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Unique Toy Stores Still Lack Individuality

For this assignment I chose to look at FAO Schwarz’s website since I had gone there as a kid and had been fascinated by all their unique toys. The first thing that caught my eyes on the homepage was a pretty little blonde face complete with rosy cheeks and a ribbon in her hair. When I clicked on her, I was introduced to Wendy by Madame Alexander, all ready for Easter in her pink and green flowered dress with her pink puppy Penelope.

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To me, Wendy looked boring, or maybe just bored, with her expressionless face and passive stance. Wendy’s only movement was her arms stretched out in front of her, seemingly waiting for someone else to support her. The description didn’t add much to Wendy, unlike the similar American Girl dolls, and only described her attire, which points to the priorities of the doll maker: dress and appearance over thoughts and individuality.

After studying Wendy, I decided to investigate further into the collection and looked up the doll makers website. Madame Alexander makes a wide array of girl dolls, ranging from themed dolls like “Cat in the Hat? and “Cinderella,? to character dolls like the “Scottish Lass,? and finally relatable and inspiring dolls such as “Winter Fun Dolls? and “Graduation Dolls.?

There were several themes in the collection that I found disturbing and damaging for children to idolize. The first of which was that unless the doll was dressed to a theme, she always had on a fashionable, delicate looking dress and the same passive “hold me? stance. Their image clearly stated that they were not for playing, for running in the grass or climbing on rocks, they were for proper tea parties and, well, looking pretty.

I almost skipped this argument as I was flipping through the different dolls and found a couple that I thought contradicted it, then I realized that they held the same message in different words. The first was Maggie, a Peter Pan inspired doll dressed as Hook with an intense, menacing expression and a lunging stance. But I realized that it was only when a girl was pretending to be male that could she have expression, personality and action. The second was Swashbuckler Cissy, dressed as another, female this time, pirate. The doll has movement, and seemingly a personality, even if the high boots and short tight corset don’t portray the most favorable one. The part of her that took me a back was her description, which stated that even though “Cissy may look like one of the brigands of the sea… she doesn’t act like one.? In fact, Cissy is only dressed as one because “pirate gear is so in this year.? The description even goes so far to say that she uses her sword to cut her nails, because what else would a woman have use for a sword?
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The second theme I noticed was that the majority of them, including every doll on the homepage, had a pale ivory skin color. Only a few of the relatable dolls had different tones, and even then there was usually only one African-American doll and one Latin doll found at the bottom of the page. This enforces the stereotype that White is normal, acceptable, and common, and makes it hard for children of other ethnicities to feel represented and important.

The third similarity among the dolls I found disturbing was that many of them were dressed to holidays, but only holidays from the Christian religion. This Christian theme was also supported by a series of “First Communion Dolls? and a special “Christening Celebration? baby doll. The Christian religion is posed as the sole faith of all the dolls, and pushed strongly through the relatable dolls by taking up three of the eight styles under the “Everyday Celebrations? category.
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In all, I found this collection of dolls very typical and very offensive at the same time. I went in with hope, that maybe since they were found exclusively at FAO Schwarz, they would branch out with personalities and styles of the girls, but I found only the same typecasts and harmful ideas as I find in the rest of popular media.