|Good-Bye, Molly--you have served us well.|
Awk, I hit the Sarcasm Lock button. *unstick*
But on the serious, the wails are everywhere. Molly is the last of the Original Three releases, and with her retirement nothing that Saint Pleasant Rowland started the line with remains. (More on that in another post.) Miss McIntire's loss (along with Miss Bennett) is yet another line-up on the chopping block of Mattel's evil path to making money hand over fist and appealing to the fly by night dabbling of this dim generation of children and vapid parents, all in a nefarious plan to turn American Girl into 18 inches of Barbie. Thus continues the evil path of retiring every historical, never teaching about history ever, and pushing the horrors of gardening, gymnastics, and art loss in public schools while we teach to the test. (But my standing up for the issues faced by the GotY is another post.)
I shall continue on my happy path of being the voice of dissent. While I'm not exactly delighted that Historical Character Archival is a thing, I'm also not going to call this the death of American Girl Historicals nationwide anymore than I did when we lost the others. Lamenting that Historical retirement and archival means the death of history is melodramatic, and acting like children can't learn about history without the dolls and the little items is really laying the whining on thicker than the chocolate frosting on Molly's birthday cake. I refuse to think that retiring the Historicals--any of them--means that Mattel is dismantling history character by character, or that children will never be able to learn about history without holding Molly to their bosoms and dressing her in her holiday dress with its little silk ribbons. The dolls are not the only facet of American Girl, much less history.
Below the cut lies my reasons why. Read them and be educated, or read them and rebut them, or read them and be annoyed, or read them and stomp off in a corner. I'm just one person on the net here, I don't know what you want.
|Hey, you know about those book things that the dolls can come with? I do.|
My first point is probably my heaviest. What can I say, I never forgot that whole method taught in school of putting strong points early in persuasive essays (even though the methods taught blew chunky turnip mash). With all the sobbing that come 2014, no one will be able to buy berets and faux-authentic 1940s multiplication flash cards, many people are forgetting the obvious:
The books are going to still be there.
All of them, one way or another. Molly's six book set will still be rolling around, and Emily's book, and even the mini doll if you're into micro versions of historicals. She even has a movie, so you can see the books in condensed modified visual form. And much like those before her--once she retires, the books can still be read and the movies seen. Even the Short Story Collection is available on secondary markets, and the paper dolls. And there's also the fact that Molly might get things post-archival. Samantha, for example, got a Mystery, a set of play paper dolls, and a Ready for Fun book to name a few. There's also the older craft books, the cooking studios--tons of things to read and do and discover.
The idea that children will never know about certain periods in history if American Girl retires the associated collection is myopic. There's hundreds of thousands of children who know about American Girl only as characters in chapter books for multiple reasons--ranging from "avoiding the line's expense and materialism" to "being too poor to have that kind of materialism as an option" and every other reason there is. I for one read every AG book out at the time before I got Addy. I read my Kirsten books to bits, and Addy's meet book back and forth and back and forth. I don't think there's a single canon AG character I have that I didn't read at least the meet book first. And that's without getting into my idea that any young girl that wants an AG doll should at least be able to read the meet book she comes with.
If you love the character but you can't get her direct from AG, then do what many people have done for years: read the books. Read every book Molly and the others are in and about and has out, if you can get them. In fact, that will segue semi neatly to my next point:
2: Other Options for History, or There's more to History than AG shows.
So you've already done that, you say. You've read every book and can quote the movie, you've seen it so many times. Good for you!
Now go out and read more viewpoints of the time period. The American Girl series should be a jumping off point into exploring history, not the sum total. Molly's perspective is a small one--a middle class white girl whose main tie to the war is that Dad is gone to the front, and she has to ration things and things are changing and she hates it. That's one narrative of thousands. Emily's perspective--and that of the war as more than a distant situation--was limited to Happy Birthday, Molly! until she got her own book, showed up in the movie, and got bigger roles in the mysteries. But there's more fiction about World War II than Molly and Jefferson, IL.
|Ignoring the clothing inaccuracies. The 80s and 90s were a special time for book covers.|
American Girl has always offered a fairly sanitized version of history, cleaned up and laced up and set in the shop window to catch your eye. Yes, even Addy eating bugs and having her family torn apart is not the worst abuse seen during slavery. If your child shows interest in Samantha, find her more books about Turn of the Century America. Kirsten? There's tons of pioneer perspectives. This is true even for the non-retired characters. Screen them, read them, and learn more than what AG has offered.3
3. The Secondary Market: Samantha Wholesale Parties Nightly!
But you don't want reading and books for some reason. You Want Molly (Or Samantha, or Felicity, or Nellie, or any other retired Character). And there is No Molly, on the AG site. Why, I guess you'll never be able to look into her grey eyes or brush her brown hair into braids or ever, ever hold her again.
