Tag Archives: toys

Bratz dolls VS. Feminists: “Oversexualized” or “Empowering”?

16 May

Lately, I’ve been going back into the history of Bratz, where Bratz experienced a tremendous rise in the toy industry and where Bratz took a tumble downhill. As a major Bratz fan, I still have a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that these dolls are not going to be produced anymore, that they are discontinued, and that they are no longer popular. In 2016, MGA, the owners of the Bratz doll brand, announced that they were discontinuing the Bratz dolls after a less-than-glorious comeback from their hiatus the year before.

As a way to find a sense of closure, I’ve been researching all kinds of news articles on the Bratz, news that have been out since 2001. I’ve been going back into my own “archives” both online and offline.

In a former article, I reviewed what happened to the Bratz in the last couple of years, based on all the information I have: Bratz Are Back Again in 2015: What Happened to the Bratz?

While flipping and clicking through everything, I’ve come to realize that feminists, moms, and Bratz dolls were never far a part from each other, but feminists and moms never really met eye to eye with the Bratz. It doesn’t surprise me that “soccer” moms are against the Bratz. Their name is “Bratz” after all. Parents may have heard the name and assumed that the dolls encouraged their girls to rebel against their parents.

However, I’ve found the Bratz to be a very empowering line of dolls in totality. That’s why it shocks me to read about so many feminists who are really against this doll brand. In fact, many feminists have openly been against the Bratz since debut. Therefore, I’ve concluded that the details that go into the Bratz’s  recent decline in popularity have at least a little to do with active feminists. How so?

Before I get into the details, let’s review how the Bratz came to be, how I got interested in the Bratz, and how (and why) they got so popular in the first place.

Bratz: The Urban Fashionistas

Carter Bryant was the original designer of the Bratz dolls who came up with the idea for the dolls after looking at a Steve Madden shoe ad in Seventeen magazine, photographed by Bernard Belair.

Bryant liked the “cartoonish” yet stylish look of the ad and wanted to create dolls with a similar appeal. To put it simply, Bratz were never meant to look realistic, but they were going to be displayed wearing the latest teen fashions.

Carter Bryant has also shared with me that he was inspired from the urban and punk scenes he always loved. He is an edgy man at heart and wanted to bring that to the Bratz doll line. When he brought the dolls to MGA, Issac Larian, the CEO, was skeptical at first, thinking their heads and feet were weird. But when Larian showed the dolls to his daughter, Jasmin Larian, she thought they were cool. The Bratz doll Yasmin was named after her.

At the Turn of the 21st Century, tweens (kids between the ages of 10 and 14) lost interest in dolls. With pop music spreading around the world, many girls were growing too “old” to be interested in toys (though I’d say it’s worse now than it was then, now that there’s this emphasis on smartphones and tablets). The doll market was experiencing a decline back then just as it is now. Many doll companies were interested in turning the new pop culture trend around in their favor. They wanted to make “up-to-date” dolls specifically for tweens so they could bring them back into the market.

Barbie was dominating the toy market, but by the 1990s, she was considered babyish.

Barbie was also criticized by minority ethnic groups for “lacking diversity” and outshining her more “diverse” friends. To many, Barbie was a sign of “White Supremacy”. After all, she was invented at a very tense racial time (1959).

Since the 1970s, feminist writers began examining entertainment designed for girls. Barbie came under fire several times throughout generations of feminists.

Feminists have been wanting to encourage self-love since then. Barbie was criticized for having unrealistic body proportions (like bigger than average boobs, a tiny waist, super thin lips, full hair, tiny feet, etc), body features that didn’t seem realistically attainable for every woman.

Bratz wasn’t the answer to everything missing in the doll industry (according to feminists), but they did solve the “diversity” problem.

The Bratz were released wearing “urban” fashions, a huge trend among youths at the Turn of the 21st Century since the rise in popularity of African American hip-hop and rap artists and labels in the 1990s. White people had also jumped on the urban trends (thanks to groups like New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys). Bratz had bigger lips than the average doll. They wore the “latest trends”, which often included cropped tops, baggy pants, and mini skirts, as well as tons of makeup. The dolls came in a variety of different “colors” and hair textures even if their actual ethnic backgrounds were left ambiguous.

I was a tween at the time of the Bratz debut in 2001, the target demographic. I was one of the children that stopped playing with dolls at 10 years old (thought I still liked to collect them as a hobby). I would say books, video games, anime, and internet consumed my life rather than pop stars and MTV. I still liked certain doll brands, like Magic Attic Club and American Girl, but I never played with the actual dolls. I mostly bought the books, not the dolls. I completely lost interest in the regular Barbie doll (though Generation Girl Dolls peaked my interest for a short time).

To me, as someone who lost interest in playing with Barbies at 10, Bratz were amazing. As an African American, I was happy to see dolls with full lips, full thick hair, and urban fashions commonly worn in my own black community (and not the cookie-cutter suburbanite outfits I often saw on my Barbies as a kid in the 1990s).

That’s why it was perplexing to find that most of the articles kept describing the dolls as “oversexualized” and “materialistic”. I couldn’t understand it at 11 years old. “What’s so sexual about them?” I kept asking myself. Their clothes were cool and urban to me, not sexual. I couldn’t see how baggy pants and beanie caps (included in the 1st edition of Bratz) were even “sexual” in nature. The dolls carried a lot of sass and attitude. They seemed bold and confident to me. The quality was impeccable and very realistic at the time. If anything, these dolls were gender-defying for me! They were not prim, perfect, pink, and prissy. They said “So what!” to fashion norms and boundaries that told girls to be “presentable, lest you tempt the manfolk”.

It truly surprised me to see so many feminists set against the Bratz.

As I got older, I began to understand the feminists’ concerns a little more than I did as a child, but I still don’t agree with many of their assumptions about the Bratz.

Let me give you a little history about myself.

I’m not your typical doll collector. I’m not only an adult, I’m an androgynous tomboy. As a child, I was a complete tomboy. My parents, particularly my mother, would often dress me in dresses, but she was very strict about how I should eat when dressed up, how I had to wear each article of clothing perfectly, and she schooled me on the people I had to please (particularly friends and neighbors). I got verbally (and sometimes physically) assaulted at times for wearing the wrong shoes with the wrong outfit. As I got older, because of these experiences, I began to reject social femininity. When I got more control of my fashion choices, I made sure to avoid dresses and skirts as much as possible.  I became mostly uninterested in clothes and makeup. I prefer to dress comfortably. I became convinced that “femininity” was all about conforming socially, pleasing others, and dressing the part in every situation. Social femininity was translated as “threatening” to me.

So it might make people wonder how I could be interested in such a fashion-conscious doll line like the Bratz.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t see what many of these news journalists and feminists saw in the Bratz. When I first saw the 2001 1st Edition Bratz, I saw their art versions, which displayed four girls in urbanized fashions in the sickest artwork ever. They all wore baggy jeans and sporty crop tops! If anything they looked like tomboys with makeup on!

The clash of femininity and tomboyishness made me feel thrilled and excited. Bratz did renew my interest in fashion, but not as a way to please or impress others. Bratz made me realize that fashion could be used to express oneself, to express ideas, to express art. Bratz inspired me to take my boyish looks to the next level which was why I got interested in different androgynous looks. I became unafraid to look different. I became unafraid of the controversy.

I was an outcast in middle school and high school. I was different. I was not only a tomboy, but a Black girl who enjoyed world music (like Japanese and Turkish music), among many genres including rock and roll, and enjoyed anime and video games. I never dressed up, so everyone thought I was weird. I looked like a 10 year old because I was so petite and never did my hair in the latest styles (which made me look even younger). I wore glasses and didn’t care for contacts. I would wear the same clothes year after year. I didn’t care, as long as they were clean. Many people thought I was a lesbian because I didn’t date in high school. Most of the guys thought I was too skinny to be attractive anyway. I didn’t have curves. When they discovered I wasn’t a lesbian, that confused them even more.

When Bratz were introduced, they were just the kind of thing I was looking for in the world. The Bratz not only renewed my interest in fashion but in the fashion doll industry in general. The dolls also helped me come to terms with my own individuality.

I always loved dolls, even in high school. I didn’t play with them; I just liked collecting them and taking pictures. I collected a lot of 18″ dolls mostly. After the Bratz came out, I was looking for fashion dolls like them. There were few dolls like them though.

I wasn’t ashamed of liking dolls, though I’m certain many teenagers would’ve been. I think after dealing with being forced to fit standards as a child, I had this counter-culturalist in me just waiting to break free. I didn’t think I was feminine at all, and so I rejected it in myself and in others.

Even though they were just dolls, Bratz helped me understand myself. My interest in them revealed something about myself. I realized I hadn’t lost touch with my femininity or my own sense of woman, I just had a different kind and that was okay. I realized that there were many ways to define  “being a woman”.

Bratz helped me at a difficult time, when I felt like I had to fit all of these standards. Unlike me, Bratz could do whatever they wanted to do. They had the courage and bravery, despite the backlash, to just be. It was obvious by their outrageous fashions, their exciting movies, and strong music that they just didn’t care. Much of their music still inspires me, like Bratz Forever Diamondz “Yasmin”‘s “Hang On”.

To me, the Bratz had a very strong empowering message of teaching girls to be confident and comfortable with who they are, no matter what anyone says.

When I saw their outfits, though, they seemed to wear mostly costumes rather than “regular” fashions. They reflected the latest styles with a twist. I was impressed with the detail, the various accessories, and the quality (hair that felt soft and thick, jeans made from actual jean material, etc), as well as the creative and bold themes.

Bratz also set many trends and broke many fashion rules. I liked Bratz because they reflected my own liberation from society’s norms. And at the time, they were the only dolls doing this.

Nowadays, there are many dolls empowering girls in many different ways. Many dolls out today have been inspired from the Bratz. Still, I have a special place in my heart for these dolls because they encouraged me to be bold and different, to be innovative and creative, and to think outside of the box.

My other favorite part about Bratz was that a blonde white girl wasn’t at the center. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with Barbies, too, which I’ll go into further later. But Bratz offered me something I never could let go of, something I could relate to more personally.

Bratz had a variety of different characters eventually, of many shades, with most being dolls of color. I was so happy when MGA released Felicia, an actual dark-skinned doll that was designed beautifully and stylish! Many other Black characters have been in the Bratz franchise as well.

Sasha looks gorgeous in her “natural” hair!

Even though the Bratz dolls came in many shades, Black and Latino culture initially influenced much of the doll brand. From the styles, to the music (as you could tell above), to the full lips and thick hair, down to the urban fashion, Bratz were meant to appeal to a wider ethnic demographic.

In the early 2000s, gangster rap was just sizzling down. Many people outside of the black community (and even some of the old-school generation within) looked down on “urban” fashions and felt it represented “deviant” culture. This is partially why Bratz carried even more controversy at debut. Many people compared them to “urban thugs”. But most of the fashion was widely accepted among black and Latino/Hispanic cultures.

The more rebellious Bratz appeared, the more I loved them. Did it mean I was a bad girl and that I didn’t want to follow any rules? Of course not. But I did recognize that I don’t have to let others define me or decide the type of clothing I needed to wear socially. The Bratz showed me that I can represent alternatives in fashion and let that make its own statement.

Of course, we do have to consider some things socially when picking our clothes, but adding a little creativity and imagination to our wardrobe also adds to our individuality (along with our personalities). Bratz taught me that.

Eventually, Bratz brought in wild lines like Tokyo-ago-go, Space Angelz, Rock Angelz, Pretty N Punk, and many others to the mix. That just gave me more courage to speak out and embrace my individuality.

Some Feminists’ Issues with the Bratz

It baffles me how many people don’t realize just how influential feminists and moms were when it came to the Bratz’s 2015 transformation and sudden decline. Yes, other factors contributed to the Bratz dolls’ decline in popularity (such as the ongoing court battles between Mattel, owners of Barbie, and MGA, owners of Bratz). But the recent comeback, as well as the one in 2010, was obviously specifically “watered down” to appeal to moms and feminists, which didn’t go over so well with many of the fans of the brand.

The moment MGA released the first batch of dolls in 2015, MGA shared a facebook post called New Bratz dolls Tell Girls “It’s Good to be Yourself”. The article states that the dolls give a message that “won’t make parents cringe”. MGA must have realized that moms and feminists didn’t approve of the original Bratz and they wanted to ease the criticisms. Women have a lot of power and influence in the retail industry, believe it or not. MGA posted that article to show how Bratz have become more “innocent” in the last couple of years. They tried to put less makeup on the dolls, they made the outfits cuter, and made the eyes bigger so they wouldn’t look sassy or like they have “attitude”. It still didn’t work. Feminists still felt they were “underwhelming“. All it did was make the fans less interested in them and made the feminists criticize them even more.

The few feminists that are/were supportive of the Bratz have mostly been supportive of Bratz’s ethnic diversity and “ethnic” features (such as large lips, thick hair, and slanted eyes).

But most of these feminists overlook any of the positive regarding these dolls.

After reviewing many articles from feminists about the Bratz, I’ve learned that they take several issues with them (issues I find confusing):

  1. Their usage of makeup
  2. Their “sexualized” clothes and features
  3. Their unrealistic body proportions
  4. Their name
  5. Their “materialism”
  6. Their slogan

These Bratz dolls got an amazing feminist makeover

Tree Change

This artist is giving Bratz an awesome feminist Makeover

Bratz Is Not Happy That I Said Their Dolls Do Molly 

The Unsluttification Of Bratz?

Over-sexed and over here: The ‘tarty’ Bratz Doll

New Bratz dolls Tell Girls “It’s Good to be Yourself”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-411266/Over-sexed-The-tarty-Bratz-Doll.html#ixzz4gPS3FGyI

How to Explain Monster High and Other Hyper-Sexualized Dolls to Young Kids

Now, many of these comparisons are made right alongside the Barbie doll. As mentioned before, feminists’ first gripe with the fashion doll industry came with Barbie. Barbie has been pretty influential in girls’ lives and she has been an icon of fashion and materialism. She has been a staple of femininity for even adult women. Many feminists have examined how Barbie influenced girls and were afraid the Bratz, who seemed to carry some of the same “problems”, would influence girls much the same way.

But here’s where I think some of these feminists miss the mark.

Yes, sometimes girls often imitate their dolls in various ways and grow up to be inspired by these dolls. However, from my experience working with children and being a child during the Barbie and Bratz era, I would definitely say it depends on the context and the way the dolls are presented. It also depends on one’s own life experiences. Barbie and Bratz gave me two different vibes and that influenced my perception of the dolls, myself, and womanhood in general.

I don’t think Barbie and Bratz give a similar message at all. I think the feminists that think they do only know that the Bratz are considered fashion dolls, but know nothing else about them otherwise. These feminists may have seen one or two lines with the Bratz in more “conventional” fashion, but more than likely they didn’t dig deeper than that.

Let me explain why Bratz and Barbie are so very different and how this affects each of their messages to girls.

Bratz Vs. Barbie

I will share the history of both brands a little more because I believe the very inspiration behind the dolls shows how each was meant to affect girls.

As mentioned before, Bratz was designed to represent a “cartoonish” and yet stylish look, while also reflecting underground subcultures in fashion. Their inspiration came from an ad in a teen magazine.

Barbie was thought up by Ruth Handler, a woman who often watched her daughter Barbara pretend her paper dolls were adults. Ruth saw an opening in the market for adult-designed dolls rather than the usual baby dolls and paper dolls available.

When visiting Germany, she saw the Bild Lilli Doll, based off the popular German comic strip character. Bild Lilli was a beautiful bombshell woman who worked but was not above using men to suit her aims. The comic strip and the dolls were designed for adults, but kids would often take the dolls and mix and match her fashion.

Arguably, Barbie is the inspiration for all fashion dolls that came afterwards, so all fashion dolls will be watched by skeptics. But the intention behind the doll is significant when it comes to the art and presentation of the doll.

Barbie was designed to be an adult figure for girls to imagine and aspire to be. Initially, she was presented as an ideal adult female figure (more so from the White upper-class perspective).

I can honestly tell you, as a 6 and 7 year old, that was exactly what I thought of when I played with Barbie. Barbie may not look totally realistic in her proportions, but she looks realistic enough from a child’s perspective, and she looks realistic enough for women to “aspire” to “obtain” her look. Sure, her breasts are bigger than the average woman’s, especially on someone that thin, but breasts like that didn’t seem impossible to me as a child. In fact, Barbie looked like many of the blonde women I saw on Baywatch (which I often caught glimpses of on tv in the 1990s).

