Hello, readers! This American Girl fan is back with a topic I’ve been meaning to discuss. It has come up several times among American Girl fans and I just wanted to share my thoughts on it. My views on this topic may be a bit controversial, but I’ll go ahead with it anyway.
I’ve been thinking more and more about when I should end my American Girl collection. My American Girl collection has gotten large enough and my pockets won’t be able to take investing in the brand forever, especially because the prices appear to climb higher every year. 😄 I’ve decided that I’ve got to find out where I should stop and just add to the dolls and collections I already have.
To add, the latest in the Beforever collections have just been…well, boring. I’ve been really disappointed with the recent American Girl Beforever items. I was disappointed with Maryellen’s lack of “character-specific” items. For example, they didn’t give her anything scientific, artistic, or Davy Crockett-related or something like that; there weren’t any items related to her interests in the books. With American Girl, LLC’s trend of changing up the books, they probably are avoiding book-specific items as much as possible. They had to rewrite many of the books to omit the descriptions of old outfits just so they could revamp the line for Beforever…
Melody was better about it, but she is also suffering from a rather small collection (in comparison to what I’m used to from the 1990s, I guess). I had hoped for something a little more interesting with Melody (like a 1960s salon with nail design or something, as mentioned in the book).
The Melody movie didn’t satisfy my inner American Girl, either (though it did satisfy me as an African American). It just didn’t feel like Melody’s story. It felt like the story of another Melody from the same time period…
Overall, I just feel unimpressed with American Girl Beforever lately.
So, as I was contemplating where I would end my collection, and contemplating which eras I’m looking forward to the most, I thought about this…American Girl basically covered most of the major eras that interest me. The only eras left untouched that I have any interest in are the late 1800s, the 1920s, and somewhat the 1980s…
For an American Girl fan like me, yes, American Girl is running out of eras. Depending on the kind of fan others are, this may not ring true, especially new fans, as some characters may have been archived before they became fans.
However, it still is crystal clear American Girl is running out of MAJOR periods and eras in American history to cover, no matter what fans are willing to accept. Still, there are a couple of minor ones they can touch on (though they don’t interest me much, as I feel many of the current American Girls have covered the gist of most of them).
In comparison to most countries around the world, the USA is still a relatively young country. We don’t have the vast amount of eras that other countries have. Sure, if we focus on every particular event in American history (as opposed to eras, like American Girl has been marketing their dolls for), we can find a whole slew of history. The original American Girl History Mysteries books did that.
But that still doesn’t stop the fact that American Girl is running out of MAJOR ERAS inUSA history. Focusing on particular events will just produce thousands (exaggeration here) of dolls that dress very similar and may even look similar. I suppose if you can deal with it with Girl of the Year, you can handle it with Beforever. GOTY characters are back to back, and they somewhat manage to make their characters’ outfits look relatively different (though in the past, fashions didn’t change as frequently as they do now). At the same time, I never feel like I have to buy a new Girl of the Year every year. I can easily buy the new GOTY fashion for another GOTY character I got previously. I’m not a major Girl of the Year fan though, and maybe that’s why. That’s aside from the fact that there isn’t enough diversity in the line, but that’s a subject for another day…
Kaya was in the major era of Exploration and Colinization giving the Native American persective. A pilgrim perspective is possible (1) as that can’t be touched on thoroughly in Kaya’s stories.
Felicity covered the Revolutionary era. There is no need for another perspective because most all perspectives were brought out in her stories.
Caroline covered the era of the New Nation. There’s only so much to really highlight here.
National Expansion & Reform was covered by Josefina, Kirsten, Marie-Grace and Cecile. A girl expanding west is possible (2), but she may look similar to Kirsten. Josefina also lives west herself, and also touched on western expansion directly in her story, as Americans began to take over Mexican territory.
Civil War and Reconstruction was covered by Addy. There is no need for another perspective. A confederate perspective would be quite controversial. Marie-Grace and Cecile touched on southern life positively in the 1800s without getting into the “Civil War” controversies regarding the South.
