Dear American Girl Company,
I want to start out by saying that I love American Girl. I really do. It's been there since I was a kid; I don't remember the dolls, but I did read the books and get the paper dolls (still got them. I do love paper dolls). Now I have my own daughter, and can share it with her. It was her eighth birthday yesterday; we went to the Chicago store and celebrated with a new doll and a fancy lunch. I enjoyed it just as much as she did. By now there are even more characters and merchandise and it's this whole thing and sure, I get swept up in it. It's fun. And it teaches my daughter good things. Like how all American girls are so different, yet we all have something in common.
There's one thing that many (no, not all; but many) American Girl characters have in common. Let me assist my presentation with a visual aid:
See it? No? Well, I believe those are all Truly Me dolls. You have more kinds than that. How about the character dolls:
And I think those are the tiny versions. But you get the idea.
Okay, then. I'm just going to come out and say it.
Those are a LOT of white girls.
Now. I can't be the first person to mention this. And, yes, there are girls who aren't white. All three of them. In the characters at least. And the Truly Me dolls do come in assorted skin colors. The picture isn't truly (Truly) representative of the variety. I'll be fair about that.
The character dolls, as I said, have only three characters of different racial aspect. But, you say, these are historical dolls. It's difficult to have characters of different racial aspect in American history, when you also want to tell American occurrences through the perspective of a girl who would be in a good position to be affected by it.
I highly doubt it. A storyteller with even half-decent imagination would be able to come up with something. It's like teaching our girls that other races didn't have much to do with the forming of our nation: the great Melting Pot. Not much of a melting pot if all the girls have the same European background. Having so few characters of different backgrounds smacks of the token black girl, the token Native American, the token Mexican, tokentokentoken. Is that really what you want people to think of when they think American Girl?
That said, the main issue I'm finding is with the Girl of the Year. Every year, there's a new character to spotlight; she gets her own doll, movie, the whole shebang. Let's take a look at those girls:
Okay. We have Marisol, who is Hispanic...Jess, who I believe is part Asian? Kind of hard to tell from here? And Kanani, who is Hawaiian. ...And then we have the rest of them.
There's also Saige of 2013. White. Isabelle from 2014. White. And blonde. And blue-eyed. There's a lot of blondes here too. And Grace 2015...you guessed it, white. Now there's Lea of 2016. At least she has a tan.
I find it ironic that at least half the staff of your Chicago store is of another race. The stock is most definitely not.
Where are the African girls? The Inuit? The lower Pacific? The Indian? The entire continent of South America? These all have immigrants who come here. And not just those of a different color skin; how about the Greek girls? The Russian? Etc. Etc. Etc.
The only reason I can think of to give these the shaft, in favor of largely European descent, is the bald fact that your stuff costs money. Big boocoo bucks. And the families in our country that have that kind of money are, sadly, more likely to be white, and of said European descent. Or at least that's what I believe your demographics are telling you. Tell me I'm wrong. Please. Tell me I'm wrong. I want to be wrong.
I know you're a company. A large corporation. As such, you have to be concerned about the bottom line. You won't be in business long if you're not.
I'm not appealing to your ideals, as such. You're a company. Ideals are all very well, but the aforesaid bottom line and all that capitalist stuff, which is part of how our country is and okay. But I will point out that, ostensibly at least, your company's message is that diversity is accepted. That all American girls are amazing, and awesome, and, as aforesaid, have things in common.
How much can they have in common if girls of different backgrounds aren't represented in the stores? That sends a message. A message that is becoming more noticeable. As I said, I'm sure I'm not the only one to complain about this. The more you continue on this chosen path, the more noticeable it will get. Soon enough, you'll have more people ranting online; demonstrating; boycotting.
How will that affect your bottom line?
Sometimes, we have to take into consideration the touchy feely stuff, if we want a company to continue. Particularly if it's what the company's supposed to be all about.
I like your product. And, as such, I will continue to hope for the best from you.
Thanks for your time.
So I guess this is a thing going around the ol' Internet; I was tagged by a friend who did it on her blog (see her responses here). Funsies! And away we go:
Pride; share a line or small scene you're really proud to have written.
Just one?! Seriously, though: that moment where you write something...you sit back and look at it...and you know it's good. Happens about once every thousandth chapter or so. But it's worth waiting for.
Like most writers, I've got several. Some are great, meaningful lines; some are wonderful scenes with all the threads coming together just right. But I'm too impatient to search those down right now, so I'm settling for this fun little scene from a work in progress. At least, I think it's fun; for whatever reason, language barrier humor never fails to crack me up:
The Norwegian enters SL.
Chelie: Oh. Hello again. (she eyes him up and down once more) …I’m glad you weren’t a dream, at least.
The Norwegian does not answer.
Chelie: (gesturing) Cigarette? (he stands impassive; she shrugs) Just as well. Filthy habit. I should quit. (beat) So you don’t speak any English? (she stands and walks slowly toward him) Maybe you just need a good teacher. We could…ah, educate each other. I’ve always wanted to learn… (she pauses)uh.…Swedish? …Russian? ... Sorry, I can’t remember what you are.
