Should American Girl Sell ‘American Boy’ dolls?

15 Jan

american girl logo

Every once in a while, someone will come up with the suggestion that there should be American Boy dolls created by the American Girl, LLC company.

The American Girl brand is well-known for their historical “Beforever” and contemporary “Truly Me” lines of dolls designed as little girls (different from Barbie, Ever After High, Disney Princesses) with inspiring stories. The brand has always focused on girls since 1986 when the concept was first released to the world.

However, recently, there has been a sudden “push” for toy companies to be more “inclusive”. This means that people are tired of the generic, standard dolls that have always been included among toy options. If the toy companies or some of their lines are directed to boys, people want them to include “girl” toys. If a company has primarily targeted their toys to girls, people want “boy” toys. If the collection only includes white characters, people want characters of other races. If the collection focuses on one country, people want other nationalities and cultures included. People want to diminish prejudice this way. They want to bridge the gap between differences and make things more equal and fair.

American Girl fans, since the 1990s really, have all been wondering if American Girl would include “American Boys”. Back then, that would’ve been considered a bad marketing move. But with the recent popularity of Frozen and My Little Pony toys among males, people are starting to consider it.

Along with that, with so many women pushing to for male-directed toys, like the “Nerf” toys, to include girl toys, “girl” toys are being questioned as well. Should we exclude anyone from enjoying these toys?

Although there’s nothing wrong with girls wanting nerf water guns or boys wanting an American Girl doll regardless of the gender direction (after all, American Girl doesn’t have to include American BOY dolls in order for boys to buy from the same brand and nerf toys never had to turn into Nerf Rebelle in order for girls to like Nerf products), some children want toys that represent them more personally.

Many of you might ask: ARE any boys interested in products like American Girl? Would American Boys sell to male audiences?

Though polls and surveys can answer this question more conclusively, from my experience, there are boys who like the American Girl dolls. Several readers on my blog, who are male, enjoy dolls such as Bratz and American Girl. These kinds of dolls appeal to males. While Bratz is edgier, American Girl has history involved with it, which relates to humans the world over. Many boys have walked into American Girl Place with their families in awe at the remarkable array of clothing and accessories, especially the ones that go with the historical dolls. American Girl’s Beforever line also comes with books that make history more exciting for kids.

There are many different reasons why many people want “boy” dolls.

  • People want “positive role models” for their sons

There are toys out there for boys (though many kids are consumed with tablets and video games), but they are all action figures. They all inspire courage and action in boys, but no valuable non-violent qualities like kindness and compassion. There are also hardly any boy toys where “little boys” are the main characters. So when little boys, at an impressionable age, walk into the American Girl stores, yes, they see dolls designed like girls, but they also see dolls that are designed to look like kids their OWN AGE.

  • Girls (and toy collectors) want “boy dolls”, too.

Barbie has Ken. Bratz have Bratz Boyz. Monster High and Ever After High have boy dolls. Frozen dolls have Kristoff (and Olaf). There are girls who have brothers or male friends in their lives and want to play out scenarios with their boy toys involved. People are also interested in how boys dressed in the past. It would make for an interesting buy for adult toy collectors as well, who lately make up nearly half of the toy industry’s consumers.

The only problem is most people like that American Girl dolls are empowering without having “boyfriends” or other male figures to help their line. Some people like that it’s a brand exclusively for girls. Most history books are mainly dominated by male figures. American Girl not only tells about history from the perspective of females, but from the perspective of little girls at that.

Some parents are also not comfortable with their girls playing “boyfriend/girlfriend”.

Still, males influence girls every day. It would still be interesting to have it in the brand for many people.

Okay, so how can the American Girl company accomplish this?

American Girl has always been for girls. That’s what the brand is popular for. How can this company introduce a “boy” line of toys without taking away what the brand stands for? People have had several suggestions:

  • Create “male friends” from some of the already-told Beforever stories.
  • Create a new “Girl of the Year” with a “Boy of the Year” as a best friend/brother doll.
  • Create a whole new line of historical boy characters that match the times already represented, just from a male perspective.
  • Focus on creating contemporary (modern) dolls for boys like Truly Me.
  • An exclusive line with books, like Hopscotch Hill dolls or Girls of Many Lands, with dolls that are slightly smaller than the 18” dolls so that they can be distinct.
  • Customizable dolls, similar to Truly Me, but where you can choose from an array of historical AND modern fashions and accessories as well as different ethnic molds.
  • Release a Limited Edition Boy doll every year or every other year.

