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I'm a Samantha... err, you know what I mean
May 11, 2011 7:49 AM   Subscribe

What Your American Girl doll Says About the Rest of your Life
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (107 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Hairpin always wins. 251 comments? There goes my morning...
posted by hermitosis at 7:51 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This:

You grew up to be financially independent, level-headed, unspoiled, and still just a little bit resentful whenever you walk by American Girl Place

sums me up pretty well. But I don't even just walk by, I walk IN and look around and cry bitter tears over my lost youth. Not really. Maybe a little.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


That is SUCH a Samantha thing to say...
posted by hermitosis at 7:59 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


i didn't know these things were around for 25 years. i would've been 10 when they came out, but have never heard of them until i passed a store in a mall a couple years ago, and passed it off as some new yuppie kid trend.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:59 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember reading the books, but even at 12 I knew that $80 was waaaaay too much for a doll. I loved looking at the catalog, though.
posted by maryr at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


My parents saved up to get me a Kirsten doll when I was a kid (I have a Swedish/Norwegian heritage), but I think I always secretly wanted the Felicity doll.
posted by muddgirl at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2011


(I totally had a first generation Cabbage Patch Kid who looked like me and was named Verna Candy, though, so there's no bitterness.)
posted by maryr at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2011


Someone tell Ebert we've got his answer
posted by fullerine at 8:04 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I read the books, but never had any inclination to own one of the dolls.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:04 AM on May 11, 2011


but have never heard of them until i passed a store in a mall a couple years ago, and passed it off as some new yuppie kid trend.

You were absolutely right to do so.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:05 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You grew up to be financially independent, level-headed, unspoiled, and still just a little bit resentful whenever you walk by American Girl Place Cabbage Patch Kids

These weird, ugly, squish-faced dolls were the American Girls of my generation and apparently they're still around and selling for $200! I am secretly proud and resentful that my parents didn't buy me one. I'm just resentful that they got me Simon instead of the Atari I asked for. Christmas 1981...still a sore point.
posted by victoriab at 8:05 AM on May 11, 2011


Having flashbacks to the days when I worked as an historical interpreter at Colonial Wiliamsburg and there was a constant parade of girls with their Felicity dolls.

One of my co-workers wrote a saucy sequel called Felicity Grows Up.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:06 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


but have never heard of them until i passed a store in a mall a couple years ago

Yeah, I never heard of these until last year when a coworker got the catalog in the mail for her daughter. Dolls never really interested me as a kid except as the brave and partially-melted astronauts in my backyard space program, and those were all secondhand Barbies.
posted by elizardbits at 8:08 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I dread the scars I unavoidably shall be forced to leave on my soon-to-be-daughter over this kind of thing. I doubt the grandparents will have the restraint in *not* forcing us down one of these routes.

Actually, I'm going to spam the grandmothers and grand-aunts with this now so as to explicitly state how important a decision as to the type of scarring they are about to cause my daughter-to-be. Seriously.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:12 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I buy this analysis because I'm like 75% sure my wife, who loves harassing the Historic Williamsburg reenactors(sorry Rarebit) was a Felicity fan.

Of course now I'll probably get home and find out that I'm wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:12 AM on May 11, 2011


I had a Cabbage Patch Kid doll name Racie. Or I guess "have," since my mom shipped me all the crap she's been keeping in storage since I left for college, and there's a box with both Racey and Kirsten in it. I guess I had a terribly spoiled childhood, or something (except not really - they're just dolls).
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on May 11, 2011


I never heard of them until I have a daughter - guess I have a Felicity. There are worse influences for a NYC kid then spunky girls who love their families and pets and who learn important lessons about friendship.

The Harry Potter switch went off about eight weeks ago, however, and I might end up with the only eight year old girl who plays D&D instead of planning trips to CW.
posted by shothotbot at 8:13 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rarebit: GO ON...
posted by leotrotsky at 8:13 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I loved the books but I had no doll. If I weren't so oblivious to my surroundings I would totally walk resentfully by every American Girl store. I'm so glad my mom didn't buy me a doll, though. Because looking at them now -- they're all so freaky looking!
posted by moonshine at 8:14 AM on May 11, 2011


You therefore grew up to be confidant, capable, and nonplussed. You've always been well liked. You aren’t the funniest in your group, but you’ve never really noticed or cared.

This depresses me because EVEN THOUGH I had a Samantha (because she had the same color hair I did I didn't turn out confident or capable and there are TONS of people who don't like me which means that just imagine how badly off I'd be if I hadn't had one! On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I'm funny.

I wonder if the difference is that in some ways Samantha and I had grandmothers with similar superficial characteristics but while her super-WASPy grandmother was a good person, mine was, um, challenging. I love my grandmother, but she was a difficult woman.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:14 AM on May 11, 2011


The worst thing about the American Girl dolls (and living in a town where we have an American Girl store) is the radio commercials.

-Hey girls!
-Who's there?
-It's me, guess where!
-In a boat, up a tree?
-Take a look, find me!

(This is a lot more annoying when you actually hear it.)
posted by litnerd at 8:15 AM on May 11, 2011


I buy this analysis because I'm like 75% sure my wife, who loves harassing the Historic Williamsburg reenactors(sorry Rarebit) was a Felicity fan.

Of course now I'll probably get home and find out that I'm wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:12 AM on May 11 [+] [!]


