Kit Kittredge: American Girl Beforever’s “Bad Girl”

24 Jan

American Girl brand consists of a line of 18″ dolls both from the past and from the present. The original heart of the brand was the American Girl historical dolls. They each come with six books that tell each girl’s story. The American Girl brand was designed to inspire girls to read and learn about history. The stories focus on heroic 9 to 10 year old girls who display courage, compassion, and an ability to work hard. Obviously, these stories are meant to teach moral lessons, so the girls are meant to have upright personalities to fit. At least, that was what they were meant to have…

However, when we look closer at Kit Kittredge, we may get a totally different impression.

Looking at the doll, it’s hard to imagine that a doll with a soft, pretty sweater and skirt, with the lovely cute bob is anything but innocent and sweet. She’s adorable! The Kit Kittredge movie washed over the more controversial moments in Kit’s story, making Kit out to be the righteous heroine usually portrayed in the other American Girls’ books. But there is a lot more when you actually read the stories that accompany this doll. While she is still quite an honest and virtuous character, there are some things that happen in her stories that push her on the edge, and brings her to that thin line between good girl and bad girl.

SPOILER ALERT: The following information may reveal some things that happened in several American Girl books. If you haven’t read all of the books, and don’t wish to be spoiled, please don’t continue to read any further. But if you don’t care to be spoiled, maybe this can give you a heads-up on what these stories are about.

While there are other American Girls that have done reckless and disobedient things in their stories, many of them had good reasons for doing so. The only one besides Kit who broke a rule for her own selfish wants and desires was Kaya. She took up a daring bareback race instead of looking after her brothers like she was told. But that was probably the only time she broke a rule for selfish reasons. The other time she broke a rule was when she ran toward her horse instead of running for safety in the woods as she’d been told, and while raiders stormed through her village. But she had good intentions. She just also wanted to save her horse…

Caroline also irrationally jumped on thin ice because she was angry with her older cousin and older friend for not paying attention to her. But she was basically trying to fix a mistake she made by retrieving a spinning wheel she lost. She was overall just trying to make her friend, Rhonda, happy.

Sure, Samantha went to the dangerous Tear-Drop Island, the island near the lake her parents drowned in, without getting permission from an adult. She caused everyone to panic and worry. But she was sort of pressured by her twin female relatives to go, and she had the intention of learning more about her parents. She had been there before. I’m sure Samantha wouldn’t have willingly wanted to go to a place she initially believed to be evil and no longer trusted…It was an understandable action.

But Kit has done a little more than any of those things to deserve the title of “Bad Girl”.

I’m going to run down the list of things that Kit has done to deserve this title:

1) She’s Mean

Okay, Molly is also one of the meanest American Girls, too. She was really mean to Alison Hargate, her rich and perfect classmate. In Molly Learns a Lesson, she hides when Alison comes by her house to give her an invitation, and out of jealousy, she balls the invitation up and stuffs it in her pocket. She also excludes Alison out of her Halloween plans in Meet Molly. Sure, those things were mean. But it’s understandable. Alison is pretty annoyingly perfect. Molly also says that Alison suddenly started being nice. Maybe at one time, Alison was mean…

Molly also said some mean things to Emily when they got into an argument, but that’s normal. Emily said something mean about America, and come on, this was WWII America…

But Kit was mean to people who were not annoyingly perfect or insulting. In Meet Kit, she was very mean when it came to Stirling, calling him names like “Shrimp”, and making fun of his unblinking eyes, even before she got to know him. In Happy Birthday, Kit, she even thinks to herself how she can’t imagine Stirling being handsome, which was a very mean thought. She was very much a bully.

She has also taken her frustrations out on her friends several times. She snapped at Stirling because she was frustrated with her chores in Kit Saves the Day, and even got a little frustrated with Ruthie for even wanting Stirling to help them with their tree house. She was even loud about how much she wanted Stirling and his mother, as well all the other boarders, to leave-right in front of his face when they were walking to school one day. Yea, Kit can be straight-forward, it’s one of her qualities. Kit always believes in telling the truth straight-out, even if that truth is hurtful.

But on an honest note, Kit is very mean to herself, calling herself peevish when she was complaining about moving up into the attic, and even recognizing her own poor typing skills. She really is no harder on others than she is herself. But coming out, it just seems downright judgmental, superficial, and mean! I would hate to be on the other end of her eyes. She’d be very harsh with her criticism.

2) She’s Willing to Fight

Out of all the American Girls in the whole series, Kit is the only one that got into a fight at school.

I know other American Girls have done some pretty reckless things to other kids in their stories. Samantha put gum in Eddie Ryland’s hair. And many times, she wanted to fight Edith and Eddie, but Samantha always heeded Grandmary’s rule of “No Fighting”.