Beforever Boys

Using the male characters from the already-written Beforever line can shorten the time it takes to create a male character. Many fans are already familiar with characters like Stirling from the Kit series, TJ from Julie’s series, Davy and Wayne from Maryellen’s series, and Julius from Melody’s series. Though Kaya has Two Hawks, trying to get their fashions correct without being “offensive” would be challenging, considering throughout the summer boys mostly wore breechcloths. And I don’t think those two boys are the best role models. Samantha has Eddie Ryland in her story, but he’s never becomes a friend. Rebecca has Victor, but he seems too old to fit into the “American Boys”, even though he’s Ricky’s age (Molly’s story). If they’d kept Kirsten and Molly, they may have had more options (though I felt Ricky was a horrible little boy).Considering Kirsten and Molly are archived, the boys from their series would not be included either, decreasing the number of options. That presents another problem: If they decide to archive the Beforever girl, the boy is going to go, too. After all, what sense is there to get rid of the main character and keep her male friend doll? Do we really want a short-term thing? With American Girl constantly trying to make room for new dolls, any of the girls are liable to go and then we’ll still be without an inclusive line of boy dolls. We already saw what happened to the Best Friend dolls.

There would not be much diversity with just those boys mentioned above released as all of them are white. Eventually, as they are even doing with the current Beforever and Girl of the Year line, people will be pushing for more diversity. This was also why the Best Friend dolls didn’t go over well. Only some American Girls got best friends, which meant more fashions and accessories from the time period for the white dolls, while others seemed empty in comparison. Most of the best friends were white with just one being an Asian doll. The Best Friend collection lacked diversity.

There are American Girls who don’t have ANY main male characters around their age, like Josefina. We would never really have a Mexican historical male character if we were relying on Josefina’s story for inspiration.

Ben is a favorite among girls, but he’s too old. The target age for historical characters are 9 to 10. Ben is basically considered a “grown man” in his time. The stories, from his perspective, would be far more “advanced” and not as lighthearted as Felicity’s stories (from a child’s perspective). He would be more like the Girls of Many Lands. They would have to make it intermediate or advanced literature, which would mean the words Ben uses would be too difficult for children to pronounce and the content would be…a little more intense.

And if we are going to add Ben, we might as well add Seth (Caroline), Lars (Kirsten), Joseph (Rebecca), and Sam (Addy). This would fit better with an American “Teen” line, though, rather than an American Boy line of dolls. To add, over half of the boys who would fit into an American Teen line are in the stories of characters who are archived.

 

Even if there were enough boys to go around, there weren’t that many clothing options for boys in the past. Boys were simpler than girls historically and it’s hard enough to get some of the American Girl Beforever characters to look appealing as it is (this is why they still haven’t designed a Pilgrim yet). Appealing to the general demographic would be challenging. A “best friend” male doll would not give girls the same options that a “best friend” girl doll would.

To put it all bluntly, they can’t go far with male characters from the book series, just as they couldn’t go far with the Best Friends.

Boy of the Year

I like the idea of American Girl creating a “Boy of the Year”. But that boy will only last a year. What will happen to the little boys that come into the brand the following year only to discover that the doll has been discontinued? That takes us back to square one. Still, this would be great as a test run. However, considering American Girl only has one year to sell these dolls to meet their financial quota, I doubt they will take that risk. American Girl is taking their time releasing an African American Girl of the Year because they’re too afraid “she won’t sell”.

And if he were a best friend doll…He would still only last a year. The other problem is American Girl would have to try to sell two dolls in one year. They already had that challenge before, which was why they scrapped the “Best Friend” strategy.

The All-New Historical line

This would be an amazing alternative to the American Girl Beforever brand. The real question is, how far would they be willing to take this line?

If they want to take it as far as their current Beforever line, which includes accessories and books, the two lines would end up being competitors for the company’s attention. Dealing with TWO historical lines is a challenge.

They would also have to decide what time periods they could use for the boys, which would take years. It took years to build the original Beforever line. It will take years to build a line like this.