Thus, it was obvious in my mind’s eye that Barbie fit a perceived beauty standard.

In my mind, Barbie had several differences from me. She was blonde, tall, white, and wore clothes only the wealthy could wear. I never aspired to be blonde and white like her, however she reminded me of all the adult women around me. I didn’t see too many women who deviated from the “norm” socially as a child. I would always imagine doing what my mother did when playing with my Barbies.

When I played with Barbie, I didn’t see myself, and that influenced how I felt about her as I got older. As I got older, I saw that I was not growing into an adult like Barbie. I began to disconnect with the doll. I saw my mother and everything she was: a glamorous working woman who could do anything she put her mind to.  I didn’t see much substance in Barbie at all, though. And that may imply that I really didn’t see much substance in the women around me. It implies it and it is true.

However, even though I couldn’t relate to her, I admired her pink empire. I longed to live her wealthy, high-class life, a life my broke Black behind would have a difficult time achieving.

In the 1990s, she came with literally everything. But she had no “real” set personality, no real individuality. All of her friends were just ethnic versions of her that you could hardly find in stores. They literally often wore the same outfits as Barbie, though it would sometimes be in a different color.

Yea, her hair seems nicer in the picture, but the actual doll is not the same!

As a kid, I wanted to be more “successful” like her, but I knew that I was too different to want to be like her completely. I wasn’t girly enough to pull of being a Barbie. Many of my other friends wanted to have straight, blonde hair like Barbie. They wanted the perfect body when they grew up, like she had. They wanted to drive pink cars like Barbie. They wanted to live in mansions like she did. They wanted a handsome boyfriend like Ken. Many of them ended up doing those things in the future, perfectly fitting the social package. I can amusingly say that they often look like clones of one another, trying to outdo each other when it comes to the latest trends.

Bratz, in contrast, never had a body to “aspire” to obtain. They literally looked like cartoon characters. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting heads and feet as big as theirs. In fact, big heads and big feet are normally considered ugly in America! The Bratz made it look cool. As someone who had big feet, I appreciated that. But I never heard anyone “aspire” to have a big head or big feet like them. It became clear that their proportions were not designed to fit an “ideal” but rather they literally were made to be disproportionate.

Sure, they were skinny. But their breasts were not large. Even being skinny, no kid would honestly think their bodies are normal enough to pay attention. My friends and I would always make fun of the Bratz heads and feet. We didn’t sigh with envy, that’s for certain. But the outfits were super creative. It was hard not to anticipate what they would think of next.

Each doll was different in some way from the other. Not only were there dolls of various colors, but each doll had their own wicked fashion sense and personality. They were very individual and not outshined by the “white” doll. The four core dolls were treated equally at debut, which I appreciated.

The Bratz were not designed to fit the usual beauty standard. They were meant to reflect the underground cultures, cultures that have developed a sense of community to help them cope with being an outcast. Therefore, in my mind, Bratz produced the opposite response of wanting to “imitate” and rather encouraged individuals like me to be “themselves” and strike out boldly. At 11, I was thinking that if each Bratz girl looks different, and has her own passion for fashion, that means all of us are different. We don’t all have to look and be the same. It encouraged me to find my own unique sense of style, not be the doll I saw in front of me (unlike with Barbie).

Barbie’s other media entertainment, like her movies, showed her as a gorgeous, glamorous lady who could do anything. Bratz movies showed four individual sassy teens who liked to hang out, dress up at times, dabble in their hobbies, and go on amazing adventures. The Bratz never seemed as shallow as Barbie.

Bratz Boyz were a stark contrast to Ken. Though they are all fashion dolls, the Bratz boyz weren’t just accessories for the girls. They had their own lines, several individual ethnic appearances and personalities, many different hair textures and styles, and just as much detail as the girls. Boys were not ashamed to admire them. Girls saw more than just boyfriends in these dolls. In fact, only one of the main characters “crush” on a Bratz Boy. But that boy has his own interests, his own personality, and his own style.

With the differences settled, let’s address these issues feminists have with the Bratz directly.

“Too Much Makeup”

Feminists across the board have been very critical of the Bratz’s overuse of makeup.

Some feminists believe that the Bratz have perfectly made-up faces, which teaches girls that they have to wear makeup to look perfect.

Among feminists, makeup in general has been controversial. Feminists are determined to break the social expectation that encourages girls to be too interested in their appearance. Unlike men, women are often expected to appear perfect, without flaws. This has been linked to women being treated like objects rather than creatures of “substance”. Many jobs around the world won’t hire women or will fire women if they don’t wear makeup. Feminists have been pushing for women to embrace their natural features and colors without a “mask”. They have been pushing for businesses to remove the makeup standards/policies or equalize them (pushing men to also wear more makeup).

One look at the first Bratz dolls, and a feminist would definitely think the Bratz’s usage of makeup further encourages these harsh makeup standards in young ladies. As someone who doesn’t wear makeup, I completely understand this concern.

On the other hand, feminists also preach against body-policing and believe that women should be free to indulge in whatever they enjoy. If a woman truly enjoys makeup, does that make her a product of the patriarchal system and less feminist?

Some feminists recognize that makeup can be used artistically. Many feminists believe that if women truly enjoy makeup, and don’t look at it as a necessary tool to hide their “flaws”, then it isn’t necessarily anti-feminist.

Some feminists don’t think women should be controlled to either extreme considering some companies also control how much makeup a woman wears, which isn’t fair either.

Still, there are feminists out there who believe a real feminist would not support makeup at all and they often do shame women who wear it.

Admittedly, Bratz are designed with a ton of makeup on. However, I think it would be unfair to compare Bratz’s use of makeup to other fashion dolls’ usage, like Barbie’s, or any other usage of makeup that is deemed designed to make someone look “perfect”.

When looking at Barbie, for example, Barbie’s “makeup” has consistently been painted on her face to give her the ideal packaged look for every generation. She is literally considered “gorgeous” with it on. She has the perfectly colored cheeks, darkened eyelashes, and perfectly lined lipstick. Her face is clear of blemishes, moles, freckles, and any other “imperfections” she could possibly have. Her eyebrows are perfectly arched and tweaked. Even the best makeup artist can’t get a real girl’s face that beat. Barbie is plastic perfection. Any girl who admires her will want to be plastic perfection as well. Her made-up beauty fits a conventional standard, yet no woman can ever really look like her 100%. Real women get older. Real women have wrinkles, freckles, beauty marks, moles, scraggly eyebrows, and all the other distinct features. And yet, real women do make themselves up to look like Barbie all the time.

Bratz’s use of makeup is/was entirely different.

For starters, the makeup wasn’t designed to hide any “imperfections”. The Bratz doll Yasmin had a mole under her left eye. Her makeup didn’t hide that mole. Other Bratz dolls had moles and freckles, too.

Though, admittedly, a lot of the Bratz makeup was polished, there were many times their makeup was experimental and could hardly ever really be called “perfect”.

Take Bratz Space Angelz Cloe for example.

What is perfect about her makeup? Nothing at all! Her lipstick is asymmetrical, hardly what I would call “designed to appeal”. It would be fair to argue that anyone who wears their makeup like this is looking for attention, but it’s hardly the sexual or attractive kind. While Barbie’s makeup was clearly created so she could look pleasing out in public, this makeup is hardly what I would call public-friendly.

Any child who imitated this would end up getting stared down by the public, and maybe even teased and mocked. I’m sure most children were/are aware of that. But it’s clear that the makeup is different and unique. Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to see that the Bratz are giving a different message with their makeup. They are showing just how artistic and creative it can be, even if it isn’t necessarily attractive! They are showing that it’s okay to do something different with makeup! It definitely doesn’t give the message that girls have to wear makeup to appear normal. In fact, the above doll line made makeup seem very unusual, almost abnormal. Even makeup’s rules were bent by the Bratz dolls!

Much of the Bratz’s other makeup was used to match up with the theme or subculture they represented. Pretty N Punk, for example, represented punk culture. Many punk princesses wear dark makeup to show their edge and fierceness. They don’t wear it to appear “attractive” or sexy or perfect. Male rock stars often wear eyeliner and black lipstick, too, and I’m sure it’s not to appear more attractive and perfect.

Most guys might think these styles are cool, but hardly any of them would consider these girls “bombshells”. It’s easy to tell that their makeup was purely designed to better make a statement rather than to appear perfect, without imperfections.

Again, Bratz used makeup in a variety of ways, even in more conventional ways. But because of their constant changes, they never managed to give the impression that they wore makeup to please others. They never gave the message that a girl had to wear makeup to appear attractive. They literally seemed to just be having fun with it. As a tween, I liked that.

Bratz may not have been the fresh-faced, innocent-looking, demure dolls mommies wanted, but they weren’t exactly anti-feminist either.

By feminists criticizing the Bratz usage of makeup, it’s as if they are placing a rule on who gets to be a feminist. So, are they implying women who enjoy trying different makeup tricks aren’t feminists? This leads to greater questions about modern feminism.

Sure, makeup was created by men and is a reminder of the “patriarchy”. But so is everything in our societies. Does that mean makeup is bad and can’t be used for positive and creative purposes? Absolutely not!

Overall, I’m not sure where some of these feminists are going when they attack the usage of makeup on these dolls. I think most of them are purely ignorant about the brand.

Bratz Are “Over-sexualized”

All the articles I’ve read from feminists, especially from Jezebel, have said that the Bratz are “hyper-sexualized” dolls. What exactly makes a doll sexualized? Short skirts? Cropped tops? Makeup? Pouty Lips? Glossy eyes?

And if they do, what exactly makes these things sexualized?

They are only sexualized when people sexualize them. To say that a doll with a short skirt is sexualized is indirectly saying a woman who wears a short skirt is sexualizing herself.

That would go against most feminists’ mantra: “My clothing is not my consent”.

Haven’t we gone beyond policing a woman’s attire and attributing her wardrobe to sexual and physical attention from the opposite sex? So why is it condemned when dolls reflect just that attitude?

Arguing about dolls being over-sexualized may be more appropriate for Barbie to a certain degree because of the “intent” of some of her lines. Most of her early attire is for the physical attention of her boyfriend Ken (though even she has moved beyond that point). Barbie has been a sex icon for most men for centuries. She was inspired by a “Call-Girl” doll, Bild Lilli, a doll meant for adults. Barbie has literally had lingerie lines. She has had “pregnant” dolls.

Barbie, sex icon

Sure, Pregnant Midge isn’t wearing a fitted skirt and a lot of makeup. But she’s pregnant! This opens the doors to other controversial subjects that kids really aren’t mature enough to be exposed to (though children often witness their mothers pregnant all the time).

Barbie is meant to be a blonde, gorgeous adult woman who does “adult” things like have sex and get pregnant. And she allows girls to imagine their lives as “adult” women through playtime with her. Children who play with her are reinventing an adult lifestyle. Sometimes, this produces controversy.

But even with Barbie, should we police all of her fashion styles and attribute it solely to sex and seeking male attention? Not all of it.

If we want to talk about something being sexualized or “hyper-sexualized”, we have to consider the context of the lines the dolls are released in.

The Bratz, on the other hand, have never initiated a sexual response to anyone who played or collected them. The context of their clothing, the intent of their lines, have never been to produce a sexual response. They were intended for a tween and teen audience. They were meant to showcase the latest fashions and the most revolutionary styles out in the cultural world.

In fact, if you look up “Bratz as a sex icon” on Google, hardly anything sexual comes up except these feminists’ articles! While Barbie has many photos of a sexual nature, Bratz don’t!

Most men do not see Bratz as sexually attractive. First off, their bodies are too disproportionate to even be considered “real”.

If you want to argue that Bratz’s skirts are too short, short enough to look like underwear, let’s consider the fact that Bratz hardly wore skirts in the past.

To me, the Bratz have mostly been presented as “fashionable”, not sexy. And if fashionable is considered sexy, women and men have a problem. Clothing itself is a problem. Taste and preference is a problem.

Dolls are designed to mimic the real world around us in some ways. If we don’t want dolls to mimic the styles we find “sexualized”, then we as women need to stop wearing makeup and fashionable clothes that are too sexualized. We need to go back to the point where our skirts were below the ankles and our collars were high. But feminists fought to move away from that point. Why? Because it was uncomfortable to walk in those long, horrible skirts. The collars were itchy and hot in the summer. And it didn’t stop women from being objectified or from being looked at as sex objects.

What is considered sexualized is subjective. In the above Bratz photos, I’m still trying to scan them for any hint of sex and I don’t understand it. Someone else may be able to spot it. If some of us, like myself, can’t spot it as easily, that means it’s not as “overt” as these feminists make it out to be.

Arguably, feminists come from all walks of life, from many different religious and moral backgrounds. Some feminists are Muslim or Hindu and believe in a certain form of modesty. But there are many village women out in the world who often go topless or wear crop tops, and it isn’t considered morally indecent. It’s mostly considered practical in the heat!

If we can honor that women come from all walks of life, we should also be able to understand that the Bratz represent those women that actually enjoy using fashion as a form of self-expression and connecting with group culture, especially sub-cultures. We should understand that the Bratz wear their short skirts and crop tops and think nothing of it.

The short skirts that they wear are simply fashion statements. The Bratz’s legs seem freer, which is why the Bratz give off the image that they are liberated from societal norms. But their lines are hardly ever to cater to male or female sexual fantasies.

The Bratz do often wear cropped tops. But cropped tops aren’t always worn for sexual attention. If we’re going to say that, we might as well condemn every woman who wears one in the summer, on the beach, or at home relaxing. Bikinis should be outlawed then. They’re revealing. If that’s the case, return to the 1800s idea of “fashion” when bathing suits weighed 8 lbs!

But women will not regress. Women have many reasons for wearing the fashions they wear and it is not always to seek male attention. Feminists are the ones who’ve educated the world on that. So why can’t they accept the Bratz dolls for wearing it?

The Bratz’s cropped tops are no different from the ones sported by empowering and feminist female pop stars and figures today.

And yet, most feminists’ honor these women as strong and empowering influences on girls. Are Alessia Cara and Pink seeking male attention with their cropped tops?

It’s true that fashion sends a message to others about us, even if it doesn’t tell others everything. However, if we look at the context of the lines produced, we can clearly see the dolls’ intended nature, even if they’re wearing cropped tops and mini skirts. From the Bratz, we can obviously see they are fierce, independent, and revolutionary dolls that simply want to take fashion to the next outrageous level.

When we look at Bratz fashion lines like Tokyo-ago-go or Pretty N’ punk, what message are the lines sending?

Bratz Tokyo a-go-go tells me that the Bratz are ready for a wild and fun Tokyo adventure, not a date with a hot guy. Their cropped tops don’t hint at any sexual message in this line. Pretty N Punk tells me that the Bratz are ready to listen to some rock music and party at a rock club.

Neither of these lines give the message that they want a male’s attention or that they even want to look sexy at all.

Many of the feminists that complain about the Bratz often complain about anything “too revealing”. If you wear skinny jeans, you’re sexualizing yourself to some of these feminists!

That’s why they were on my list of 7 Feminists That Make Me Cringe.

These feminists also associate makeup with sexualization. I think makeup makes people look older, especially children, but that doesn’t mean it’s specifically for looking older and hotter to the opposite sex. There is kiddie makeup out in the world that’s toned down and it’s a lot of fun to share makeup moments with mom. Spa dates aren’t sexualizing to a child.

Face paint can be a form of makeup as well. Face paint isn’t sexualizing. Bratz have often used makeup that way.

What really kills me about these feminists’ accusations is how they equate “features” to sexualization. I find it interesting how “big lips” and “glossy eyes” are associated with sexualization. Bratz have a vague “ethnic” look about them. They were meant to relate, again, to a wider ethnic demographic.

But some of these feminists have associated the Bratz’s big lips and eyes with sexualization. What?

Black women have bigger lips than other races. Are they sexualizing themselves when they wear lip gloss or lipstick on their lips? I think this goes back to a Eurocentric standard of modesty, where thin lips and big eyes are considered “innocent”, while full lips and almond-shaped eyes (more similar to other ethnic groups) are considered immodest and ugly.

I can understand how the Bratz could encourage thin-lip girls to get surgery just to blow their lips up. However, thin-lip dolls can just as easily encourage big-lip girls to get surgery to reduce their lips. I think the Bratz, who are widely looked at as unrealistic in form and design, make big heads, feet, and lips, once considered undesirable traits, more acceptable.