HAH! You didn't even have to wait until you got home! Also it's NOT harassing, I just want to know everything about, for example, barrel making in case I decide to be a cooper. Or start a forge. Or become an apothecary.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:16 AM on May 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


If you were white, and had Addy, it was because your progressive parents were trying to encourage broad world-views in a market saturated with white dolls.

I'm pretty sure I was the only girl, of any race, in my relatively-diverse grade school with an Addy doll. At the time, I just liked her character the best, and didn't think twice about my choice. But in retrospect, it makes me wonder why I was the only one who felt this way. Maybe I'm just over-thinking this. Maybe.
posted by genekelly'srollerskates at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Whatever superficial motivation led you to choose Kirsten, you quickly learned that life as a Swedish immigrant in Minnesota is not all lingonberry pie and ice fishing. Not halfway through the first book does Kirsten's best friend Marta die suddenly and tragically of cholera. This was shocking and horrifying. Obviously, you were used to cholera deaths (this being the age of Oregon Trail), but this time it was different."

Kirsten was the most hardcore. There were all sorts of awesome and terrifying stuff in her books; your best friend dying, bears attacking people, swarms of bees, finding an old trapper frozen to death in a cave, falling into the frozen river while ice skating, barns burning down, communicating in secret with a Native American girl. Kirsten was a BAMF.
posted by Nixy at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, people who had the Molly doll became Daria fans in their teen years? Based on a representative sample of one, me, that seems about right.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I dread the scars I unavoidably shall be forced to leave on my soon-to-be-daughter over this kind of thing. I doubt the grandparents will have the restraint in *not* forcing us down one of these routes.

I just said on Facebook that I am too old to have had an American Girl doll, but if I were young enough to have wanted one, I'd have grown up into the "resentful because your parents refused to spend $80 on a toy for you, but then happily turned around and bought one for your own daughter 20 years later." Because that's how my parents roll with the grandchildren.

I bought my daughter a Karito Kids doll (warning: auto-plays music) a couple of years ago instead. They're also very high-quality dolls but don't have the marketing juggernaut behind them. They are a little thinner and taller than the AG dolls, so AG doll clothes from Etsy are too big in the waist and a little short. Shirts and skirts work OK, but pants are floods. Karito kids have a wider variety of ethnicities and are contemporary girls living in various parts of the world.

My daughter is not interested in her doll. Maybe someday. Or maybe not.
posted by not that girl at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2011


If these things have been around 25 years, they should hire someone (ME) to write novels about the Girls' adult lives, sort of like the new Sweet Valley High sequel.

Imagine the horror stories they'd each have to tell.
posted by hermitosis at 8:21 AM on May 11, 2011


I got a Samantha doll for my sixth birthday, my only (and best) present. I wanted her because she was a super rich orphan who lived in a mansion and ate petit fours on her birthday and wore fancy dresses. Bitch was livin' the dream.

Life with me was a step down for Samantha. She wore old baby dresses and slept in a wooden doll bed purchased at a flea market. Most of the time she went barefoot. But I like to think she's stronger for the experience.
posted by castlebravo at 8:21 AM on May 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


So it's Felicity that explains how I managed to get tricked into getting a PhD in history...
posted by besonders at 8:23 AM on May 11, 2011


I dread the scars I unavoidably shall be forced to leave on my soon-to-be-daughter over this kind of thing. I doubt the grandparents will have the restraint in *not* forcing us down one of these routes.

On a more serious note, I really do like American Girl dolls and one of the reasons is that they really look like little girls; they are shaped like many kids are shaped (just a bit pudgy) and their clothes are period-appropriate little girl clothes. It's neat to have a doll that actually looks like you and not like grown-ups, and the books and activity kits and stuff are good times. Yes, they are expensive but they are well-made (my son or daughter will get my Samantha someday). I can respect objecting to the price tag and the potential for jealousy, but I think American Girl dolls are pretty healthy as childhood cultural phenomena go.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:23 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


At the time, I just liked her character the best, and didn't think twice about my choice.

No, Addy was straight-up awesome - all the girls were in one way or another (umm... I don't remember anything about Samantha - I don't think I liked her very much).

I should re-read my books. I totally forgot the scene in the first book where the overseer is cruel to Addy and makes her eat tobacco worms.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2011


Felicity was so awesome when I was wee (I wanted to have a me-sized version of the blue dress SO BADLY) and I even had one of the dolls that is supposed to look like you (which came close except for the eye color).

I've heard that since they were bought by Mattel (IIRC) that the quality of the dolls and their accessories has gone down a lot, which is a shame. (Felicity did have a trip to the doll hospital that my parents even had her ring the doorbell and come knock on my bedroom door after an incident where I pissed off my brother and so Felicity lost an arm.)
posted by sperose at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2011


castlebravo - I think the important key there is that you had the expensive doll and your parents let you play with her. I think protecting the investment or collection is of the big dangers with the American Girls dolls. Unlike the characters, I don't think most of them get to have adventures.
posted by maryr at 8:27 AM on May 11, 2011


Uh, I had like... 6 American Girl dolls. I also had the horse. Don't hate me.