Chelie: Well, I’ll figure it out. (she comes closer, looking up at him seductively) I enjoy a good mystery.
Norwegian: Hvor er du kaffe?
Chelie: (shivering with excitement) I agree. Who needs language? I think we understand each other just fine.
Norwegian: Frokost, kanskje?
Chelie: Oh, you’re so right!
She throws her arms around him and kisses him passionately. Surprised, he gives a little shrug and puts his arms around her in turn.
Envy; tell about a story you wish you had written.
Ooh, hands down Carol Berg's Flesh and Spirit. That woman crafts sentences like a super-cool crafty sentency-type person. And in movies, which count because I write scripts (not movie scripts, but, well, I just love movies), definitely Predestination. Love me some twists, and that one... yeah. That one broke my brain.
Wrath; tell about a trope or cliche that makes you furious.
Furious is a strong word. Let's say Supremely Annoyed, and tack on a mega-frowny emoji wearing a crown. They make those, right?
For me, it's probably Post-Apocalyptica. Ironically, my husband loves such tales. They drive me nuts. Mainly because the apocalypse so often happens because humans were idiots, and then the survivors of the rubble (just the fact that most of humanity has died horribly is enough of a downer for me) have to struggle, and usually split into factions and fight each other because it's a cautionary tale and when will humanity ever learn and all that crap. I just...I have more optimism than that. I don't want to read about us fighting each other because that's supremely depressing. What about working together? What about coming together in times of hardship? And so our technology's gone (Revolution TV show, I'm looking at you). So?? How do we just fall apart without our cell phones? No. No, I don't think so. Not from the beings who made the pyramids. Not from the people who figured out irrigation. Not from the folks who (finally) understand what DNA is!! We can do more than survive. We can thrive.
And if we're confused how to start, we can just ask the Amish. :)
Gluttony; tell about a trope you can't get enough of.
Ooh. I wouldn't necessarily say "get enough of". You can get enough of anything. Fairly quickly, in fact.
But that said...steampunk. Oh, yeah, steampunk. This drives my husband nuts (ah, love!). Just the "goggles and top hat uniform" aspect of it. I loves me some goggles and top hats. Even so, I believe there's a point about wearing goggles and top hats only if your character calls for it. If there's no reason for it, don't use it as part of your costume. Anyhoo.
Steampunk, stories and otherwise, is a thing I always loved, I just never knew there was a name for it. When I found out, the heavens opened, sunlight cascaded toward me, an angel choir sang... yeah, pretty much. Iron! Brass! Dirigibles! LOVE.
I also enjoy time travel. The paradoxical the better.
Lust; tell about a character you'd do unspeakable things to.
One of my characters? Or someone else's? I'll go with someone else's, that seems more appropriate. Let's see, it's gotta be either Valen from the aforementioned Flesh and Spirit; or Simon from Angie Sage's Flyte. Being a kid's book, this last might seem an unusual choice to some people (including the author, who I met a a book signing. She seemed VERY taken aback when I told her he was my favorite character. It got awkward.). But who can fathom the ways of the bookworm heart? Anyway, he's more than old enough. ...And imaginary. Er.
Oh, and Maledict from Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment. But he turned out to really be female, which for me kind of quenched that one right there. Oh, well. More for the lesbians, I guess. Luckies.
Sloth; tell about your favorite form of procrastination.
Pretending I'm going over a written work for editing purposes when I'm really just taking the excuse to read it aloud again. Then Twitter; then Facebook; then looking up words in the thesaurus; then getting up to do an antsy monkey dance; then household chores.
Greed; tell which author is at the top of your auto-buy list.
Sadly, financial constraints make this a wish list. Right now it's anything by Carol Berg. Used to be Terry Pratchett, but he put out so much that his works got a bit diluted and he started to repeat himself. *sad*
Tra la, this was fun! Anyone else out there get the itchies to try this, let me know. Fun to see the different things for different people! If you don't appreciate others' differences... well, you're probably not a writer.
The writer sat down at the table. Laptop open, notebooks spread out, pens and coffee at the ready. The blank page looked back expectantly.
Ooh. How about a story based in Mongol China? That sounds so cool!
...I know nothing about Mongol China. I'd have to do a bunch of research before really getting to write anything.
How about opening up an old story and working on that some more? Got lots half-finished. Also got lots kind of finished that need editing. Like, heavy editing. Like, changing half the existing story editing.
I know. I'll check in with my Twitter peeps. They'll have some encouraging words.
HAHA that is one funny cat picture! I've got to retweet that...
How did they get that cat to wear pants? Are those doll clothes, or did they make those specifically for the cat? Are there companies that do this? Googling.
Crap. No. On task. Working.
Doodoodoodoo, Everybody's Working for the Weekend... which never really made any sense to me. Are they working during the weekend? Are they working with the expectation that all will be worth it once the weekend arrives? I mean, is it ever really worth it? Who says, when they come to the end of their lives, "I wish I'd worked more?", weekend or no?
Speaking of work- that's what I'm doing. Not being distracted. Not me.
Or is it "Not I"? You know, grammar can be so helpful and such a hindrance at the same time. Kind of six of one, half a dozen of the other. That's a cool phrase. I wonder when and where it was first used. Googling.
