American Girl, keep giving us Dolls of Color for Girls of the Year.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rambled Opinions and General Snarkiness: BeForever: Dropping It Like It's Hot

Bring in the new noise, bring in the funk!1
It's been a wild ride for the AG fandom in 2014 regarding the Historical line. We've heard since February that Samantha Parkington, the Pretty Princess of American Girl, was on her way out of the AG Vault like a Disney animated flick. We've heard of the end of the Best Friends Line and the way it screwed Marie-Grace, Cécile, and Ivy over. (Oh and Ruthie. But eh, whatever.) We've seen people whine about the historical accuracy of items and cite the 1940s and black and white pictures to say that color wasn't invented before 1970 like they're Calvin's daddy--you know who you are--and the terribleness of them without actually seeing the stuff out and mewl that Addy's skin is lighter--hat tip it's not any lighter than it was on August 27th. (ETA: Proof from someone who got Addy and BF Addy a day apart can be seen here at Lissie and Lilly: BeForever Addy vs Original Addy Comparison ) We've had happy squeal, new book covers and book rebundling, mini spoilers, eBay leaks, and videos on the official AG Youtube leaking images to us and revving us up for the new looks. We've seen the hype and smelled the haterade. And now, we have the official Launch of BeForever. *trumpets and confetti* Whoo, BeForever!

What's BeForever? Have you been under a damn rock for the past several months? Oh, no, you're new to AG fandom somehow. All right, I'll play nice for a sec. Basically, BeForever is a rebranding of the Historical line to make the characters of the past appeal to the hip youth of today--what with their touch tablets and Internets and cell phones and iPods and hip hop and Wonderbread Girls of the Year. Out go best friends--Cécile and Marie Grace included, alas we hardly knew ye--and in place returns Samantha as the backbone of support for this new launch, since AG has relied on her for the launch of new things. The Historical characters all got new meet outfits except two: Kaya--who really can't get much of a change in wardrobe since her era is pretty stuck in the past; and Caroline, but she's only been out for two years so we're letting it slide. There's outfits inspired by the meet outfits--both loosely and pretty close--and new items, and the books have adapted into a new form. And many things changed--but many stayed the same. Sort of like the line is advertising again.

Yesterday, the whole thing dropped. After seeing things online at 10 pm my time--two hour diff from AG's headquarters--and losing half my shit at AGC, a buddy of mine and I went to AG Seattle and squealed the hell out and I lost the other half of my shit. I snapped a bunch of pictures and then got several things to bring home. I wondered in June if my body was ready and OH NO IT WAS NOT. There's so many new things and if I were a rich girl with a house large enough for everything I would have gotten the world of stuff. As it is, I came home with a decent amount, and will be doing reviews on the newness later.

This post is about all the shiny good-good and new hotness--including the All New and Semi-Improved Samantha. Pics are all my own pictures taken at the store--some of mine are off center, I was too busy jumping around in excite. I'm already excite about something else in AG fandom (if you're part of AGC you'll know what) and so the last week and change has been an utter crazy whirlwind of ups and downs and swings and swirls. I tend to have a lot more feels on historical things than moddy stuff, so this is a long ass post. I had to start the post, go to sleep, wake up, finish it, and then back time it. There will also be handfuls of animated gifs so if those bother you, take that into account. I know photo sensitivity since I have it, and warnings are appreciated.

Before I start into this all new Historical minty freshness and the new hotness in the streets for the young jeezies, a mini rant. We already have a stupid split between PC stuff and Mattel stuff hovering around and stinking up the place like spoiled Similac formula. It's irritating and annoying and people should slip into the sea for it. We don't need another split. The first split is terrible and I really can't stop it except to hiss at people. But we can prevent prefixes on titles right now.  Don't do it. Don't do it. I swear to the gods, fandom, if you make "pre-BeForever" a thing like "pre-Mattel" I'll find ways to make you hurt like I rammed glass and Legos in the soles of your feet. I will curse you to never find the last item you need in your Molly collection in a sensible price range and for your first edition Kirsten to develop silver eye and you to never find a person to do an eye swap to keep her soft lashes and for your favorite girl to get a mysterious stain on her cheek that won't come off without a full head replacement. Consider this my preemptive strike against your stupid smelly failure. Also the old stuff isn't coming back, BeForever is the way things are from now on. You can't have the old looks, the NOLA girls are gone, Pleasant Rowland wasn't the Lord Goddess of Historical accuracy by a long shot, and there's not going to be any return to the past of how you want AG to be or plaid dresses for Samantha no matter how many likes your ill punctuated mewling little wet pants baby rants on the AG Facebook page and Instagram filtered Samantha selfies get. Stop being an irritating little buttboil on Facebook and move on. I have worked customer service and the people having to reply to these things are both sighing in irritation and laughing at you. You're now in the file of "stupid jackass customer." Ahem.

