Tag Archives: American Girl

Where The H-E-Double Toothpicks Did Halloween Go?

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When I was a kid, Halloween was different. It was about freaks, fetishes, and trembling with fear as Mom and Dad searched through a pillowcase full of candy in search of the ever-elusive razor blade. Deep down inside, I always wanted to be that child who’s parents actually found a Smith & Wesson 6” serrated knife hidden in the center of a Marathon Bar, because then I’d be on the 11:00 o’clock news, could totally skip school the next day, and would get to sit in the back row of the bus as the newly minted star of Crosby Middle School as soon as I was finished with all of my speaking engagements.

Finding a military-caliber knife in your Halloween candy is cool. Image via midwayusa.com

Back then, Halloween meant sleepovers and Ouija Board séances in the creepy basement with your besties. It was all about ditching your parents to trick or treat with friends and hoping you wouldn’t cry like a big, fat baby every time some high school kid jumped out of a bush in a Freddy Krueger mask in a sincere effort to make you pee in your pants. It was anchored around ghost stories told in pitch-black darkness, and slinking single-file with a flickering flashlight through that abandoned house in the woods.

Image via epagini.com

In other words, it was the real deal.

Fast forward to October 31, 2012, and let’s take a quick walk down my street. Here’s what you’ll find:

This blow-up pumpkin dude should be banned from our subdivision. It’s clear that he’s subsisted on a diet of marshmallow fluff and fried twinkies all of his life, and totally decimates the outdated food pyramid posters hanging on the walls of the school cafeteria. Plus he’s just too freaking happy. Image via my neighbor, who doesn’t know I took this picture.

Are you kidding me? A tombstone propped up next to some kind of metal flower lawn art, a dog leash, and smiling, dancing ghosts on a string? Please. Image via another neighbor, who also doesn’t know I took this picture.

This neighbor is suffering from Holiday Confusion Syndrome. You’ll see her today at Hobby Lobby cleaning out their entire stock of pre-lit LED Christmas trees so she can start building an eco-friendly forest in her front yard. On November 1st. Image via yet another neighbor who doesn’t know I took this picture.

Until, that is, you get to my house.

Tonight, in the spirit of The Shining, liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, and the ghost of Michael Jackson, my family has made it our mission to scare the s*** out of your kids. It’s a holiday tradition in our home, because a politically correct All Hallows’ Eve just sucks.

So Happy Freaking Halloween, and if your kids don’t want to come back next year because we sent them away crying and made them pee in their pants? Good.

American Girl Doll Felicity on our front porch: right where she belongs. Image via my 10 year-old daughter, taken against her will.

American Girl: Give Those Dolls Some Balls!

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Let me start by inserting a spoiler alert. I’m no big fan of the multi-zillion dollar American Girl (AG) franchise.

“Why?” you ask, as you throw down exactly $173.00 plus shipping for a doll that looks like the tattletale who rats everyone out at school, forgettable plaid dress, pair of patent pleather saddle shoes, and an overpriced miniature Goldendoodle you can pick up at Target for $4.99?

Molly McIntire is sad yet cute.

Molly McIntire needs to tell her mom to stop shopping in the school uniform department. Image via Wikipedia.

That’s why. Well, that and a lack of compelling role models for my daughters.

My seven and nine year-old girls feel differently, however, thanks in no small part to the monthly catalogues that arrive in the mail with more regularity than my period. So in an effort to better understand their fascination, I conducted a non-scientific study of the American Girl world. Curious to see if I could find a doll to fit either of their dispositions, I trolled the website for hours in an attempt to identify a match (not the Bitty Babies though…those things freak me out).

This bitty baby is creepy. Image via strollerfreak.itgo.com

To be fair, I can see why my daughters, along with millions of other girls across the country, are attracted to American Girl dolls. They perfectly fit the profile of what our conventional “girl next door” culture defines as attractive, and are pretty and bright-eyed, with flawless skin and thick, glossy hair. The original dolls each tell a personal story, and their narrative is filled with positive traits including honesty, kindness, creativity, and optimism.

These are great qualities, but in the modern-day world my daughters are learning to maneuver, they aren’t enough.

AG’s first line of dolls is based on historical periods, and each comes with a background story attached. Take Addy Walker, a doll who’s “escaping slavery to find her father and brother.” I’m all for acknowledging the past, but slavery?  Couldn’t the executives at Mattel have come up with something a little more inspirational for a ten year-old African American, or any young girl for that matter, to embrace other than one of the most oppressive facets of American History? What about a doll made in the spirit of Rosa Parks or a mini-Coretta Scott King?

In the same vein, historical character Josefina is “from her family’s New Mexican rancho.” With a serape over her shoulders and a cross hanging from her neck, is she getting ready to make tortillas to stuff into a piñata for a neighborhood fiesta? Josefina looks like she just stepped off an Old El Paso taco dinner kit, and with similar profiles built on stereotypes, these dolls simply don’t inspire in a world where I expect my daughters to push beyond the boundaries that two-dimensional labels create.

Yo quiero Taco Bell. Image via inmamariquita.galeon.com.

In addition to these offerings, American Girl pitches a more modern doll, cleverly allowing ‘tweens to choose their likeness in skin tone, eye color, and hair (well, sort of…the more “ethnic” options don’t exactly slice in tandem with our nation’s current demographic pie). Because each mini-me comes clothed in a forgettable pair of lavender pants and shirt, your style-savvy daughter is sure to sprint directly to the overpriced unsale rack as soon as she’s created her doll.

And here’s where I have another problem.

While there’s nothing implicitly wrong with cheerleaders and ski bunnies, that’s not how my girls roll. Where’s the snow boarder shredding it down the mountain? The hockey center who just scored a goal? How about a surfer struggling to catch a massive wave?

A lacrosse player and skate boarder move the gender-biased dolls in the right direction, but why not push a decades-old envelope a little and add hip-hop to compliment ballet, and a girl who races a motorcycle instead of a horse?

In other words, give those dolls some balls!

Original drawing by Danny Manion

Avery Williams is a ten year-old AP student who lives in the city and loves photography, snowboarding, and hanging out with friends. She’s an amazing woman-in-the-making, and deserves a doll with balls.

Moms like me (and there are a lot of us) are raising daughters who focus not on what it means to be an “American Girl,” but something with much more depth. We’re working from a global platform as we teach them to be open-minded, multi-cultural, fearless, unbiased, and strong. It’s our hope that they’ll push beyond the superficial borders of pretty and perfect on a fast track toward fierce and outspoken. They may be biracial, adopted, or from fractured families, and they’re all learning to handle life’s ups and downs.

Our daughters are the world’s future leaders, innovators, and pioneers because we’re helping them challenge stereotypes and redefine the meaning of status quo. They are thoughtful, intelligent, risk-takers who aren’t afraid to ask questions, speak their minds, and take a stand.

As mothers, we long to lock eyes with that confident little girl in your line-up of dolls who will grow up to be a scientist, Pulitzer Prize winning author, or President of the United States…a role model whose inspiration reaches well beyond clichés, matching outfits and perfect hair.

But for me, she doesn’t exist.

So, until American Girl offers a reasonably priced, balls-up doll for my girls to cherish, I’ll take my $173.00 plus tax somewhere else. Now if I could just get the grandparents to back their quest to buy plane tickets for a holiday brunch and trunk show at the flagship store in Chicago, everything will be O.K.

Danny Manion is my friend Carrie’s super-talented eighteen year-old son. He’s on his way to Academy of Art in San Francisco next fall. If you’d like to see more of his work, go to http://zerewin.tumblr.com.