American Girl Dolls are Middle American Crack according to Andrew Peyser in today’s New York Post. As Mattel unveils the newest American Girl doll, Gwen Thompson, a homeless girl whose father walked out on her family, Peyser explores the ridiculousness that a penniless doll sells for 95 bucks and the idea that her story is not necessarily age appropriate for a pre-schooler. An American Girl representative points out that the dolls and stories are recommended for age 8. Peyser counters that most girls start clamoring for American Girl Dolls at age 4.
American Girl Dolls are big in my house. My daughter E. received Felicity, the Colonial American doll on her 5th birthday from her grandparents. I have a warm feeling toward the historical American Girl dolls, whose stories were the foundation of the company, especially before it was bought by Barbie’s owner, Mattel. E. and I spent a whole summer reading chapters from the Felicity series at bedtime and both learned a lot about American history and strong girls.
Kit Kitteridge (the Depression Era doll) was E.’s first movie theater movie (Kit’s dad losing his job made me worry that E. would worry, given all of the talk about our economy). Her grandparents bought her Kit for her 6th birthday. As much as I was happy for E., I felt like the second doll was maybe a little excessive. She’s only 6. (And like the American Girl representative said: they are recommended for age 8).
Now that E. is in First Grade, it seems like every girl in her Suburban Boston class has at least one American Girl Doll. Our neighbors are bringing them to school. Even though our town is somewhat affluent, it still makes me worried to think about the little girls who might feel left out. Hearing a little girl brag at the bus stop about how many American Girl dolls she has made my stomach hurt.
Playing with American Girl dolls is a sweet pastime for my daughter and her playmates and I admit that I enjoy the dolls almost as much as she does. But The New York Post story struck a nerve with me. What’s wrong with waiting a year for a doll? Or sticking to one or two versus the entire collection? It’s one thing if grandparents have the means and want to spoil their grandchildren with the latest American Girl Doll. It’s another if Nana feels like she has to shell out 40 bucks each for matching girl and doll outfits or her granddaughter won’t love her as much.
Should we rein it in a little? And maybe stop and think about what is age appropriate and a very special present instead of bowing to the pressure of not wanting your little girl to be the only one that doesn’t have a tea party at American Girl Place?
A good start would be to borrow the books from the library and deem what parts you might want to skip over during the bedtime story. (Just a heads up: angry old Jiggy Nye from the Felicity series beats his horse, Penny).