I grew up having big feet. Big feet run in my family. Many of the women in my family wear size 11. The smallest feet in my family have worn size 9! Most people have called me “long feet”. When the Bratz were released, I didn’t feel so bad about it. Their feet were obviously exaggerated though.

To me, the eyes showed attitude and confidence, not flirtation and sexuality. So if a woman glosses her eyes, she’s trying to flirt with someone? This contradicts everything feminists stand for!

 Unrealistic Bodies

Feminists have attacked dolls with skinny bodies for years. This is because many are afraid girls will strive to have unrealistic body weights, starving themselves or getting surgery just to appear skinny.

Bratz have very skinny arms and legs.

I can understand why feminists fear this. After all, many people desired to have Barbie’s figure after being exposed to her. However, we have to also analyze what the standard of beauty was before Barbie was released. Being slim, blonde, with thin lips, perky breasts, and blue eyes were always standards of beauty since the 1950s and 1960s. The media played it up. Barbie just reflected that standard in a perfect doll form.

http://www.thefrisky.com/photos/human-barbies-slideshow/barbie-valeria/

Bratz’s body design never reflected a particular standard of beauty from the very beginning, skinny or not. No one ever desired to have large feet and huge heads (at least in the west) with a skinny body. It never has been an ideal (at least in the west) and never will be.

If we look at Bratz as a doll brand separately from Barbie, objectively, Bratz don’t look realistic enough to begin with to cause children to want to look like them in real life. That’s like assuming little girls would want to look like a Powerpuff Girl just because they like the cartoon. Children are smarter than that. They know when something looks unrealistic.

Barbie and Jem dolls had more realistic appearances, appearances that seemed to fit media standards, so I can understand how individuals could strive to look like them. Bratz dolls have larger than life heads with huge feet. They look like they walked out of carnival fun house mirrors.

If you’re looking to bring body politics into the Bratz world, you’ve got a few things to consider.

First off,  keeping in mind their cartoonish look, they aren’t supposed to have realistic bodies. They are supposed to look weird and sort of funny.

Second, you have to consider what kids see when they look at dolls that obviously look disproportionate. I think children get the same vibe from these dolls that they do from characters in My Little Pony. Humans don’t have purple and pink skin, so we can’t be like the Equestria Girls. That’s the vibe I got as an 11 year old when it came to Bratz. In fact, I thought it was cool that they looked like funny, but edgy cartoon characters. Being skinny was not even a thought. I’m skinny, but their type of “skinny” was like watching Anamaniacs characters walk around.

Therefore, it’s simple to conclude that their “skinny” bodies do not honestly matter because the bodies aren’t mean to reflect real bodies at all. They could’ve easily had thick bodies with extremely small heads and feet. It would still look like figures in a fun house mirror, not a real body representing real figures.

The only things the Bratz mimic about humans are their fashion, accessories, hobbies, and personalities. Just like cartoon characters.

Please don’t come and tell me that Gumball toys, based off of the cartoon, make kids want to become clouds, cacti, and fish. Please. Those characters obviously look strange. The Bratz are more similar to them. Kids obviously know that the Bratz bodies aren’t normal and they recognize that they would get teased if they looked that way.

It’s not the same with Barbie or other fashion dolls like her, like Jem. If kids looked like them, they would be “praised” by beauty-conscious individuals.

“Bratz” for a name

Moms may have more of a problem with the name than feminists, but a few feminists have expressed their disdain for the name as well.

Sure, a “brat” is someone who is usually depicted as spoiled, misbehaved, and demanding. It doesn’t sound pleasant over all.

But considering Da Brat was one of my favorite female rappers in the 1990s, I didn’t have a problem with it. Like Da Brat, the name seemed designed to represent their urban, tough, and sassy attitude. It reflected their nonconforming nature. To me, Bratz represented individuality and the beauty of diversity (in style, ethnicity, and interests). The name just made their sass pop.

Da Brat took gangsta to a whole new level with her tomboyish looks!

Again, I can see how this makes the former generation uneasy. After all, they’re still getting used to gay marriage. They wouldn’t be used to a name like “Bratz” being used more positively. To the older generation, nonconformity is dangerous.

But as advocates of nonconformity, it shocks me that there are so many feminists who are so against the Bratz, name and all. I get that we want our little girls to be pure, wholesome, and solid citizens in society. But there should also be room for girls to be bold, innovative, expressive, and revolutionary. I think hijacking the name Brats, adding the “z”, and the halo is the definition of revolutionary and innovative.

Their Emphasis on Materialism

Bratz came with hundreds of accessories and clothes throughout their run. In many of their movies and in their TV show, they are often depicted shopping for outfits for each occasion.

This leads many feminists to believe that the Bratz encourage materialism.

I believe that, as humans, things are apart of our life. Sometimes, things have significant meaning in our lives. In many cultures, family heirlooms are passed through the family and they end up having personal meaning.

Of course, the Bratz’s accessories aren’t as meaningful as a family heirloom, but their items do reflect items we use or see in real life. It’s kind of cool to see miniature-sized items.

Material things are especially a part of being in the 1st world west. I do believe that our lives have been changed for the better by modern conveniences such as cell phones and tablets. I believe that makeup and fashion constantly updates, which says a lot about our culture, so people do spend a lot of money to look good. But I don’t think these things make a person bad or materialistic.

A materialistic person is someone who only cares about material things and can’t live without those material things. The Bratz have shown many layers throughout their shows and movies. Though they do love to look good, they also enjoy their hobbies and connections with friends and family.

Sure, the Bratz have shown that they love to shop. However, they often emphasized being resourceful or finding innovative ways to get the items they wanted. Shopping in bargain bins or designing their own styles were just some of the things Bratz have been shown doing to express their resourcefulness.

The Bratz have shown interest in other things such as sports, music, science, animals, among other things. I don’t think they’ve emphasized material things all the time. Furthermore, I think their use of material things haven’t necessarily made them seem spoiled or privileged.

However, there is nothing wrong with wanting or owning nice things and trying to enhance the quality of your life by collecting something you love or enjoy.

I personally find the Bratz items to be fascinating and enjoyable for playtime. Who wants a doll that comes with nothing? Kids want to bring the world of their dolls to life with mini models. Mini items add to the overall experience each doll line brings.

If we want to question whether we are instilling materialistic values on our children, we shouldn’t be buying them expensive I-phones and tablets. I’ve seen worse behavior come from children demanding the latest technology than from the influence of a Bratz doll.

“Passion For Fashion”= Obsessed with Appearance

Feminists believe the slogan suggests that the Bratz are completely focused on outfits and nothing else substantial.

But isn’t it possible for an individual to be interested in fashion, as a practice, and still have substance?

And why can’t there be substance in fashion?

I can understand if people mostly focus on fashion just to be pleasing or attractive to others. But the Bratz use fashion for many purposes, mostly to showcase many ideas and subcultures, not just to look “pleasing” or “attractive”. Quite frankly, many of the Bratz’s outfits don’t look pleasing. Midnight Dance, Pretty N Punk, and Space Angelz are not really of the “pleasing” sort, though some of the Bratz’s outfits are.

It’s clear the the doll brand is emphasizing not being concerned with pleasing others. Bratz are encouraging individuals to enjoy fashion without fitting into fashion molds. Fashion doesn’t always equal attraction and attraction doesn’t always equal fashion.

I believe the one thing that is lacking among girls today is passion. Girls are not encouraged to be passionate about the things they like and want. They are encouraged to scatter their interests, which makes it difficult for them to master a practice. The Bratz encourage girls to be all about their passions, despite what others think.

I also find it odd for feminists to be against having a “passion for fashion” when we consider the fact that the majority of fashion designers are male!

Females are still in the minority

I think the Bratz’s kind of passion for fashion encourages girls to be future designers and inventors. They don’t encourage girls just to buy clothes, but to also come up with their own ideas, to think outside of the box, and to express themselves in unique ways.

Using myself as an example, I don’t think I would’ve embraced my own gender expression as well had I not been introduced to the Bratz dolls. I don’t think I would’ve thought it was possible to see the individuality in fashion. I don’t think I would’ve found my own social identity.

When feminists began criticizing the Bratz, it affected the overall design of Bratz. MGA made things worse by dragging the brand into court with Barbie’s company Mattel, but feminists began growing in influence and they are the reason the latest Bratz design changed into something long-time fans could hardly respect or appreciate. MGA expressed that they wanted Bratz to have a “better image” for girls. Who made the Bratz image look bad? Why would they decide that the Bratz image wasn’t good enough? Someone had to be criticizing the brand in order for them to make that statement on Facebook. We have to acknowledge that feminists had some hand in the drastic change.

In my opinion, Bratz moved from a more ethnic look and vibe to a more “Eurocentric”-friendly design.

I know it seems like I learned a little too much from a line of dolls, and it may seem that I invest too much time appreciating these dolls, but that is partially why I have a special connection with this brand. I really feel if feminists’ had really and truly tried to understand the meaning behind the Bratz, if they’d actually given them a chance, they would see that the Bratz are/were not too far off from feminists’ goals.

I just hope that when, or rather IF, the Bratz return, they will return to their original authentic design. I hope they truly produce something earth-shattering, regardless of what anyone says. Even if feminists disagree, for me, that’s truly empowering.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think/thought about the Bratz controversy, feminists’ involvement in it, and the future of Bratz.

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American Girl’s Girl of the Year 2017: Gabriela McBride! + ‘Girl of the Year 2017’ Is Set To Last More Than A Year!

31 Dec

In West Philadelphia, born and raised

On the playground is where I spent most of my days…

You readers like that ‘Fresh Prince‘ reference right there?

That’s the first thing that came to mind when I heard about American Girl’s newest Girl of the Year 2017.

If you don’t know what American Girl is:

American Girl is a premium brand for girls and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT, www.mattel.com), a creations company that inspires the wonder of childhood. Headquartered in Middleton, WI, American Girl offers an inspiring world of dolls, content, and experiences that nourish a girl’s spirit and help develop her strength of character. Best-selling lines include Truly Me™, Girl of the Year™, Bitty Baby™, WellieWishers™, and the classic historical character line BeForever™. The company sells products through its award-winning catalogue, on americangirl.com, in its proprietary U.S. experiential retail stores, and at select specialty retailers nationwide. Outside of the U.S, American Girl products are sold in specialty boutiques at select Indigo™ and Chapters™ in Canada and El Palacio de Hierro locations in Mexico City. By inspiring girls to be their best, American Girl has earned the loyalty of millions and the praise and trust of parents and educators.

If you’re a fan of the American Girls, but have been out of the American Girl loop for awhile, you probably don’t know why I made that reference in the introduction. Let me introduce to you GABRIELA MCBRIDE.

girl-of-the-year

Gabriela is a true talent who gets creative for a cause. She is considered a quiet, creative girl growing up in a family of artists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (exactly why I made that Fresh Prince reference). Her mother is especially passionate about the performing arts. Her mother is founder and director of the arts center Gabriela loves and her dance instructor.

Gabriela is also interested in the performing arts (particularly tap, hip-hop, and ballet) and poetry. Aside from dancing and poetry, Gabriela also helps run a sandwich shop.

Gabriela has a reason she’s so quiet: She struggles with stuttering.

In the first book, Gabriela is said to be “going into the 6th grade”. Still not sure of her age, but she may be the “oldest” Girl of the Year produced.

Gabriela is a true creative talent who uses the power of poetry to help her break down barriers and overcome a personal challenge with stuttering.

Gabriela inherited a love of the arts from her parents, especially her mother, but spoken word poetry is becoming her own passion. Although Gabriela often finds herself in a battle with her own words because of her stuttering, she discovers that her poetry, filled with wit and honesty, helps her speech flow more easily and gives her the confidence to find her voice to help save her beloved community arts center from being torn down.

American Girl Press Release

Despite Gabriela’s struggles, she’s still witty, honest, and courageous!

Her book cover and synopsis are out. Are you ready? {insert drumroll}

gabriela-book-1

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Yes, believe it. Finally, finally American Girl has released their first African American Girl of the Year character!

After seeing the name Gabriela trademarked, most assumed the character would be of Latin/Hispanic heritage. It turns out it was set aside for an African American character.

Gabriela is set to have a series of FOUR books (yes, four, 4). The first book will be out in January. The next one comes out in March. The other two will be released throughout the rest of the year.

Book synopsis 1: Gabby loves expressing herself — especially in the dance studio — but lately, poetry is becoming her art form of choice, and for good reason: Gabby struggles with stuttering, and spoken word poetry helps her speech flow more freely. Still, compared to how confident she feels on the dance floor, speaking up can be scary. When the city threatens to close her beloved community arts center, Gabby is determined to find a way to help. Can she harness the power of her words and rally her community to save Liberty Arts?

Teresa E. Harris is the author and it is her first time writing for American Girl.

*This will be updated as more information is released.

And now, what all American Girl fans have been waiting for…

The reveal of the doll!

 

melodys-pjs

More items and one of her books will be available Spring 2016.

Gabriela’s doll is really adorable in these pictures, but…

This is where my excitement diminishes. I came to the realization that she’s not just a doll of color. I came to the realization that if I look beyond her color, I have very mixed feelings…

 

Gabriela McBride is considered by many of the American Girl Fan Community to be the LAST GIRL OF THE YEAR.

For those who don’t know, there have been rumors that American Girl plans on ending the Girl of the Year line after Gabriela (possibly to make room for their rumored Contemporary line). I’m not sure how true the rumors are, but it is a FACT that there will be changes to the Girl of the Year line in 2018.

In American Girl’s press release, they stated:

Additional Gabriela products and books will be available starting in spring 2017, and—for the first time—the new Girl of the Year collection will be available for a full 12 months and beyond.

On facebook, American Girl has confirmed that they have plans to release their next girl of the year in 2018. So does this mean Gabriela will be available along with the new Girl of the Year?

American Girl said they don’t have plans to retire the GOTY line, but they’ve been known to hold back from revealing a retirement or archival before.

american-girls-message

 

One part of me is happy that she will last long enough for me to save for her collection.

Another part of me is sad that I may not have a Girl of the Year to look forward to next year. It was sort of an American Girl tradition.

And another part of me is just a bit frustrated with the design of the doll and her collection…

Here…at this moment…I have to analyze this objectively.

This Girl of the Year is really mediocre as a doll in comparison to dolls prior.

Here I am, being the Negative Nancy. Call me a self-hating black woman, a coon, whatever. I’m know I’m going to hear it all. I don’t care. I can’t fully accept her as a “great” Girl of the Year character, not under the current circumstances (with this possibly being the final GOTY doll).

If you’re an American Girl fan, you can probably better understand where I’m coming from. Newcomers may find her to be a great doll addition. And she isn’t garbage, but she has flaws.

I fell in LOVE with Gabriela’s story. I love the fact that she loves poetry and how she uses poetry to overcome her own disability. I think she’s a good role model for girls. I fell in love with this story so hard, even though I haven’t read it all, I want to buy two copies.

However, I have my hang-ups.

First off, this doll is #46 from the Truly Me line. She doesn’t just look like #46. She IS #46.

46

Truly Me #46

I always thought that doll was beautiful. I was sad when she was retired. And I am personally happy to see her return (especially because I don’t collect the Truly Me dolls). But I know plenty of people who said they already have this doll. This means there will be quite a few people who aren’t interested. It always leaves me uneasy when I hear that people don’t want to buy a doll of color. It’s especially bad because Gabriela is the only African American character (in 15 years) to have been produced (or rather “picked”) for the line AND she is supposed to remain in the line through 2018.

Some fans have expressed that American Girl, LLC has put a lot of effort into making the Caucasian American Girls look different and unique, but clearly didn’t do the same for Gabriela. Some feel they didn’t really plan on making an African American character for the line. Some people feel the company rushed production of her because the demand was so high. Basically, they pulled out a retired doll, put clothes on her, gave her a story, and called her Gabriela. Some people feel Gabriela is recycled and doesn’t reflect the same effort the company has put into former Girl of the Year dolls.

I can see their point. Maybe they have given up caring because they wanted the line to come to an end. Maybe they recognized the popularity of #46 and wanted to make her into a character.

Regardless of the reason, this part has been disappointing for most fans.

I don’t have #46, so I feel compelled to get Gabriela, but I wish she was designed in a way that would compel others to want to buy her.

The second problem I have with Gabriela is the fact that she is a DANCER.

I have to be fair about this. I talked about Isabelle being another dancer, I talked about Lea being another tropical princess, so I can’t let this slide.