NO! Working! Shutting out the world! No more distractions, ever!
"No more wire hangers-EVER!" Never seen that movie. Never really had any desire to see it, either. Was Joan Crawford really that bad a mother, or was it merely Christina's perspective? Probably a bit of both. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
That's a cool phrase. Googling.
Crap! Writing time's up already!? What the hell? I didn't even have the chance to get anything done!
Well, you know. Fame being a relative term.
Got my royalty report from my publisher. Last couple have been big fat zeros, so I wasn't expecting anything. And, lo!
There's always room to say lo.
A theatre in Tennessee bought the play.
AND they PERFORMED it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Multiple exclamation marks, they say, are a sure sign of a diseased mind. You freakin' betcha.
(This poster is actually from the Illinois production. I don't know what the Tennessee poster looked like, I haven't been able to find it. Why do you fail me, Internet???)
So today, I'd like to talk about the experience of having your play performed, if only because that happened before it was published. The Illinois one, that is. Not the Tennessee, which came after. Let me start again.
The play was workshopped through the Batavia, Illinois theatre group Albright Theatre Company. Not actually where I live, and there are groups closer to me, but these people are so lovely and welcoming, I feel quite at home there. The workshop was a fantastic experience, and I'll go into it some other time. After all was done there, I copyrighted the play. Then I sat on it.
Why didn't you get it published right away, I hear you say? Well, I'm glad you asked. This is owing to some confusion which is probably entirely on my part. Play publishers say in their submittal instructions that they require a play to have been performed. This makes sense, as a play needs to be able to work on stage, and what better way to make certain? However, I was not sure (still am not sure) if a "performance" also included a workshop performance, or if they mean a performance performance only. Anyone know?
So I waited until such time as the theatre should decide to attempt it. Which they did! Such awesome people, such great friends! I still can't thank them enough.
They also permitted me to sit in on the auditions. Not the casting, I left before that. I wanted to be able to inject my opinion, but not too much. At the point of performance, or going-to-be-performed, a play becomes a group project. It's not just yours anymore. So I wanted to be clear that this was, to an extent, the directors' (not a misplaced apostrophe, there were two) baby.
I also sat in on rehearsals, about one every couple of weeks, again not to overstay my welcome. I took notes so I could make certain anything really really important wasn't neglected. Never going to have that chance again!
Then I attended every performance but one (I had tickets to the Nutcracker). Houses were packed! How thrilling! I mean, it was a Christmas play with a large cast which helped. :)
So, opening night. Oh, excitement. Oh, butterflies. Oh, what an experience I shall hold always and shall never have again. I ordered a dress off Modcloth just for the occasion. It cost $50! (I don't spend that much on a single article of clothing. Ever.) I haven't worn it since, either. I should probably do that.
My parents came in from New York State; we got a sitter for the kids as the first performance was night and past their bedtimes (they saw it next week). Then we all went out to dinner before the show at a little restaurant right across the river, overlooking. Did I mention the theatre's on the river? It's on the river. The restaurant was right fancy and bedecked (ooh) with Christmas lights. Magical.
We walked back across the bridge and got to the theatre 20 minutes early. Butterflies. I wasn't worried. I knew the cast had it down. Just so excited. Wondered if anyone would realize the writer was in their midst :). Hoped everyone would laugh in the right spots (they never do). Hoped people would laugh, period.
The performance went smoothly. Most did (do NOT talk to me about the one that didn't). And people liked it! Or seemed to! What an ego trip! Top of the world, ma!*
We waited afterward while I had to congratulate and give hugs to the cast and directors. Then we all piled in the car and went home (yes, we got the kids). We sat up talking about it for a while. Then it was nightnights time. Brushed my teeth. Got in my jammies. Climbed into bed.
And thought, "Did that just happen?"
Think about it, though. What else are you going to do? This must be what happens after actors get Oscars and such. Things go on as normal. Life goes on.
But for me, it'll go on with this amazingly special memory. One of the best experiences of my life. I will never forget. Never never never. Brain cells, I'm looking at you.
*It also bears mentioning that a friend I hadn't seen since like grade school- reconnected with her through Facebook- also flew out to see the play!!! Right?? I don't deserve such good friends. People are amazing.
Hey, blog. C'mere. Oh, now don't be like that. You know I love you...
Oh. Uh, hey there, reader. Heheh. Just, ah, you know, it's been a while away from the blog, and, uh...yes.
Anyhoo. How was (were?) everyone's holidays? 😄
Mine were BEEEEZY. I mean, they're always busy, and I know you're thinking, "not as busy as mine, no way", but you're wrong. Oh, you are so wrong.
2015 was the year of the Handmade Holidays. I was attempting to save money. It almost worked (until my eldest decided he wanted Lego Dimensions above all else, which was 80 FREAKIN' BUCKS I mean seriously kid do you think I'm made of money).
Let's start with the list, shall we?
So, yeah. This is why I've been neglecting my poor little blog. And, sure, it's been a couple of weeks now since Christmas, but I've been taking that time off...been a little tired...not sure why...
Writer, dancer, actress, mother, me.