Pages from the 1992 Pleasant Company catalog featuring the original triumvirate of heirloom quality dolls (Kirsten Lasron, circa 1854; Samantha Parkington, circa 1904; Molly McIntire, circa 1944). The fourth, Felicity Merriman an American colonist from 1774, and Addy Walker, a freed slave in 1864, were introduced thereafter.
That’s nothing compared to the new iterations of American Girl dolls; as one friend writes, the honchos must be running out of ideas. On the one hand, we have Julie, a chick from 1970s San Francisco replete with bell-bottoms and a macrame hat (“Hel-lo Ricky’s Halloween costume”). On the other, girl-of-the-year 2009 Gwen was homeless. A homeless doll. Living in a car with her mom, much like Jewel minus (we assume) the bad poetry. And since the Mattel-owned American Girl company — bought from Pleasant Company in 1998 — makes even more oodles of moolah selling furniture sets, it’s no wonder a transient doll had a shelf life of only one year.
We have to admit, as part of the American Girl cult circa 1991-1994, it’s hard to grasp what the bright and shiny 21st century company is targeting. The old-school dolls included historical fiction books and easy identifiers, the politics of choice (Samantha girls: generally high-maintenance; Kirsten girls: sportier than their counterparts; Molly girls: bookworms). And what once seemed passable as education now carries an aroma of exploitation: a Nez Pierce doll with a faux buffalo and elk hide bedroll that costs $95? A homeless plaything for ten-year-olds? All those tap dancing and ice skating costumes?A raccoon in a trash can? A llama. As. A pet.
Or, maybe we’re just, you know, old. Do they make Just Like You dolls with scowls and a Metrocard?
Kirsten’s knitted winter outfit: best doll costume in the history of the world? Certainly better than the Bratz oeuvre. You can still snag it, for $150 on Ebay.