This Girl of the Year is supposed to last for more than 12 months, she is the ONLY African American character, and you stick her with one of the most unoriginal themes? It doesn’t hurt the story, which incorporates poetry and overcoming disabilities, but it certainly hurts the collection.

Marisol was a tap dancer, ballet dancer, Mexican folk dancer, and jazz dancer. Isabelle danced ballet and modern dance. And now Gabriela! How many dancers does Girl of the Year need?

Because other “dancing” dolls came out, I’m not really interested in the majority of Gabriela’s playsets or accessories.

american-girl-marisol

isabelle-barre-set-hr

What would I need with two ballet barres?

I just can’t get excited AGAIN about another dancer when American Girl has done the theme TWICE before.

I know there are other people out there feeling the same way. And I just don’t like the idea that the first African American character in this line is not unique enough to be a MAJOR sell-out this year.

The final insult is that American Girl has stated on their facebook page that they don’t have major plans to release a movie for her! It takes at least a year to create a movie, so if they haven’t thought of one now, I don’t know if she’s ever getting one!

Still, she’s going to be around in 2018, so only time will tell. But she clearly seems slapped together.

Despite all of that, there are some American Girl fans who are excited about Gabriela. Some are even willing to buy her even though they already have #46! Some people like her dance collection the best out of the three. And some people are new to American Girl and missed collecting the other dance items.

Since Gabriela will be out more than one year, at least none of us have to worry about her selling out within one year. People will have the opportunity to save up for her and have a chance to get her between this year and next year.

That wraps up my review of the new Girl of the Year.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you all think of the new Girl of the Year and my article!

Monster High dolls’ Reboot: “How Do You Boo?”

21 Nov

‘How Do You Boo?’ This is the new slogan for the new Monster High reboot. It doesn’t make much sense to me now…Let’s see if we can make sense of it later…

welcometomh_desktop-header_tcm1078-272704

As of summer 2016, following the Welcome To Monster High movie, Mattel (the company that produces Monster High) decided to give the go and have the MH franchise rebranded, rebooted, revamped (however you want to call it).  The new “reboot” also comes with a brand new story retelling the origins of the MH series with a few new characters and some returning ones.  In particular, the main crew, except Ghoulia and Deuce, returned upon launch of the new reboot with new face molds, brand new fashions, and other characterizations.

The biggest question many Monster High fans have is: Why try to reboot an already successful brand after only SIX YEARS? It is the question that plays on my mind as well. It baffles me how Mattel, when the brand is at its height, in such a short time frame, even thought this would be a prosperous business idea. What demographic research have they been studying?

Despite the fact that I couldn’t fathom the idea of a reboot at this point, I still took my time creating this review of the product, thinking maybe I should give this a chance. I gave it a chance, and so far, this reboot fails to impress me.

So, right now, I’m going to let Mattel have a voice. Apparently, Mattel had these things to say:

“A bona fide pop culture phenomenon and a massive global franchise in over 60 countries Monster High is ranked as the third biggest fashion doll brand a $1 billion franchise annually and a top 5 global property for girls! Monster High empowers girls to express their individuality and form friendships that last beyond a lifetime.”

Great, we know this, and this is why we’re confused about the necessity for a reboot…

Now entering its 6th year in the market, in 2016 the brand will embark on an exciting new chapter to maintain its relevance to the ever changing consumer. As an exciting disruptive everygreen brand Monster High will continue to represent via the monster metaphor what it means to be different, unique and empowering girls to be themselves as Mattel leads the way in creating, maintaining and driving strong girl empowerment brands.

“exciting disruptive”…Hey, that sounds just like the Bratz’s producers (MGA) at relaunch….right before they failed to be disruptive…

Apparently, Mattel’s reason for changing the new Monster High dolls was so the brand can be “relevant to the ever-changing consumer”. This could mean two things.

First, it could mean they want to appeal to a new generation. In my opinion, it wouldn’t make much sense to reboot the brand just to appeal to the next generation as the old Monster High is still pretty relevant to kids today…After all, this brand is just six years old…But maybe they see the brand as having a different meaning than it did in 2010 at launch…

Second, it could mean that much of the Monster High fan base have been expressing their boredom with the line and Mattel wants to make it “relevant” to these “ever-changing” consumers.

I’m likened to believe that the real story is that they started Monster High to be a competitor to the Bratz dolls and capture the tween audience when Bratz were removed from shelves. Now that the edgy trend is dying, and Bratz became a thing of the past, Monster High’s old image and story is no longer “relevant”. But that is just my theory…

The key elements that make the brand disruptive will remain but now infused with more play in the product whilst adding renewed focus on the core characters and stories as well as marketing what the brand stands for. The brand will have a fresh new look with new contemporary colours and graphics whilst still incorporating the iconic signatures that make the brand unique and relatable to the core audience of 6-10 year olds.

Supposedly, they said they wanted to keep “key elements that make the brand disruptive”. So far, I don’t understand what they are talking about. Are they talking about the fact that at least they will keep them monsters?…That’s the only thing that makes this brand disruptive anymore.

Monster High was originally designed to capture the tween audience. After all, Garrett Sanders made the doll franchise after observing tweens and teens shopping at Hot Topic. And it has been popular among girls 10 to 14. It’s pretty obvious that Mattel has shifted their demographic focus from the tween audience to the kids with this reboot (the same mistake their competitors at MGA made). This is probably why so many people are complaining. There are many Monster High fans that are over the age of 10! It’s almost as if Mattel forgot who they directed this brand to in the first place. The new reboot looks like it’s made for kids.

They also claimed to focus on the core characters, but they didn’t relaunch Ghoulia as one of the main core characters…In the original, she was one of the core characters. Her name is even in the original theme song.

If they mostly focus on the core characters, it also means they don’t really plan to bring any extra character stories to the table. It’s probably because fans have been complaining about Mattel regurgitating new monsters all the time without focusing on the dolls they already have within unique doll lines…

The brand will also launch an exciting new multiyear brand campaign and new consumer rallying cry “How Do You Boo” encouraging consumers to embrace what makes them unique and share how they Boo. Working with celebrities and brands spokespeople the campaign will communicate what it means to boo, to be yourself and start a movement encourage girls to do the same.

So, Mattel explains that the new slogan “How Do You Boo?” is supposed to encourage us to embrace what makes us all unique and to share that. But Monster High always encouraged people to embrace what made them unique before they changed to this cheesy slogan. So why this slogan? Still no answers. I don’t get what this slogan is supposed to mean..How is “Boo” relevant to embracing what makes us unique? Are they asking how we scare people? Are they asking about our own special “scare”?

Maybe it’s supposed to go over well on Twitter…

So far, you can already tell where this reboot is headed and you probably can guess I’m not a fan of it.

Upon rebooting, the MH look very different from their original counterparts.  The Monster High dolls are no longer the glossy eyed freaks of nature that haunted the shelves of every store…No…They are now doe-eyed little monsters that hardly seem as if they could haunt anything.  In fact, to refer to them as haunting is laughable…

Let me compare the old dolls to the new to show you all the unique differences between them. Let me know if what I’m seeing is just my imagination. In my opinion, the Monster High dolls look more like Elementary School kids now instead of saucy teenagers…

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Some people like the cute look better, just like they liked that “anime” that came out.

Let me just be honest: this reboot smells like a failure to me.  I’m pretty sure it’s a failed attempt at competing with the Disney Princess line. With their old Bratz competitors out of the way, I’m sure Mattel is less interested in keeping up with the outdated edgy trend and more interested in keeping up with the Disney Princess/Frozen/Descendants franchise that is getting the attention of consumers these days.  Keeping that in mind, while I find the reboot to be laughable…I’m not at all surprised that the reboot happened this way and so soon.  In fact, I predicted that Mattel would eventually run out of a way to keep MH interesting and would maybe have to reboot the whole thing eventually.

Monster High: The Halloween Trend

And considering how Mattel is not the kind of company that cares about originality, diversity, or anything else unless it is a selling trend (which is also something I had mentioned at this article 14 Ways Mattel Can Screw Up A Doll Line), it also does not surprise me that the Monster High dolls look more like little monster Barbies. After all, the same producers of Barbie created the Monster High. I’m surprised anyone is surprised about the outcome of this reboot, considering this fact.

I want to talk about which parts of the reboot I liked and which part I didn’t…

But I’m going to be honest with you…I haven’t quite found a whole lot of things to like about this reboot.

Monster High’s Doll Features

Monster High’s newest dolls, as I’ve explained before have changed…Honestly to the point that it seems like a totally different line from Monster High.  It is hard to believe they are called Monster High. When I look at these dolls, none of them actually look like Monsters. Seriously, they look like…well…normal little girls.  Seriously, Mattel? The one thing that made MH unique, you take it away? What business sense does that make, exactly?

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I guess freaky is no longer fabulous…but at least they’re cute right?…(*puke*)

One of the features that are distinctively different (and disgusting) is their eyes. Their new eyes give no sense of personality or attitude. They just look like a bunch of goo-goo-eyed girly girls made only to stand there and look cute. There is no message behind them; no depth or mystery.  Just enlarged eye pupils that scream “we’re kid friendly”.

Other parts of the new features of MH that seem to be lacking are the details and quality.  Let me use Frankie as an example. Frankie had one of the most detailed bodies, with the various stitches made to seem patched to her skin and the bolts aligned with the detailed patch work right on her neck…But now the patchwork that was so nicely constructed on Frankie’s neck looks like someone put a bunch of stickers together. It hardly looks like patch work. And poor Lagoona Blue.  Her old doll had webbed hands to represent her water monster greatness, but now her fingers are just your average fingers with no distinction from any of the other dolls.   Skelita Calaveras’s new look is what troubles me the most. For a skeleton…she seems to have a very fleshly face in comparison to her old look which maintained a bony structure. Observe.

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Old Skelita: Absolutely flawless design capturing a skeleton with such style and grace. Too bad, this version no longer exists.

New Skelita: Someone on the design team apparently failed anatomy because last time I checked skeletons do not have noses as noses do not have bones. SMH Be honest, does she seriously look like a skeleton?

New Skelita: Someone on the design team apparently failed anatomy because last time I checked skeletons do not have noses as noses do not have bones. SMH Be honest, does she seriously look like a skeleton?

What really takes away from MH’s monstrous look is the articulation of the dolls; they hardly have the monstrous body articulation the originals had, neither are the articulations distinct from one another.

Maybe this all has to do with budget cuts? Quality sometimes decreases when a company is struggling with a line. But seriously…The big doe-eyes were quite unnecessary.

Can I also mention how all the dolls upon reboot have pink lips now? Thank goodness Deuce is supposed to be a guy who is uninterested in make-up, otherwise he also would have pink lips like all the rest of them.

What message is Monster High trying to send by making the monsters look “normal”? Well considering the slogan is no longer “Be yourself, be unique, be a Monster” or “Freaky Just Got Fabulous”, I guess Mattel no longer cares to promote such values any longer. They care more about how someone “boos”…whatever that means.

I got the hint from reader discontinuedtoylines regarding why they made such drastic changes to these features. And it was just as I feared: the soccer moms have struck again.

Apparently, monster high was too “scary” for children (though the original target demographic should’ve been old enough to understand how harmless these dolls are). Some parents really thought this doll was designed for their 8 year old child, when the original target age was 10 to 14. That being said, Mattel couldn’t risk getting on parents’ bad side, not in this declining market. I guess they had to sacrifice a quality doll line just to stay in parents’ good graces.

Monster High’s Doll Clothing And Accessories

The main appeal of Monster High was their freaky fabulous fashions that were made to accentuate the monsters in various unique ways.  The outfits usually had just as much details as the body, and the accessories are always to die for.  With the reboot, while the outfits are not typically hideous, they are simply uninspired and ordinary compared to the original outfits for most of the lines. There’s no pizzazz and the detail has been downgraded, especially when it comes to the accessories.

Let’s compare the relaunch with the original launch, shall we?

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Original Launch

In the original launch, each of the girls have their own style and flair. They have accessories that simply bring out the best in each outfit. Not one part of their outfit resembles the other, which shows that the monsters are very different from one another both by personality and monster hybrid.  The patterns do a good job in captivating each monster, letting us know which monster they are while still making them look fabulous. Now let’s look at the new monster high reboot.

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Relaunch

The new monster high dolls for the 1st wave of the reboot have a lack of interesting and diverse clothing accessories in comparison to their original dolls. To add, look at the patterns. They do not give me any indication as to which monster any of them are. For example, Cleo looks like a tree monster to be sure.  Clawdeen looks like a leopard or a cheetah. Seriously, look at her pants. Leopard/Cheetah print? I thought she was a werewolf…or is she now a werecat?  Of all the outfits presented, Draculaura (who usually had one of the most adorable pieces in the line) has the ugliest outfits in this reboot. Compared to her original look which was just spooktacularly vampirous and cute at the same time, the way her outfits are put together now are simply just tacky.  I should also mention that Draculaura and Frankie have basically the same shoes on in different colors with the first wave of the reboot.

Most of the other lines (besides Shriek Wreck) resemble this 1st wave reboot.  Most of them are boring enough to literally make me yawn. I think the most disappointing of all of the MH reboot doll lines was Monster High’s Electrified line. You would think that more would be electrifying about these dolls besides their hair…

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Of course, there was one line that stood out from the rest. Of all the lines set to be released for the MH reboot, Shriek Wrecked has given some good fashion details…

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In comparison to MH’s past lines, however, it lacks a lot of sass. The fashions are really girly, lacking the edge that MH’s past lines had.

Compare Skull Shores, a past line, to Shriek Wreck: skull-shores

As you can see in the above Skull Shores line, the original MH looked sassier and more grown up in the past. While in the Shriek Wreck line, they look much younger. And don’t get me started on the quality; painted on gloves for Lagoona is not a good sign.

And for crying out loud, will Mattel just cool it with the pink?! JEEZ! Monster High has gotten so pink, it’s sickening!

Still, Shriek Wreck is the best to date. It’s just not interesting enough to turn my head. I’m just not interested in buying any of the dolls (I would’ve gotten Rochelle had they not given her painted on gloves).

The lack of sassiness and diversity in the new dolls’ appearances could have something to do with the “feminist” movement. On Bit**Media, a feminist website, an article was written by feminist Deb Jannerson about how much she disliked the Monster High’s makeup and clothing, claiming they were “hypersexualized, heavily made-up dolls with über-Barbie proportions”. I’m sure there are more feminists out there who think the same way.

Feminists tend to hate anything that appears to them to be overly “sexualized”.  They don’t often see how an empowering female can appear in diverse ways. It’s gotten to the point they seem to lack an imagination entirely and can’t see how the dolls resemble “cartoons” rather than real humans. And they aren’t even MEANT to be human!

Seriously, hasn’t anyone else noticed how long the skirts are in comparison to the originals? That smells like the feminist agenda written all over it. It’s that “agenda” that encourages doll companies to make their dolls look more like “normal” girls. But for fans, who fell in love with monster high because they were NOT normal, because of their short skirts, the make-up, the glossy eyes, the things these feminists call “hypersexualized” and “heavily made-up”, the details are what made Monster High an edgy and scary cool work of art. With this reboot, all of that has been taken from Monster High, making them look more like scared little girls. I’m not going to say all feminists feel this way. But even a small group of feminists who feel this way have a way of forcing their beliefs on various doll companies, television or movie industries, and book publishers.  Do not underestimate the damage the feminist movement can do.

Now, I know what you guys are thinking. ‘Well, they might give more detailed fashion lines in the future like Shriek Wreck, so let’s not jump to conclusions’, right? You’re probably right. There are other lines that have to be seen. But so far, even some of the other future releases that I have seen after Shriek Wreck left me unimpressed. Nothing has motivated me to want to buy any of the new MH releases this year or next year. Absolutely nothing.

Monster High Story: New Story And Characters

So aside from the doll relaunch, a brand new Monster High story was born.  Meaning the story that was once Monster High is no longer its story.  Remember when Frankie was the new girl at Monster High after being born just a few days before attending the school? Well, yeah, that story no longer exists in this new reboot.  All the movies and TV specials that came out, fleshing out the monster high characters, you might as well toss them because none of the relationships and situations that were in the original stories are relevant now.

In the old story, Monster High was an already established school. Mistress Headmistress was the strong empowering female leader of the school in the original story.  In the original story, it was a normal school like ours, except everyone who attended were monsters. But now that story has been changed. In the new story, it is Draculaura and her father who turn their home into what we know as Monster High. Mistress Headmistress has been replaced with Draculaura’s father, a male figure (How peculiar for Mattel to do this during a modern era for women. And what this also means is that Mistress Headmistress may no longer be a character or doll in the future MH series). Anyway, the school is now a boarding school and all the ghouls live with each other in this school. Yep, no one has unique houses that they go home to. They just all come to this one school and live(I wonder how the playsets will look…).

