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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why I'm an Outsider - Part Three: The Wicked Witch of Customizing and the Birth of AG > 18

It was still just two.
It can be very hard finding one's place in any fandom, especially when there's a tone that doesn't mesh with yours. The American Girl fandom is both huge and small at the same time. And American Girl, unlike a lot of other fandoms, don't often seek out AG so much as stumble upon it one way or another as a child. It was catalogs in the 80s and 90s, and nowadays it's stores. Most people learn about AG as children too young to properly be on the internet. And a lot of people lurk to get a feel for a place. (I'm sure there's lurkers on AGC.)

I didn't like the tone of the AG fandom or the heavy fundie feel, but I endured. Even with the overall tone on AG Fans that conflict of any kind and bickering was improper, your posts had to be able to be read by the most sensitive of people, and there was a lot of stealth editing of posts and deleting of controversy. Things had to be for the children, and the baseline was "super sheltered Christian girl child whose eyes would melt at the mention of anything unwholesome." This also had the nasty effect of people often saying that we needed to consider the children in everything we did, thought, or posted. It was very Helen Lovejoy.1

I had other fandoms to get my weird out in, though I was starting to fade out of the majority of My Little Pony fandom, Gen 3's awesome notwithstanding. I was deep into into Harry Potter, where we were in the gap between Half Blood Prince and the unnamed Seventh Book Conclusion; I had Pokemon--which still was on Gen Three but creeping towards Gen Four with Diamond and Pearl due out in Japan that September. I was sewing and crafting some. Even if I was woefully unemployed, I was okay. Depressed, but okay.

But I wasn't getting a whole lot out of the American Girl fandom. There was mostly news, and keeping up with what was coming out.  The American Girl community on LiveJournal was slow moving, and mostly about the buying and selling of things. I stayed lurking like a motherfucker on AG Fans, but I had made some decent friends and connections. I'd signed up to AG Playthings--which was starting to rise--and people knew my dolls, Addy and Naomi. I'd taken them both to Texas for a vacation at my mom's and taken some photostories with them, mostly consisting of things like hanging around outside the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Texas A&M campus. I wasn't a big name fan, but I was making a bit of a name for myself. I was even, on my ElJay2 going into a series of posts about the issues in AG--sexism, racism, and the like. Seeds of social justice planted, though I'd had that for years in ways. About the only new thing coming around were small releases of historical stuff, some modern stuff, another set of All White Bitty Twins, and the Big Thing for Jess--since at this time they did the big thing during the summer. I wasn't doing great, but I was doing good.

Then a spark lit up. And it wasn't even me who fully started it. Go fig.

Prologue: Not Such a Sweet Baby Face
Part One: Finding AG Fans, or How Periods are Bad For Children
Part Two: There's Fundies in My Fandom

The adult fandom, as I say often and will keep saying, is made of a mix of people, but a majority of those in the fandom fall into two subsections. The first group is made of people who had or wanted dolls and were the target American Girl audience at some point. The ones near my age tend to have fondness for the First Five--Sam, Molly, Kirsten, Felicity, and Addy-and some love for the moderns. A lot of us had years of AG falling off our radar for one reason or another, and aged out either right before the Mattel Takeover or right after. (I, for example, had no idea about Josefina, Kit, or Kaya--or Girls of the Year--until after I found fandom.) American Girl does have a target audience, and that target audience is not old enough to be on the internet unsupervised.

The second group--and the group that made up a huge majority of AG Fans and probably still does--are parents of said target age children, who collected dolls with their children or around them (with some using their child as a shield to cover their collecting) and continue to collect after a child's aging out of the target audience. Some of these adults used the books and stories educationally, and quite a few home schooled with AG as a way to teach history. This does not include the mommy bloggers who spend every five minutes complaining that their child won't ever own expensive "useless dolls" with the same level of venom they reserve for anything popular enough to have a brand name and who flip their shit that an AG catalog was sent to their child. Those people are their own special brand of terrible.