This may also take them away from “what the brand stands for”. By focusing on boys and their adventures in time, this company will no longer be a brand mostly focused on girls. I feel we desperately need history taught from the perspective of normal women and girls (and not just from queens and political leaders).

I feel that it would be best to come out with just five boys from the past. But we know how that’s going to turn out. Eventually, kids will ask for more.

One of the lines will suffer. My bet is on the boys’ line. This might be a great idea when they’ve covered every single time they possibly could with the original Beforever line. For now, it’s complicated.

Modern American Boys

This would be a great idea. They could also have various head and facial types. I see this being more attractive to girls.

Most of the boys seem to like the historical part of American Girl. They don’t care about fashion for fashion’s sake. It has to be purposeful. American Girl Beforever dolls’ purpose is to educate about the time period, even through the fashions.

Still, I think having items, like miniature footballs or cooking sets would appeal to boys just as much as the items appeal to girls. It’s great for playtime. Children of both genders have a wide imagination and want to play out their lives.

Exclusive Boys

An exclusive boy toy line, like Hopscotch Hill dolls or Girls of Many Lands, would be good. They may be shorter than 18 inches and probably less expensive. This would be a great way to introduce male characters into the brand.

The issue is whether or not they should be historical dolls or modern ones.

One without the other would make the line feel like it’s missing something. They may come with books, but I can’t see girls buying dolls that don’t connect with the main American Girl dolls in any way. Most of American Girl’s off-shoot lines failed. They would really have to promote this kind of line if they expect success.

Still, this is the best option.

Customizable Dolls

This is the best option in my opinion. If American Girl is going to step into the “boy doll” field, allowing an array of playtime options would be the smartest move.

I think the boy dolls should start off with five or six customizable molds to represent various races and ethnic groups, similar to the Bitty Baby line.

Customers should be able to pick between fashion packs that include both historical and contemporary (modern) fashion with an array of accessories that match a boy’s life.

I really think this would be the best for playtime. Though books couldn’t be included in this kind of line, which is a shame because it wouldn’t inspire boys to develop a strong character, it would still be a lot of fun.

Limited Edition

This would also be a pretty good idea. This way, the boy dolls won’t take over and change the “direction” the company is trying to go in. Just like “Girl of the Year”, they could have a separate boy toy line with one doll every year. It could sell out in one year, but then that would cut into the Girl of the Year marketing strategy.

It could be one new historical boy every year, choosing a new time zone every time. He may come with one already-written book or a tell-it-yourself sort of thing. That would go over better and it wouldn’t be modern like Girl of the Year. They would be the most unique boy dolls on the market.

They would still take over the Girl of the Year marketing strategy, but at least they would be different.

Still, a modern boy would probably sell better to the main demographic, just the like the modern girls do. To create a historical boy takes three years of research as well as tons of money. It would be difficult to release one every year.

Either way, though, they would interfere with Girl of the Year marketing. One is going to have to go.

The boys could be limited to two or three years, but that means it would take forever to get the next boy doll. There wouldn’t be many options in the meantime.

Beforever Transformed Into Boys

Reader Yousef, who is a boy, made the suggestion that the company could transform the Beforever collection into boys. For example, instead of Samantha, she could be Samuel, and her books could be told from a boy’s perspective. Perhaps all the genders could be switched in the story. This would change things significantly. For instance, Aunt Cornelia was a female suffragist. As a man, she more than likely wouldn’t have been too interested. But perhaps Uncle Gard as a female would be more interested!

I really love this idea. What makes it better is that a boy from the target age group would be interested, too! Male fans are already familiar with the characters. This is actually something I would buy! Honestly, knowing the kind of fan I am, I wouldn’t consider the above options quite as interesting as this one!

However, reader Raygirl also makes some good points. While this would be a wildly popular idea, the time it takes to create these boys would greatly interfere with making new Beforever characters. Though they have already researched the times, they would have to learn a little more about boys in these time periods. It may not take three years, but it may take some time. They would have to hire writers to recreate the two volumes. Then the time and money it takes to manufacture these dolls! It took American Girl a little over 20 years to build the brand to where it is today.