We're starting with Addy, of course. She's my first girl--and the best.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Historical Clothes Reviews: Samantha's Play Dress and Pinafore

Nellie-girl, looking properly Edwardian.
Aooga! Aooooga! Less than two weeks to the BeForever Launch! All hands on deck! Batten the hatches and hard to starboard! It's the return of Samantha and her ruffles and new books and people mewling that Teal Wasn't Around in 19321 or that this is "extremely traumatizing"--which if the redo of a doll line from a major company that isn't catering to you specifically is your biggest trauma in the last year and change, I am glad you haven't really had major problems. I for one am so excited I can barely sit still for the want of new things for Addy, Kit, Josefina, Kaya, and the others. I may be at the launch--working things out with buddies--and will likely give y'all my happy reviews that Friday, seeing as I won't be at PAX til Saturday. Doll blogging gaming nerds unite! Our moddies have a 3DS and take pics with nerds.

If you have spent any time on this blog, you've heard me nearly pop a vessel at the fact that AG marketed Samantha Parkington as a bright "Victorian" beauty for a majority of her release. This is because it's wrong. I refuse to let her be referred to as Victorian. Samantha, and the time period from 1900 til about 1910 is better called Edwardian, if we're going to tie American eras to British monarchs. Queen Victoria of England--who the era was named for--died in 1901, and while most eras don't have a definitive end date we have this as a record so good goddamn there's no excuse. Sam's series not only is set in the US--despite the whole "England was the center of Western culture" thing going on til about WW2--but in 1904, which is well into the Edwardian era. The Edwardian era was big on fighting the rigid class hierarchy and societal positions and assumptions that had been thought of as default in the prior era. Women sought rights, the common laborer was pushing back against the idea that it was all right for them to be exploited in the name of progress, and people of color were fighting back against the idea that they just had to put up with white people shit and their colonizing everything and killing people just because they could. In the US, the better term is probably the Progressive Era, which ran from about the 1890s to the 1920s and was characterized by the reformation of government, society, and economic policy. Samantha's books--well at least the first two2--emphasis a rebellion against the class structures that characterized the Victorian era. Grandmary is Victorian minded, but even by the end of the main series she's opening up her mind. So for the sweet love of fucking ruffled bloomers, hairbows, and gingerbread, stop calling Samantha Victorian. Addy is more Victorian--at least Queen Victoria was alive then.

I may not have tons of love for Samantha the doll, but she's starting to be an okay distant character and I do like her time period. Which, at the launch of AG, was one of the big throwbacks of the 80s; there was a huge revival of late Victorian and early Edwardian fashions and trends. So Samantha and the AG launch took a bite down on that and held on, and that's why so many years we're looking at her again to be the bridge to support a relaunch of the Historical Line. When I first started having AG pop on my radar in the late 80s I was not much into Samantha, because I much more preferred the idea of the Pioneer era thanks to it being a huge thing at my elementary school. I did like some of Samantha's clothes, but I was very much of the mindset that each doll kept to her own era, and that was that. You stayed in your lane, and I didn't like Princess Samantha, and her stuff was not allowed. And since I didn't want her, I didn't have her stuff. This carried through my first years of actually collecting after I got Addy--with a few exceptions such as kimono and yukata--until Kaya arrived. Kaya was not going to stay stuck in the Braids Beads and Buckskins mentality and pulled on a set of jeans, thus becoming my first Historical/Moddie blend. Then, several years back, I and a collector friend of mine, Jane, came upon a store locally that sold secondhand AG clothes. They had Samantha's Play Dress and Pinafore among some other older, retired outfits. I decided that if I hated it that much, I could always sell it secondhand and bought it and the Tea Dress. I put it tentatively on Marisol, Marisol looked goddamn gorgeous, and that was all she wrote.3 I started picking up Sam's things for her and then Rebecca's, and expanded my collection focus.

