You probably haven’t thought about your American Girl doll since the third grade. I used to be OBSESSED with my doll, Felicity: a passionate and adventurous girl from colonial Virginia. I was so inspired by her books and by the film adaptation, “Felicity: An American Girl Adventure”, starring a young Shaliene Woodley. My love for Felicity inspired my interest and excitement in American history, specifically, the American Revolution. I even had a birthday party at Chicago’s American Girl Store and Cafe flagship. Despite my affection for Felicity, I eventually grew out of my childhood doll phase and moved onto other hobbies and interests. However, in the past few months, American Girl dolls have made a resurgence among millennials and younger members of Gen Z. On the ever popular social media app, TikTok, many influencers, including my personal favorite, Eli Rallo (check out her account here), have been attending the American Girl Doll Cafe for brunch and toting their dolls along with them. Rallo is very successful on TikTok in general, however, her American Girl doll videos garner much more attention, with some reaching over three million views.
On Cheyenne Lin’s YouTube channel, she posted a deep dive back in December analyzing the American Girl Doll brand. In the description, she writes, “In this video essay, I discuss the history of the American Girl doll company, their historical dolls, movie and book ventures, as well as their controversies and other similar doll alternatives.” She illuminates one particular scandal from Andrea Peyser’s infamous 2009 article entitled, “‘Homeless’ doll costs $95 (hairstyling extra).” Peyser points out the irony of selling a toy at almost one hundred dollars but centering the doll’s story around living out of her car. This sentiment leads to an overall questioning of the brand’s intentions (not to mention that they are owned by the major toy corporation: Mattel).
Despite these controversies, many young women still continue to have so much adoration for the American Girl Doll brand. Why is our culture suddenly obsessed with American Girl dolls once again? Why are we, as adults, so excited to attend a store and restaurant made for children? Perhaps it’s because of the nostalgia we hold for the dolls and their stories.