Tuesday, January 10, 2006

American Girl

American Girl's newest doll is half-Irish, half-Japanese. Her name is Jess, and the story takes place in Belize where her parents work as archaeologists. First, thumbs up for an Asian doll, finally!! Thumbs down, why couldn't they have made a full-blooded Asian and talked about her heritage?

I used to be a big fan of American Girl when it was just Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly. I thought the stories were enchanting, and the whole company really captured certain periods of American history. Then the company just exploded and began introducing doll after doll. Felicity. Addie. Kit. Josefina. Kaya. The stories were not as tightly woven together, and it seemed that the company was trying to fill some kind of void. Fill some kind of void it did...it became a national symbol for girls all over the country and an instant fad. American Girl began opening stores to accommodate its mail order business, and revenues started pouring in. Girls would drag their parents and dolls to have tea in the store with up to three hour waiting periods for a table. They would pick out new matching outfits and send their dolls to the doll salon conveniently available on location. And in their eyes, it was pure magic.

It is still magic, but as I am older and hopefully somewhat wiser, I am somewhat jaded by the entire process. It started when they introduced Addy, an attempt to delve into the life of African-Americans. It continued with Josefina with a story about Latinos and their life in the United States. They introduced more dolls, but not one of them were Asian. Even their Just like You doll collection specifically geared towards buying dolls that looked like the customer herself only had two Asian choices. Neither of the choices were particularly spectacular; they indeed were truly stereotypical in what an Asian looks like.

Then in 2005, they introduced their girl of the year, Marisol, who suspiciously looked like JLo as Jenny from the block. A lot of controversy ensued over the story as it detailed flight from the city into the suburbs. Still, it was a hit. Now, in 2006, they are introducing Jess, who is detailed as having almond-shaped eyes and loose braids. Please. Almond-shaped eyes are the most stereotypical Asian comment ever. Not only that, but the story is about her living in Belize! Basically, it is a story about your everyday American girl living abroad! I wish they had a full-blooded Asian doll on the role of Asians in United States history instead of this seemingly cop-out to attract Asian kids.

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