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The oddities of Princesses, Marketing, and Girls’ Psyches

March 12, 2012

“It is a peculiar inversion: the simplicity of American Girl is expensive, while the finery of Princess comes cheap.” – Peggy Orenstein, from Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

Huh.

I am, I admit, uneasy with both marketing trends to girls… More so with the Disney cartoon princesses. Pink! Sparkles! Passivity! Giant cartoon eyes! Urgh!

But my generation, and countless generations before me survived Barbies, for the most part.

Here’s another thing that bugs me. I remember when American Girl Dolls first came out. There were three dolls, all tied to history. Early settler Kirsten, posh Victorian Samantha, plucky bespectacled WWII Molly.

Now… the American Girl shops are this crazy extravaganza of dozens of dolls and their expensive accessories, reeking of marketing rather than education. And there’s this whole other trend, where you can get a custom doll that looks like your daughter. How is that not terrifying?

It spooks me on a somewhat rational caution against narcissism level, and also, the idea of a child having a mini-me doll is viscerally frightening. I have a fear of animatronic dolls the way some people fear clowns. I know it’s irrational, but is it EVER primal. I realize that the one thing American Girl company hasn’t figured out how to do is make their dolls move, but I wonder if it’s a matter of time.

More on dolls marketed to girls, this time on Bratz and Barbies and similar:

“Their tagline may be ‘Be true * Be you’ but, like pink products all along the age span that urge girls to “be yourself,” “celebrate you,” “ex[press yourself,” they define individuality entirely through appearance and consumption.”

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