Whenever we would walk around downtown, we'd see seriously obnoxious suburban or out-of-town families with large, red American Girl bags. Almost invariably, these would be slow-moving types we'd be stuck behind – either walking on the street or slowly down the subway steps when you could hear the fucking train coming – and we always kind of wondered what the fuck this was about. We discerned that American Girl was a brand of doll, and that American Girl Place would be a kind of hell for us. Now, a Salon article elucidates the whole enterprise, which I'm not at all surprised to learn is owned by toy giant Mattel.
Salon.com Life | American Girl crazy!:
Ours, it's clear, is a moment in consumer history when middle-class American parents will spend, pretty much happily, a great deal of money on what they perceive as quality goods for their children, particularly if those goods can be seen as in any way educational. A Samantha starter kit, which includes the doll, a slim paperback book, and a few teensy accessories, sells for $98. Samantha's cunning little wooden school desk, with its historically accurate wrought-iron legs, costs $68. Her trunk, with its oval mirror and three wee hangers, costs $175. Josefina's carved wooden chest, in tasteful Santa Fe style, goes for $155. And so on. For many American girls, these are, of course, unimaginable luxuries. At an economically and racially diverse private school where a friend's daughter goes, American Girl dolls are a dividing line -- and an early introduction to class in America -- for a group of third-graders. Two of the girls are from families who cannot afford the dolls, let alone the fripperies that go with them. And, lately, these two girls have been getting left out of play dates and playground games, which often center on American Girl fantasies. Ironic, in a way, since these particular girls are from newly arrived immigrant families of modest means, whose life stories are, therefore, classic American Girl. The 'Barbie as Halle Berry in Catwoman' doll may come swathed in stereotypes, but at least it has the virtue of being available at your local Target for $14.99.... What the American Girls phenomenon best represents, though, is the fact that fathers and mothers, even if they do not consider themselves social conservatives, want help in keeping at bay certain aspects of the pop culture. And they want help they can buy."