However, while I had some official accessories and clothes, I made most of their stuff from cut up fabric and ribbon scraps. And most of the time, they were supposed to be members of nomadic tribes and also, wizards. So I don't feel like I was being stifled by consumerism or whatever.
posted by MadamM at 8:27 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


My daughter got Molly as a Christmas present from my parents "because she's never really asked us for anything," my (usually most frugal) mother explained. My daughter chose Molly because she was the only one none of her friends had yet. (Neither Addy nor the "create your own" dolls were available yet.) As a homeschooled kid she had plenty of time to play with her friends and theirs, plus rabidly devour all the books as they came out. Plus save up from recycling bottles and cans enough money to invite Felicity to join the gang. Is she a combo Molly/Felicity? I know, these things are almost as silly as astrology, which invites readers to find something "true" under their signs predictions. But yeah, she wears glasses--now, not back then--which are always much more stylish than mine, gets good haircuts, is financially independent, smart, funny and rather sarcastic. And her girls and their things were lovingly packed away when she went off to college seven or so (that long!) years ago. I know because the boxes are still in our house.

P.S. I started receiving the AG catalogue in the mail way before my real girl was big enough for dolls like that, just because I was on variable mail-order lists from buying *then otherwaise unavailable* cotton baby clothes and wool diaper covers, etc. and my first reaction was "$80! No way!" Yeah, that's what you thought, Mom.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:29 AM on May 11, 2011


I think protecting the investment or collection is of the big dangers with the American Girls dolls. Unlike the characters, I don't think most of them get to have adventures.

Well I dont know shit about dolls, but that seems pretty stupid.
posted by shothotbot at 8:30 AM on May 11, 2011


I was exactly the right age for American Girl dolls — all my friends had them, and some of my friends had two (which always made young me very sad). I loved my Samantha doll. I don't remember begging for one — I must have gotten it when I was eight or so — but I remember flipping obsessively through the catalogs and begging my mom for more accessories, more dolls. I never got them: my mom bought me some kind of imitation American Girl accessories (my Samantha wardrobe was pink and plastic — very non-Victorian). I think the only thing she sprung for in the whole American Girl shebang was the doll itself. But I loved the hell out of that doll, despite her inauthentic accessories and the fact that her hair quickly ballooned to a messy frizz thanks to one-too-many “hairstyling” sessions. I kind of resent the idea that American Girl dolls were only something received by very spoiled children — yes, $80 is a significant investment, and I (like many others) would have survived just fine without my Samantha, but having my Samantha, or reading the Molly books (I'm pretty sure Molly was the #2 I begged for, at least until Josefina came out, because I loved her adobe house) was magical in its own way, at least for an eight-year-old. It felt like a little more than a fad to me.

Of course, American Girl is still, in many ways, an evil, money-grubbing corporation. But it doesn't mean they didn't make some parts of my childhood a little more fun — although a lot of that experience came through checking out the books from the library, not just Samantha.

On preview: I think the important key there is that you had the expensive doll and your parents let you play with her.

I don't know. All the American Girl dolls I knew of were being played with. That was kind of the point. And I knew of a lot of girls with these dolls — I never saw one parent buying them with the idea that they'd be sitting on a shelf. Every American Girl doll I ever saw was having a wild adventure, and if you read the Hairpin comments, a lot of the people up there were like me — screwing up the perfect hair of their doll, sleeping with them, or, um, chopping off the hair.... Point is, a parent who bought an American Girl doll to “protect the investment” was (a) kind of missing the point, and (b) a rare unicorn in the world of parents who bought American Girl dolls.

I can't believe I just wrote that much about American Girls.
posted by good day merlock at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, Addy was straight-up awesome - all the girls were in one way or another (umm... I don't remember anything about Samantha - I don't think I liked her very much).

That's because all of Samantha's adventures involved teaching her underprivileged friends to paint in the attic of her grandmother's huge mansion, and orchestrating her Aunt Cornelia's falling in love with some guy, and like, taking luxurious vacations to beachside resorts to paint some more, count her money and harass the servants.
posted by Nixy at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, my daughter thought Addy was really cool and had the best clothes. Two dolls was (more than) enough, but she did get one of Addy's dresses in both her and doll's sizes. I think she even wore hers a few times before her pet rat pulled some of it through her cage and chewed in into unwearability. My younger children were protected from such vicissitudes, spending much more time on the internet than playing with dolls and rats. And they're boys, too.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:32 AM on May 11, 2011


That's because all of Samantha's adventures involved teaching her underprivileged friends to paint in the attic of her grandmother's huge mansion

She wasn't teaching them! She was hiding them after springing them from the orphanage! And then (SPOILER ALERT) her aunt and uncle were like, hey, let's adopt them. Why did they have to get all the way to the orphanage before they thought of that???
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:34 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, my daughter thought Addy was really cool and had the best clothes.

Did she play with the gourd?
posted by hermitosis at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2011


Ok, I had a Samantha, totally because she had the best accessories. I never actually got those awesome accessories, because my parents weren't completely stupid about spending ridiculous money. I remember actually going through the American Girls catalog and making a list of all the stuff I wanted and adding up the cost and ending up with some astronomical price.

For the record, "You therefore grew up to be confidant, capable, and nonplussed. You've always been well liked. You aren’t the funniest in your group, but you’ve never really noticed or cared." is probably pretty close to true, except for the always being well-liked part.

Besides Samantha, Kirsten was my other favorite. She was hardcore.
posted by threeturtles at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2011


I was probably more of a Molly sort, but I had Samantha because (a) she had the coolest stuff, and (b) 1940's stuff was way too similar to our real life already.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


My American Girl doll says that I will forever be alone. I really wish it would stop saying that.
posted by orme at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hoped this was about the current line of American Girl dolls, so I'd know what to expect for my niece who is fascinated by everything American Girl. Currently, she's raising Kit, and after rescuing Molly from an antique store, now she's hunting for Felicity. I dunno, does this mean she'll grow up to be Angelina Jolie?

