US toymaker Mattel says sales of Barbie are declining, while American Girl now accounts for 40% of the company’s growth
Name: American Girl.
Age: Between nine and 11. Or 27, if you go by the year they came into existence.
Appearance: Plastic, 18in tall, doll-like.
Because they are dolls? Yes! The range comprises the original historical figures and new, contemporary ones who come in all ethnicities, eye colours, hair colours/styles/lengths etc.
And why are these dolls in the news? They haven’t come alive, have they? I saw a film about that once. It did not end well. No, they still live only in the imaginations of the seven- to 12-year-old girls at whom they are aimed. As far as we know. They are in the news because they are handing Barbie her over-aerobicised ass.
The subject matter has caused you to lapse into Americanisms that are both incomprehensible and vulgar. Explain, please. Mattel owns both Barbie and American Girl. It bought the latter 15 years ago from the Pleasant Company (founded by former schoolteacher Pleasant T Rowland in 1986). Mattel’s latest figures show that in the last quarter Barbie’s sales fell by 12% while American Girl’s increased by 14% and now account for 40% of Mattel’s growth.
OMG! Does this mean the yoke of Barbie tyranny has been thrown off? That the age of universal popularity of the nylon-haired, doe-eyed, plastic embodiment of body fascism, that icon of mindless consumption and ravening materialism, promulgator of female passivity and aggravator of vanity is over at last? No.
Oh. Well, it might. American Girl is certainly a more realistic, unthreatening shape than Barbie, but critics say that since Mattel bought the company, what used to be a glorious, obliquely educational set of figures with six books of backstory apiece, covering in a child-friendly way things such as Native American history, early child labour laws, slavery and the American civil war has become …
What? Um … overwhelmed by new dolls that girls can customise to look like themselves and buy endless expensive accessories for but who are without the character and interesting narratives of the originals.
So Mattel has replaced gentle pedagogy and mild political consciousness-raising with the fuelling of narcissism, the scourge of our age. Yes. And the $95 (£72) Girl of the Year, Saige, looks just like me! Hurrah!
Do say: “Get me a Laura Ingalls Wilder doll! And I shall make a log cabin for her myself!”
Don’t say: “If Barbie were real, her neck would be too thin to support her head! Cool!”