Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meet 70’s Girl: Julie Albright?

As a father of four girls (three old enough to love American Girl dolls), I’ve seen a lot of American Girl dolls over the past five years. Karis has two dolls, Gloria another, along a few Bitty Babies (American Girl infant dolls). Karis and Gloria have several volumes of the stories that have been published for each doll. These are historical fiction stories that are surprisingly well done.

However, we just got the latest American Girl doll catalog yesterday, and it seems all is going down hill. The feature doll this time is Julie Albright: a groovy flower child whose parents are divorced. The marketing copy for the girl indicate that Julia is an activist, seeking to change the world, since her world was changed so much by her parents divorce.

So here’s my question: Do they know their audience? Or will this doll sell? I may be off is some dream world, but I wonder if the groovy peace-chick-turned-professional-woman is really all that interested in buying her daughter a doll.


Laura said...

Sad day for American Girl dolls...

Anonymous said...

Honestly...I work with kids everyday from every walk of life. With every different type of parenting and home life. And the moms I know would want to buy their daughters something that they could relate to. To make them feel like there is someone like them.

In fact I know a mom of two girls that I hold very dear who was a hippie back in the day. They too read American Girl books and I do believe that they would read this series as well.


Christopher said...

Hey Bets,

I know they will sell some, I mean, look how cute the doll is. There were a number of things floating around in the back of my head when I posted on this that I should probably spell out, if for no other reason than to show why I’m not real hip on this hippie chick.

1) I don’t see the hippie era as a positive period in American history. The outright rebellion to all that I hold dear is far from endearing. I know from my history classes that the period between 1960 and 1970 was an inevitable result of a deep hypocrisy in the American life. I also think that it was probably for the better that the hippie generation exposed the lie of their parents by living the immoral life to its fullest, but why celebrate such an era?

2) Another component of this piece that disturbed me was the apparent celebration of divorce. The fact that “Julia Albright” was able to overcome the destruction of her family and change the world seems to diminish the truth of the matter. Most children who suffer from parents who divorce are so devastated that even when they apply themselves to great causes, they are deeply scarred for life in ways that haunt every other aspect of their lives on a daily basis.

Part of my concern here involves the “What should we be setting before our children?” type question. Since, statistically, half of America’s children now suffer from divorce, it might be thought that we should give them dolls that the can relate to. But it seems to me that we should give them dolls that they should strive to emulate. They have enough baggage from the real divorce to deal with, at least give them stability in the toys they play with. Part of my concern her is with the shaping of the young minds. I pointed out in a post not too long ago that the little girl in Karis’s class was planning on getting divorced when she grew up. I think we need to fight these patterns at every level, even in the story lines of the books and toys we give our children.

3) Finally, as you know, I hate feminism in most every form it takes. It’s such a twisting of reality that I will be striving against it to my dying day. That said, I see this doll as a celebration of feminism, which seems to me to be at odds with even the concept of playing with dolls. This part is more of a stretch, but to the degree that the ‘60s was an advancement of the ideology, the doll seems to represent that. I’d have to actually buy the books and read them in order to really see if I’m heading down the right track on this, but that’s my guess.

Well, we love you and look forward to seeing you again some day. By the way, I think the first thing I said to Les when we woke up on 9/11 was, “It’s Betsy’s birthday.” We think of you often and love your story.

Much Love,


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Bets. It's all about relating, and we live in an age where close to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Whether we like it or not, it's a fact, and that means loads of young girls are dealing with it. Instead of having nothing but June and Ward Cleaver to choose from, why not have a doll that they can love, relate to, and learn from her story? To continuously force the idea with toys, books, etc, that having a mom and a dad is what is "right" and "normal" has the potential to only further the child to feel like they are abnormal or different. With kids, especially young girls, we should not try to be making them feel othered. Rather, we should be focused on making them feel comfortable in their own skin. Julie Albright helps girls do just that... she is a girl who is stable, well adjusted, and dealing with the divorce. She can help teach kids that it's something that can be both grappled with and overcome.

As far as feminism goes, yes, the doll does promote the idea, but in a way that does NOT put down boys, which is the popular misconception of feminism. Rather, she's promoting equality of the genders, a fight that shouldn't have been quieted so easily if everyone is getting so revved up about a doll. And, speaking as a feminist, I would DEFINITELY buy this doll for my daughter. It is not the toy that is the problem... it is the idea it represents. For example, Barbie's measurements have the potential to give girls a skewed image of what is considered "beautiful." But here's Julie-- a humanistic doll with a powerful message that teaches ideals I would want to instill in my daughter: tolerance, acceptance, equality, and personal strength. On top of that, she is historical and teaches about an earth-changing time period, which is why I love American Girl Dolls to begin with. Julie is indeed a doll to love and cherish, and I think the right audience will do just that..

Christopher said...

Hello Anonymous,

I wish I knew you. I'd love to interact with your comments, but since they will likely be misguided without knowing what path you are traveling down, I just have to look on and say, Hmmm.

Thanks for the comment.


cherri said...

I feel sorry for your daughters Christopher...

Christopher said...


Don't feel so sorry, even though they won't be getting this doll for Christmas, they have bunches of the others.



Anna said...

Her name is 'Julie' and she is a great doll.

Jayme said...

Her name is JULIE Albright. I got her last year. She was my first doll (I'm 11) and I love her. I can relate to what she's going through. Julie is actually one of the most popular American Girl dolls.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I really like that doll even though i dont have her.