Also, in this new reboot, Mistress Headmistress is not the only character that has failed to be apart of the new series reboot. In the original series, Clawdeen had two sisters and an older brother (along with a few other siblings). In this reboot, however, she only has little brothers. What does this mean for the future of Clawd, Howleen, and Clawdia (Clawdeen’s siblings in the original story)? It may mean that we may never see these characters or dolls in the future.

And with this reboot, Ghoulia is replaced by a new zombie character known as Moanica D’Kay. Unlike Ghoulia (who speaks zombie language), apparently Moanica speaks like a “normal” person (I guess Mattel really wants to put more emphasis on being “normal” and how great it is).  And with an added touch,  this new character’s signature color is none other than the color PINK…

Also new to the stage of new characters, Spectra is replaced with the character Ari Hauntington (which I’m pretty sure is Ariana Grande in monster form). It’s quite interesting because Spectra’s name was going to be Von Hauntington originally.

Check it out: Spectra-Von Hauntington

Ari is a typical Mattel character. She’s girly, shy, and she sings.  Typical recipe for selling points, right? Not to mention she can also solidify herself into a popstar named Tash. And let me say that her other form looks just like Barbie.  (I predict that Ari Hauntington’s human form may also have a doll…she looks like a “seller”).  There are also some new characters that were introduced in the Welcome To Monster High movie such as Raythe and the Skeleton Boys, Skelly and Bonesy.

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“She’s a Barbie girl, in a Barbie wooorrrlldd”…That should definitely be her theme song.

So, what do I think of the story change? I personally don’t see why it was necessary.  Sure the movie animation was nice, but the new story feels less relatable compared to the original story.  To add, I hate how the story butchered Clawdeen’s family…

Did anyone else notice that the males in this series seem even less relevant than they did before?

And it isn’t just the story, but the look of the webisodes that have had a change.  Normally, I typically like stop motion and Monster High’s stop motion would actually be pretty good. However, only the characters had their original face molds.  To add, when I compare stop motion webisodes with MH’s cartoon web series, I honestly like the cartoon web series better.

One reason I prefer the animated web series is because the stop motions only make use of the characters that have dolls.  Therefore, there is limited characterization within the web series. That also means most of the characters will be females (because naturally most of MH dolls are female), most of them will consist of the main characters without showing their interactions with other characters, and there may not be much story in each episode in comparison to the former webisodes.

So, the new webisodes will not do much as far as fleshing out the characters’ personalities and relationships.  This bothers me a bit because the webisodes were originally really good at showcasing Monster High’s diversity. Even though not all of the characters had dolls from the web series, they were still very entertaining to watch.  After the first few watches of the stop motion series, I honestly lost interest in watching anymore. Its only entertainment value lies in the fact that it is stop-motion, a cool way to bring animation to inanimate objects. But it is not something I would enjoy following for the next few years to come.

What bugs me even more is the change they made to the webisode animation style caused Mattel to cancel “The Lost Movie”, the movie that was supposed to be an animated crossover between the Monster High Characters and the Ever After High characters.

To see what “The Lost Movie” looked like in its early stages:

It’s ironic that they used the same marketing tools that competitors MGA used for the relaunched Bratz. The Bratz flopped after such awful marketing strategies. Mattel is following them right into the fire.

Overall, the new Monster High reboot may be perfect for children 8 years and younger. After all, the girls look like cute little 7 year olds, the clothing is age-appropriate, and the web series totally relates to little kids (including a webisode in which the girls in stop motion learn how to ride a bike for the first time. EVERY kid can relate to that)! Best of all, none of the girls have icky boyfriends (little kids hate that stuff, right?). And at last, parents may be pleased to see that Monster High looks “normal” and feminists will be pleased to see that MH dolls no longer objectify them by wearing too much make-up and almost all the skirts go to the knees…There is absolutely nothing daring about what they wear, which is a win for both parents and feminists alike, right?

But for some people who are tweens, teenagers, and adult collectors(the actual consumers), this reboot may be seen as a serious joke. I’m one of those collectors who find this reboot to be one of the most laughable doll reboots in history.

Leave a comment in the comments’ section below and let me know what YOU think about the new Monster High reboot. Do you love it or is it going in your failed reboot archives, like it is going in mine?

 

Betty Spaghetty Makes A Return in 2016

18 Jul
Artwork by Jordanswintart @ deviantart

Artwork by Jordanswintart @ deviantart

Betty Spaghetty is due to return this August, just in time for the fall quarter. The newer, re-vamped version has appeared at the Toy Fair and it seems a few people were able to share their findings on Youtube.

For those of you who don’t know who (or rather what) Betty Spaghetty is (probably those of you who were not ’90s kids), Betty Spaghetty was a line of bendable, stretchy dolls meant to look spaghetti-like, only with funky, colorful clothes and various facial expressions. It was a way to play on the fact that kids often ‘play with their food’. You know how kids add “faces” with different food items onto their sandwiches? Or maybe play “Godzilla” with their dinosaur crackers? Yeah, same concept, only this time manufactured into a toy line.

Elonne Dantzer was the genius who brought these dolls to life. Her real inspiration behind Betty Spaghetty was Lego toys. She wanted to create a “girls’ Lego” (before Lego Friends came to stores), playing on the fact that you can put Legos together and take them apart to create things. The character was meant to be “cartoonish” in style, with a very expressive face and bendable body, something little kids could really enjoy. She was originally supposed to be “Bendy Boop”, but after a test session with a little girl, she became who we know today.

Ms. Dantzer explains more about it at The Blade.

The Ohio Art Company, the company who took on the idea, first brought these dolls to stores in 1998. The main ‘Betty Spaghetty’ character was a blonde, perky teenager who loved fashion (Hey, this was the 1990’s, okay? You can only expect the stereotype), but she came with friends and a little sister. The dolls were rubbery, including the hair, which was fun for kids who loved to style hair. The hands and feet were removable. They had various accessories as well. In each box, Betty had a new facial expression, which was always my favorite part of the doll line.

Betty Spaghetty was discontinued in 2004. Back then, there was strong competition in the doll market (With a strong push by most toy manufacturers to appeal to the tween market at this time, Betty, targeted to kids as young as four, didn’t stand a chance).

Betty tried to make a comeback in 2007, but she had no luck with sales. I guess the world wasn’t ready for her return just yet. And of course, the internet didn’t create much of the sensations it does today.

Now, the dolls are slated to make another return. Let’s see what’s happening now.

My first thought was…Lalaloopsy Girls anyone?

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I watched the Toy Fair video, saw pictures of the dolls, watched the commercial, and visited the official website. I’m still certain that this revamp is a new product with the Betty Spaghetty brand stamped on it for press coverage.

First off, the new dolls are no longer created by Ohio Art. Moose Toys is now in charge. They created the Shopkins and there is a striking resemblance between the Shopkins and the new Betty dolls. I guess that’s why they took over the Spaghetty dolls. They’re a company known for putting “faces” on normal grocery items…

Now that there’s a new company involved, there are several differences between the original Betty Spaghetty and the newer dolls. The differences I see really take away the charm the brand once had. I have a problem with companies that try to revive something without really understanding the essence of what they are bringing back into the world.

There is only one pro that I see: Betty is more diverse in her presentation. And it’s not like the original Betty Spaghetty didn’t have many friends with different ethnic backgrounds and shades. But they were clearly sidekicks. Originally, blonde “Betty” got all the attention. Now, Betty is mostly customizable and she often has different hair colors, like blue hair. This relates to a wider audience.

Of course, I’m only looking from an early perspective. When they arrive on shelves, I may have better opinions about them.

The real problem is that not only am I unimpressed, I’m simply not feeling nostalgic with this release, either. So, who are they literally trying to appeal to here? I don’t understand who would want these dolls with so many other more interesting ones floating around and with the original Betty Spaghetty floating around on the second market.

These dolls just don’t feel “Betty” enough. They literally seem to be reaching with this comeback. Let me just run down the significant differences for you.

1) She’s Not Truly Bendable Anymore

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Yes, these dolls are not truly bendable. Even in the video above, the commercial, and several pictures, it seems like the presenters struggle to bend their arms and legs for an easy bendable pose. Betty Spaghetty is supposed to be tall and lanky and spaghetti-like. She’s supposed to be noodle-skinny. She was so thin, you could add beads to her arms and legs. These girls are short, with big heads and a body proportion that rivals Monster High, Ever After High, or the re-vamped Bratz dolls.

Really, the presenter showed no effort in demonstrating Betty’s bendable poses. It’s probably because that was the last thing considered when making this doll. They clearly wanted to emphasize the fact that these dolls have a ‘mix-and-match’ function. The only thing noodly about these girls is their rubber hair. Whoopie.

The arms and legs on these dolls only manage simple poses. The only thing familiar about the body is the rubbery feeling.

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 2) The Doll Clothing Lacks Funk

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Update: Originally, I wasn’t fond of the clothes because I thought they were boring. I mean, can you blame me? That Toy Fair did nothing to boost Betty’s reputation.

However, I’m not excited about the new dolls either. They aren’t as boring as they once looked, but they are still more boring than Betty originally was. They just lack funk.

The 1990s is over, I know. But I think the funky style suited Betty well. Betty Spaghetty dolls are supposed to be teenagers. These new dolls’ outfits look made for little girls. They’re colorful, but not cool. I absolutely dislike blonde Betty in a “princess” costume. Ugh.

These outfits are just too typical.

On the main website, it looks like they have 12 dolls released so far: Chef Betty, Cupcake Betty, Princess Betty, Fairy Betty, Popstar Betty, Cafe Lucy, Skate Lucy, Beach Zoey, Hula Zoey, Ballet Betty, Pink Ski Betty, and Blue Ski Betty.

A sister brand to the Shopkins for sure…

Though they revamped some of Betty’s older lines, like the ski line, it lacks all the flavor of the original. Blonde Betty herself is super “feminine” and is not the fashionista she once was.

They still don’t have tons of jewelry or the make-up that Betty had, which made all of her clothes pop, made her colorful, and even more FUNKY.

Betty always reminded me of Claudia from the Babysitters Club, if any of you all remember the series…Her style was just so original and cool.

The new Betty Spaghetty dolls aren’t ugly, just too sweet and childish for my tastes.

 

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Even the first revamp had a better selection. I’m sick that it didn’t take off the ground like it should’ve…Especially after seeing these new dolls.

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3) Their Faces Lack Expression

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Betty Spaghetty had many different facial expressions in every release. Sometimes she would look surprised or excited or happy, and other times she would look solemn or even scared. She seemed to have a little personality all her own. Her lips weren’t the only things that GAVE her personality. Her EYES even gave her personality.

The new dolls? Not so much. First off, they have noses. The original Betty was cartoonish, as intended, and didn’t have a nose on her roundish, shiny face. The new “Betty” seems like an attempt at a CGI cartoon.

The new dolls’ expressions are all pretty much the SAME. There seem to mostly be three types of faces: solemn smile, regular smile or chipper wide grin. The eyes are all the SAME. They lack color as well. Betty and her friends used to have individual expressions and often those expressions were related to the line they were released in. The new Betty dolls all look…the same.

They’re not wearing make-up, so they don’t have any extra art or color to their faces, aside from some blush to make their cheeks rosy. And it’s not bad to be fresh-faced, but the new dolls don’t look as funky, colorful, or creative as the original Betty.

Panda17188 @deviantart.com

Panda17188 @deviantart.com

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4) They Don’t Look Like Teenagers

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Betty Spaghetty was tall, wore makeup, and shopped. She looked like a teenager. Her clothing lines reflected a teenager. The new Betty Spaghetty dolls look like kids. I’m not going to say all teenagers should be tall and lanky, but the clothing and lines for the new Betty dolls (like the hula outfit, the inline skating one, etc) look like something a child would wear. At least bring back Betty’s essence. Being a teenager is far more glamorous for kids. Why? Because it’s something they can…IMAGINE. They can’t imagine being who they already are. That’s the problem with toys like this. They lack imagination. They lack vision. They lack creativity.

Do you really expect me to believe that “ballet-princess-fairy” Betty is a teenager? XD I don’t think so.

I know Betty Spaghetty was always directed to children 4 years old and older, but these dolls don’t seem ready for playtime no matter the age. The only things kids can do with these dolls are braid the hair and change the clothes. The accessories are not ugly, but most of them are common in any toy line. The bodies aren’t even bendable. It’s not like you can put beads on the arms. They are too thick and don’t bend. Boring. I can’t see any kids wanting to play with these toys for long.

5) Betty is not Really Blonde Anymore

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It looks like one blonde doll is still in the line as Betty, but according to the main website, there are TWO types of “Bettys”. One has blonde hair, the other has blue hair.

This is kind of confusing and I think this is bad. People will be looking for blonde Betty which will take away sales from the blue-haired doll. Why didn’t they give her a new name instead of making two Betty dolls? They have Lucy and Zoey. I just don’t understand why there needs to be two dolls named Betty.

The sad part is blue-haired Betty has better clothes than “princess-ballet-cupcake-chef” Betty. The new blonde Betty is girlish and childish, while blue-haired Betty is a “popstar” (though gag me with the fairy one) and takes on Betty’s “ski line”.

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I understand the diversity thing, but Betty was known as blonde. Even in the commercial, I saw blonde Betty getting the shine among the other dolls, but then at the end, I see the blue-haired doll…

Maybe they want Betty to have diverse hair colors? Which is cool and all, but the problem is the dolls’ facial expressions and skin are not that diverse. Most people will decifer the differences by hair color, and most people assume blonde Betty is Betty…

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It seems like companies are out to revive the 1990’s. Companies are out to revive old products in general because lately only popular brands sell well in the toy market (and just about every market today). But I feel if these companies lose the heart of the brand, there’s no way they can truly revive a product the way they wish.

Perhaps Moose recognized that Ohio Art had been unsuccessful with the original re-vamp and felt that they should try to design and market Betty dolls differently. But I doubt these will do any better.

I’m also considering the fact that Moose couldn’t make their new dolls like the original Betty. If Ohio Art still kept the copyrights to the original design or the original creator pulled the original designs, that would mean Moose had to start their designs from scratch and would have to make their Betty dolls look different. I feel that if they couldn’t get hold of the original designs, why make these dolls?

I think it’s just time to hang up on Betty Spaghetty. The new generation hardly plays with dolls, but the dolls they do enjoy have an even bigger brand name in the toy market with the proper marketing tools. If Moose Toys make Youtube videos for Betty like they do for Shopkins, maybe they will reap some success. It already seems set up for a CGI release or something like that. But I doubt it will stay popular for long.

Visit their website www.bettyspaghetty.com

As more information is revealed, I will be updating this article.

What are your thoughts readers? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Black History Month For Children: Learning Black History Through the American Girl Beforever Collection

1 Feb

Martin Luther King’s birthday has passed, and black history month is here, and so the focus may be on “black pride”.

Many children today really don’t understand their history, or rather don’t care about it, whether they are African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian, Native American, Jewish,  etc. It’s a shame that I even had to witness African American children fall asleep during Dr. King movies. I’ve witnessed this recently at a school. They really take for granted the privileges they have obtained thanks to him. MLK would roll over in his grave if he could see how some of our young African American children are today.

The American Girl dolls and books to me are a great way to educate children about their history in a way that relates to them. Through the eyes of three nine to ten year old girls, children can learn to value their history, to be proud of themselves, and to work hard to achieve great things. I’m proud to announce that American Girl has added three African American characters to their Beforever line: Cecile, Addy, and Melody.

I’m not telling you to go out and purchase an expensive doll for black history month. But maybe you could read a story with your child, or get them one of the books from the library. Some parents don’t realize how important it is for children to know their history, but knowing what others have gone through helps them to develop admirable and likable qualities, such as compassion, empathy, understanding, and intelligence. They realize that everything isn’t going to be handed to them, and that it is up to them to make a future for themselves, no matter how challenging life gets. Children who understand history learn to appreciate what they have and to be content. Every privilege we have today-modern technology and political/social freedoms-we have because someone from the past worked so that we could. We also look to the past to learn for the future.

All of the characters in the American Girls series have something to teach kids. This month, we’ll be focusing on the African American characters.