The Industrial Age is left open. Hopefully, American Girl stops focusing on modern history long enough to realize this open opportunity. (3)
Progressive Era to New Era, WWI, American Imperialism were touched on by Samantha and Rebecca.
The 1920s is open. (4)
The modern eras were covered by Kit, Molly, Maryellen, Melody, and Julie. And they have characters of various perspectives as well. Other perspectives are possible within other additional American Girl books (like the mysteries or Best Friend books, for example).
The 1980s can be covered as a modern era. At least it would make for interesting fashion, accessories, and maybe even playsets. (5)
Looking at what we have above, we don’t have many major eras to work with. I can read many different books about many different events, but can I buy a doll that is a “twin” of another when it comes to style and playsets? No. Not interested. Especially with four eras basically untouched.
After all the major eras are covered, I suppose American Girl will just rehash eras from different perspectives. As a history fan and American Girl fan, I have no interest in rehashed eras. 1) I’m too attached to the characters that represented the eras in the first place. No one can replace my Felicity, Molly, Kit, Addy, etc. 2) The American Girl books have already given many different perspectives already. Why would I want to hear the same information twice, from a different perspective, with just slight differences? 3) There are only certain Major Eras that can truly give two different perspectives in a way that actually makes the story feel different. If characters sound too similar to each other, in the same era in time, you might as well just make them friends of the characters already designed. Especially if the books are supposed to stretch over two volumes.
Each American Girl has many different perspectives in their books. Example: Even though Felicity is from a Patriot family, she had her grandfather and Elizabeth to represent the alternative perspective. In Samantha’s stories, she was the wealthy girl and Nellie represented an alternative “Irish immigrant” perspective and the horrible conditions factory workers endured.
I really didn’t have much interest in the Best Friend stories, as I felt I learned enough about their friends from the main American Girls’ own books.
I just have a hard time reading about the same subjects twice. It was one of the main reasons why Changes for Rebecca bored me. It was because I already read about factories in Samantha’s stories. Sure, Rebecca’s stories touched on the actual Labor Movement, but the shock factor of the factory conditions was lessened because I already read about it. Good thing there was enough differences between 1904 and 1914 to add other differences to the Rebecca series. That’s not the case with every major era. Some eras were so major they overcame daily life. WWII was one of those eras.
This is why I’m not interested in the rumored Hawaiian 1940s character. For those who don’t know, there is a rumor in the American Girl fan universe that another 1940s character from Hawaii is set to be released. Originally, the rumor was that she was Japanese, but with the recent trademarked name “Nanea Mitchell”, rumors have been reduced to just “Hawaiian”.
I don’t have any interest in another 1940s character, Japanese, Hawaiian, or any other. I feel, in my heart of hearts, that Molly fulfills my 1940s needs. Though I would love more diversity, I just wouldn’t want any other doll from that era. There are so many untouched eras that I would be more excited for. I’m just being honest. The 1940s feels exhausted for me. To me, Molly has represented what most Americans on the homefront have experienced, especially from a child’s perspective. My grandparents are African American, and they STILL related to the way Molly lived during the war, after I shared the stories with them. My great-grandmother even showed me a movie that she found about growing up in the war, a movie she felt described the homefront perfectly from her perspective, and much of the things mentioned in the movie were highlighted in Molly’s stories. Sure, my grandparents only experienced slight differences, like racism and discrimination, but they mostly lived in black communities and shared the same patriotic spirit (surprisingly).
Whether in obvious ways or small ways, Molly’s stories have really given a complete introduction to the era from a patriotic, very “all-American” perspective.
Now, most people tell me that they would LOVE an internment camp doll. I would NOT. If anyone has any knowledge of internment camp history, (and from my experience, many American Girl fans surprisingly don’t), I don’t think they would really think an internment camp character would be a good idea. First of all, it was a shameful time for not only Americans but for the Japanese Americans especially. It’s not like the end of the Civil War, where many slaves like Addy were running away from their masters in droves, enlisting in the war and fighting for freedom, and rebuilding their lives as free people of color, overcoming obstacles. It’s not like Melody who was able to use her strengths to overcome prejudice, racism, and discrimination, but also focused on the good times for African Americans, especially in the music industry. The Japanese Americans needed strength to endure the camps, sure, but they couldn’t do much to fight their fate. They lived like this for the whole war to boot. Some didn’t even live in houses, being placed in temporary shelters such as stables and barns. It just wasn’t a really good time for the Japanese Americans. It doesn’t highlight the strengths of the people.
