November 20, 2008

American Girl

Julia Krieger
Mr. Coleman
JOUR 4990
November 20, 2008
Sunday Star Tribune article – American Girl doll store
American Girl
My seven-year-old sister’s favorite doll is depressing. Don’t be fooled—from the outside she looks adorable. She matches my little sister’s blonde bob and bright eyes perfectly. She was recently portrayed in a blockbuster by the sweetest little Hollywood phenom since that kid from the Sixth Sense. But what she signifies is something far more sinister.
I’m talking, of course, about the breakout star of the American Girl doll line, Kit Kittredge. All American Girls represent a certain time period or culture, and Kit is no exception.
Kit has been upheld as the “it? Girl of my sister’s generation, portraying the Depression Era. How fitting.
The American Girl line, it seems, has an impeccable knack for timing.
As political pundits and economic savvy’s nationwide are screaming about the greatest recession since Kit’s day, little girls have been given a new reason to shriek—and it’s not about the debt they’ll grow up to inherit.
American Girl recently opened at the Mall of America, causing the youngsters to line up like they’re unemployed—to buy dolls at a minimum of 90 bucks a pop (without the trappings, of course).
Why, back in my day the dolls only cost $82 apiece. But that was way back when. I was in second grade. Bill Clinton ruled the world and was hailed as the “first black president.?
Back then, the company only offered one racial minority personality: Addy—an African-American doll representing the slavery era. Groundbreaking. Maverick, even.
But times, they are a changin’. Now my little sister is the second grader and we actually have a black president-elect, Barack Obama.
American Girl surely must have a bevy of new dolls to signify the vast cultural diversity of the United States by now, right? Wrong.
Most of their usual white standbys like Samantha (Victorian era), Felicity (Colonial era), and Molly (the 1950s) now all feature Caucasian sidekicks. But don’t underestimate those crazy Madison, Wisconsin progressives who make the Girls quite yet.
Now the line offers Josephina, a Mexican girl from the 1820’s living on her family’s “rancho,? as well as Native American Kaya from the 1700’s who is nicknamed “Magpie? after an untrustworthy bird.
And if you count Ivy, the Asian sidekick of Julie, the fifth blonde and tenth Caucasian of the 14-doll line, they’ve got a pretty accurate representation of the ol’ American melting pot.
It doesn’t help that in the actual pages of the catalogue, Addy seems to be fading out, as racial minority dolls receive less space and make room instead for Kit and Julie—the two new white, blonde American Girls.
As odd as this skewed portrayal of the American Girl may seem, the company has added a “Just Like You? option, where little girls can make a doll that looks like them—even if they’re not meant to represent major moments in American history.
In a time of Change We Can Believe In, it’s difficult to see much change at American Girl, even if the lines for the store do wrap in the way unemployment lines did in Kit’s era.
In the packed store, parents losing their jobs can pay $90 for Depression Era plastic doll to put a smile on their child’s face.
At least in a time of home foreclosure and governmental seizure of family furniture, those parents can take comfort in saying “yes, we can? to buying a bed for Samantha at the bargain price of $68.