Unfortunately, male dolls will only be made for the current Beforever characters, and not the archived ones like Molly, Felicity, Kirsten, Marie-Grace, and Cecile. 😦 That makes me dislike this idea more. And this would prevent archival as they try to sell the boys in enough time. This means it would stop them from creating new Beforever characters.

Reader Ashley Allegretti also mentioned that hearing the stories over again would be a little “dry”.

Still, this is the only idea I would actually support. Maybe when they’ve run out of ideas for the main Beforever line, they could start designing for a male version. Or they can make the boy dolls look like the current Beforever girls, but give them all-new stories. Still, we’re running into the issues we discussed above with American Boys in an all-new line…

To wrap this up, what do readers think? Do you think an American Boy doll is a good idea? If so, which option above sounds like the best one? If you don’t like the idea, share why you don’t!

Search up ideas for American Boy dolls!

 

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8 Responses to “Should American Girl Sell ‘American Boy’ dolls?”

  1. yousef 2016/01/16 at 08:23 #

    best Idea ever considering I am a ten year old boy. maybe they should make boy versions of the doll. for example Samantha could have a boy version with the same light skin dark hair with curls and dark brown eyes and same face mold but way shorter hair and more “boyish” clothes but same time period and in a way same personality and the boos are told in a boy’s perspective

    Like

    • yousef 2016/01/16 at 08:24 #

      sorry I meant books not boos

      Like

    • generationnext 2016/01/16 at 14:12 #

      This would be a great idea, and actually I would like to share it with readers.

      The only problem is re-building the brand. Those dolls were created over a span of a little over 20 years. Imagine how long it would take to get a boy that can match each character! But if American Girl decided to dedicate themselves to the project, then I’m all for it.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      Like

    • Raygirl 2016/01/16 at 14:23 #

      While American Boy books would be good in theory, the books would be difficult to come up with. They would have to re-do everything all over again. I think it would be cool to have American Boy dolls made to look like the American Girls, but I don’t think there would be any books considering the books would be difficult to make. They’d have to get a whole new team of writers, they would would have to re-research the times in history, and to be perfectly honest boys in the past did not have the same clothing selections that girls had.
      I think having boy versions of the DOLL would be a good idea. 🙂 But I do not think they would ever be able to make historical books considering the time it takes to create the books and hire writers for them. It was hard enough to make books for the best friends. It took them years to come up with those ideas, and they still ended up scraping the whole idea.

      Its funny you do talk about books, because I am writing ‘American Boy’ books of my own. The series is called TIMELESS: Stories of American Boys. http://soragirl6.deviantart.com/journal/
      I would hope that I could pitch these ideas to American Girl publishing. But if they don’t I can always carry my own. I seriously doubt they would ever make American Boy books, but I think they could make Historical American Boy dolls.

      Liked by 1 person

      • generationnext 2016/01/16 at 14:44 #

        You make some good points. I would like to share them with readers, if that’s okay.

        Timeless sounds amazing! Thanks for commenting and sharing. 🙂

        Like

  2. Ashley Allegretti 2016/08/23 at 21:22 #

    1.) I actually think of they were to introduce this, they would have to bring back Felicity but instead of having Elizabeth as her best friend, They bring Ben along side her. When I read the Felicity books and watched the movie, I got attached to Felicity and Ben. Like they should have the book series for Ben take place while he is fighting in the revolutionary war.
    A lot of American girl fans I have spoke to really love Felicity and want her to come back.
    This is though my idea if Mattel trys to bring Boys into this as ‘best friends’ they should do it with Felicoty and Ben. Ben a strong character and it would make a perfect role model for boys in my opinion and the other historical boys just are shown as annoying and you don’t really get attached to them in my opinion. But with Ben, he doesn’t annoy the crap out of Felicity and honestly I thought she was closer to him then Elizabeth. This would be a great if Mattel took this approach but its very unlikely.

    2.) Honestly, all we need is American boy dolls in the girl of the year lines and boom you more american girl ships will be created. Felicity and Ben were the only real ship in here and of they dragged in American boy doll characters honestly we could just American girl fans a complete fandom. I think there would be a lot of ships among the older fans which is good but Mattel will need to be careful to not suddenly give the historical characters boyfriends.

