Whatever comes to mind: Magic lost for American Girl dolls

Whatever Comes To MindBy George Flynn | Opinions Editor

I remember when my sister got her first American Girl Doll. I was probably 5- or 6-years-old. All week, she would run to the window when she heard tires hit the gravel in front of our lovely childhood home. I remember she ran to the UPS truck as fast as she could. The doll she got was Josefina.

Josefina was not only pretty and had gorgeous clothes, but she had a story. She was from the early 19th century living in New Mexico with her family. She had to deal with tumultuous events in her life that seem quite Lilliputian to my own at the time.  According to the books which discussed Josefina’s life, she had to deal with the death of her mother at a very young age. She had to watch her mother’s sister move in with her.

These ideas of leading such a hard life were so foreign to me, but it made my sister and I respect our lives a little bit more. It helped us realize that we had it relatively easy. That’s a harsh life lesson that is hard to teach any young child. The brand, American Girl, made that lesson and many others easier to comprehend for children.

Dolls like this could teach more than most other childhood toys during the time they were popular. This is how the dolls of this brand stood against the Barbie’s and baby dolls.

I was quite saddened to hear that American Girl was getting rebranded. Certain historic dolls are being placed in the archives. The enchanting dolls are being replaced by dolls which represent the everyday American girl from the present.

According to a Washington Post article by Alexandra Petri, three important dolls have been retired. Samantha, who lived at the turn of the 20th century in New York, will no longer be available. Molly, who witnessed World War II through the eyes of a child, will no longer be able to be purchased at stores again. Colonial Felicity will never have the ability to teach girls about the Revolutionary War either. These dolls are all being sent to the back to let others take over.

A doll that is replacing them is Saige, Girl of the Year 2013. Her story takes place in the present. According to the American Girl website, she has a deep passion for art and horses. According to Petri’s article, she has to deal with the school shutting down the arts programs in school, which means she loses her favorite subject in school. She decides to take matters into her own hands and start a fundraiser.

Although this reflects problems within our American society today, these issues are not comparable to what dolls like Kirsten had to go through.

The pioneer doll, Kirsten, who also happened to be discontinued, had issues larger than the arts program being shut down in school.

According to Petri’s article, she had someone close to her die of Cholera. She had to undergo harsh weather like snow storms and hot summers without air conditioning. She helped girls with air conditioning and heated homes realize they had it much better than she. I don’t believe Saige will be able to teach girls on the same level that Kirsten and the other dolls were able to do.

American Girl Dolls are just not what they used to be. It is understandable that things must evolve over time to stay afloat within such an industry, but it is difficult to see why the brand has taken this strange turn.

The dolls have so much to offer real life American girls. Hopefully, the surviving historical American girls will live through this transformation. If not, then the brand will only offer dolls that are just like the girls that are playing with them.

If they discontinue the dolls of the past, then they will give up their unique characteristic as the brand that teaches more than beauty. I would hate to be old and gray and view American Girl Dolls as an equivalent to Barbie. Sure, Barbie is a strong and influential figure, but doesn’t represent the values American Girl once established.

George Flynn is a senior English major and can be reached at flynng@duq.edu.

1 Comment

  1. I love American Girl Dolls! I had two growing up as a girl. My first doll was Kirsten and my second was Kit. I used to read all of the books that corresponded with the different dolls and different time periods in history. To my surprise and delight my cousin Joselyn, who is 7, is becoming interested in them now along with her friends. She loves reading the books and has asked for the Felicity doll for Christmas! This is one of the original American Girls. While the brand is changing and becoming more modern, they still have dolls with great stories and history. I am so glad to see that my cousin values the classic dolls with more character and more history rather than the newer ones. Great article Georgie!

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