American Girl dolls: the anti-Bratz

posted at 10:21 am on December 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

I’m not sure how I managed to avoid the American Girl doll phenomenon for so long.  I have one son, the Mathemagician, and during his childhood mostly had to contend with Nintendos and Mario Brothers.  (Dolls and figurines might have been a blessed reprieve from that incessant video-game music.)  The Little Admiral hadn’t pulled us into the AG craze, at least not until now, and only last week did I discover that my daughter-in-law has long been a fan of the doll line.  With a visit this week from family, we set out to the new AG store at the Mall of America, where I got to experience the phenomenon first hand.

That’s not to say I went entirely willingly.  The Mathemagician and I actually planned our escape shortly after arriving, but we were warned in no uncertain terms by the First Mate and the DIL that we would … enjoy ourselves, or else.  The Little Admiral was delighted, clearly having the time of her life, and I went through the displays of historical dolls to pass the time while everyone else shopped.

At its base, American Dolls are just like every other marketed toy line — it exists to sell product, and it has lots of product to sell.  They feed the collector impulse by constantly releasing new models and discontinuing certain older ones, and they follow the Gillette model of accessorizing for maximum sales.  To me, that’s neither good nor bad, but simply consumer-driven behavior.  Their success at it is impressive, and their care in presenting it shows a large investment in protecting the model.

Still, one can say the same thing about the Bratz girl dolls, which I’ve criticized sharply for years.  They’re just providing what consumers apparently want, too.  The difference is that the AG makers (now owned by Mattel) have a sense of some responsibility to their patrons.  The regular dolls are pretty much the same as any other, especially the Bitty Baby line, but their historical dolls tell stories of American history, self-assurance, and pioneer spirit.  They get pretty expensive, too, but at least they send a message that serves a far better purpose than the rank and tawdry sexuality of the Bratz line and the self-absorption of Barbie.

I’m always leery of marketing campaigns aimed at children, but at least the American Girls line has redeeming qualities to it.  That’s not to say that I’m going to love shopping at the store, but at least I can add to the Little Admiral’s collection with a clear conscience — and hopefully help teach her some of the values that make this nation great at the same time.

Addendum: I am aware of the controversy that erupted in 2005 over AG’s connection to Girls Inc.  They did some cross-promotional work, which angered conservatives after Girls Inc support for abortion came to light.  Mattel ended that relationship at the end of 2005, and as far as I know, has kept American Girl out of reproductive politics ever since.

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. Also, American Girl pushed a hippie chick doll, one year. Do you want your daughter to emulate that? Not really. Do your research, Ed.

Here’s the wretched, unshowered hippy doll. You might want to take the children out of the room. Compare that with this. Sheesh, its pretty obvious.

vcferlita on December 29, 2008 at 6:46 PM

Okay then….
AG dolls and books and movies are excellent role models and well made(no matter where they’re made.) Barbie may not always be the best role model(although she has improved) but the movies and books are entertaining and harmless. And there is no comparison in the quality. The Bratz dolls’ accessories…car, furniture, etc. are total junk. And what is with those big eyes? Are they aliens in disguise? Or slutty Tender Moments dolls? Are their lips full of collagen? They are more deformed than Barbie, and that’s saying alot.
And hey, my granddaughters are into Polly Pockets and Disney Princess. They got the Polly Pockets race track for Christmas(girls driving race cars, ya gotta love it. LOL)

So lighten up everyone, there are plenty of choices for little girls that provide all kinds of wholesome fun.

Deanna on December 29, 2008 at 7:10 PM

American Girl is not affordably priced for the average American family, especially in this economy. Bratz dolls are. That’s part of the problem. Also, American Girl pushed a hippie chick doll, one year. Do you want your daughter to emulate that? Not really. Do your research, Ed.

Debbie Schlussel on December 29, 2008 at 10:42 AM

Let’s see..go with the more expensive, higher quality, less ‘whore-ish’ item…or just go with the cheap tramp with really bad makeup???

Oh..the irony…..

BigWyo on December 29, 2008 at 7:53 PM

I had to laugh: There keeps being the mention of what this line of dolls cost

I don’t suppose those expensive technology toys that boys get into like PS3’s, Wii’s ect cost just pennies?

Or is that the confusion.. boys toys are expected and worthy, and girls.. well just fluff stuff, “so why does it cost so much?”