    3.) Overall, whatever approach Mattel will take if they introduce boys, I hope they do a great job. They have great opportunitys like another historical line, being a goty best friend, historical character best friend. A new truly me like boy line. This would be amazing. I don’t like the switching genders around idea in my opinion, they story will get more dry then it is and its getting on my nerves on how dry the stories are getting.

    Like

    • generationnext 2016/08/25 at 17:26 #

      The reason why girls get attached to Ben is because he’s older and more mature. XD Felicity isn’t the same age, but we are hearing the stories from her perspective. If we weren’t hearing the stories from her side, she might seem really annoying, too, considering she’s just a kid.

      The only problem is Ben is a teenager. If we’re thinking about that, it’s a little strange that there are some people who ship Felicity and Ben. Is it even legal? American Girl would get into legal trouble over that. A nine year old kissing a 16, 17, 18 year old? He’s Addy’s older BROTHER’S age! Bleck. And if Ben’s books were to take place in the future, Ben might already be married by the time Felicity is of age. Keep in mind, in the 1770s Ben is already considered a “grown man”. I personally NEVER would date someone who is nine years old back when I was 15. XD I also don’t think the ship is entirely realistic. Felicity hasn’t shown herself to be marriage material. Sometimes, fathers did give their daughters away to their apprentices, but Nan would be the likely choice, as she’s a better housekeeper than Felicity. Felicity has shown herself to be a poor seamstress and an impatient cook. I don’t think Miss Felicity would be ready to be Ben’s wife. XD

      Most of their dolls represent children age 9 and 10. Ben is far too old. His doll would have to be taller than an 18″ doll.

      Then the nature of Ben’s character would change in his story. He wouldn’t be as “lovable” in his own story. From Felicity’s perspective, a child-sized mind, Ben is a strong and independent boy, like she is as a girl. He’s probably more of a playmate or big brother. But from Ben’s perspective…I’m sure his mind is far more advanced. He’s at an age where other men his age consider marriage and children. After all, even Annabelle was interested in him for MARRIAGE. They didn’t just date for fun back then. Ben also has a more advanced view of the world, and I’m sure his perspective wouldn’t be as light-hearted as Felicity’s more “innocent” perspective. The literature would end up “Intermediate” like the Girls of Many Lands (I don’t know how old you are or if you remember them…). The stories wouldn’t be as “attractive” because kids wouldn’t understand it too much. It would have bigger words, too.

      Let’s also consider the fact Ben is only ONE character. If they only release that ONE character, he would have to sell over at least three years. Can one boy character even sell for ONE year? The only way this would work is if they had more than one male character in a completely new line, not as a “ship-bait”, but to teach children about history from a boy-sized perspective, just like they do the girls. After all, there are several boys in the American Girls collection who are truly the age: Two Hawks, Stirling, TJ, Davy (if you read Maryellen), Julius (If you read Melody)…They would be better representatives of “boys” in those times than Ben (who is really a grown man in his time), but the likelihood that they would be “attractive” like Ben is slim…Ben would be great if we were doing an American Teen line. Then American Girl could add Seth from Caroline’s series to the line.

      It’s best to create a whole new line and promote it on its own, with better character development to make the boys more appealing. After all, these dolls wouldn’t be just for “females” who love “romance” and shipping. These toys would be to appeal to the “males”, the boys too, and bring them into American Girl. And what boys care about romance?

      Boy characters can be added without being “boyfriends” to the American Girls. Boy characters should be added to honor our American boys, separate from the girls, not just as female “sidekicks” and companions…

      Though I understand that this would create too much shipping from American Girl fans…

      “I don’t like the switching genders around idea in my opinion, they story will get more dry then it is and its getting on my nerves on how dry the stories are getting.”

      What do you mean it would make the stories dry? I’m just curious to know.

      And how are the stories getting more dry? Especially in the historical sense? Much of it is based on history, not fantasy. It depends on how old you are I guess. GOTY best friend doll wouldn’t be a good idea to me. After all, we wouldn’t want the boy to be looked at as just a sidekick. And American Girl moved away from that marketing because it’s just too difficult to release more than one doll at once and try to sell them both in one year.

      I also like the Truly Me idea.

      Thank you for commenting. I appreciate it.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Logan is American Girl’s first ever 18″ BOY doll (they had a boy character in the Bitty Baby line). This has been rumored for awhile for those who have been in the “know”. […]

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