My niece definitely plays with them. She takes them everywhere. And she's totally absorbed in their backstories. She probably has a clearer idea of the Great Depression/WWII period than anyone else in her class.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2011


who loves harassing the Historic Williamsburg reenactors

When I was 11, my parents got the Governor's Pass for the family, which meant we had to endure several Colonial Williamsburg trips over the course of the year. There's only so much barrel making a young boy can take, but hey, it was worth it to see all the muskets and blackpowder rifles firing. Seizing on that as a way to keep me from complaining the whole time, my folks bought me a really snazzy double barreled flintlock pistol replica under the condition that I refrain from bringing it into the park.

Eff that!

So I smuggled it into the park in giant front pocket of my Ocean Pacific sweatshirt. I'm sure Freud would have something to say about the sense of well-being and contentedness I felt secret hefting my weapon. My folks certainly had something to say when I revealed my illicit weaponry. I'm sorry, but the fourth time the damn cooper threatens to buy you as an apprentice from your parents is just too much to take.

"Haw, haw," says Dad, "Sure, you can have him!"
"Yes, please take him!" chimes in Mom.
"Well, then, come here...," says the barrel maker.
"YOU'RE NOT TAKING ME ANYWHERE," screams the 11 year old who is now waving a gun around. "EVERYBODY ON THE FLOOR! I'M A HIGHWAYMAN NOW!"

I wonder if I'm allowed back in the park yet?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:41 AM on May 11, 2011 [47 favorites]


When my daughter was first immersed in playing with her dolls and her friends and theirs, her next youngest brother, 3 years apart, expressed interest in having an "American Boy" doll. Probably in part because his and his sister's temperaments were so different--she loved games and puzzles and reading, he liked to dress-up, draw, and think about explosions and Star Wars, this before the original trilogy was re-released on VHS, mind you--and he wanted something he could play with her. So she wrote to AG suggesting they add a "Boy" doll, kind of like in Little Women. They wrote back saying they had thought about it and decided they would restrict their world to American Girls. Oh well, sorry boys.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2011


[Samantha] ate petit fours on her birthday

OMG, so that's where I got my obsession with petit fours!

And I remember when Addy came out. I really enjoyed her books. But I think I enjoyed all the books except for Molly's. I never liked Molly for some reason.
posted by threeturtles at 8:44 AM on May 11, 2011


What Your American Girl doll Says About the Rest of your Life

My lack of one says I'm an ancient crone who was too old to have an American Girl Doll.
posted by orange swan at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


No Josefina?? I fondly remember Josefina as the first AG doll to not have bangs. Also, she came wearing a very pretty (fake) gold necklace. The combination of no bangs + pretty accessories made her win out over Molly, who looked more like me and came from a time period I was more interested in. Looking back, I now recognize the creepy Manifest Destiny undertone in counting her as an "American Girl" when America hadn't seized her part of Mexico yet.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:16 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where's Josefina in all this? Being Latin American she was my favorite, now I feel left out :( (although I also had Samantha and Kirsten...I was much too spoiled growing up)
posted by Papagayo at 9:18 AM on May 11, 2011


Wait... scratch that. Addy also didn't have bangs. Josefina just had more realistic-looking eyebrows than the others.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:18 AM on May 11, 2011


If you had Molly, you probably wanted Samantha instead, but contented yourself with Molly because you too wore glasses, liked books, were bad at math, and would concoct various schemes to get attention. (Oh, Molly.) If you were a Molly, and had a Molly (as opposed to being a Molly and aspirationally owning a Felicity), you were imbued, then and now, with an immutable sense of self. At least Molly could tap dance, which is frankly more talent than any of the other girls exhibited.

As an adult, you’ve developed a carefully honed aptitude for sarcasm. You've gotten contacts, and a slightly edgy haircut. You still sort of want attention, but you deny it. You’ve thought back on your American Girl Doll, and tried not to be too resentful towards the person who gave her to you, who so obviously associated you with the descriptor “mousy.”
As a sort-of Molly doll owner, this fills me with rage (warning: I have not yet had coffee today).

I loved Molly, utterly and completely, from the moment we got that first goddamned catalog in the mail. This was the original Pleasant Company era, when there were only three dolls--I probably would have fallen for Felicity otherwise (because she cross-dresses to ride horses at night, which is even cooler). But anyway, I loved her striped pajamas, her patriotic tap dance outfit, her bomb shelters, her British friend, her little tiny copy of Nancy Drew mysteries. I loved that she was not quite modern. I ate up all of her books. I knew that eight times seven was fifty six even before I knew my times tables because that's the math problem that Molly gets wrong in Molly Learns a Lesson and I used to try to swim across the entire public pool holding my breath because Molly does that in the lake at her camp in Molly Saves the Day.

I was a spunky girl, and I never looked at her and saw a dork--I saw a kindred spirit, someone lively and bright and driven. Molly made me want glasses long before I ever needed them. Molly made me want to tap dance. Molly made victory gardens and visiting war orphans sound almost fun. God, was I in love with the idea of that little girl.