Except we now have the largest garage and secondary sale place in the world at our fingertips, eBay. Thanks to the magic of technology, people can and often do buy many things off secondary markets. I got my Kit secondary for much less than AG was selling. I got Kaya and Josefina in a dual purchase discount secondhand when I was still part of a message board, that came with several of their outfits. Tara and Abbi were gifts. Even after losing 75% of my private option markets by getting kicked off two boards in about two years, I still have private collectors and sellers to seek out, and eBay hunts. There is no shortage of finding retired American Girl items, if you're diligent enough. Retired Historicals have been out for upwards of 20 years at the time of retirement, and there's options out there to find them.
|A quick search on eBay pulled up well over a thousand options for Samantha alone.|
If you are that gung ho about getting a character and have the money for it, you're going to get the character anyways. Yes, you will probably be seeing costs over original market value once a character is retired, and it's going to be harder to find a complete brand new doll. But if you absolutely think that someone can't know about or truly love a historical unless they touch her and hold her, then look on eBay or Etsy (Many are now old enough to be vintage!) or secondary markets and look for a decent price and pay to have what you want if you can afford it. Generally, whenever an article shows up on some site somewhere, someone comments that they've tucked a doll away or that they sold one or they're thinking of selling one. There's hundreds of thousands of American Girl Dolls out there. You might even be able to get one of those weird little white body ones that I personally can't stand--or the retired sets that have been gone for years.
4. Completed Collections: AG Can Only Bleed Us So Long.
Let's start this section with a sad little fact. Once Molly leaves, Addy will be the oldest American Girl released--Sam, Kirsten, Molly, and Felicity have preceded her into the Vault. And it may come down the line that they'll retire her. And if they do, I will be upset. I'll probably cry and curse and scramble to get the last things by AG I don't have already.
See that bit? The last things that AG releases that I don't already have. Because a quick sorting of my collection would show that I have nearly everything for Addy right now. I don't have the Patriotic Party Dress (and I have a well done reproduction of it I made myself), the slide whistle from her fair fun, the African Dance Outfit because fuck that outfit, and the new and not improved Ice Cream Set. Oh, and the kite from the kite outfit but I have the dress. That's it, and I've had Addy for going on eight years this winter.4
|Yes, even the Limited Edition Stilting Outfit.|
The fact of the matter is, American Girl can't really make money off of collections that people have. They don't make Addy money off me, and the point is going to come where people aren't going to buy a whole lot of old characters because they have everything that they can get if that's how they want to do it. AG has already done Total Character retirement every year in the form of the Girls of the Year5 and frequent retirement of items in the form of the modern characters. I can't think of many toy companies that
have the same things they started out with when they first started, in the same first iteration. Many companies retire or revamp their main lines. Barbie from the 50s is not Barbie from the 90s, or modern Barbies. Need I remind you we're on the fourth generation of My Little Pony--and I highly suspect we'll get a fifth after it? (Please have a fifth. Focus it on ballet and twirling and unmitigated girlness.)
Retirement sucks, but so does stagnation. The clearing of the old makes the way for new characters come out, and there's so much of American history to cover--and AG won't feasibly cover every perspective that has come out. (The day they come out with an Native School character, I'll eat my shoes.) So if I have to lose Addy to get a new Historical, then I'll cry and wail and then see what AG has to offer next.
5: New Characters Always Come Out: Meet Caroline (And Rebecca, and Cécile, and...?)
|Meet Caroline of 1812.|
Yes, we're losing a Historical Collection--and in a while, we'll get a new one in their place. American Girl doesn't tear something down so far without putting something back up. The new girls collections are smaller, and less focused to the stories, true. And you can't get authentic glass and pins and nice things--but that's less AG and more sue-happy people who freak out if toys can hurt children. I miss Felicity's collection--and then I look at Cécile and take joy in knowing that AG released a new black girl in history after Addy having to hold down the fort alone for so long.
We've got new girls in history--and they deserve a chance the same as the others. Short of American Girl having twenty Historical characters available at all times which they can't feasibly do, we're not going to get new ones. And I for one like new characters--reading their books and digging into history and maybe, maybe getting the character in doll form if I like her enough.
I'm not jumping up and down that Molly is leaving. I'm not adding her to my Gang, and I'm still not quite sure that Emily might be joining us here. But at the same time? I'm waiting to see what American Girl is going to offer us as her replacement. Molly can remain in your hearts, along with the others. Read her books, and seek out her facts. Dig deeper, read more, make mistakes, get messy. If you have her love her. If you want her, get her--the secondary market has expanded thanks to technology and the world wide flea market known as eBay.
But just because American Girl covers history perspectives doesn't mean they have to stay old themselves. Miss Molly McIntire. Grab what you want--I'm eying her school bag herself for my Edith. Wave good bye, and blow a kiss as she goes into the Historical Archives. Her stories will live on.
And then clear off space in your heart and on your doll and/or book shelf to take in someone new, cause she should be part of history too.
1 Perhaps like Disney they'll release them again when the format changes. >.> Just think, Samantha with real robotics! Kirsten on BluRay!
2 Look, I'll even give two more books: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Houston and James D. Houston. Now read.
3 But for the love of god try not to reinforce racism and bigotry--I have to be cautious about Laura Ingalls Wilder now. Native fail and Blackface, c'mon.
4 Somewhere in my house are her Work Shoes, I swear.
5 Want to feel the time passing? Lindsey, the first Girl of the Year, was ten in 2001--which means she's old enough to drink plus a year.
6 Or they could go way out, grab someone from the 1980s, and I can really have a field day!