the thoughts and aspirations of a wannabe

Are YOU an American Girl?

In I Laugh in Your General Direction, Just not a fan on October 30, 2010 at 7:03 pm

If you are part of my generation, were brought up in a middle to upper economic class, and are a girl, chances are you owned anywhere between one and eleven American Girl dolls.

I went through a hardcore AG phase from ages 6-12. My first doll, Samantha, was part of the Historical Characters doll collection, so she came with a series of chapter books about life in her time period.

Samantha, an incredibly wealthy white girl from 1904 (friends with Nelly who is nine and works in a New York City factory with the rest of her Irish immigrant family), has since been replaced by a more ethnically-diverse Rebecca, a Russian immigrant from 1914, who is somehow just as rich as Samantha. Though, my mom suggests she might be Jewish.

Then I got Felicity, who was from the Revolutionary War period, along with her horse that I renamed Apple (I think because horses like apples. I was an incredibly innovative child) who came with a saddle, saddle pad, stirrups, reigns, and a water bucket.

Felicity and Samantha became fast friends, no matter that their lifetimes were separated by 200 years. They fought a little for my attention, if I remember correctly. It was difficult for all of us when Samantha was sent to the American Girl Doll Hospital after my chinchilla chewed the fingers on her right hand to little jagged stubs. She came back with a “Get Well Soon” balloon and a hospital gown.

Grace joined the family when I turned eight. She was a “Just Like Me” doll with brown hair and blue eyes who came with Coconut the dog. After that was Kaya, a Nez Pierce Native American from the seventeenth century with an elaborate animal hide tee-pee and battery-operated flickering campfire.

And you can’t forget the Bitty Twins, an adorable set of smiling, Arian-race, blue-eyed, blonde-hair boy and girl. I think American Girl has taken the hint, however, because in 2010, one can now potentially mix and match any combination of brunette Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, or African American babies.

I know this because I just received my annual copy of the American Girl Holiday-edition catalogue, where they splurge a little and send one to anyone who has ever purchased anything from their company.

My mother hand-delivered it to me the other day as I was doing homework in my study, because she knows that even now at age 16, I will drop whatever I’m doing to flip through the glossy pages and scoff at any new additions that I feel have tarnished or contaminated the brand.

And I found several, but there’s one in particular that I would like to discuss.

For $14 plus shipping and handling, your doll can celebrate the benefits of orthodontic well-being with the Healthy Smile Set for Dolls. It includes three sheets of stick-on braces, headgear, retainer, and electric toothbrush.

Still not convinced? Here’s a review from http://www.americangirl.com.

“Well my daughter just had to have this. She really likes the headgear and the tooth brush. She was very unhappy with the retainer…it doesn’t come out of the case and it wouldn’t fit on the dolls mouth even if it did. We haven’t put the stickers on yet, but other reviews say to use a toothpick. Headgear and toothbrush are alot of fun!!! oh but becareful not to snag the dolls hair when putting the headgear on.”

Ooh that pesky retainer… but sounds like her daughter loves it!

“For dolls?”An interesting specification to make. Is American Girl expanding their industry from simple “Dress Like Your Doll” matching clothing and accessories to items of personal hygiene? Or are they simply warning their customers that this is not, in fact, a $14 set of braces for their children?

In any case, I find that this crosses the line. I realize that they’re trying to represent every kind of girl in their products, but this is ridiculous. Their mouths don’t even open; their teeth are painted over a mixture of porcelain and plastic.

Items like this are developing a generation of girls who want two of everything–one for herself, and one for her miniature clone. And now those poor parents of orthodontically-challenged girls are going to have to buy one more set of headgear.

In my day, American Girl products were actually educational. It’s funny, because I think back to these historical books I read at age seven as I’m studying for my AP U.S. History class. I remember that Felicity’s grandfather was a wealthy plantation owner with hundreds of slaves, her friend, Elizabeth was a dirty loyalist, and her father refused to sell tea in his Williamsburg shop when the Brits hiked up the price.

Unfortunately now more than ever, American Girl takes advantage of the materialistic and egotistical “I want my doll to be just like me,” tendencies of young girls. Not to mention, they are becoming almost painfully politically correct. In other words, I’m still a little bitter about Samantha’s discontinuation.

So, please; if your brace-face niece says she wants a matching metal mouth for her doll this Christmas, take the high road and opt for a Selena Gomez CD, instead.

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