Looking at Mattel’s recent string of blonde dolls (McKenna, Caroline, Isabelle), and sales statistics in the recent 21st Century, the answer would appear to be yes. Even looking at other doll lines, like Barbie, one can see how blondes sell well in almost every doll brand that exists. Around the world, Barbie is the world’s best-selling doll. Even people in other countries admire this blonde doll.
It has been noted that other countries admire blonde hair in general. Japanese anime tend to have leading female characters with blonde hair, like in Sailor Moon, Mew Mew Power, and Magical Doremi, though none of their females have this natural hair color. Precure has also had its share of blonde lead characters.
Now you can say that this is because blonde whites are the majority in the USA and around the world. You can say it’s because European influence dominates the world. But actually, statistics show that blondes only make up 18 percent of the population in the USA, and only 2 percent around the world, and even the majority of white people are brunette. Many people are artificially blonde. So European-dominated culture is actually made up mostly of dark-haired people.
Another thing to note is that the selling of these dolls has nothing to do with the fact that white girls want “dolls that look like them”. Blonde girls are actually more attracted to darker dolls than other girls are!
Girls of other colors and other nationalities are drawn to blonde dolls. One study showed three different dolls: a light haired doll, fair haired doll, and dark-haired doll. When asked which one is the nice one, all of the girls said the blonde was the nice one and the dark-haired girl was the mean one. The girls they brought into this study were of all colors and nationalities in the preschool age range.
This is a reflection of what society has been pushing. Society has always pushed blonde hair since the Ancient Roman Empire. Some theorize that this is because blonde hair is “rare” in the world. The same reaction girls gave to blondes, in another study, girls have the same reaction to strange eye colors, such as hazel eyes.
As we see, American Girl has had the same trend of hazel eyes that seem to fascinate young girls. These rare qualities are fascinating, almost like seeing twins.
And yet, what pushes us to see “rare” as beautiful? If we look at many fairy tales in the old days, we see that the blondes were considered the beautiful princesses, and the brunettes were considered dark and “sinister”. In fact, darkness has always been associated with things that are scary. How many people are afraid to sit in a dark room? Darkness has also been associated with hollowness, emptiness, and evil. Even “This Little Light of Mine” the song discourages darkness. Darkness has even been associated with Hell, though fire and the color red has also had that devilish association as well…
The latest Ever After High dolls have banked on this traditional viewpoint. Apple White, the lead Royal character is a perfect, chipper, outgoing, airy blonde, while the other lead is a dark-haired, gothic, Rebel and “Evil Queen”. Though this story is meant to be satirical in some way, and point out the irony in fairy tales being set up so “perfectly”, kids who buy the dolls may still yet see brunettes as evil, mean, and unfriendly.
Aren’t these ideas outdated? Modern society hasn’t yet encouraged people to look at brunettes as lovely and kind people, despite how much human kind supposedly has “progressed”?
And yet, I believe that brunette dolls have the ability to sell over blonde dolls if a company takes a chance and uses the right approach. MGA, maker of Bratz, made four diverse dolls with interesting, unique fashions and hair styles. And though the black girl still didn’t sell well over the others, the blonde wasn’t the best-selling either. The highest selling Bratz doll to date is Yasmin, and her hair is of a light brown color! She is also not associated with the Caucasian race, and has often been highlighted as “Mexican” and “Jewish”, as we saw in the live action Bratz movie. The Bratz brand was the first doll brand where brunettes dominated the whole brand, and blondes didn’t! And they still managed to sell to young girls. And because of their diversity, to an older crowd too. How did they do this?
Back to American Girl dolls…
In my opinion, I do believe the blonde dolls at American Girl sell, but I also believe this isn’t only just because little girls like blonde better. I do believe Mattel, the owners of American Girl, has maneuvered it in this way, considering that most of the production team is white. Why do I believe that Mattel has maneuvered it to be this way?
Well, I believe any production team knows what sells to girls, but a production team also knows how to sell a product to girls, too. Since Mattel owns some of the biggest toys running, and has collaborated with major toy companies , to add, they are the maker of the Barbie doll, it’s fitting that they would know the right way to sell more blonde dolls. Mattel is known for using blonde dolls as “fail-safe” dolls. When they are low on money, they tend to release blonde dolls. That’s what they did with Diva Starz, My Scene, and other brands they’ve had. But this is because Mattel knows how to cleverly manipulate the public into believing “blonde dolls sell better”. Even I was caught up in this belief. But lately, as I started reviewing my doll collection and my collection of magazine clips, I realized something. I realized that Mattel has had a high-selling brunette doll before, and I realized how it happened. Let me highlight more about the American Girl company in the past.
