired; an outpouring of support from many prominent national media organizations resulted in a dramatic increase in financial support for a nonprofit charity organized by one of Scheer's fathers.
Puberty hit them like a truck
“”Being transgender is not an illness or something to be ashamed of.
“”YOUR NEW BOOK IS DISGUSTING. IT IS CHILD ABUSE.
|—Cindy McDonnell Stevens|
In 2022, an advice book entitled A Smart Girl's Guide to Body Image earned significant backlash from the garden-variety reactionaries, accusing American Girl of advocating child abuse through what is seen as unsound advice over a prepubescent transgender child's gender identity by way of puberty blockers and hormonal therapy. As usual, a number of conservative parents took to social media to express their outrage and disgust over perceived sexual deviancy or trans recruitment and called for a boycott of the doll line whom they see is corrupting their children.
This ignores the fact that puberty blockers are reversible; while they may have adverse effects on some patients, it has been successfully used on those with precocious puberty and has been extensively studied and tested since the 1990s.[note 1] The outrage over the book could also be seen as yet another manufactroversy by (conservative) media outlets to stir reactionary sentiment not unlike the "true love's kiss" issue with the Snow White fairy tale and its adaptations, where a dark ride in Disneyland was criticised for its portrayal of a perceived "non-consensual" kiss by a man on an unconscious young woman. And if you conservatives are going batty about a book you allege is condoning child abuse, then explain why the fuck does this book about promoting child corporal punishment exist and how the fuck is it still being sold on sites like Amazon.
You're a TERF, Harry.
“”The views expressed by the creator of Harry Potter do not align with that of the American Girl Wiki. Trans rights are human rights. Please see our stance here.
Things got a little complicated with American Girl when they partnered with Warner Bros.' Wizarding World franchise for a series of licensed accessories and play sets for the dolls, especially considering the doll line's (as well as Mattel's in general) progressive stance clashing with the transphobic views of Harry Potter series creator J.K. Rowling. A number of fan sites, such as the American Girl Fandom wiki, have taken the effort of distancing themselves from Rowling's crankery (especially as the site's owner is from the LGBTQ+ community no less) and put up disclaimers on every Potter-related article, while at the same time acknowledging that while it is their duty to document the American Girl franchise as a whole, they take at least some responsibility for possibly encouraging people to purchase the items in question considering the views of the series creator.
A politician named Hillary
“”I assumed this was a murder mystery or a story about how a plucky young girl destroyed 33,000 emails … Imagine my disappointment…
|—An Amazon reviewer.|
“”THIS is a role model for little girls? A power hungry woman who joins forces with a skirt-chasing creep in order to be president?
|—Another Amazon reviewer.|
In 2018 American Girl (by way of book publisher Scholastic) released a biographical book about Hillary Clinton entitled A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton. While some may call into question American Girl's choice of subject matter considering Mrs. Clinton's polarising reputation, other reviews of the book noted the non-partisan approach the author took when treading her life story. Still, considering how it was released one year into the regime of Clinton's fiercest rival during the 2016 election, Donald Trump, a biography about a contentious subject matter for children (and further marketing as a feminist girl power tale) can and will raise some eyebrows, with some threatening to boycott American Girl and cease buying toys from the company for allegedly indoctrinating young children into a particular political agenda.
All hail Sombrita!
If there's one saving grace to all the craziness the doll line has been in for the past few decades, it isn't the introduction of Mexican-American character Josefina Montoya, but her pet goat Sombrita, who was introduced in the book Happy Birthday, Josefina! and with a plush goat toy to tie in with said book.
Us here at RationalWiki commend the fine people at American Girl for putting us in consideration when they made the Josefina Montoya doll collection and associated playsets.
Pleasant Rowland herself also became subject to scrutiny with her business decisions, most notably when she attempted to buy a New York town to tie in with the doll line, something which the residents were none too pleased about. The incident was satirized in the novel Happyland by J. Robert Lennon.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - a toy franchise by rival company Hasbro whose fandom is also composed of adult collectors
- Official website
- American Girl Wiki
- Know Your Meme article, a more in-depth look at the fandom.
- ↑ People who die whilst using puberty blockers are generally using them as part of palliative care. Notably, Lupron, a common puberty blocker, is used by prostate cancer patients.
- ↑ Falligant, Erin; Calkhoven, Laurie; Anton, Carrie (6 September 2016). American Girl: Ultimate Visual Guide. Tripp, Valerie. DK Children. ISBN 9781465444967.
- ↑ Maryellen™ Doll & Book
- ↑ Fierro, Christina (9 October 2010). "How much does an American Girl doll really cost?". WalletPop. Archived from the original on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
- ↑ Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
- ↑ Homeless American Girl - Top 10 Dubious Toys - TIME
- ↑ Meet Gwen Thompson, the "Homeless" American Girl; abcnews.com, referenced September 26, 2009.
- ↑ Wickouski, Sheila (2022-04-21). "'If These Dolls Could Talk': Art Exhibit Explores Role of Black Dolls in U.S. History and Challenges Racial Stereotypes". msmagazine.com. Retrieved 2022-10-25.
- ↑ Person Tries Showing How Offensive 'American Girl' Actually Is, Gets Shut Down For Not Knowing Facts
- ↑ Theorizing American Girl
- ↑ From the Tomahawk Chop to the Road Block: Discourses of Savagism in Whitestream Media
- ↑ How Hawaii Lost Its Last Queen, Liliuokalani, to the Fruit Tycoons Dole
- ↑ The Fighting Man as Tourist: The Politics of Tourist Culture in Hawaii during World War II
- ↑ American Girl Kira's LGBT aunts divide fans
- ↑ Riley Gillis, One Million Moms 'outraged' over American Girl doll's LGBTQ storyline. MetroWeekly, 15 February 2021.
- ↑ Maryland Family Faces Anti-Gay Backlash After Child Featured in ‘American Girl' Magazine
- ↑ Graham Gremore, One Million Moms’ Latest Antigay Boycott Backfires, Resulting In Charity Receiving 300% Increase In Donations. Queerty, 2 December 2015.
- ↑ Mrs. Richardson on Instagram: "Pages from AG’s new book." (archive)
- ↑ American Girl wants to trans your daughter
- ↑ American Girl blasted for Body Image guidebook pushing puberty blockers for kids
- ↑ Puberty Blockers: A Review of GnRH Analogues in Transgender Youth
- ↑ Bil Browning, GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert uses anti-gay stereotypes to explain vote against LGBTQ rights bill, LGBTQ Nation 25 Feb. 2021
- ↑ Pubertal blockers for transgender and gender diverse youth, Mayo Clinic
- ↑ To Train Up a Child: Child Training for the 21st Century-Revised and Expanded: New Material Added - Amazon.com
- ↑ American Girl Wiki:Trans Rights And Inclusiveness
- ↑ Cloth or Something
- ↑ Amazon.com: Customer reviews: A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton (American Girl True Stories): The True Story of Hillary Clinton (American Girl: A Girl Named)
- ↑ Rebecca Paley, A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton (American Girl True Stories). Scholastic Inc., 2018. ISBN 1338193023.
- ↑ Sombrita the Baby Goat
- ↑ Aurora NY - a literary inspiration?
- ↑ Reclaim Aurora from Pleasant Rowland