Furthermore, like a lot of toy fandoms, AG Fandom at the time was focused heavily on consumption instead of creation. Most people in AG fandom in 2006 didn't write fiction or do fanart, and most don't really do so now. The big creation method was the photostory--taking pictures of dolls telling a story through their poses with items and captioning the images, like an online picture book. Other creation methods were generally making things for the dolls--rooms, huge doll houses, accessories, outfits, and the like. I'd made some outfits--some good, some terrible--and was getting pretty good at sewing on the 18" scale. I'd even made a kimono for Naomi and a yukata for Addy, so they would have outfits at my anime con. There were original characters, but most were moderns with story or characters out of the Historical series, and customization was light--dolls weren't supposed to be super modified beyond natural looks to be shown on the board. Even hair streaks was pushing it more than a little, because this was 2006 and hair streaks were the realm of punks and other non-mainstream looks. But there was customization, and people would often show off their created characters. Within, of course, the limits of mod-defined wholesomeness.

And one member, tiktokism, posted a thread on the board about customising dolls as characters from fictional books. She specifically mentioned a specific fictional character.

She was going to make a  doll version of Elphaba. As in the Wicked Witch of the West from the MGM movie, and the book and musical Wicked.

Clearly, this is the face of evil.3
This went over about as well as setting fire to a white body Molly in front of St. Pleasant the Educator and force feeding the ashes to Valerie Tripp. There was a lot of hemming and hawing and a tone of "eeeegh" that I'd seen with Kiera Raven. It might be too customized to be appropriate, or too extreme a change to spray paint or otherwise change the color of a doll.

I could smell it on the air. The smell of someone about to really bring out the fail guns.

And bam, there it was!. Someone said--with of course, the universal disclaimer of just an "opinion"--that this was a terrible idea. Making a "scary" doll with something so wholesome and sweet as an American Girl doll was just a terrible, terrible idea. You'd be ruining a doll for everyone. She'd look bad. That character was wicked, and she was a villain. Yes, the musical and book had made her appear sympathetic, but there shouldn't be sympathy for the devil. The Wicked Witch was not for children. and won't someone think of the children? Please, won't someone think of the children?! Don't do it, tiktokism. Don't do it.4

A lot of people took that  side, and the flood gates opened with tearing down this custom idea and people agreeing hard and trying to talk tiktokism out of her dolly mismanagement. Anyone on the side that didn't condemn tiktokism for wanting to make a doll "evil" had to practically grovel and mewl and cover everything in fluff not to have their posts deleted or edited for the common good. The thread was censored--including the opening post--then locked. It later came out that tiktokism got into a rather heated e-mail argument about the thread, and the nature of the character, with the leader of AG Fans. The leader told tiktokism that she felt the character of Elphaba was utterly immoral, and that she would not permit any doll made to represent her to be displayed or even discussed within her forum.5 Witches were in service of Satan. Even fictional ones. It was clear that Wicked Dolls were bad, "unwholesome" customs were bad, and if tiktokism wanted to talk about a witch outside of the Spider Witch Costume, she had better take it elsewhere.

Jesus, Maria, and Jose, now we couldn't even talk about what we wanted to do with our own dolls in case someone else was offended? That was it. I was tired of this motherfucking repression in my motherfucking fandom.

Persona Non Grata--who I will call PNG for short--and I had been chatting for some time over IM, and laughing at terrible fundie things and board terrible as well as my Felicity/Elizabeth shipping, and when we saw this thread and what went down in it, and we decided this was the final straw. We were going to start a space for those of us that didn't want to have to choke back our feelings and talk for the children. And we we going to create it on Livejournal, which was a site not to be linked to on their board. And since our aesthetic was being "not for children" we would name the place American Girl for Grownups.

We picked the name "ag_over_18", and the community was founded July 20, 2006.

We spread the word in PMs on the board, whispering among ourselves to people we thought would like the place. Come to LiveJournal, we whispered. Bring all the customs and talk and cursing that you can't have on AG Fans. Talk about the things that piss you off you're seeing. Come be with the adults that aren't making you shut up and act like a child.