But we were poor, and my parents couldn't afford an eighty dollar doll. Nowadays, you can buy American Girl knock-offs at Target. Back then, all my mom could do was special order a doll of the right size from a doll store, and buy little dolly glasses, and braid her hair, and hand sew her clothes. They gave me my Molly doll on Christmas morning. I was six. I hugged her and loved her so much. But by the next morning, I realized something was wrong. I squinted down at her little face. I'd poured over those catalogs enough to know what she was supposed to look like. But my Molly's cheeks were a little rounder, her face a bit more babyish.

My parents lied to me--it was an old version of the Molly doll they'd gotten on sale. I dutifully repeated that to my friends (and probably looked a bit foolish, but oh well). It would be years before I knew the truth.

Didn't matter. I was convinced enough. Me and Molly loved each other, you see? We went on adventures. I used to climb around under our deck--"fossil hunting" for old broken bottles. Molly went, too, in her little corduroy pants and sweater, my mom's version of her "after school outfit." We got dirty. We had adventures.

(Years later, my friends and I started "an American Girl Doll" club where we'd collect dues and . . . well, I don't really remember what we did. Crafts, maybe? That same year, I'd saved up enough birthday money from my grandparents for a second doll. I bought Kirsten, because I'd recently read one of her books, and no one in the club had her. I honestly regret it. She's kind of . . . enduring, long-suffering, but not much fun. She sat on my dresser, looking Scandanavian; I think Felicity and Molly would have made better friends.)

Anyway, eff you writer. I never wanted that prissy Samantha with her prissy furs. All the girls I knew who had Samantha let her hair go all matty. What were they, waiting for some servant to brush it? Me and Molly went around with our sensible haircuts (her, in braids, me, with my hair cut boyishly short) and had all sorts of adventures in the bomb shelter I made between the couch cushions. And I never for a moment resented my mother for giving her to me. The shocking truth about my Molly doll only made her that much more special, imbued with love. It's the kind of thing that even Grandmary Parkington's money can't buy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:25 AM on May 11, 2011 [32 favorites]


Where's Josefina in all this?

Yeah, Josefina was part of the "new class," and therefore probably aged a bit younger than Hairpin's writers.

Anyway, eff you writer.

I think maybe you are taking a light-hearted self-analysis a little too seriously.
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on May 11, 2011


I think maybe you are taking a light-hearted self-analysis a little too seriously.

It's because I still want attention, but deny it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


But, seriously, dolls are serious--that was the whole point of the early Pleasant Company. Their dolls weren't just meant to be babies, but peers, friends. Companions. The tongue-in-cheek message of this whole thing is that little girls all always aspire to be the rich popular chick. And that anything else is just jealous-laden settling.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


is that little girls all always aspire to be the rich popular chick

Well, just the nerdy little girls. The self-sufficient ones and the red-heads don't.

Disclaimer: I closely self-identified with Molly the most (except for her hatred of math). My adoration of Kirsten and Felicity was purely aspirational.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2011


I was a little too old for the original Pleasant Company Dolls when they came out, but young enough to appreciate the idea. I probably would have gone for Molly simply because...um, I like the name "Molly".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2011


They wrote back saying they had thought about it and decided they would restrict their world to American Girls. Oh well, sorry boys.

They do have a boy doll now, but not part of the historical series: Bitty Twins. Which I totally want to get for my boy-girl twins, but "Little Britain" may have ruined the word "bitty" for me.
posted by candyland at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had Molly. My grandma chose her for me because Molly's time period was the one that most closely resembled my grandma's. I read all the books, for all the girls, though. Addy was my favorite. (Though Molly had the best clothes of the original four (five if you coun't Addy)--she's the ONLY one in separates!)

A friend of mine's mom was OBSESSED with American Girl, and bought every doll and every accessory for my friend and her sister (beds, birthday sets, etc, etc). They had a room in their house that was 100% devoted to American Girl. Say what you will about AG, but having had the chance to sample their whole catalog, they do make some fun (and actually, really high quality) toys.
posted by phunniemee at 9:42 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a 1970s doll now?!
posted by kidsleepy at 9:44 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a girl I bought my Samantha doll with my own money. Soon after, I realized I only really wanted her because she had lavish furniture, outfits and accessories. My very first buyer's remorse!

I loved Samantha's books though. I vividly remember stuff like the tin can telephone through the hedge, peppermint ice cream and lemonade on her birthday, the fancypants doll pram, pressing flowers. Bloomers! I was a bit of a tomboy and my dad was always chewing me out for not being ladylike, so I could relate when Samantha was scolded by Grandmary for climbing trees and harassing that obnoxious neighbor boy. My parents were a bit older than my peers' parents, so the clashing generations issue came up frequently for me. I longed for my own Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia to whisk me away on fun adventures.

I'm genuinely sad when people put Samantha down. Okay, so she didn't escape slavery or anything, but she had a big heart. It's not like she was the stingy rich one; she was a kid and that's the hand she was dealt. Oh, and thinking about Samantha giving her doll to Nellie is making me a little misty-eyed now.

Personality assessment is all wrong for me though. I'm neither confident, nor very capable. Also, I know what "nonplussed" means.
posted by giraffe at 9:45 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I vividly remember stuff like the tin can telephone through the hedge, peppermint ice cream and lemonade on her birthday

Yeah, I have vivid memories of Samantha's birthday meal, too. Didn't some boy put salt in their ice cream?

Sorry I dissed Samantha, giraffe. I just get tired of the inevitable "Molly was a dorky dork dork" hate. It's not like she was Karen Brewer!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:47 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey now, Karen Brewer was ULTRA-SPECIAL, because she was a Two-Two!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a 1970s doll now?!

