Ah, American Girl dolls. Can you believe that these best-selling 18-inch besties have been around since 1986, and are still going strong in 2016? That’s right, these historical heroines are still standing up to the wrongdoings of America’s past and are still looking fabulous while doing it (and are still, yes, mega-expensive, but I digress).
Unfortunately, on a recent trip to the American Girl Place in New York City, I noticed a disturbing trend: the young girls of today don’t seem as interested in the historical dolls, a.k.a the ones we all grew up with. They seemed to be more attracted to the Truly Me’s – you know, the ones that are customized to look just like their owners but have no inherent qualities whatsoever. Like clones. Or something.
And don’t even get me started on the Wellie Wishers (Google them)…
What gives? Don’t the next generation of strong, smart, independent girls deserve to know about the awesomeness of Samantha, a proto-feminist, or Addy, who escaped freaking slavery? Maybe these inspiring ladies just need a bit of a 2016-style makeover…
Face it: if you had a Samantha doll growing up, all of the other girls at school thought you were pretty lucky…and maybe a bit spoiled. Likewise, Samantha – or Sam, as she prefers – is seen as this by other girls around her hometown of Mount Bedford, New York.
Sure, Sam goes to a private, prestigious girls’ school, and dear old Grandmary always make sure she has the nicest clothes and latest iPhone, but don’t take her for just another vapid, self-centered rich girl.
In my fantasy world, Sam is known as the best public speaker in her school, which led her to becoming captain of the debate team – they haven’t lost since she got the position! On weekday afternoons, she invites girls from her neighborhood to be tutored at her house through a program she calls the “Mount Better School,” which is how she met her BFF, Nellie. She most definitely identifies as a feminist, and wants to work towards getting women more than just the right to vote.
Addy is sweet, kind, thoughtful…and not to be messed with. She is extremely passionate about civil rights, but she doesn’t just sit behind a computer all day tweeting #BlackLivesMatter (though she does support the movement). On the weekends, instead of visiting the mall or the beach, you’re likely to find Addy attending events for the causes she cares about or volunteering with her church.
However, Addy isn’t at all one-dimensional or solely focused on activism. With all she does, she still finds time to do her schoolwork- she’s super bright, and has won more spelling bees than you can count on your fingers! And at the end of the day, it’s her family that’s most important to her: she loves helping out her mom at work, telling jokes with her brother Sam, and playing with Esther, her baby sister.
The Montoya family farm in New Mexico has been Josefina‘s whole world for as long as she can remember, and she loves it. She’s especially good at caring for the animals, especially one particularly adorable baby goat. But her world is slowly but surely becoming bigger, especially now that progressive Tia Dolores has come to stay and her rebellious sister Francisca has been talking about fighting against the discrimination and prejudice faced by Latin-Americans.
Because of this, Josefina wants to do all she can to make the world a better place, and she’s going to start by becoming the first person in her family to go to medical school. She might even like to one day become a Doctor Without Borders, which would definitely expand her world by a lot. But for now, she has to nurse sweet little Sombrita back to health.
If Kaya could ride her beloved horse, Steps High, all day throughout the gorgeous Pacific Northwest wilderness near her home, she totally would. This girl lives for adventure and thrills, but she’s been kept grounded by her family, who’ve passed on to Kaya the stories and wisdom of their ancestors. As a result, Kaya is extremely proud of her people, and is angered by modern treatment of Native Americans, put on reservations without access to adequate education and plagued with high numbers of alcoholism, obesity, and diabetes.
Kaya is outspoken and strong, ready to speak her mind and fight for her people at any moment. She still finds time, however, to swim in rivers, groom Steps High, and hang out with her sister and best friend, Speaking Rain.
Kit has always had a nose for news, and with this being the age of 24/7 media coverage, she feels she was born at just the right time. She dreams of becoming like one of her journalistic idols, asking hard-hitting questions like Katie Couric or even starting her own news site like Arianna Huffington. She’s even started her own daily newspaper, written with the help of her two best friends, Ruthie and Stirling, covering everything from news around Cincinnati and the world beyond it to the latest baseball stats, highlighting Kit’s favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Unfortunately, that newspaper has to be written on an outdated desktop, as Kit’s family was hit hard by the recession: her father lost his job at a car dealership, and hasn’t been successful with finding work ever since, while her mother has been busy renting rooms out to guests to help make ends meet. Still, Kit manages to keep her chin high and her feet on the ground, with the help of her newspaper, her favorite team, and her friends and family.
It’s your turn!
Yes, yes, I know, I didn’t even get close to covering every single American Girl. There’s just been so many throughout the years, that I decided on those who are familiar to both our generation and younger ones.
So what do you think the other American Girls would be up to in 2016? Would Cecile and Marie-Grace volunteer in areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina? Would Molly support organizations like Wounded Warriors? Would Rebecca be obsessed with “Hamilton?” Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading! Keep America’s girls strong, smart, and inspiring!