The Atlantic posted an article about American Girl dolls and how they're not really considered radical anymore. At first, I read that title and was slightly confused. Radical? I spent most of my childhood pouring over pages of the American Girl catalog and hoping for a doll. Each Christmas I had hoped that Santa would have left me my doll and it wasn't until I was in fourth grade did I receive Samantha. My dad still has the Christmas video. Every Christmas Eve, we would gather at our grandma's house after mass, have dinner, and patiently wait for our parents to allow us into the living room. Grandma had a deal with Santa and he would leave presents for us the day before Christmas. I've talked about my grandmother numerous times here and the impact she had on creating a magical childhood for us. These memories are ones that I always hold dear to me. When we rounded the corner, I found that Samantha doll and I could not stop screaming with sheer, unadulterated joy. I finally had an American Girl doll, someone to have adventures with me. Not just that, but hundreds of dollars of dresses and accessories.
If you were a fan of American Girl growing up, Samantha was the "popular" one. I cannot tell you the amount of Samantha-related items I had as a child. I had a theater computer game and like the entire collection. The only thing I hadn't done or experienced was go to the American Girl Place in Chicago. Last winter, I was home for break and Ryan was deployed so my mom, brother, and I went to Chicago. I toted them through the American Girl Place only to discover that Samantha had been replaced by Rebecca and there were a ton more new characters. Of course, I had not read their storylines or the history behind them, but I was definitely disappointed to see that Samantha had been archived.
In reading The Atlantic's article about the lack radicalism, I think my disappointment is only further cemented. I loved Samantha's character because it was the Victorian era and she was fabulous. She used her privileges in life to help others. After Mattel took over the Pleasant Company, they've replaced the stories with more emphasis on the look-a-like dolls who like to tend butterfly gardens or bake sales to save an art program. What?
At $110, I would want my daughter to be learning about true activism. Not that these doll representations of girls aren't good things, because they are. However, I feel like Mattel has severely watered down the stories. Samantha tackled child labor during the Industrial Revolution. I'm sorry, but tending a butterfly garden is not the same realm. Felicity dealt with societal norms of domesticity when all she wanted to do was wear pants and ride horses. Molly deals with a war (and her doll as well as Emily are still there). Seeing the classics still there gives me some sense of comfort and I hope that they continue with them instead of archiving.
What I also found interesting in reading the comments on the article was that one commenter is a teacher in Latin America. She said that the little girls she teach almost all have a look-a-like doll but their skin shades are actually lighter than their true skin tone. Readers were commenting that selecting your doll in person is like being at a make-up counter. Now these dolls, being expensive, were often a sign of family economic status and privilege. However, that put aside it offered an opportunity for young girls to have a real taste of the perspective of some of the young girls in different time periods. I'm just disappointed to see how it's changing and I'm interested to see how the new stories are developing.