And apparently Samantha's been replaced with a Jewish girl who is into theater!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2011


There's a 1970s doll now?!

An American Girl who lives in 1970's-era San Francisco? Who wants to bet that the mere existence of gay people is never mentioned in that entire series, not even in the historical notes at the end of each book?

Also, another blonde girl? Aren't there three of those now? Would it kill them to introduce an Asian-American character? And when will they come out with another black AG, maybe one from 1954? Just sayin'...
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:54 AM on May 11, 2011


Good of them to assume that everyone's family was affluent enough to spend $80 and they merely decided against it out of logic.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would it kill them to introduce an Asian-American character?

1970s girl has an Asian best friend!
posted by kidsleepy at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2011


There's a 1970s doll now?!


*pulls up page*

*stares for an uncomfortably long time*

....I was a kid in the 1970's. I actually wore clothing that looks exactly like a lot of that doll's clothing, for real.

....Well, I suppose that if my niece gets into the 1970's American Girl doll, it'll make it really easy to do the whole "you can dress just like your doll yourself!" thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2011


I've teared up more than once reading the books to my daughters.

Did I just say that out loud?
posted by TheShadowKnows at 10:01 AM on May 11, 2011


1970s girl has an Asian best friend!

Oh, that doesn't count.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 10:01 AM on May 11, 2011


PhoBWanKenobi: "Sorry I dissed Samantha, giraffe. I just get tired of the inevitable "Molly was a dorky dork dork" hate. It's not like she was Karen Brewer!"

Yeah, I think the "Molly is for kids who know someone who already has a Samantha" prejudice hurts everyone.

And let's be honest - every girl and most grown women covet Molly's striped pajamas.
posted by giraffe at 10:03 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


My kids' American Girl dolls say, about me, that I am the kind of parent who will buy them things that I really wanted but was too poor to have, or in this case both too poor and a little too old anyway, but I really like dolls a lot and kind of wanted one when they came out even though I was in high school.

And their frequent trips to the American Girl store say something similar. That place is my secret favorite place on earth.

I actually really love how my girls play with their AG dolls--a mixture of pretend play, of "tiny best friends who accompany us everywhere", of willing models for their first attempts at sewing and knitting.
posted by padraigin at 10:03 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


*after more browsing*

...And I had a banana bike as well. With the plastic basket with the daisys on it and the streamers.

Jesus, I really am old enough to have lived through An Official American Girls Historic Era, aren't I?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:07 AM on May 11, 2011


I didn't have one and I totally wanted Kirsten because of the Lucia Day outfit. I was raised by Minnesotans who are categorically No Fun Whatsoever.

And it's totally right about the seething resentment continuing way past any kind of reasonable age.
posted by sonika at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The fact that I can forward this to my very awesome adult daughter (she also chose Molly) has made my day.

[+]

Thanks, TPS!
posted by Danf at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2011


Hey now, Karen Brewer was ULTRA-SPECIAL, because she was a Two-Two!

It occurs to me that American Girl should totally adopt Karen Brewer, and then they could sell a whole line of products based on her "two-two"ness. She needs two beds, two sets of clothes, two best friends, two pets......
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:18 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


American Girl dolls have a very special place in my heart. I discovered the franchise at age 7 and fell in love. I read all of the books, subscribed to the catalog and the American Girl Magazine (with the super-cool historical paper dolls based on real girls *just like me*), and attended all of the American Girl-themed tea parties and events that our local library held.

I remember when Addy, the African American doll who grew up in the 1860s, was introduced. My mom and dad and I were so excited because, as the Hairpin description indicates, we were all painfully aware of the lack of diversity in the children's toy arena. As a black girl growing up in the early 90s, most of my dolls were either white or white-painted-brown. They all had straight, silky long hair, tiny noses and thin lips. None of them looked like me.

But Addy was different. Her hair was thick and coarse. Her nose was broad. Her skin was my skin tone, not just some weird shade of beige-brown. Most importantly, as I read her books, I could identify with her history. Her story was the story of my great-great-grandmother, the stories my grandmother told me to help me remember where I came from. Reading those books, I learned to be proud of my history and my heritage.

Because I grew up in a predominately white area, Black History Month was barely a blip on the radar. The teachers paid lip service to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and basically called it a day. But the Addy books went more in-depth into the horrors of slavery and the grand efforts of abolitionists than any of my history books ever did.

It's very easy to dismiss the AG doll franchise as 'overpriced Barbies' or a 'yuppie trend' and for some girls and their families, it is. But for me, and thousands of other black, Hispanic, and Native American girls, it was the first time we were able to see ourselves and our stories in the mainstream. The American Girl books were sort of like the "Degrassi" of children's literature: they "went there". They dealt with really heavy issues: slavery, death, war, social inequality...the list goes on. I will never *never* forget the way I felt when I read the depiction of Addy being forced by her overseer to eat caterpillars (or some sort of bug) in her first book, "Meet Addy". It still makes me gag, to this day. That shit was real, son.


I didn't end up getting a doll until I was a little bit older. I knew my family couldn't afford one, but they surprised me on Christmas morning 1995 with a beautiful Addy doll. I wish I had taken care of her better. Her hair is matted from being lovingly brushed and braided for years. Her face has some scratches and her dress could use a washing. She is one of the few relics left of my childhood and I treasure her. If I am fortunate enough to have children, I hope to pass her down to them. I want to sit down with them and read the books together and discuss the complicated history of our nation and our people.
posted by chara at 10:27 AM on May 11, 2011 [34 favorites]


I will never *never* forget the way I felt when I read the depiction of Addy being forced by her overseer to eat caterpillars (or some sort of bug) in her first book

Tobacco worm. Yick.

