American Girl is a doll line started in 1986 by the Pleasant Company, and which was subsequently acquired by Mattel in 1998. Heralded as an attempt to infuse their dolls with progressivism and education, each of the 18″ American Girl dolls is sold with an accompanying booklet featuring a first-person narrative about a specific period in American history. Through the books and dolls, we learn about the American Revolution, slavery, and the Great Depression from a young female perspective.
Although early dolls have drawn from historical periods, in 1995, the doll line expanded with a line of contemporary dolls: American Girls of Today which was later rebranded as Just Like You, and finally My American Girl (which, along with the few named doll characters, includes a customizable line of dolls). This doll line features over sixty dolls with a variety of hair colour and skin tones, and Mattel asserted that this would “represent the individuality and diversity of today’s American girls”. Parents, the company said, would be able to let “every girl create a truly special doll that’s just right for her”.
Unfortunately, the truth is that My American Girl dolls really don’t represent the American girls of today. They aren’t just like us. They really do a terrible job of representing the individuality and diversity of today’s American girls.