American Girl’s Samantha Parkington
Before the release of dolls like Julie, Caroline, Isabelle, Kailey, and many other blonde dolls in the American Girl line-ups we know today, there were very few blonde dolls. Back in the 1990s, there were only six dolls, the only blonde being Kirsten. But in the ’90s, Kirsten was one of the lower-selling dolls, while Samantha was the highest selling doll, and still remained the highest selling doll until her retirement! Why was this?
Look at the difference between Samantha and Kirsten. Samantha was the only doll with soft, pretty, curly hair at the time. She was the only doll with lovely clothes and accessories. And unlike most brunettes, she was lively, outgoing, perky, sweet, and kind. And she still sold just as well, if not better, than the blonde American Girl dolls today. Kirsten, on the other hand, had braids and a very practical wardrobe that wasn’t very glamorous to little girls.
Is it safe to say that maybe the reason why blonde dolls have been selling better than brunettes is because they are given more glamorous wardrobes and accessories?
If we look at the recent brunette dolls in the American Girl brand, either their hair is blah or their outfits are blah. For instance, Rebecca has pretty hair, but considering she’s meant to represent a time where most immigrant families were simpler, she has simpler clothing. Even the modern American Girls with brunette hair have had plain fashions and drab accessories. Look at Lindsey Bergman, Jess, and Chrissa. Their wardrobes, hair, and accessories were so plain compared to Isabelle’s glitz and glamour.
Mattel has even given their brunette My American Girls uninteresting hair styles that aren’t stylish or appealing. Samantha was the last of her kind.
But Samantha is living proof that it can be done, even throughout the 21st century. And yet, they retired their last fabulous brunette doll.
I believe the biggest problem with American Girl company and many other doll companies is how they personally view brunettes. I believe because of their deeply-rooted, subconscious biases, they are not giving the same care to brunette dolls that they are blonde dolls. They may not realize this. Sometimes, brunette dolls may help them in conveying an “average girl” kind of message, since the majority of people around the world have dark hair. Still, this encourages girls to “reach for blonde”. It’s no wonder there are so many artificial blondes in the world!
The unwillingness for companies like Mattel to make brunette dolls into feminine, kind, and glamorous characters shows something about their company. It isn’t as if they’ve never sold well from a brunette doll. The fact is they have sold well on Samantha, very well in fact, even with Julie on the scene! But what’s obvious is their approach to the new brunette dolls they’re making today. They are not putting the same effort into the dark-haired dolls.
It is the same way I feel about an African American doll. Cecile is selling better than Addy, sure enough, but her collection is still mediocre compared to that of the blonde girls who, number 1, have their OWN line, and aren’t sharing it with anyone, and number 2, have an array of accessories and playsets. If American Girl takes the ideas they usually have for their blonde characters, and gear them towards their brunettes and minority characters, I’m sure they won’t have to make as many blondes as they are making. They would not only add diversity, but make us “average” girls feel glamorous and special, just like the blonde characters.
I feel other companies have been cheating too. This goes for them: treat your brunette characters like divas too. It CAN be done. The Magic Attic Club doll brand is another good example of how it can be done. The most popular doll in that brand was Heather. Instead of putting the blonde in pink (which they ended up doing eventually with Chloe), they advertised Heather, the brunette with pink. Heather sold better than their blonde doll with the long hair. See? It’s all in how you advertise the doll. There is no excuse. Some of these companies can make successful brunette dolls, they just choose not to. Why not put the blonde in plain pigtails and drab clothes for a change? If you downplay one doll, another doll will stand out. That’s how it works. Why not let the bruns stand out sometimes, huh?
The only company that has done this is MGA with its line of Bratz dolls. Yasmin outsells any of their blonde dolls, and that’s why they keep making replicas of Yasmin. Why? Because they made her glamourous and pretty!
Other companies can learn from them. Though I forget, Mattel considers them a “rival”.
That’s what I think. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!