Kit, on the other hand, lost so much control in Kit Learns a Lesson, she shoved Roger into a wooden ladder. I would say he deserved it, so maybe she had a logical reason for doing so, but the boy hit his head on that ladder, with a bucket tumbling down on top afterwards. If she’d shoved any harder, he could have gotten a concussion. To add, this was in a school setting, so it broke school rules. It’s not exactly what I would recommend little girls imitating, and it wasn’t exactly the best way to handle the situation, or solve the problem. I don’t think Kit cared much about the rules. She was too angry. Then afterwards, she hid it from her parents…

3) She defies the standards of femininity throughout even the modern century

We have the typical tomboys like Felicity and Julie. Felicity hates doing the typical feminine chores and initially hated the idea of taking lessons on etiquette. She wanted to do things that were considered masculine in the 1700’s, like work at the store and go to school. Felicity would also rather wear breeches instead of gowns and doesn’t take much interest in fashion. Felicity moves at an unladylike pace, and prefers to ride bareback on a horse instead of sidesaddle, which was was not considered proper for a girl in her time. Felicity was not against taking her stockings and shoes off to free her legs, no matter if her skirts blew up in the wind!

Julie joined the all-boys basketball team and became Student Body President, beating out a boy. These are typical feminist qualities.

But at least Felicity had a feminine side to her. In Felicity’s Surprise, she wanted to wear a pretty dress and attend a glamorous ball. Felicity, at least, has a favorite dress, as was mentioned in Meet Felicity. Felicity also likes playing her guitar and working in her garden, two then-feminine skills. Felicity also enjoyed making Shrewsbury cakes with her friend Elizabeth, even though she usually hates cooking and baking for long hours. Felicity also enjoys playing with dolls. Felicity eventually learned to enjoy being a proper young lady, and even began to like serving tea, despite the controversial issues surrounding it.

Julie has a girly side, too. She likes fashion, like those cute Chinese dresses, and she loves getting dressed up, as we saw in Happy New Year, Julie when she dressed up for a special Nutcracker Tea with her father and sister.

Even Caroline, who wasn’t considered ladylike simply because she liked outdoor activities and wanted to be captain of her own ship, enjoyed silks and pretty dresses. Samantha also had quite an unladylike side, as she loved to climb trees and always got herself into mischief. But Samantha loved pretty dresses, queens and princesses, dolls with pretty clothes, and elegant parties.

Kit, on the other hand, defies even today’s standards of femininity. Kit hates dresses, dancing, baking, pink, movie stars, and princesses!  Even our latest American Girl, Isabelle is a dancer, and Kit isn’t into that sort of flouncy activity. Kit isn’t into fairy tale princesses, and finds them to be “phony glitz and glamour”. That’s usually something girls throughout the centuries have always been interested in, even the most feminist of women. But Kit? She’d rather be like real women, women like Amelia Earhart. She doesn’t admire that Amelia Earhart is pretty and strong, but cocky, confident, and independent, usually something boys admire in heroes. Kit is also interested in baseball. In Meet Kit, she had an easy time deciding to give up new dresses and dance classes. But baseball and books were a challenge.

I don’t even remember Kit even wishing for a doll. The only doll she ever got was the one Ruthie made for her, and I don’t even think Kit gave it a name. She never played with it. It stayed on top of her writing desk as a reminder of her heroine, Amelia Earhart. It was more like an action figure. I will admit, none of the modern Girl of the Year American Girl characters have been said to play with dolls, which is surprising, considering American Girl is a doll company. I suppose Kit was just way ahead of her time. She is certainly different from other girls in her era, and certainly different from all the other American Girl Beforever characters, who love dolls.

When Kit actually did want a Hollywood Birthday party from a magazine she had, it wasn’t typical for a girl. She wanted everyone to dress in Robin Hood Costumes, have toy swords, and hang in tree houses. More than likely, it was a boy’s birthday party clipping she had…Even Felicity imagined pretty decorations for her birthday!

The fact that Robin Hood, a man who steals from people, is even one of her heroes says a lot.

Also, unlike the average feminist woman, Kit loves having boys around because she believes they’re “always up to something”. Samantha has a heavy “Girls Only” aura about her. Julie has a “Girl Power” aura about her, too. Kit, on the other hand, was very concerned about impressing Stirling when he came to her house, even though she was disappointed when he arrived.

However, Kit does seem to care a little about her appearance in the fact that she is often embarrassed when she has to wear hand-me-downs and cute rick-rack hemming on her dress. But I think this is mostly because she doesn’t want people to know how poor she is…And she is ashamed of how she has outgrown her clothes and can’t afford to buy new ones. So, obviously, outgrown clothes look awkward on a person…

She did like the red dress Ruthie gave her and the mint green dress Aunt Millie made for her. She mentioned how beautiful the colors were. But she seemed more interested in making her and Ruthie’s special day a success when it came to the red dress, and more interested in keeping cool in the mint green dress, considering her family could not afford summer clothes and she was hot…

Finally, her doll is the only one marketed in androgynous clothes: She was marketed wearing her brother’s old overalls from Kit Saves the Day. Even though Felicity came with breeches, it was not marketed as a part of her main collection.