But the outfit. When Samantha launched with Molly and Kirsten in 1986, she only came with stuff and things from her first three books, followed later by her last three books and the stuff from that. Then in 1989, she recieved an outfit not on the cover of her books but mentioned in her very first book, her Play Dress and Pinafore: a blue checked dress, a matching hairbow, and a white pinafore for $22. Samantha, being rich, did not have a work dress. Originally the outfit did not come with the lacy socks--but these were later added by 1999 when the huge Wishes Catalogues came out. I think I paid about that much. I got the socks and shoes--which are part of this review--in Samantha's Shoes and Socks set for $15 when I was building up Marisol's turn of the century wardrobe. The pinafore was retired in 2006 and the shoes and socks set went down with Sam's initial retirement. Right now we don't know for certain that it's on the way back in a few weeks or a new version of it. Ignoring the stupid spikes on eBay for the outfit, it can be gotten for about $25-30 bucks with everything. The shoes and socks go for dumb prices and I would not pay them. My dress is a PC version, but I'm sure there's little to no difference in this one and the Mattel one.

Since Nellie recently joined my gang this January, she now has the beautiful distinction of getting to model a lot of Samantha's clothes for reviews. I dickered on getting Nellie before her retirement in 2008, so I got her more recently when a buddy of mine in AG collecting wanted her to find a good home when she was downsizing her collection and held on to her for me for a long time. Nellie O'Malley is a mix of moddie and Historical, and now she can wear all Sam's stuff for reviews (cause gods knows Tara has to be dragged kicking and screaming into it). I don't have much for Nellie directly out of her collection except her meet dress, so she'll be rocking Sam's stuff. Nellie shares my birthday--October 15th--and is a much more practical, sensible, thoughtful, and knowledgeable girl than flighty, froofy, head in the clouds Samantha. It's really terrible how she got shuffled off in the books by Valerie Tripp/on AG's order because she really sort of smacked Samantha out of her privilege just by being her friend, and her being pushed off until book 6 was terrible. 

Freckles everywhere!
Also, fun fact? I didn't like the sparse freckles on her and so added a ton more, including three on her chin and one on her lip.

Review ahoy~!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

AG Complaint Department: The Ten-Year Rise and Fall of the Best Friend Line

So long, girls. The Era ends with you.
Have you been living under a rock for a few months in the AG community? I haven't, even if I have no need to post something every day on this blog. This is not Tumblr1 and I'm not a news blog cause I don't need to be. I've got stuff coming up that y'all will like--the gang is up to another girl--and tons of reviews and shit. But I'd like to address the end of the Best Friends line before the launch of BeForever at the end of this month, so that on occasion my articles can seem timely.

If you've had a pulse on the AG community for any time since about January to March, you'll have heard whispers of both Samantha's return and the retirement of Marie-Grace and Cécile. Many people saw the end coming through whispers, catalog scans that didn't include the others, and jabber from personal shoppers. Finally in May, AG officially stepped up and said that Marie-Grace, Ruthie, Ivy, and Cécile are going into the Archives. This is in preparation for the launch of BeForever--a rebranding of the Historical characters to focus on the main AG characters and appeal to girls again. This includes new clothes, the return of the emphasis on girls being the same in essence through history, using new ways to appeal to old ones--aw yiss, apps and nets--and rumors that include removing illustrations from the books to appeal to older children.2 This does not include their best friends or the NOLA Girls. There's several articles that have been published on news sites and around discussing how this removes the only black character that hasn't been a slave and the only Asian-American character in the lineup. I'm not going to knock them in any way. They're right in saying that with Ivy getting booted, we don't have a Asian American character represented in history anymore--and that Cécile is the only well to do pretty princess we've had that was black. But neither girl really got a chance to hold down the fort herself, and the best Friends Line was a poor way to put both of them in. 

For the most part, the Best Friends Line did not do much for AG's bottom line or their appeal to the historical characters, and the one time it touched the moddies it tanked hard. While the Best Friend Line had its appearances of successes, it also had its problems--lots of them. I do kind of like the idea of best friends and two girls sharing an era, and a lot of my historicals have theirs. Edith has Dorothy, Kimmy has Tyanna, Addy has Sarah, and Felicity has pretty brunette Elizabeth. I'm even debating finally creating Charlotte's stepsister/close friend from Caroline.3 And the most technical sense, I have several of the Best Friends: Nellie, Cécile (though she's not a best friend, she's a split collection--more on that later), Kimmy ("Ivy"), and Sonali. A lot of people will talk about the good of the line. But I feel like the AG community and the purchasing population at large didn't really feel the Best Friends Line, and that it going down is going to overall be a good thing.

If you haven't clicked onto this, this is all my perception. I'm not a marketing mogul, I've never worked for AG in my life, and I majored in English. These are just my opinions as someone who came into AG at the small start of the Best Friends Line, and saw how things came--and now, how they're going, along with things one of the members of the forums has observed and I'm alright with passing along. You're not here for numbers. You're here for my opinions, education, snark, and to learn better about the kyriarchy and how to tear it down. 

Let's start the same way AG did: with Samantha and Nellie.