BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – Having raised a daughter, I understand little girls’ attraction to dolls but the announcement that American Girl’s 2011 “Girl of the Year” doll will be from Hawaii has opened a door to a kind of creepy world surrounding doll ownership these days.
I had never heard of the American Girl doll company until it was revealed with great hoopla in the doll universe that this year’s Girl of the Year doll would be “Kanani,” a nearly two-foot tall hapa-haole girl allegedly from Kauai with a longer backstory than a World Wrestling Federation grappler.
American Girl is more than a company, it is a mega-million dollar corporation in which dolls aren’t just dolls but are actually little people, high maintenance little people who have to be cared for and pampered.
Kanani comes with a basic muu-muu outfit but then you have to buy – and trust me parents, you WILL have to buy – a hula halau outfit, board shorts, swimming suits, paddle boards and, I believe, a Kevlar vest and helmet for when she visits the troops in Afghanistan.
But American Girl is more than even a corporation, it’s almost a religion. If you buy a one of the signature dolls you buy into the whole philosophy of American Girl Inc. in which girl dolls save wild animals, cure cancer, stop global warming and run congressional oversight committees. And each humanitarian gesture comes with a big price tag, so it’s more like becoming a Scientologist than buying a doll. (More expensive details to follow.)
Dolls have always been creepy. When my daughter was young, the main trafficker in dolls was the infamous Barbie organization, which had the dolls made in China or Argentina and smuggled into the United States by doll mules.
They came dressed in cute little dresses and outfits that my daughter had off in about a minute and a half. Half the fun of having a doll is dressing her up but Barbie dolls were impossible to dress with their stiff legs and arms that were less movable than a someone with a bad shoulder replacement.
So that once the dresses came off the Barbies, they stayed off. I use the plural here because there is never just one Barbie, they come in packs or herds, like wildebeests. So there would be a roomful of naked Barbies in my daughter’s room. One had been dreadfully mauled by Boomer, who thought they were throw toys. I came into Sarah’s room one day and Boomer was chewing on a naked Barbie and one of her little hands lay amputated on the rug. Creepy.
One of the accessories we had to buy – and, trust me, you HAVE to buy these – was a “Barbie Car,” a red convertible that cost more than my F-150 pickup truck. I watched Sarah playing with the car filled with four naked Barbies and I thought, “Man, those Barbies have more fun than I do.”
But it gets creepier. The evil Barbie Syndicate one year put on the market a “My Size Barbie,” a Barbie doll of frightening height and anatomically correct from the waste up. This Frankensteinish doll stood four feet tall and, of course, my little sweetie had to have one. So we got her one and it was such a scary item that even Boomer refused to go near it.
Now, any parent of a little girl knows that their attention span isn’t that great. They lose interest in things, like dolls. So after Sarah had played with the life-sized Barbie for a few weeks she grew tired of it, especially trying to dress it, which was impossible. She apparently didn’t even want it in her room and, without our knowledge, she slid it under my wife’s and my bed. So, fast forward a few weeks and a guy comes to our house to put in sliding oak doors between our bedroom and bathroom.
To do this, he had to move the king-sized bed. I helped him move the bed and, lo and behold, what is lying there but a large, naked, anatomically-correct-from –the-waist-up Barbie! I looked at the door guy and he looked at me. All I could say, feebly, was “It’s not mine.” He shook his head as if to say, “Not my business” and went back to work. That is a COMPLETELY true story. I swear on the little severed Barbie hand.
I never realized I would be happy that we had only to suffer through the Barbie occupation of our house. This American Girl cartel takes doll ownership to an entirely new level. The company actually stages “events” where girls bring their dolls to dinners, parties and shindigs across the country.
And everything has a price tag. They can even take their dolls to an American Girl Spa and Hair Salon where real actual people will style the doll’s hair, give her a facial scrub, put (I’m not kidding here) fake cucumbers on her eyes and even pierce her ears. The total price for this creepy procedure is more than it would cost to simply adopt a real child from Ethiopia or at least feed it for a year.
I’m happy that the American Girl’s doll of 2011, Kanani (which, I believe in Hawaiian means “fork over the dough, Daddy”), represents Hawaii. I just hope she doesn’t bankrupt too many families.