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July 3

The makings of an American Girl

Filed under: Treats — posted by Amanda @ 9:00 am

In a society where even the most outgoing of girls succumb to insecurity by their teenage years, it’s difficult to find young female models of confidence and integrity in our popular culture. The New York Times recently explained this struggle best: “Who are you supposed to be, or to avoid becoming? A nerd? A ditz? A flirt? A tomboy? What kind of role models are those make-believe princesses, those Bratz and Barbies, to say nothing of the real-life Britneys, Lindsays and Mileys? Mean Girls, Gossip Girls, Girls Gone Wild, Girl Power, You go, girl! What’s a girl to do?”

It turns out girls need look no further than the silver screen for their answer. In the midst of a summer dominated by hulking male superhero flicks, the American Girl global-domination industrial complex franchise has released their first feature film, “Kit Kittredge.” With the goal to “create girls of strong character,” American Girl offers a world in which girls come first. In the books, the characters engage in “a healthy mix of chores, games and career preparations,” and the dolls themselves provide “a sturdy, nonsexualized body whose proportions are more or less those of a real girl.” Girls look at American Girl dolls and see someone they could easily imagine themselves become in terms of both body and character, versus other dolls whose priorities involve shopping and boys, and whose proportions real girls could never physically attain.

I vividly remember American Girl dolls growing up (I had Molly!) and the culture that surrounded them. If you had one, you were part of an elite, elementary school club, and this was even long before the stores opened up in Chicago and New York that offered such an exclusive (if, okay, EXPENSIVE) experience. These dolls were special; you didn’t treat them like your other toys. I actually yelled at my father for calling Molly a “doll,” insisting that she was a real person. I treated her as both a surrogate child and a best friend. I would dress her in her pajamas and her robe at night and help her with her math “homework” that came in her miniature books (yes, girls can do math!). She would go to ballet practice just like I did and loved to splash in rain puddles in her galoshes. She was adventuresome, she was smart, she was spirited; she was just like me and through my imagination and our adventures I became just like her; and so too through the books, the shopping centers, and now the movies, do other girls create their own stories and sense of selves. This — to me — is how we become American girls.

What are your memories of American Girl? (Or are you, sob, not a fan?) Let me know below!


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