Meet Cecile

Cecile‘s stories take place in 1853, centering around New Orleans, Louisiana during the worst outbreak of Yellow Fever in the city. While the story is fiction, many of the events in the stories really happened, such as the Yellow Fever epidemic and the city-wide Day of Prayer. Cecile is a wealthy French girl of color living in the French Quarter. Cecile shows a new side to African American history. While most children know of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, many do not know that there were rich black girls living prosperous lifestyles in the South. They are often not taught about the rich black culture that has existed in the USA prior to the Civil War. Cecile’s story focuses on the struggles she faces trying to help her family and her city find healing during a traumatic epidemic that hushes the lively spirit of New Orleans.

Though Cecile’s stories are shared with Marie-Grace, a poor white girl, Cecile still has a significant role in each story.

There may be several things that may concern readers when observing reviews of the stories. I always say consider what you can take from the series rather than focus on the negative. Perhaps I can give some suggestions that may make the introduction to these American Girl books easier.

“I don’t think this is good for black history month. Her stories are shared with a white girl.”

Cecile’s stories teach several things about black culture, even though her stories are shared with a white girl. While most of the world thinks most black people were either poor slaves or oppressed individuals who could only find poor housing and poor education, Cecile’s stories introduce a whole new side to black culture. Denise Lewis Patrick herself said that while researching, she found it surprising how freely people of color interacted with other races and how some black people lived in lavish circumstances.

Having a white girl share her story further teaches girls how different things were for black people in New Orleans before “Americans” entered the city. Though places were still segregated, people often mingled together at public events. And black people often had no strong desire to mingle with white people because it truly was “separate but equal”. Schools, ballrooms, stores, and other places were just as amazing for black people as they were for white people!

Slavery still existed, and of course slaves felt inferior. But wealthy black people owned large plantations in New Orleans full of slaves as well.

Through Cecile’s friendship with Marie-Grace, both girls learned to set aside their differences and see each other for the “content of their characters”. This is not only a good lesson for black girls, but girls of other ethnic backgrounds, too. I think this was exactly what MLK would’ve wanted. I think the series still teaches black history while bridging the gaps between two different races.

Some people may be concerned that Marie-Grace outshines Cecile in these stories. I can assure you that isn’t the case. Three books are dedicated to each girl. And Cecile plays a huge role throughout Marie-Grace’s stories as well. Just seeing how Marie-Grace reacts to Cecile can also give insight into the character and the time period.

“This book seems to gloss over the actual struggles blacks have experienced in the USA.”

Black history doesn’t only consist of struggle and hardship. Just as it’s important for children to recognize how hard black people fought for equality, it’s important for children to know that they can rise above any oppression if they work hard enough. It’s important for black children to recognize that they also have a rich history with a rich culture.

Many black people may not be able to relate to this era in time. That doesn’t the series has nothing to offer children. This is an opportunity for them to actually learn.

I think one of the most interesting things about Cecile, the main character, is that she speaks French. This series shows that African American girls of that time period were well-rounded and quite cultured. Who knows. This may encourage other black children to learn French. Even though these stories don’t teach about racism largely, the books have many other things to teach children regarding black history and culture.

But I would like to point out that racism is discussed, along with other forms of prejudice, throughout this series.

“Cecile, the main character, acts a little spoiled and self-centered.”

The American Girl stories, like any stories in the world, are full of a diverse group of characters. Of the three black characters offered in the line, Cecile stands out. I think it’s great that she isn’t “Miss Perfect” in every way, just like real girls. But throughout the series, Cecile learns to be more thoughtful, compassionate, and generous. Children today are pretty privileged in comparison to many girls who lived in the past. We all are! Children today don’t have to work. They can go to school. Most children can ask their parents for toys, games, I-pads, cell phones, new clothes and shoes, and other luxury items. They are very much like Cecile, where the smallest things can mean a lot to them. I feel that Cecile relates to black children in this way.

I think Cecile’s stories can help children of all backgrounds step outside of their comfort zones and learn about other cultures. These stories promote tolerance and diminish racism and cultural ignorance. By promoting these values, we establish peace. The next generation can move into the future with open minds if we help them open their worlds. Why not start with a story like Cecile’s? Keeping this in mind, I think her faults are forgivable.

Events like the Yellow Fever brought different people together, even those who were unlikely to be friends. This shows that all of mankind has the ability to pull together when it matters most. During disastrous events like Hurricane Katrina, another event that struck New Orleans hard, and other natural disasters, children can relate to the struggles Cecile and Marie-Grace had, but can also find healing much the same way the girls did. These stories can help young girls cope with these events through child-size perspectives.

Reading along with the American Girl curriculum guides can really help teachers and parents as they read the stories to children: Cecile’s Book Guide

Meet Addy

Addy‘s stories take place from 1864 to 1866, centering around Raleigh, North Carolina and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Civil War. While the story is fiction, many of the events in the stories really happened, such as the Civil War, Robert Lee’s Surrender, and The Grand Review. Slavery also existed, as we all should know by now. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to have freed the slaves in 1863, the year before Addy’s stories, much of the South saw themselves as a separate nation. So they ignored the Proclamation. Some slaves didn’t know about it because they couldn’t read about the news and no one would share information with slaves for fear they would run. But word eventually got around, prompting many slaves to try and escape their plantations. Many slaves were eventually freed by Union soldiers. Addy was raised a slave girl during this time. She and her mother planned a daring escape North in her stories. Addy’s stories focus on her life as a slave and her struggles as she and her family try to build a life for themselves as newly freed people of color.

There may be several things that may concern readers when observing reviews of the stories. I always say consider what you can take from the series rather than the negative. Perhaps I can give some suggestions that may make the introduction to the American Girl books easier.

“My child is very sensitive. Some of the things in the stories are too harsh for young children.”

Think about this: While your child is too “sensitive” to hear about real events, little girls like Addy actually had to suffer through torture and pain during this era. No one was around to “shield” them. Many children today go through such things, especially in other countries. “Sensitive” children are the ones that can make a difference in the lives of those suffering. I don’t think it would be right to try to “protect” a child from learning about events that can help them become a mature, compassionate adult. It’s best to protect them from things that will actually make them bratty and spoiled or physically harmed. Addy’s stories may hurt your child, but that shows that the stories reach your child. It’s not hurting them in a negative way. It’s teaching them to appreciate their freedoms. It will inspire the child to think outside of the box and grow a love of tolerance rather than hate. More than likely, your child knows wrong from right, and with you reading the stories with her or him, you can explain how some of these things are wrong.

While there are a few sensitive moments throughout the series, there are many happy and positive moments, too. There are also scenes that children can relate to. If you can get over the beginning of Addy’s stories, she really does have some happy endings.

“My child is still learning English. Addy doesn’t speak the proper English and I don’t want her speaking the way Addy does.”

“I can’t read this book. The vocabulary is horrible.”

Well we’ve reached a dilemma. How can someone teach the realities of slavery to a child when slaves didn’t really speak the way we think they should have?

This is exactly what has always been the problem and why black history is hardly taught in schools or anywhere else. And this is exactly what slave masters wanted long ago.

Addy and other slaves couldn’t receive an education, so they learned English by ear. Because of this, white people would look down on them. They wouldn’t hire them for jobs or listen to them when they spoke up on political issues. They sounded “uneducated”. So even though many were freed, they were still barred from living prosperous lives because they were looked down on. This was a part of racism.

I don’t think that parents should encourage such prejudiced attitudes by refusing to read Addy’s stories to their children. Instead, I think this presents an opportunity to teach your children how valuable education really is. After all, this is a history lesson, not an English one. History is taught through the accounts of many people, whether they spoke the way we think they should have or not. Even museums have journal entries written by people who don’t quite speak what we would consider “proper”. If your child already recognizes that Addy’s speech isn’t quite right, then there’s no reason to be afraid that Addy’s stories will make him or her speak “horribly”. They must already be at an age where they know the correct grammar. So, it’s your job to help your child understand Addy’s situation and help the child to understand that Addy really wanted to learn so people wouldn’t look down on her. And you can encourage your child not to look down on people just because of the way they speak, act, or dress. Perhaps you can also discuss how her snobby desk partner, Harriet, looked down on Addy for those very reasons, which further shows how hard it was for newly freed people.

The reality is that slaves lived this way. If you hide it from your child, you are allowing the child to grow up ignorant anyway. What would you rather do: Read about history and have a discussion about things the child doesn’t understand or prevent the child from learning about an important part of history to shelter the child from Addy’s “speech”?

Some time in your child’s life, your child may run across people who don’t speak English so well, even in school. There are no slaves in the USA today, but there are immigrants that come into the United States. Perhaps this can open up a discussion about helping students who don’t speak English well or a discussion about children who have been barred from receiving a decent education in the USA and worldwide. Perhaps you can encourage your child to develop a tolerant and empathetic attitude.

I want to add that while Addy and her family don’t speak English “properly”, the narration is quite solid.

Addy’s books are targeted to girls 8 and up, an age where they can understand the material, so reading it to any child younger would make things more complicated as well.

“Addy fits all stereotypes and makes all black people seem poor and uneducated.”

Let’s face it. Whether you hate or like stereotypes, this was the way many African Americans lived in this time. This isn’t like some Disney princess story. This is based on real history. Most of ALL black people came to America as slaves or indentured servants, and they all had to fight to be seen as “human” in the USA. There is no reason to be ashamed of that. It only shows how strong African Americans really were and only shows how far black people have come. To have endured such oppression and still thrive and survive is something we all should admire. There are other African American characters in the line that aren’t slaves, but we still have to face the fact that slavery existed. There’s no sense in brushing it under the rug, as the saying goes.

Though black people didn’t receive a “European-style” education, they weren’t dumb. They had to be very clever to outwit their slave masters and escape. Addy is very smart herself. She struggled hard to learn, but she worked hard and learned fast. She was able to rise to the top of her class in less than a month, even winning a spelling bee! She kept her mind sharp by solving riddles and guessing games. Her father was clever enough to devise a plan to help his family escape. Though slave masters tried to keep slaves ignorant, they couldn’t take away their ability to learn. Children today who struggle in school can learn from Addy’s example. Addy struggled but, by studying and asking for help, she was able to be a great student.

There are also black characters in Addy’s stories that have shown they were not poor and uneducated. Miss Dunn was a teacher and Addy’s desk partner, Harriet, was the smartest and wealthiest in the class. But should we look down on people who are poor and uneducated?

Addy’s stories teach girls not to judge people by outer appearances, status, or even the way someone carries themselves. By judging based on such superficial information alone, we create the same dividing lines that destroyed our nation during the Civil War. The North looked down on the South. The South looked down on the slaves. None of the sides could understand each other.

I really feel that through Addy’s stories children can recognize how lucky they are to have freedoms other children didn’t have. They can also learn tolerance. Help open your children’s minds by sharing Addy’s stories.

And she’s such a sweet girl to boot.

Reading along with the American Girl curriculum guides can really help teachers and parents as they read the stories to children: Addy’s Book Guide

american girl melody

Melody is American Girl’s newest African American character. Her stories take place from 1963 to 1964. Her stories focus on life in Detroit, Michigan during the Civil Rights Movement and 1960’s culture. While the story is fiction, many of the events really happened, such as The Walk To Freedom, The March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom, the Children’s Crusade, and the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. Famous figures make cameos throughout the stories, such as Langston Hughes, Diana Ross, Berry Gordy, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Melody is a normal, suburban African American girl. She goes to school, plays with her friends, and attends her church every Sunday, much like children today. She comes from a large family (Baby Boom) and shares a connection with each member of her family. Her stories focus on black people’s struggle for equality in the USA and the role children played in the struggle for civil rights.

There may be several things that may concern readers when observing reviews of the stories. I always say consider what you can take from the series rather than the negative. Perhaps I can give some suggestions that may make the introduction to the American Girl books easier.

“The events in these stories are too scary for my child.”

Keep in mind that the children in these stories have had to face far more than reading a book about harsh realities. Many of these children fought for equality bravely and deserve to be honored. Many of these children gave up their lives. Perhaps these stories can be inspirational for your child. Perhaps these stories can teach your child to appreciate the freedoms we have in the USA. Push your children to inculcate love in their hearts for people who are different. Instead of shielding them from reality, help them to cultivate qualities that can help prevent some of the tragic things that happen in the story.

Many children in the 1960s were like children today. They were innocent. But events happened that tore children’s lives apart. It’s better when their parents hand it to them with an open discussion rather than “protecting” them with false expectations and lies or worse-the power of “omission”. There are ways to teach children important events without traumatizing them. There are ways to teach them about history in an empowering way. But we can’t act like these things didn’t happen. It’s best to teach our children early, when they are impressionable, events that will help them grow into respectful, compassionate adults.

You can’t get any more censored than the American Girls. Of all the history books in the world, they truly give history in a way that doesn’t sugar-coat the truth, but also in a way that relates to children. Don’t be afraid to introduce harsh subjects to children.

Still, these stories are geared towards children who are 8 and up. Though events can happen to any child, keep in mind that is the target age.

“I’m apprehensive about reading the Civil Rights era. Most stories and accounts make all white people seem evil.”

White people may have this concern. I understand it may be hard to face such evil scenes mentioned during the stories. Everyone knows that this wasn’t the fault of all white people. Still, such hatred existed and such attitudes even exist today. Looking to the past is important because it helps us to fix our mistakes and create a better future for humankind. If we all worked together and overcame our differences, imagine what we really could accomplish as a HUMAN race. Of course, we don’t want to stay stuck on the past, otherwise we’ll never create a future. Still, by reading about the Civil Rights Movement, we learn to develop love and tolerance. That is the black story. Through all of the African American characters, love and tolerance are important themes.

Civil Rights wasn’t just for black people, either. Imagine how many white people couldn’t marry a black person, or an Asian person, or someone Hispanic, even if they were in love with them. Segregation and racist laws even infringed upon the rights of white people! There are many white people who suffered and died because they said something that seemed “tolerant” towards other races or spoke out against racism.

Other nationalities were also oppressed and benefited from the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Native Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish families, and those of Latin American descent. Black people were the leaders of the movement, but it wasn’t a movement that only benefited black people. This is why it was an important event in the USA.

Women may have also felt inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Many women had to push through gender boundaries in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Many women today are still striving to make their mark on the world, so girls today can still relate to this movement..

Why did people have to fight for something so simple as civil rights? This is a question you could ask your children to make the topic easier.

Luckily, for you more sensitive souls, Melody lives in the North where legal segregation no longer existed. Still, racism did.

Aside from the topics on racism, though, Melody is actually a normal girl that I think any children can relate to. She likes flowers, music, getting pampered at a salon and spa, and spending time with her sisters. In fact, I think she and American Girl’s Maryellen, the 1950s red headed character, have a lot in common. If people didn’t make such a big deal about race, I imagine girls like the two of them could have been the best of friends!

Children may find that the events in Melody’s stories mirror some events they hear on the news in modern times. Melody’s stories can help children transition into serious subjects that they may even hear in their daily lives. Events in the story can help girls cope with modern day events that have affected children, such as the Sandy Hook tragedy or even some of the rioting going on right now on behalf of race and against police brutality or even the Charleston church tragedy. Children may have questions about such events, and Melody goes through some of the same trials children face today-only she lived in the 1960s!

Reading along with the American Girl curriculum guides can really help teachers and parents as they read the stories to children: Melody’s Book Guide

Even if you readers don’t want to jump on the American Girl book bandwagon, don’t forget to honor all of the black leaders who,through intelligence and courage, found a way to make life more free for everyone. If you ever want to learn about black history, now is the time to do so.

Though all of these girls come from different times, their feelings, struggles, and victories are very similar to children today.

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!

 

Lea Clark, Girl of the Year 2016, Takes Us to Brazil and Helps Girls Overcome Their Fears

9 Jan

Lea, Girl of the Year 2016, is another destination character like Grace Thomas Girl of the Year 2015. This time, the destination is tropical Brazil.

Lea Clark, the 2016 Girl of the Year, dives in to
new adventures and explores what’s in her heart.

She discovers it takes courage to do something you’ve never done before.

Lea’s interests are animals and photography.

LeaDivesIn_Cover

Lea Dives In: In her second book, Lea Clark is all set for an animal-discovery adventure! She’s never been to a rainforest before, and her mind is filled with exciting thoughts about the animals she’ll get to see—and the pictures she’ll get to take deep in the jungle. During a hike with her brother through the Amazon rainforest, they discover a baby sloth that is badly injured. Lea quickly decides she must do all she can to help the little sloth survive. But as she learns more, she wonders: Is that the right thing to do?