4) She can be disrespectful to her elders

Other American Girls have shown this trait. In Meet Samantha, Samantha was so angry at Grandmary for not telling her why Jessie the seamstress left that she was a bit disrespectful toward her grandmother. Felicity was very nasty with Jiggy Nye, though he was a bit of a villain.

Kit, on the other hand, doesn’t have very respectful thoughts regarding her Uncle Hendrick, though, rightfully so. She calls him a “sourpuss”, “cranky”, “crabby”, and “cantankerous”. She even stands up to him in Changes for Kit. Though I believe this example is justified, I feel she never really cared to see his side of things. Even though he’s a lonely man, Kit shows no mercy on him like other American Girls might have eventually done. They would’ve gotten to the root of his bitterness.

Kit is also very straight-forward towards Aunt Millie in Happy Birthday, Kit, after Aunt Millie visited her school and embarrassed her. Though I can understand this part as well, Aunt Millie was the reason she still had a roof over her head. Kit was too disrespectful considering that Aunt Millie was the woman who’d saved them all from being evicted.

5) She Goes to Jail

This is really the biggest reason why Kit is badder than the others. It’s not like she’s the only American Girl to commit a crime. Felicity stole a horse that didn’t belong to her. Samantha helped orphans run away from an orphanage. Cecile and Marie-Grace broke segregation laws by switching places to attend each other’s balls during Mardi Gras. Marie-Grace also lied to the church and helped sneak a colored boy into an all-white orphanage. Addy and her Mama broke Southern laws by running away from their plantation. But all of them had good reasons for breaking the law.

Why did Kit break the law? Simply because she wanted an adventure. Period. She wasn’t trying to protect anyone, she wasn’t trying to save her own life, or trying to understand a ridiculous rule. She was simply bored with her routine life, and wanted to shake things up.

Of course, Kit didn’t know what she did was against the law, but she had a pretty good idea it would be dangerous. She didn’t care. And where did she end up? Behind bars.

That’s not where it stopped. Kit mouths off to the Sheriff in charge. She pretended to be a boy and ended up in the boy’s cell. Kit also faked a stomach ache so she could break out of jail, lying to the sheriff! Kit truly teaches girls that when you do the crime, you pay the time.

Despite all of these “Bad Girl” qualities, I think this is what makes Kit such a unique character. This makes her one of the most realistic characters in the American Girls, and she relates to the girls that maybe don’t fit into the good-girl standards. But she can teach others that even “Bad Girls” can do good. If any girl has ever been to jail, maybe that girl can relate to this character. She adds flavor to the American Girls collection.

What do you all think about Kit?

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4 Responses to “Kit Kittredge: American Girl Beforever’s “Bad Girl””

  1. Maria 2014/11/20 at 16:41 #

    Samantha does something bad also. She goes to where her parents drowned & almost gets herself & others killed. Then, rather than her apologizing for being reckless, Grandmary apologizes to her! This bugged me. Of course, I don’t remember it from when I was a kid, just from reading it again as an adult.

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    • generationnext 2014/11/21 at 17:05 #

      Well, I think she had a good reason for going. Samantha didn’t initially want to go, but when she saw pictures that she’d been there before, she saw it wasn’t really as bad as she was told. She also had pressure from her Twin relatives to do so. But she had good intentions and acted out of heartbreak.

      It was reckless of her to go without permission from Grandmary, but Grandmary had never been and never knew it was a nice part of her summer resort. Grandmary owned that land, so Samantha wasn’t going somewhere that wasn’t once enjoyed by her family. Storms was the only thing that ruined the trip. But Samantha and her twin relatives were all over the resort freely without permission. They were allowed to explore.

      However, the worst thing Samantha did was try to help Nellie run away from the orphanage without telling her aunt and uncle. But again, this was done with the best of intentions, but it was against the law. Samantha here had the option to tell her aunt and uncle about it, instead she decided to take matters into her own hands rather than tell an adult about the problem.

      But it can’t nearly be on the level of Kit, who just hopped a fright just to have a good time and run away from her problems. I still think her punishment was too easy.

      Thank you for your contribution! Samantha was quite a mischievous girl, wasn’t she? I will add what you said to my article. 🙂

      Like

  2. generationnext 2014/11/21 at 21:49 #

    Reblogged this on Generation Next and commented:

    Want to learn more about American Girl Beforever’s “bad girl”?

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  1. American Girl’s Beforever | Generation Next - 2014/09/08

    […] Kit Kittredge: American Girl’s “bad girl” […]

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