I have to say, the books were really marvels of effective children's literature.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:35 AM on May 11, 2011


I never owned a doll OR read the books. I only received the catalogue in the mail. But I remember thinking Kirsten's snowshoes were piiiiiiiiiiiiiiimp.

I was too busy waging war on my brother's bedroom with a large and aggressive militia of My Little Ponies, anyway.
posted by daisystomper at 10:40 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a lot of American Girl dolls. Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Josefina, and a "Make Your Own" doll with blonde hair, brown eyes, and freckles.

I think this would suggest that I turned out to be an entitled neoliberal who really likes dresses. I guess that sounds about right. Thanks, AG dolls!
posted by munyeca at 10:43 AM on May 11, 2011


Holy shit, PhoBWanKenobi, thank you for your brilliant Molly defense.

When I was really little, maybe 5 or 6, my mom bought herself Molly and bought Kirsten for me because I had blond hair. As soon as the box was opened and I saw Molly, that was it. I picked her up and didn't put her down for the rest of my childhood. I've always felt a little bad for hurting Kirsten's feelings, but Molly and I were TIGHT. The American girl dolls actually did things, and as a kid, I loved that. They rescued orphans and horses and went to summer camp. With Barbie, boys and clothes were the focus, but American Girl dolls were all about the adventures.

And the books! I think they introduced me to a lot of difficult topics, like slavery, war, and animal cruelty, in a very effective, age-appropriate way.
posted by mmmbacon at 10:46 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never had a doll. I never liked dolls. But I was given Kirsten books by a number of people because Kirsten is my name, and of course such a celestial coincidence was impossible to pass up. I don't think I read the books, but I always had this feeling about her, like she was my boring Scandinavian doppelganger/cousin all the grownups wanted to matchmake me with, even though all she ever wanted to do was needlepoint aprons and braid each other's hair.
posted by changeling at 10:50 AM on May 11, 2011


(which apparently was not true, according to this thread.)
posted by changeling at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2011


The women who wrote the Kirsten, Kaya and Addy books first wrote for adults.
posted by brujita at 10:59 AM on May 11, 2011


And if you were a boy who wanted an American Girl doll, you weren't going to settle for anything less than Samantha because her name was fierce and classy... just like you. And who better to invite to your period costume tea parties?
posted by jph at 11:18 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not that I'm, uh, speaking from experience or anything.
posted by jph at 11:21 AM on May 11, 2011


Re: Quote back from daughter. . .

"Ha. This is so spot on because those dolls were a total status symbol even then and I used to think that girls who had Samantha were stuck up jerks."
posted by Danf at 11:30 AM on May 11, 2011


Hmm, it seems that all my fave AG books were written by Valerie Tripp. I bet she was a spunky girl once, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:31 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me, anyone else here read Happyland?
posted by Rangeboy at 11:51 AM on May 11, 2011


If you were a Molly, and had a Molly (as opposed to being a Molly and aspirationally owning a Felicity)
Ouch, they had me pegged. I was a 'Molly', but I also had red hair, so Felicity was mine. She was awesome. Plus, horses.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:23 PM on May 11, 2011


I just noticed they don't have Felicity, Kirsten, or Samantha anymore. When did that change?
posted by dinty_moore at 2:33 PM on May 11, 2011


Pretty recently.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2011


My own kid turned up her nose at these, which sometimes made me a little sad. I know I would have wanted Zelda--the 20s flapper doll with the little flask of bathtub gin.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:20 PM on May 11, 2011


I actually read the American Girl books when they came out in 1986, because they were illustrated and historical and I really liked that. I didn't know the dolls even existed until 2000... apparently they were introduced in 1995. I was in college at the time, and it was something I was completely unaware of.

So... these Hairpin writers are in their early twenties? And they're waxing nostalgic about what their American Girl dolls said about them? When I was 22 or so, I didn't spend that much time thinking about what my Crystal Barbie or Cabbage Patch Doll said about me. I still don't, really. This level of childhood navel-gazing at such a young age feels a bit odd to me, honestly.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2011


I just noticed they don't have Felicity, Kirsten, or Samantha anymore. When did that change?

They retired Felicity this year. Dont worry, they give you plenty of advanced notice. I dont know if they have introduced an additional historical AG but they did introduce Kanani, the girl of the year. She Hawaiian and, while I have not investigated closely, I suspect she is spunky and a good friend.
posted by shothotbot at 3:57 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually read the American Girl books when they came out in 1986, because they were illustrated and historical and I really liked that. I didn't know the dolls even existed until 2000... apparently they were introduced in 1995. I was in college at the time, and it was something I was completely unaware of.

I can see why you think they were introduced in 1995 based on the wikipedia page, but the historical dolls were introduced in 1986 with the books. The "American Girls of Today" dolls were the ones introduced in 1995.

