01.30.09

An American Girl Dream

Posted in Monthly at 12:42 pm by Pasha

By Pasha Carroll

Every parent dreads the day when their little girl goes from child to woman overnight. But for a generation, one line of toys has slowed the process down and is keeping kids in their childhood just a little bit longer.

So what, the American Girl dolls and products are said-to-be grossly overpriced? Who cares that some claim it is an elitist brand because it only has flagship stores in three major cities, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago (although stores are continuously popping up in other major cities?) All mom and dad really care about is that their 10-year-old is still playing dress up with her dolls instead of spin-the-bottle with boys.

For her January birthday the only gift or party my 10-year-old goddaughter, Destiny, wanted was a visit to the American Girl Place … oh, and to visit me, her aunt, in Chicago. Although I secretly believe that the American Girl store was the majority of the lure. As it worked out my mother, her Nana, was already planning a late January visit. And as all the cards fell into place, Destiny was finally going to the fantasy land that she and all her friends dream of, the American Girl Place.

Destiny’s mother, Vrolet’, had gotten her the Samantha doll, a few outfits and even the bed online, where most rural mothers turn for American Girl paraphernalia. Destiny, a young lady brimming with innocence, intelligence and a warm nature was seeking the mother ship, a place that nor Fredonia nor americangirl.com could provide. So, with Samantha in close proximity, Nana and Destiny flew to Chicago.

After patiently waiting an entire day (which is equal to an entire week in child years,) Saturday morning finally arrived. Vrolet’ had reserved a table for brunch in the American Girl Cafe (the American Girl Place also features the Doll Hospital and Doll Hair Salon) and we made sure to put on our coolest clothes, charge our cameras and leave early. American Girl Place is the mecca for girls Destiny’s age. Since I don’t have a daughter on the brink of adolescence, I had only heard about the dolls, the store, and the real stories that accompany the plastic mini-girls. However, once inside the two-story emporium, it was obvious why mothers love the American Girl concept and why they keep paying more for a doll’s dress than they do for their own.

It is not just another barbie doll with disproportionate boobs and hips (a standard no young woman will ever live up to) or a Bratz doll with painted faces and feet the come off. American Girl dolls represent something more, they stand for raising young women to embrace a strong character, to feel comfortable in the skin they inhabit and to also reach for their dreams. No where in American Girl culture do the dolls apply makeup or wear skirts to allure boys, they leave that to their sinister doll-cousins. The company started small in 1986 under the Pleasant Company. Although they were acquired by doll giant Mattel in 1998, the American Girl franchise did not lose any of it wholesomeness.

Each of the American Girl dolls has a background, a historical character, and thus, pique most girl’s interest in history. The Kit Kittredge doll’s parents lost everything in the Great Depression, a lesson which is especially valuable in America’s current economic climate. Destiny’s doll, Samantha Parkington, is a Victorian girl from 1904 who goes to live with her grandmother after her parents pass away. It is all real, a way for girls to connect with the dolls without becoming grown-ups. It is a feat that no other doll had ever overcome, and is yet to be rivaled.

Destiny enjoyed nearly four hours at American Girl Place. Vrolet’ treated us to a birthday brunch at the cafe, complete with pink cupcakes and tea, we comparison shopped for swimsuits and outfits and shoes for Samantha, leafed through an entire section of books and even attended a reading. Even for a 28-year-old cynical woman the store was entertaining. I thought the books contained exactly the right information and moral teachings for girls 8-12. The magazine was so well done that I am even thinking about submitting a manuscript for publication.

And while most of the qualms about American Girl is her hefty price tag (a Chrissa doll retails for $95 and includes a book and an outfit) I think the price point is pretty accurate. After all, when all is said and done and a mother has purchased barbie and all the things she needs to make her happy (Ken, a corvette, a dream house, new clothes–all self-depreciating things to teach to teach a young lady) her pocket book is barren anyway. Desi took her birthday money and spent it on her doll and a new book; not a bad decision for a girl turning 10. Besides, most mothers are savvy shoppers and know to search eBay before paying retail … after all … some one’s child has surely grown out of dolls and now wants cash for the latest iPod.

The American Girl mantra is this, “At American Girl, our goal is to create girls of strong character. That’s why we’ve developed books and products that help girls grow up in a wholesome way, while encouraging them to enjoy girlhood through enchanting and fun play.” I couldn’t agree more.

01.20.09

The President, The Father’s Model

Posted in Monthly at 4:50 pm by Pasha