LeaLeadsTheWay

Lea Leads the Way: Lea Clark is all set for an animal-discovery adventure! She’s never been to a rainforest before, and her mind is filled with exciting thoughts about the animals she’ll get to see—and the pictures she’ll get to take deep in the jungle. During a hike with her brother through the Amazon rainforest, they discover a baby sloth that is badly injured. Lea quickly decides she must do all she can to help the little sloth survive. But as she learns more, she wonders: “Is that the right thing to do?”

LeaAndCamila

Lea and Camila: For spring break, Lea Clark has invited her Brazilian friend Camila to St. Louis for a stateside adventure. They find a stray kitten and make a mysterious discovery while visiting a grand but crumbling mansion. Lea is determined to uncover the secrets of her discovery, but in her search for clues she forgets to be a good host to Camila. And when Lea’s best friend, Abby, becomes fast friends with Camila, Lea feels a little left out. Can she find a way to reconnect with her friends—and solve the mystery, too?

Lea will encourage your girl to face her fears, explore the world around her, and open her mind. These stories inspire girls to have new experiences.

lea movie

A movie will accompany her collection in the summer. Unlike movies that have come out before for other American Girl dolls, this movie will not be based on the books (or rather a re-telling of the books) and will be the “fourth” story. American Girl announced that it will continue Lea’s adventures in the rainforest.

“An unexpected twist sends Lea back to the rainforest for an all-new movie adventure!”

Her collection includes:

lea

Her Meet outfit and Beachwear for kayaking.

lea 3

Lea’s souvenir outfit

lea 4

Pajamas for sleeping under the tropical rainforest.

lea 5

Lea goes hiking in this ensemble.

lea 6

Lea’s photography and animal-watching accessories.

lea 7

Beach accessories

lea 8

Hiking accessories

lea 9

Kayaking accessories with Kayak.

lea 10

Sea turtle

lea 11

Banana Berry stand

lea 12

Margay cat

lea 13

Lea’s rainforest house

lea 14

A sloth

lea 2

bathing suit and beach outfits

********************************************************************************************************

Review 

I know. I’m late. Lea has been out for 9 days now, and I’m just now posting this. See, the thing is I thought I’d already posted this. My issue was I was so excited about Melody, I forgot to post this for those interested in Lea.

And I must admit it: I am not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong. She is pretty. I like the combination of her hair and skin color. I’m tired of the hazel eyes trend, though. :/

Still, there is just something so BORING about her. Is it just me or is American Girl Girl of the Year suddenly…uninspiring? It’s starting to feel like they are repeating the same dolls over and over again. And I’m not talking about the way she looks. I’m sure a lot of people are disappointed that she is another white, blonde character. That doesn’t quite disappoint me. Maybe it’s because I’m not as interested in the Girl of the Year as the Beforever collection. Still, when I see a GOTY I just really love, a doll I can’t resist, she must really be amazing. That’s how I felt about Grace last year. That’s not how I feel about Lea. In fact, the only other doll that bored me this much was Isabelle and for the same reason. There are several things that bore me about this collection.

Haven’t we done the tropical destination theme before?

I understand eventually American Girl will run out of ideas, but they haven’t even covered the SCOPE of ideas before settling with something they’ve already done before. Placing a movie with Lea’s collection will not resolve this issue. Lea seems like a last-minute character. They borrowed some ideas from old collections and put her in a familiar tropical environment.

What about a chess player? A musician, like a pianist or violinist or guitarist? I would’ve thought they would even try a singer or model before doing something over. What about a cheerleader? What about a girl football player?

Why don’t they make all the science items they failed to make for Maryellen and place them with the Girl of the Year?

But NOOO. That would be too original.

Girl of the Year has done this tropical theme TWICE, along with Kailey’s beach theme. Lea’s collection lacks identity.

Let’s just observe this boring collection closely for a moment…

The Kayak

I already have my Kayak from Jess’s collection.

jess kayak

Why would I be interested in Lea’s Kayak? :/ BOOORRRIINNNG. YAWN. I like the inflatable feel of Jess’s Kayak versus the plastic piece of junk in Lea’s collection. It’s not tempting. But I guess it’s easier for bath-time use.

Tie-dyed fashion

I’m also tired of the tie-dyed look as well. I’m feeling a Jess vibe from that, too.

lea

Jess

And it’s not that the styles are anything alike, but Lea’s theme is so redundant. It has been done too many times. It’s bad enough I’m not a big fan of tie-dye. It’s worse that they’ve done this more than once.

Rainforest House

I’m interested in the rainforest house a bit, but it does not make me long for Lea. It suits my Jess perfectly. Jess looks more unique than Lea does, so I see no need to add Lea to my collection for any reason, not even because a rainforest house was mentioned in her story and is supposed to be a part of her collection. I have no interest in reinventing Lea’s stories.

Berry Banana Stand

The Berry Banana stand reminds me of the Shave Ice stand from Kanani’s collection. Another tropical-themed collection. Though I actually prefer the Banana-berry stand, I already have a stand. I don’t feel the need to have both.

kanani's shave ice stand

Kanani may have been a repeat of Jess for me (as well as Kailey), but at least she had better fashion sense, cultural pieces, and different accessories in her collection at the time.

I can combine all of the collection pieces I already HAVE and create Lea’s collection.

American Girl has had TONS of hazel-eyed dolls, and the sandy-haired types, too.

What can I gain from this Girl of the Year?

Swimsuit

Girl of the Year has had enough tropical swimsuits to make my head spin.

 

 

Jess swimsuit

Kailey swimsuit

lea 2

I understand they are all from different years. I understand that girls today probably don’t remember Kailey and Jess and weren’t able to get their wardrobes when they were available. I get it. Still, I’ve had enough. I’m not interested in purchasing any more of this tropical junk, not for me or anyone else.

If you keep revamping ideas just to give old ideas to the new kiddies, when will you give kids some new stuff? When will you be more creative American Girl? American Girl is a company that has the potential to step outside of these basic ideas. They can do more with their resources than they used to when Girl of the Year first arrived on the scene. So why not broaden the Girl of the Year brand with a more unique destination? Why didn’t they try Africa? I mean, that IS where they filmed the movie!

I don’t even think her books are all that interesting. I’m not interested in learning about the rainforest as I feel the novelty wore off after Jess’s story.

Isabelle was the same way for me. Why would I be interested in a ballerina when I already have Marisol? But at least I was interested in Isabelle’s sewing set. Lea bores me all the way around.

After Grace, I thought American Girl had finally come to their senses. How foolish I was to think that this company would ever live up to my personal expectations.

So, no, Lea isn’t come home. Not one item in her collection is coming home. I’m not even interested in her movie. The fact that she isn’t even Brazilian is worse. I’ll pass. For those of you interested in Brazil or didn’t get a chance to get the other tropical characters, go for Lea.

As for me, I’m more excited for Melody and Girl of the Year 2017.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! Do you think I’m being too harsh? Do you like Lea Clark? What would you add in your collection? Or do you think she’s boring as well? I want to know!

The New Ever After High Interactive Music Video…Is…Dope…

16 Feb

I’ve just got wind of the new interactive Ever After High Music Video. It is SO DOPE. It is way ahead of it’s time, and in fact, the start of something revolutionary! Imagine all of our music videos interactive like this! On Vevo! On Youtube!

Sure, it’s a music video for a doll brand, but that’s usually where all of the most innovative ideas come from: TOYS! Technology starts with the kids, right?

So, I think you guys should check it out. It’s pretty cool.

I wish Monster High had something this cool…

Check it out!

http://spellbind.in/16zyEFo

 

American Girl Beforever Maryellen Larkin from the 1950s and Melody Ellison from the 1960s!

4 Jan

Rumors always spread like wildfire in the American Girl fan community. This is partially because American Girl fans often do their homework and find new leaks that start rumors. We have a lot of excited and eager fans. American Girl keeps us all on our toes. We can’t help it. We love this 18″ doll franchise with the historical dolls and contemporary lines that actually reflect real girlhood (rather than Monster High and Barbie dolls). Since the Digital Revolution, fans have been finding information about future dolls easily. Nowadays, the “surprise” American Girls are not really so surprising to most fans anymore.

Either the fans are excellent sleuths, or American Girl, LLC sucks at keeping their product ideas under their hats. If they had competition, they would really be in trouble because it is so easy to find out what they are releasing. But since they don’t have competition, I guess it really doesn’t matter. They have the strongest hold on the 18″ doll market.

It somewhat benefits fans when they know all of the information beforehand. For starters, American Girl is so expensive. When fans learn about new dolls, they know to save their money. By the time the new doll is released, fans will be able to get her as soon as she comes out rather than having to wait until she’s released to try and save up. If we had to wait to hear about new dolls, it would be hard on the pockets. By the time most of us would have saved up for one doll, another one would be on the way. The American Girl “sleuths” have actually been of serious use to the American Girl fanbase. I think American Girl feels the same way. When they release a doll, the doll sells faster the day of release when fans know about the doll ahead of time. I think this is why American Girl isn’t as tight with their information. They seem like they kind of want fans to know some of their secrets.

The only sad part about knowing all of the information beforehand is how it influences the kids. When I was watching “Good Morning America” for the Girl of the Year 2015 release, it was both funny and sad that the girls already knew what the doll was like. The American Girl, LLC president asked, “Do you girls know why you are wearing aprons?” And they all responded, “Because she bakes.” I don’t know why that was so sad for me, but it was almost like a child already knowing their Christmas presents before they even open them. It was like taking a child to Disney World and they tell their parents they know the real name of the man behind the Mickey Mouse costume. The magic, no, the childhood, is gone. It is so hard to surprise children today, thanks to the internet.

On the other hand, at least kids know their options. When the kids know a new girl is on the way, they will think carefully about the doll they want. They will also be able to tell their parents in advance the doll they want before she is released, which helps parents save carefully. Again, this benefits parents and adult fans mostly, who have to pay for the dolls. Well, this may also benefit those girls who save up their birthday and allowance money for dolls, too.

All of that being said, recently a new slew of American Girl rumors have resurfaced.

There are rumors about not one new Beforever character, but TWO new Beforever characters. No one is certain whether the two girls are the same, whether they will be part of the same collection (though American Girl has stated they are not doing the “Best Friend” thing again), or whether one of them is being discarded for the other. We do know that both girls sound interesting and that at least one new doll will be added to the new Beforever line within the next two years.

The 1950’s Strawberry Blonde Character, Maryellen Larkin

American Girl is all set to release Maryellen!

American Girl has stated, “She’ll inspire your girl to follow her heart instead of the crowd”, so she seems like the type of character that marches to the beat of her own drum.

American Girl Publishing, American Girl’s business website, goes into detail about her personality:

“Maryellen Larkin is an enthusiastic, imaginative girl growing up
in the 1950s—the era of poodle skirts, sock hops, and exciting
new steps in space travel! She longs to stand out but often feels
lost in the shuffle of her big, busy family. Her favorite TV shows
are Davy Crockett and the Lone Ranger, and she dreams up
episodes where she gets to be the hero. She finds fun ways
to help others, and even uses her birthday celebration for a
special cause—which ultimately puts her in the spotlight and
makes her stand out from the crowd!”

So, she’s another attention-seeking character like Rebecca and Cecile. XD That seems to be what they’re trying to sell to kids today.

From the boxed set, we learn that she is from Daytona Beach, Florida.

Maryellen2

Maryellen

Mary-Ellen-mini-doll-700x810

Such a beauty! It looks like they changed her starter outfit. I like the original dress better (and I liked the fact that her hair had more of a “red-ish” color in the prototype too), but she’s really cute and I want her!

Valerie Tripp is the author of the three books set for Maryellen. I love the way Valerie Tripp writes. She was the author of Felicity, Josefina, Kit, Molly, and three books for Samantha.

So far there are three books for “Maryellen” up for order:

The One The Only

maryellen book 1

Maryellen Larkin is nine years old and longs to stand out, but in a family with five brothers and sisters it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle! A painting mishap gains her some attention, but not the kind she’s been longing for. Being invited to stay in at recess and practice her handwriting earns Maryellen a new friend, but what does that mean for her old friendships? Then, Maryellen is wishing for a white Christmas like the ones in the movies (not very likely in Florida!). Will she find a way to make her dream come true?

Taking Off

maryellen book 2

Turning ten is a big deal, and Maryellen Larkin wants to celebrate it in a very special way. Will she choose a western theme or decide on a superstar celebration, or will the event turn out to be something even Maryellen doesn’t expect? And which party participant surprises her the most? Then, Dad comes home with a silver surprise and big plans for a family vacation. On the trip, what will Maryellen discover about Joan and her wedding plans? What will Maryellen decide about her own plans and “flying high?”
maryellen 3
 What if you suddenly found yourself in Maryellen’s world during the 1950s? How would your life be changed, what would you do to fit in—and, more importantly, what would you do to stand out? Join Maryellen on an adventure where the two of you can put on poodle skirts and head to a school dance (they were called sock hops back then!), enter a contest, or take a trip in a streamlined silver camper that looks like a rocket ship! Your journey back in time can take whatever twists and turns you choose, as you select from a variety of exciting options in this multiple-ending story.

Someone has done an entire review of Maryellen’s COMPLETE COLLECTION! Check out some of the items that will be sold!

Several things concern me:

  1. How expensive the playsets are! The TV console is $90! Uh-uh.
  2. The quality. What happened to the days when tables would actually be made of wood, and lunch pails actually felt like tin lunch pails? Velvet would be velvet and buttons would actually button?
  3. Maryellen’s play shirt doesn’t button like Kit’s Meet sweater used to. I really wish it did. Or at least put the Velcro in the back of the shirt. I just don’t personally like it in the front. :/
  4. I’m also disappointed that the TV console set is plastic. The encyclopedias are stuck to the tv console and so don’t seem like literal books. 😦 That’s no fun if you want to put them somewhere else, like on a desk or something…
  5. I also hate that the scarf is sewn together. That’s no fun. I would like scarves I could tie in funky bows and loops.
  6. All of the buttons on the jukebox don’t work. That kind of bothers me a bit because it doesn’t make playtime easy. First, you have to figure out which combos work first. I hate playing around with things and kind of want to make the most of the whole item. That completely turns me off from the jukebox.
  7. Most of them seem focused on the living room. Not much attention was given to a birthday set or the school set. I also would’ve liked some “character” items. Maryellen likes drawing cartoons from what I know and she likes rocket science. She also likes Davy Crockett and the Lone Ranger. I was perhaps hoping she’d have some character-story-ready items that introduced her to people and not just standard 1950’s items people could grab from the secondary market or make themselves. Kit had a baseball outfit and a camera for reporting. Addy had her doll Ida Bean. Maryellen only has a TV…It doesn’t seem like she will come with anything that pertains to her personality which is disappointing for me.
  8. Where is her bedroom set? No bedding? I was hoping that would come soon…

But other than the things I mentioned, I’m loving the ’50s theme. And I’m so glad they didn’t grab for cliches too much, like over-emphasizing poodle skirts by making each outfit have a poodle on it. This feels more authentic.

I’m so happy to see another ponytail red-head in the American Girl’s Beforever line.

Favorite things so far:

  1. TV console that actually plays a program. That’s just amazing. It’s cool that the music actually plays on the console, if I’m hearing correctly. My only question: Does this tv set play without an ipad or with different tablets like an ipad mini? If not, I may not like this playset as much…
  2. TV guide is so authentic and amazing.
  3. Maryellen’s mint green purse.
  4. I like the classroom set (though I would’ve loved a desk along with it).
  5. The let-out bed. I like that little detailing.
  6. Red hair! Strawberry blonde hair! Yay!
  7. Maryellen’s capri pants and school outfit. They are cute and authentic. Most of Maryellen’s clothes are appealing.
  8. Her hair set. Those curlers are really authentic, especially with the hair cap to keep the curlers in place.
  9. The lamp actually comes with batteries and lights up. Really cool.
  10. Haven’t seen the diner thoroughly, so I need to see it completely to really say I love it. But so far, I like what I hear. 😉 It has a lot of little details and accessories and that says fun to me.

The 1960’s African American Character, Melody Ellison

Melody has arrived! American Girl Publishing goes into detail about her personality:

“Melody® is a sweet, hopeful girl who loves to sing. She’s growing up in Detroit in 1964, a city filled with big dreams and big changes—from Motown to the civil rights movement. Melody is inspired by her family and by leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After experiencing discrimination for herself, she decides to add her voice to those who are speaking up about equality and making things better in her community.”

She has the Sonali face mold, shoulder-length hair, and brown eyes! Lovely!