The first post laid it out:

Tired of having to censor yourself for the younglings in the world of AG? Want to talk about topics that just aren't love, light, and lollipops in the AG universe? Want to discuss Girls, Inc. for ONCE? Have you ever felt frustrated with the compulsory niceness of other AG boards? Have you wanted a little debate? Maybe you want a little snark in your life? This is the comm you seek.

Taking down the system.
Most of our rules were simple. Age was a frame of mind, not a digit; you had to be old enough to participate, but we wouldn't treat anyone like a sage or a baby. You could say what you wanted, but you had to be able to hold your own; if you said something, anything, you had to defend yourself because "just my opinion" is not Super Special Internets Code that means "You can't challenge me anymore, nyah nyah now shut up." We emphasized that we were not the Stepford Wives, and that not everyone would be of the same religion, race, social class, sexual orientation, or political views that you are.6

It didn't take very long for word to spread, and for people to join. Within a day, we had 20 members. Within a month, we had a thriving community. And we kept growing and growing, and breathing deep outside of the major board. We could talk about things like being queer, or poly, or our race, or people who were irritating hypocrites or damn jerks. And we did talk, and grew, and became something nice.

Finally, for the first time in AG fandom, I had a place to be myself. And even if it's generally dead now (thanks to the drift away from LiveJournal) it was the start of AG Fandom not being held only by the fundies and Christian attitudes. It felt good. It was a place that brought me friends and opened the doors to start to stand up for me instead of accepting the status quo of what someone else in fandom said was proper about a topic.

And it gave me a secure place to hold on to when I decided to throw myself to the wind later on. 

Next:
Part Four: Halloween is for Jesus, or How Otters Offended a Nation

--Neth

1 "Won't somebody think of the children?"
2 I link to DeeDubya, but the posts started on ElJay.
3 Okay, she's not an AG, but she's close enough, as Boom says, for government work. Speaking of which, hi Eden!
4 She eventually made her Elphie. 
5 Which made things super hypocritical later down the line when a member of their still-remaining ranks talked about Wicked Witch dolls and was not censored.
6 All the stuff that AGC now has started in its bare bones on AG over 18. 

8 comments:

  1. "Sex Cauldron? I thought they closed that place down!"

    --Grungie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some people will get their knickers in a twist over the craziest stuff. They sound like the scout leader who went ape-shit crazy because my niece wore a witch costume to the troop Halloween party. They made her feel horrible, "it was an inappropriate costume since the party was in a church." Seriously. She quit Brownies over it. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly

      that scout leader sounds like a total hypocrite. I am a christian but my kids do halloween. there`s nothing wrong with dressing up in spooky costumes and then go get some candy. but if that person was so damn religious and thought witches were "inappropriate" than maybe she should not have organized a halloween party in the first place? to me the idea of a haloween party in a church seems more inapropriate than a kids witch costume. she could have found another place for that.

      Delete
  3. I'm glad she went through with her custom. Some people are just so crazy.... thank God for AGC.

    (I hope you eventually tell more AGPT stories....)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can't imagine the craziness of those boards... is there nothing religious fanatics/ christians don't ruin?!

    I also would like to hear more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Can we get some Josefina Face Mold darker than unflavored oatmeal, please."

    Umm... would you like it if I said a doll was the colour of tar? Is there a need to insult the complexions of others? Apparently black is beautiful, but beauty is only skin deep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say you're a racist asshole who needs to get the fuck off this black woman's blog, you absolute walnut.

      Delete
  6. :) I think I like your blog :)

    ReplyDelete

Trolling, pointless bigotry, and hating for the sake of hating will be removed, as will any post screaming "first" because no one cares. Cursing is fine, as I curse myself. I still expect you to act like you have home training. This is not a Free Speech Zone. I reserve the right to delete comments or tell you to piss off. You post, you stand by your words, and all the consequences of those words, even if that consequence is getting your ass handed back to you. Don't come in my space, spit on my floor, and expect me to call it a swimming pool. I can and will cuss your entire ass out. If I told you not to comment, and you comment, your comments will be deleted.

If you are under 13 your comments will be removed; you're too young to be on the internet unsupervised and you know it.