We didn’t need to check out of the hotel till lunchtime which gave us a couple of hours to investigate a phenomenon which has surfaced during the last few days.
The. American. Girl. Doll.
For those who haven’t come across this before, let me explain. There is a store selling these dolls very close to our hotel here in Chicago and throughout our stay, we’ve noticed many, many people (usually women) carrying these huge bags full of merchandise. Frequently, they are accompanied by one or more little girls who are carrying at least one of these dolls, sometimes in a papoose or carrier (which Mary helpfully labelled “a casket”).
This morning, we decided to step inside and see what it’s all about.
To begin with, we were in the area of the store which offered the “historical dolls” – characters with a background based on American history and whose story included bravery, diligence and the pioneer spirit. Their accessories revealed interesting facets of life in the old days; there were mangles on the washing machines and old fashioned household implements such as our mothers might have used. Perhaps this wasn’t altogether a bad thing, then, if girls were to read about and learn their history by means of such wholesome characters?
We felt a little uneasy about the paper slips which were there on each display, which “helpfully” had a barcode and purchase details for collectors to take away (and presumably add to a wish list), not to mention the cost of these items.
Two dolls with a basic handful of accessories cost $244 – we’re not talking pocket money items here, clearly.
Here is Molly, a girl of the 1940s with her brave friend Emily, who has left war-torn England behind to stay in the USA, bringing with her a ration book, a faux sixpence and a cardigan, amongst other things.
Oh, and did you know you can buy their outfits to wear yourself? Well, if you’re small enough, of course!
Our real misgivings began when we took the escalator to the second floor, where the real business was going on. Here, the contemporary dolls were on display, including the doll of the year, who brings with her a whole back story of facing up to the challenge of getting behind with her reading, but ultimately, learning that by taking it a step at a time, she can overcome the setback, just as with her gymnastics training. Again, what’s up with that? Well…
A hair salon for your doll? Where she can be dressed in a robe and sat in a chair to be primped and coiffed? At a cost, of course.
What about having her ears pierced? So that she can begin a huge collection of earrings, available for purchase throughout the store?
Of course, these girls might encounter a little difficulty at times and need some medical attention. No problem, for here is the hospital where they can undergo surgery – dressed appropriately in surgical gown and so on, of course.
They might even be fitted with a hearing aid or dental retainer. Seeing a small girl in a wheelchair with her doll, my unkind thoughts about the marketing of these things was silenced…and yet…
there is something creepy about having a doll made in an exact likeness, don’t you think?
Leaving the dolls and their American Girls to take tea together in the beautifully decorated cafe, whilst their dear Papas queued to pay for all the goodies, we beat a retreat, overhearing a comment from one of them as we did.
“I could have had another kid cheaper than this”.
The funniest thing of all?
My hero left carrying a bag!