Her collection has been posted at americangirl.com! She has many beautiful items!

Some of the things I love:

  1. Holiday dress and coat! It has been a while since I’ve seen an American Girl outfit with that quality. The gold is lovely and stands out to me. It is very sophisticated and very period-ready. And I’m so happy it isn’t pink or some fruity pastel color. That seems to be the trend in Beforever and it is annoying.
  2. The recording studio peaks my interest. The detail is very interesting and educational. I’m super impressed with it. I would like to add Melody’s piano with it. 😉
  3. I love the “picnic” playset. I’m glad they made a table and chairs for Melody, something missing with Maryellen. I love all the pieces that go along with the set.
  4. Melody’s pink floral dress is actually really cute! Though I’m not a fan of pink, the color is really flattering on Melody.
  5. Bo! I love that cute little doggy.

Things I’m disappointed about:

  1. I really was hoping for a 1960s salon and spa to go with Melody since it was so significant in her story. Instead, American Girl released a “Truly Me” salon. That’s fine, but it isn’t historical.
  2. Again, just like with Maryellen, very few character items. Melody has more character items than Maryellen, but I was hoping to see some items related to her love of gardening…
  3. The collection seems small, like it’s missing something. All of the Beforever characters’ collections have down-sized. In Melody’s collection, there aren’t any “school” items, which is really disappointing. I guess I could easily put Maryellen’s school items with Melody.

The collection is new, so there is plenty of room for it to grow. Time will tell.

I love the doll, though!

I’m surprised, though, that some of the responses from fans have been negative. A lot of people are disappointed. 😦 Which is bad. American Girl already thinks black dolls do not sell. In fact, most people think black dolls are ugly and don’t sell well in general.

I was really hoping this doll would be really appealing to many people. But so far, some fans have stated several disappointments:

She doesn’t have dimples. I don’t know why anyone ever expected her to have dimples. I know the girl on the cover has dimples, but so did Caroline’s cover girl. At one time, Kaya’s illustrations showed us a dimpled girl. But neither of the dolls turned up with dimples and instead went with a more “American Girl” look. Felicity’s covers always showed a girl with freckles, but the actual doll never had them. So why did people expect her to be any different?

Maybe that’s just it. To most people, she doesn’t look unique and so she isn’t appealing to most consumers. I’ve honestly felt that way about the dolls American Girl has been releasing lately. But I mostly collect the dolls with stories to tell, so I found Melody to look very unique. For those who are interested in the Truly Me line, she may remind them of #47. She has the Sonali mold except she has textured hair. I thought this mold was a favorite among fans. Guess not after the finished product. Some people were saying they wish she had the Josefina mold instead, which probably would’ve been more unique considering there are no dolls of color with that mold. Then again, people would be saying she doesn’t look “black enough” and that her features are just like a “white girl’s”…

The negative responses are bad for those who are hoping for more diversity in the future. Maybe this isn’t anyone’s idea of diversity, considering she looks like other dolls most fans have collected. I suspect that most fans are looking for dolls that have something unique about them, which is the only reason they will purchase a doll. Many are underwhelmed by her. If Melody doesn’t get a good response, her sales will decide the fate of any dolls of color in the future. This seems to be a test doll for American Girl. They didn’t want to risk making a modern doll, because they rely on those yearly sales to keep the brand afloat, but they wanted to see if this could be a success. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be.

Her hairstyle looks odd. I was personally all for the braids. I was reluctant about the flipped hair. But after seeing her, I think it’s cute. Some people don’t like the bangs and feel they are too short. But looking at several pictures below, it looks like the bangs vary.

People who asked for an Afro…You just don’t really know 1960’s history, especially in the North. NO little girls walked around with Afros. MOST little girls had their hair in braids and, for special occasions, their hair straightened with a hot comb. Look at pictures of little girls in the 1960’s. You hardly EVER see them with Afros.

Her features look Caucasian. I’ve heard people tell me she doesn’t look black, which is ridiculous. Most of the dolls in the company don’t look like their ethnic background in every way. Josefina’s face mold has been shared by White girls, and it was originally designed for a girl of Mexican heritage. So why make a big deal about it?

With these ridiculous complaints, it’s no wonder American Girl hardly EVER releases dolls of color.

I just think American Girl should’ve reached out to fans more about their wishes. They should’ve had votes on several prototypes before the final project. This is a big deal. This doll will decide the future of American Girl dolls of color. This doll could also affect their 3rd and 4th quarter sales. Their sales have already plummeted 13%. If this doll doesn’t do well, who knows how this will affect the company. We are going to see smaller and smaller collections. They really should’ve made sure this doll was a major hit.

Maybe the doll could sell on her era alone, but I’m so sad that many people don’t feel compelled to buy her. 😦 Let’s just hope that some people change their minds when they see her in person.

I think the book gave people too many expectations. Then there were too many spoilers. They probably should’ve waited to release the book with the doll. With people having such high expectations, everyone was bound to get disappointed.

I’m personally happy she looks like a normal girl and not some made-up model (like Lea Clark, Grace Thomas, Caroline). I was missing Molly so much because she was one of the few dolls that looked like a normal little girl.

What do you readers think? Check her out at americangirl.com and let me know!

melody

CBS News takes lovely pictures of Melody's collection! (I was hoping for a Salon and Spa though)

CBS News takes lovely pictures of Melody’s collection! (I was hoping for a Salon and Spa though) Meet Melody!

Melody's Motown dress-CBSnews photos

Melody visits Motown! She loves to sing.

Melody

Melody's picnic set

I’m so happy she has braids here! So adorable! This is her picnic set.

Melody bedroom set-CBSnews photos

Melody’s bedroom set! Maryellen doesn’t even have a bedroom set yet…

Melody holiday coat Melody's holoday dress

 

American Girl Publishing website says that “she will lift her voice and sing out.” Her full description:

Melody® is a sweet, hopeful girl who loves to sing. She’s growing up in Detroit in 1964, a city filled with big dreams and big changes—from Motown to the civil rights movement. Melody is inspired by her family and by leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After experiencing discrimination for herself, she decides to add her voice to those who are speaking up about equality and making things better in her community.

NoOrdinarySound

 

No Ordinary Sound: Melody can’t wait to sing her first solo in church! What song will she choose? She gets advice from her big brother, who has his sights set on being a Motown star, and she gets inspiration from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Melody’s also inspired by her older sister, who’s home from college with new ideas about making life fair. What isn’t fair is their cousins’ struggle to buy a house. Melody learns that they’re not welcome in certain neighborhoods because they’re black. Just as Melody’s ready to sing, an unimaginable tragedy leaves her silent. Can she find her voice when it really matters? 

Alternate synopsis: Melody is an optimistic, enthusiastic girl growing up in Detroit, Michigan during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She is excited and proud to share a special surprise with her family—she’s been chosen to sing a solo for Youth Day at her church! But what song will she choose? She gets advice from her big brother, and is also inspired by her older sister, but it’s the inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that help her pick the perfect song. There are many unfair things happening during Melody’s time, even to people in her own family. But it’s an unimaginable tragedy in the South that leaves Melody silent. Who can help her lift her voice and sing—who will inspire her to “keep stepping”?

NeverStopSinging

Never Stop Singing: Melody Ellison just turned ten, and she’s dreaming of new ways to make her community a better place! When her pastor issues a New Year’s challenge, she decides to fix up a neighborhood playground and plant a garden. But when her friends put her in charge, Melody finds out just how hard it can be to lead. From opportunities of a lifetime in Motown, to learning what it means to not give up in the face of setbacks and adversity, Melody discovers that working together makes everyone stronger.

MusicinMyHeart

Music in My heart: What would it be like if a girl suddenly found herself in Melody Ellison’s world in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s? Together, she and Melody could speak up about fairness, join a demonstration, volunteer with a civil rights group, or even use her voice to sing backup for a Motown musician! Readers’ journey back in time can take whatever twists and turns they choose, as they select from a variety of exciting options in this multiple-ending story.

The last name ELLISON brings to mind the Ralph Ellison book Invisible Man published in 1952. The book addressed many issues African Americans were facing in the early 20th century through a character who calls himself “invisible”. This excites me more!

Melody also has a movie that is supposed to be coming soon. American Girl already had auditions and picked the girl who will be playing Melody’s VOICE (another girl will play as her character)! She will be the first American Girl of “Color” to have her own movie!

Melody’s movie is set to be an Amazon exclusive “special” release. The movie is called Melody, 1963: Love Has To Win, An American Girl Story !

The project falls under a multi-year, mulimillion dollar production deal Amazon inked earlier this year with Mattel subsidiary American Girl to produce four live-action specials based on the company’s popular American Girl line of dolls and books.

Denise Lewis Patrick, author of Cecile’s books in the Marie-Grace and Cecile series, is the writer for the new Beforever character.

For Black History month, Melody might be able to introduce children to the Civil Rights Era from a child-size perspective:

—->American Girl Has Three Characters That Represent Black History

To read more about future possibilities regarding African American characters in American Girl—>Future African American Dolls

In Conclusion…

Are you excited about the new red-haired character and another African American character? Are you excited about the possibility of four new movies?

I love the idea that they finally created another red-haired girl. There are none in the Beforever line. As an African American, I also like that more African American characters are being added to the line. But am I the only one a little disturbed by the fact that there are no Asian girls in the plans? We have had two beautiful African American characters as lead characters in the line already. Felicity was the only other lead red-head in the line, so I can see why they are trying to make another one. Emily was only a best friend doll. Ivy was also barely acceptable as an Asian character, and yet, she was the ONLY Asian character ever released in the historical line. It’s sad really.

Want to see a funny video about the exclusion of Asian American dolls?

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/asian-american-doll/2836284

Well, I’m going to try my best to be positive about the new releases instead of thinking about what American Girl didn’t do right. Think positive…Think positive…

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the releases!

American Girl doll Girl of the Year 2015: Grace Thomas

19 Dec

Grace thomas 16Grace Thomas 2 Grace Thomas 3 Grace thomas 6 Grace Thomas 7 Grace Thomas 10 Grace Thomas 11 Grace Thomas 14 Grace Thomas 15

Grace Thomas 4 Grace Thomas 5 Grace Thomas 8 Grace Thomas 9 Grace Thomas 12 Grace Thomas 13

Pictures for the new Girl of the Year 2015 are out there, if you haven’t heard. It has been leaked on americangirl.com somehow…

*This article has been updated with the latest information.

She is a brunette character this time with a side-swept bang, and long hair. She also has freckles and blue eyes. I’m assuming they are giving her freckles because of Saige’s success, as Saige helped Mattel boost up 3% in 2013. I heard Isabelle was not doing as well…I can’t say I’m surprised…

Read articles here:

Mattel’s Annual Report 2013

Isabelle: Girl of the Year 2014

What do I think of the new Girl of the Year 2015?

I think she’s adorable. I like the fact that she is NOT blonde. Yes, American Girl, thank you.

I thought she would not be interesting because when I heard her story for the first time, it seemed a little messy.  This is her book synopsis:

“Nine-year-old GOTY is always thinking up big ideas, like starting a business with her friends over the summer! When Mom announces a trip to Paris instead, GOTY gets on board, but it quickly seems as if none of her plans are working out the way she’d hoped. She and her French cousin aren’t getting along, and GOTY’s friends back home have started a business without her. Can she find the courage to stay open to new ideas and turn the summer around?”

This synopsis attempts to be interesting by telling us the setting is in Paris, but it left me feeling confused. Thus, this story seemed all over the place, like it’s trying to focus on Paris, then all of a sudden the story jumps on a completely new subject, and starts focusing on the business. This story also doesn’t seem to have a solid “lesson”. It’s not clear what direction the story wants to take. Ironically, that seems to be a trait of all children’s story-telling today, especially the stories that come with merchandising, i.e. Frozen. You can read more about that here and here. Thus, I wasn’t really interested in the story at first. She doesn’t get along with her cousin, which sounds almost exactly like Kanani’s story. She wants to start her own business, which reminds me of Kanani’s shave ice stand. And also, her story is going to take place in a foreign nation, just like Jess’s story took place in Belize. I know there are huge differences between Belize and Paris, but it’s still an American Girl who’s story does not take place in America. To add, it’s such a “privileged” story. Not every kid can afford to take a trip to Paris…

There didn’t seem to be anything…unique about this story. I guess that’s the main reason why I wasn’t interested. It felt like it had already been told, and so the outcome seemed even more predictable than the average GOTY. And it kind of still does, but later on I found some more interesting sides to the story.

Based on the collection, it seems she wants to open her own bakery. I suppose traveling to Paris will give her the inspiration to create her own French bakery in America? Many chefs travel around the world to find food inspiration. Perhaps that’s what she will learn while traveling? That’s just a hunch. That would make the story ten times more interesting.

Qualms

Qualm 1: I know American Girl is eager to make use of the Parisian setting for their movie, but they are starting to appear like they are trying too hard to make a good movie. American Girl used to make movies based on the books, now it seems they have designed everything in a way where it appears the books are inspired from the ideas they want to put in the movies…And movies always feel less realistic than books.

The last GOTY movie I actually liked was Chrissa’s movie, and that’s because it touched on a real issue: Bullying. And it was realistic about it. Trust me. I work in education, and I have seen bullying at that magnitude. Despite how parents would like to see children, children can be very cruel…Moving on…

Qualm 2: Just like Isabelle, she is caught wearing pink as a signature color for her starter outfit. And pink has been sprinkled throughout the collection, too. (sigh, Attack of the Pink again…Another part of Mattel’s 18 Ways they Can Ruin a Doll Line).

Qualm 3: Am I the only one annoyed that the name “Grace” was used again? And to throw salt on it, she’s learning French, just like Marie-Grace. It’s a stabbing reminder of how they cast aside the NOLA historical characters. It’s also…been used before, and so isn’t so very creative. I, at least, hoped it would be the name of another historical character because it would mean that a historical character is on the way…And it would make the fact that Marie-Grace was removed easier to deal with. GOTY is only around for one year, and so that name will be out in the air all over again.

Qualm 4: She’s white…again. I’m not too mad, considering I’m fine with the concept they produced for her, but I don’t think American Girl is making the same impact with their GOTYs anymore. It’s time for them to shock the world and try something new. I think this is what will slam Mattel in 2015.

Qualm 5: Isn’t it a little stereotypical for Grace to be sporting a French beret? Like all French people nowadays walk around wearing a beret…Can we be a little more authentic, American Girl?

Pro

Pro: Despite my lack of interest in GOTY story-telling, I like that this girl is not a dancer or an athlete.  Sure, there were other subjects American Girl could’ve focused on, but this subject doesn’t seem too bad now that I have deciphered what the story may actually be about. At least she is a little entrepreneur. I also like the fact that they are teaching girls the value of hard work. Girls can do so much more today, and I think this collection will encourage girls to explore their options.

Pro: After seeing the doll in American Girl’s photos with her accessories, she is absolutely scrumptious! I’m not too excited about the pink dress. It sort of reminds me of Samantha’s dress for modern girls. But I ❤ that red “Love” sweater! I want, I want, I want! I also love that the bakery is a realistic color, blue and red. So, I want that, too. ❤ I half expected the bakery to be pink.

I heard…

Many people felt that American Girl did not live up to their expectations. Many people were hoping for an African American girl or a girl with a disability of some sort. I wrote a little segment about dolls of color here. I had no real hopes. However, even I will admit, there was nothing shocking about this GOTY. A GOTY of color would’ve made an impact.

Many people initially felt she looked a lot like Chrissa and Saige mixed together, but I think she looks beautiful with the combination of features.

I will admit, here we have your typical white girl, with the same tried-again features, with a done-again story. This girl is basically many GOTYs mashed together. But you also have to admit…She’s easy to fall in love with. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling.

Perhaps American Girl wanted Grace to have a mixture of old features. Young girls may not remember Chrissa or Jess or any other GOTY from more than 3 years ago. I suppose they re-used the features to reignite interest in the doll type and to bring the look into the modern generation. Still, it doesn’t do much for old-time fans. American Girl has a hard time bridging the gap between the old-time fans and the new fans. They are also having a hard time reaching out to people of color.

Overall, Grace isn’t everything anyone could want, but she’s a far improvement from Isabelle, the second GOTY dancer. At least they came up with an original concept for Grace.

American Girl shows more about the GOTY 2015 here —>American Girl.com

So, leave me a comment and share with me what you think so far, and your expectations for GOTY in the future. Do you think she’s a let down or were you surprisingly pleased?

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