Admission: Laura does have two American Girl dolls, just about all of their clothes, a nightgown for herself (now hitting mid-calf), the movies, and all of the hardcover collected historical stories, from Felicity to the WWII one (Molly?). But I’ve always been aware of the marketing angle, one of the reasons we try to avoid licensed products and the movies and books that serve as vehicles for the consumption; we also talk to the kids about how they make good targets for companies. So I was interested to read the article “Marketing American Girlhood” by Elizabeth Marshall at the current issue of Rethinking Schools Online:
Some might argue that American Girl is not as bad as other materials on the market, or as offensive as Barbie or Bratz dolls. This argument misses the key features of what makes this phenomenon so insidious: how corporations play on the feminist and /or educative aspirations of parents, teachers, girls, and young women and turn these toward consumption. American Girl is less about strong girls, diversity or history than about marketing girlhood, about hooking girls, their parents and grandparents into buying the American Girl products and experience.
I have more thoughts but not more time right now, having just emptied out the fridge for a big cleaning.
Made You Look (December 2006), which mentions Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown
Hot to trot tots and their pole-dancing mamas (March 2007)
Other worthwhile links:
Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet B. Schor, which I think first heard about from Hornblower at HMS Indefatigable; I seem to recall that Ms. Schor appears in the documentary “How the Kids Took Over” which is good to watch with the whole family
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has lately taken on the Scholastic book club, asking it to “put the book back in book club” — which means making room by taking out the “M&M’s Kart Racing Wii videogame, the Princess Room Alarm, Monopoly® SpongeBob SquarePants™ Edition computer game, lip gloss and a Hannah Montana bracelet”. I applaud the idea of a commercial-free childhood, but in this day and age it seems wiser, as a parent at least, to put one’s energies into commercial-proofing the kids.