It’s similar to the idea of touching on the European takeover of the Native Americans’ land and the placing of Native American children in boarding schools…It’s not the best light to show the Native Americans. This is why American Girl went with Kaya, before European take-over and influence…A time that showcased the “strengths” of the people and how they were thriving long before European influence…
Story-wise, internment camp history may be very interesting (rather sad) for an intermediate or advanced reading audience, maybe if someone wants to go into detail about WWII, but I don’t think an internment girl’s collection would be much different from Molly’s, and possibly would be worse. Many Japanese Americans couldn’t bring their toys, furniture, or heirlooms with them because they could only bring what they could carry to these camps. A few were able to bring their kimonos, though…
Relatively, the Japanese American character would dress similar to Molly on a day-to-day basis. As far as playsets go, can you really imagine the bedding and furniture? Not very nice as a miniature size for playtime. I’d rather them bring Molly back if they want to touch on WWII again, like they did with Samantha and are doing with Felicity.
Lastly, there were no internment camps in Hawaii. The American Girl character would have to be relocated to a different state. This is also why the original rumor seemed a little shaky to me.
If you really want to learn how it felt to live in an internment camp, just look up the REAL facts:
Some fans suggested that some of her family members be taken into an internment camp and she just stays on the island with the rest of her family and tells all of us about WWII on the Hawaiian home front (because not all Japanese Americans were taken into these camps). While this may be interesting to some people, I have no desire to hear about the war again, not even from a different perspective. I feel that Molly’s extra stories have the potential to bring that material to the fore. Just like one of Molly’s mysteries, A Spy on the Homefront, she could easily have another story about life in Hawaii on the homefront. That would satisfy my mind and my pockets. It doesn’t require a two-volume series.
Any outfits that come with a new 1940s character will just be placed on my Molly (unless it is Japanese or Hawaiian specific, which is unlikely with an internment camp girl). It saves money.
A Hawaiian character’s bedding and clothing may be more interesting than a Japanese internment camp girl, but probably still will only have slight differences from Molly in many respects. I just wouldn’t be compelled to buy everything because I know that not only do I have a ton of items from Molly’s 1990s collections to make up for it, but much of it was superior in quality to what I’m seeing come out of American Girl Beforever recently. All of the Hawaiian collection would just go to my Molly’s “Hawaiian vacation”. Lately, American Girl has opted out of character-specific items. I doubt the Hawaiian Beforever character will have many items that reflect her individual personality. And what would the average girl in the 1940s be interested in anyway? Possibly very similar interests to Molly.
I only feel compelled to buy new dolls if they are from unique eras in time. I just can’t get excited about an already-covered “Era” in time, no matter the events in the books or ethnicity. I suppose this is mostly because I love American Girl for the history and the tiny models (toys) that reflect complete eras in history. I’m just not into it just because they have dolls, with face molds, eye colors, and period fashion. I think representation is important, but I think girls of color should be represented in fresh eras in history first. Accurate history is a priority for me.
So I’ve decided that I will end my American Girl collection when all the major eras in history have been covered. If Beforever begins to repeat eras in history, I will just not buy it. That’s my resolve. The ones I numbered are the last couple of dolls I’m willing to collect. After that, I will just add to my collections.
My hope is that an Asian American character comes from the 1980s. That would make this fan happy. 🙂
I’m interested in hearing the opinions of other American Girl fans. Where do you plan to halt your collection and just add accessories, if at all? What eras do you look forward to most? Are you interested in eras-done-twice? What do you think of the rumored Hawaiian 1940s character? Do you believe American Girl is running out of eras in history? Leave me a comment and give your opinion.