And while what you're saying about navel-gazing might be true, I don't think older dolls don't have similar connotations. Like, if I said, "I was never a Barbie. I was a Midge," you'd know exactly what I was talking about, probably.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:34 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can I jump on the memory train? I had Molly first (because I, too, had brown hair and glasses, and she was just awesome in general); then, Addy. I clearly remember when she was announced; I have a memory of the Pleasant Company folks giving Oprah one, and Oprah crying about it. I thought Addy was beautiful; she had the best dress, her hair was so fun to play with (and as a little white girl, I was intrigued by the difference in texture and how that changed how braids and other styles looked), and her books were great. I thought both Molly and Addy were so brave, for what they endured.

On the other side, I also coveted the catalogs whenever they came in the mail and more or less memorized the pages, poring over all the beautiful accessories, the beds, the tea sets... I didn't get any of the major accessories, but I did get Molly's school bag and books one Christmas. My mother also ordered a set of patterns to make Molly's pajamas, and a matching set for me, hooray!!

I also got the set of paper dolls from a family friend for one birthday; they were enthralling, because you actually had to cut out the outfits. I was solemnly gifted a teeny pair of sharp sewing scissors that I could only use with supervision and on my paper dolls, and I treasured those hours meticulously cutting out little dresses, hats and shoes.

I don't really have anything of consequence to add, but the next time I go to my parents' house I am bringing back my dolls. I am a single lady living alone with a cat, so that may very well push me into spinster territory, but I do not care.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


@PhoBWanKenobi

I took poured over the Pleasant Company catalog.

But, more to the point, when I was 4 or 5, I asked for a Cabbage Patch.

My mom handmade one based on a fake-Cabbage Patch head bought that JoAnn Fabrics and then bought a Cabbage Patch brand dress at Meijer. She must have cut the CP logo off of the packaging from the dress, punched a small hole in it, and tied it to the wrist of the handmade doll.

I was not fooled.
posted by k8t at 6:53 PM on May 11, 2011


The books were fantastic. It was like a less authentic but more fun Little House.

I have been to the Store a few times (as an anthropological adventure over a decade ago) and I was totally sickened. While yes, the catalog had everything that you could ever imagine, the store is even worse. Kids (girls) are given little notepads and all the items are set up sort of like Ikea with showcases, but then girls can tear a tag off to buy it.

I cannot imagine taking my child to such a place. It basically makes it incredibly challenging to say no without a tantrum. Would you say to her that she could only spend $100 or something?

They also had some sort of stage show. That would probably be pretty fun, I think.
posted by k8t at 7:03 PM on May 11, 2011


What no Kit Kittredge? the girl living through the Great Depression? My daughter owned this one primarily because it looked just like her. People always commented on the likeness.

She also has a couple of bitty babies and another American Girl doll. The money we spent on these dolls and accessories was worth every penny. You can't imagine the scenarios she created, they games played, her and my wife made clothes for the dolls, cooked with them, and on and on. She's 17 now and they are only displayed now but I'm sure my great-great-grandchildren will be playing with them.

In contrast she hardly touched her Barbies, except for the time her and her brother created "Drag Queen Ken", but that's another story.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 7:04 PM on May 11, 2011


I'm really glad to hear so much passion for Addy. The description in the article just seemed so ... dismissive of her. I remember very very much when she was introduced, because I didn't want any of the white dolls. They weren't like me, and although I'm not black, Addy was a lot more like me than Felicity or Kirsten. (Although I'm shocked to hear that people thought Kirsten wasn't fun and awesome! I always thought she was really awesome and hardcore and fun and stuff.) It meant so much to me to have Addy. And everyone above who says those dolls were built to last? Yeah. They really were. I'm sure that in the long run she saved my parents lots of money. I learned to sew by making dresses for her, and I learned carpentry making a bed for her. She was an expensive doll, but she was also my only doll. And she traveled everywhere with me.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:41 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


They also had some sort of stage show. That would probably be pretty fun, I think.

I think they did away with the stage shows because of some union activity. The New York Store cast picketed in 2006 after they approached AG about wanting to go Union and join Actors' Equity, but AG said no. After a few days on strike, AG finally relented an worked out a 2-year Equity contract for its stage shows -- but then closed its theaters one month later.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on May 12, 2011


So... these Hairpin writers are in their early twenties? And they're waxing nostalgic about what their American Girl dolls said about them? When I was 22 or so, I didn't spend that much time thinking about what my Crystal Barbie or Cabbage Patch Doll said about me. I still don't, really.

Actually I think they're a bit older than that. But regardless, the post is pretty clearly tongue-in-cheek. I don't think it's intended to be taken any more seriously than their "Babysitters Club: Where Are They Now?" post. It's just a formula in which you take a somewhat silly childhood experience that many people shared, and then playfully overthink it. I really, really doubt that the author or the commentors are really trying to figure out what their doll says about them -- if anything, they're poking fun at anyone who might legitimately care about that.
posted by hermitosis at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2011


I...I'm so crushed that Samantha and Kirsten don't exist anymore. Do they even have their books? Cause that just feels like they're...erasing history or something. I learned so much from the books, things that I don't remember exactly where I learned them. (Oh, and put me down as someone who thought Kirsten's St. Lucia outfit was the coolest thing EVER.)

Very sad.
posted by threeturtles at 10:04 PM on May 14, 2011


I...I'm so crushed that Samantha and Kirsten don't exist anymore. Do they even have their books?

The books still exist. They're just not making the dolls and acoutrements.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2011


Hey, I may wear contacts and get edgy haircuts, but stereotyping is - oh, who am I kidding, I'll never be as edgy as Addy or as pretty as Felicity! Waaaah
posted by Mooseli at 6:08 AM on May 25, 2011


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