Noelie on December 29, 2008 at 2:39

PM

While I don’t know if boys toys are “expected” to be worth more, I can’t help but agree on the fact that they ARE more expensive. Even after you spend the $300 on a PS3 or Wii or XBox (or in some cases all three) the games run $40-$50 each!

Honestly I don’t know what all of the AG brouhaha is about. Girls love them, they are much more wholesome than certain other dolls (not just Bratz) and if parents want to spend that kind of money on the girls fine! I know if I had a daughter I would try really hard to avoid the Bratz craze and if my daughter insisted we would have the talk about the way the line appears to “objectify” women but for crying out loud people THESE ARE TOYS!

Some of you really need to get a grip.

LL

Lady Logician on December 30, 2008 at 12:11 AM

I had to laugh: There keeps being the mention of what this line of dolls cost

I don’t suppose those expensive technology toys that boys get into like PS3’s, Wii’s ect cost just pennies?

Or is that the confusion.. boys toys are expected and worthy, and girls.. well just fluff stuff, “so why does it cost so much?”

Noelie on December 29, 2008 at 2:39

While I don’t know if boys toys are “expected” to be worth more, I can’t help but agree on the fact that they ARE more expensive. Even after you spend the $300 on a PS3 or Wii or XBox (or in some cases all three) the games run $40-$50 each!

Honestly I don’t know what all of the AG brouhaha is about. Girls love them, they are much more wholesome than certain other dolls (not just Bratz) and if parents want to spend that kind of money on the girls fine! I know if I had a daughter I would try really hard to avoid the Bratz craze and if my daughter insisted we would have the talk about the way the line appears to “objectify” women but for crying out loud people THESE ARE TOYS!

Some of you really need to get a grip.

LL

Lady Logician on December 30, 2008 at 12:13 AM

This of course is the same Mattel/Fischer Price, which created the “Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle & Coo” doll, which, unbeknownst to American parents speaks the words, “Islam is the light.” Hm.

http://daledamos.blogspot.com/2008/12/mattels-islam-is-light-doll.html

sinsing on December 29, 2008 at 6:32 PM

Without comment on the other problems you’ve listed (Girls Bill of Rights? Please.), this particular claim has been credibly disputed–sometimes people “mishear” things.

DrMagnolias on December 30, 2008 at 6:37 AM

Without comment on the other problems you’ve listed (Girls Bill of Rights? Please.), this particular claim has been credibly disputed–sometimes people “mishear” things.

The other problems are worth discussing.

Mattel’s “American Girl” Doll associations with Girls Inc., ought to be investigated by parents before they purchase these dolls.

Information about Girls Inc. and homosexual organizations.
Girls Inc. on Girls Sexual Health:

http://www.girlsinc.org/downloads/GirlsandSexualHealth.pdf

Who wrote the “Girls and Sexual Health” tripe for these young girls? The “Infancy” portion of the “Girls and Sexual Health” document is foul. The entire document is not age appropriate for children. Allow parents to decide for themselves. I think they will be shocked to learn that the American Girl Doll is aligned with Girls Inc.

As I mentioned on Page 1, Mattel has been involved in other underhanded endeavors, including it’s association with girlsinc.org, (”I CAN”, bracelet project) through the American Girl doll, which supports lesbianism for little girls.

2005 Article on subject:
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.printable&pageId=32820

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0506247.htm

American Girl teams with pro-abortion, pro-lesbian group

sinsing on December 30, 2008 at 11:43 AM

Sometimes. folks…a toy is just a toy.

Hard to believe that there are no massive political or cultural implications, but it is so.

Sinsing, be sure you don’t buy anything produced by General Foods. One of the company’s vice presidents gave $2,000 to Obama. And Obama supports abortion. So if you buy anything they produce, you are an abortionist.

/sarc
__________

RJGatorEsq. on December 30, 2008 at 4:40 PM

Sinsing, be sure you don’t buy anything produced by General Foods. One of the company’s vice presidents gave $2,000 to Obama. And Obama supports abortion. So if you buy anything they produce, you are an abortionist.

And sometimes a toy is not what it first appears to be, as in this case. Permit parents to decide, after reading the facts. We’re dealing with malleable children here but of course you have a right to buy all the “American Girl” dolls you want for your children, if that pleases you.

Mattel funded Girls, Inc. and that organization appears to have a disturbing history.

Girls Inc. on Girls Sexual Health:
I wonder how parents who purchase the American Girl Doll view the issue after reading this material?

http://www.girlsinc.org/downloads/GirlsandSexualHealth.pdf

sinsing on December 30, 2008 at 8:09 PM

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