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How the American Girl Brand Lost its True Meaning

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Lynn chapter.

American Girl has been known for their dolls representing different eras in history since the brand first started in 1986. With each character teaching young girls about a significant time period in history and how it was for children to grow up during that time, it has become such a well-known and nostalgic brand that it has become a part of pop culture. I have always loved American Girl, as I had 6 dolls growing up. They were Kit Kittridge and Ruthie Smithens from the Great Depression era, Julie Albright and Ivy Ling from the 70s, Molly McIntire and from WW2, and Kirsten Larson who is a pioneer settler. Growing up, I found Julie’s storyline most relatable because I have divorced parents just like her. That said, each character has a personality, some being more tomboyish like Kit and Julie, or girly like Samantha from 1904. What makes the American Girl historical characters so important is that all of their outfits, accessories, and furniture looked authentic to their time period. With this, girls got to truly experience how it was to live during these eras and learn about the time period through play. However, this isn’t the case any more. In 2014, American Girl launched a reboot for these dolls called “BeForever”, excluding much of the historical value within the product, and replacing it with more vibrant colors and cheaper qualities. This started a debacle for people who grew up with the brand who were trying to teach girls a lesson and not just focus on “girly” qualities. 

Before the “BeForever” line, you were able to purchase five separate books that went along with one of the character’s stories. Each book had the same names in the series, the only thing that changed was the character and their corresponding era. For example, Kaya, an indigenous girl, had a book called “Kaya Saves the Day”, however, Felicity, who grew up pre-Revolutionary War, also had a book but it had her name instead. Nowadays, the books have individual names, and only have 3 books in each collection. For example, Molly has a book in her collection called “Molly’s Winning Spirit”, however, it discusses how things back home during the war are hard for her and family while her father is fighting overseas. In my opinion, you really got to learn about the different parts of one era of history. I feel as though, with shortening the collection overall, girls get a quick “crash course” of each historical era and not get to delve into it like I did. 

I feel as though, with the “BeForever” reboot, girls today do not get to truly experience and get to learn about the hardships of each time period with a positive ending a child could learn from. Also, the materials of the outfits have gone down to cheaper materials like cotton or polyester compared to how Ruthie’s pajama set made out of silk or some how table and chair sets were made out of real wood or leather. Also, it’s not like they are changing their prices to something cheaper. Each doll goes for around 95-100 dollars and I remember some furniture sets being priced at 25 dollars. Hopefully, American Girl can bring back more historical qualities in the future for generations of girls to cherish and love. I still love the brand overall, each doll and storyline, and even have learned to love some I didn’t know much about before.

Lily de Rooij is a senior this year at Lynn University. She love the connections and memories she has been able to make throughout the years here at HC. Her favorite part about being on the team, is coming up with new social media ideas and posts.