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American Girl Doll Flunks College

By Madeline Holler |

american girl doll, baby doll

Enrolling now!

I’m an on-again, off-again fan of American Girl Dolls. I like the books, the historical accuracy and the fact that dolls of color weren’t simply an afterthought — they’re part of the whole deal.

What do I hate? The price, the steady stream of catalogs, and all of the extras: the cafe, the beauty shop, the different outfits, pets and other accoutrements. I’ve also never come to appreciate the part of the company that indulges the natural narcissism of young kids: those “me” dolls, the ones you can pick out that look like the girl who will own her.

So I’m disappointed to read about American Girl Doll‘s new online venture, InnerStar University.

Whereas you’d think this would be a way to role play with some of the historical dolls, instead, it’s a way to shop for your mini-me’s.

Jezebel‘s Sadie Stein takes as much of a tour of the website as she can without actually having one of the dolls (thereby continuing AGD’s economic exclusivity — another problem I have with the dolls). She’s disappointed, too.

In fairness, there’s something called the Blue Sky Nature Center, the Grand Sports Center and the Real Spirit Center, but entry was denied for those without dolls. Where’s Felicity’s cabin? Rebecca’s walk-up? This could have been a really fun site but instead sounds more like a girl “empowerment” zone where your kids can learn to love themselves one sparkling pair of shoes at a time.

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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5 thoughts on “American Girl Doll Flunks College

  1. blue says:

    I love the historic dolls that AG has traditionally offered, but I think they might be getting phased out. Soon it will be just another doll manufacturer..

  2. PlumbLucky says:

    I hope that is not correct (the historical dolls being phased out) because that seems to be the only redeeming value to me!

  3. Josephine Cartell says:

    Comments -American Girl or Mattel is getting too greedy. They are phasing the Historical Dolls, Samantha, Kirsten, Now Felicity and Elizabeth are all “retired” This generates “demand” for people to buy them before they are gone.

  4. Vanessa Knutsen says:

    My daughter and I together enjoyed American Girl which was still (mainly) the historical girl dolls. We did enjoy getting a blonde doll with greyblue eyes from the then-new “lookalike” collection, for which I made both period and modern clothes. (the big pile of clothes and wood furniture made by relations…awaits a granddaughter). That doll became Kirsten… with the appropriate costumes. Later Kit…and her LAST Doll – was the magnificent Native American Kaya.

    We read all the historical girl books…owned some too.

    I gave the books away…when I heard American Girl was supporting the partly questionable Girls, Inc. which then I saw…for myself…had links to some abortion/birthcontrol org. which I verified. NOT my idea of empowerment. Surely part of the Barbie-izing of the AG image.

    I came back to AG some years later to research positive girl dolls for a business class.

    The catalog had relegated the “historical dolls” to the backburner and the present owner Mattel had made AG into a cash cow through probably the Doll of the Year plan. They made (in 2012) several Hundred Million off their American Girl division. Mooooo! Cash Cow!

    Compare and contrast…My 1990s era daughter could understand both her grandmothers’ childhood, as they were about AG doll Molly’s age. (Remembering my mother reading a large “World War 2″ picturebook with Molly and photos of that time. “That’s about right…” she said. Wow. Great moment!

    My daughter understood the Depression and its effect on her grandmothers, other ancestors by understanding the Depression era Kit Kittredge. (Remembering here the funny old lady in one story who shared ways to save money…I could share stories of how my grandparents in Chicago turned off the lights at dusk so they would not use electricity in the evening!).

    And now…fast forward past various Dolls of the Year…to 2013 Doll of the Year… Saige.

    Saige is smart…but more like the well-off great granddaughter of Molly…Saige has inherited the inventiveness of her great grandmothers, but alas. Saige does not face Dad in World War 2, rationing, British refugee friend whose family is under direct bombing attack, or Depression era money woes…or even (going back further) child labor lifestyle (Samantha Parker’s Victorian era) and the fight for womens’ vote…Nor does she face the serious hardships of the 19th and 19th century “girls” who faced disease, possible early death,and (like the only historical girl doll to come out in a while) Caroline Abbott who faces the War of 1812 and Dad a war prisoner. (I heard a rumor the quality Caroline has not sold so well…Sad if true.)

    Back to 2013…Saige’s upper class school might have to cu—- The Arts Budget. The horror of it all!

    …..Saige’s TV drama was charming (as it was good to see girls whose first goals were not boys and clothes, but actually making their school better).

    But who can lose sleep over her “crisis”?

    Contrast One Year Only… Saige’s story…to the deep affection many now-grown 20-30 something women hold for the Historical Girl Dolls and their stories.

    Will, in 10-15 years, we read about grown womens’ life changing encounters with a Doll of the Year?

    The only close option to AG’s former book/doll/meaningful girl enrichment experience I see currently is the Hearts for Hearts doll line (a moderately priced line of multicultural modern day dolls with small books about their lives and challenges).

    The Hearts for Hearts dolls you can sometime sees on a tiny spot of some big box stores’ several linear feet of doll shelves.. not far from Bratzillas, Monster High Dolls…a flood of Barbies, and the very little girl Disney Princess dolls,

    (Sigh!) .

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