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

Friday, July 6, 2018

AG Complaint Department: The Top Five and Bottom Five A*G Events in the Past Ten Years of the A*G Wiki


Ten Full Years!

Where the sweet hell did June go--oh right, A-Kon work, Pride, swapping doll eyeballs, raiding the corpse of Toys R Us, Memorial Day, and family business. Don't beat yourself up, Neth. Just, you know, go take review pictures. There's lots of stuffs you could be covering. Just set up your photo spot and take the damn pictures, woman.

*dusts off cookies*

There's new summer stuff out! Woo, releases! And I have several opinions on it, good and bad. I plan to post about it soon--I wasn't able to get complete pictures of the stuff until the end of the month, because that was the earliest I was able to get to the store. I'm aiming Sunday or Monday's post.1 Today though, is a super cool anniversary for me in the AG fandom.


Guys, gals, and non binary pals, today is the ten-year anniversary of what's been called the best database for American Girl Info since its 2008 conception, the American Girl Wiki.

Lemme set the scene for the launch. Picture it, Seattle Area, 2008. I'd been officially banned from AF Playthings that March, though I hadn't really visited in weeks at that point and was trying to get my stuff down from the site at the time of my banning.2 I was overseeing training at my then-job--which mostly consisted of shadowing over someone who'd done all the main education and was now doing live work with assistance. Since it was a niche section, those of us that normally did the work were not doing it so they could get as much practice as they possibly could. So since I'd been doing the work for two and a half years, I was being paid to sit by my trainee, listen to their calls out, walk them through steps, and answer simple questions quickly so they didn't have to ask the supervisors. I needed something to do between questions and call listen ins, so I was surfing the net trying to get some AG data on upcoming new stuff and characters.

Look it was that or bike back and forth on the long path through Solaceon Town hatching eggs in Pokemon Pearl. Smartphones were not as widespread as they are now and I'd already done some sketching. 

But I couldn't get any data on anything that wasn't locked behind forums or on slowly updated personal sites--and what data that existed was primarily about the items and buying them. While AG is a merch driven thing and so it made perfect sense to talk about the stuff, that was all that got talked about. the Stuff. Very little on any site at all was about the actual characters, there was sporadic history on the line itself, and most of that was heavily coated in the idea that everything that came out before 200 was perfect and flawless and everything that came out after was Mattel's Hot Garbage trying to turn the line into Barbie. Hell's chicken and fries, there was little to be found about the books. Many places had a list of book titles, but nothing about what happened in them. Not even character parent names.

And it occurred to me: why didn't the American Girl fandom have a wiki-style database? Other toys had them. Lego had one, the Brickipedia. There was an entire one about yo-yos. I'd just been using Bulbapedia to look up some Pokémon data, followed by getting lost on the Muppet Wiki. Hell, there was Wookiepedia--all Star Wars, All The Time.

Was it because someone had never done that themselves? Taken that step out to make an American Girl Wiki? Well, I would be that someone. TV Tropes had the right idea with the The Wiki Rule: There is no area of interest, no matter how narrowly defined, where a person cannot put up a wiki for it and attract at least a few editors with similar interests. So, even if I spent weeks alone coding in character and book pages, making notes on Addy's younger sister and Kirsten's father, I could do it.  Plus, it'd give me something else to do with my fandom knowledge. I did have like, all the books. All of them. I might hate the people who'd banned me and shunned me, but that didn't mean I couldn't do something for the AG fandom, even if I'd likely never be appreciated for it.

I submitted my proposal for the wiki to the Wikia staff--which, like onions on your belt, was the style at the time. I got approval and was sent the URL and given my admin and founder rights. I started to clean up the main page images, then started creating pages for each Historical Character and Girl of the Year. I created basic collection pages.  That was enough to start making more character pages and some item pages. I searched and scanned images from my books, making references and internal links here and there and coding. I couldn't post links on any forums, but I could promote on AG Over 18 and my own personal journal, and I did. By August  we'd been featured in the Wikia Spotlight. By September 2008 we had 300 pages. By the first anniversary, the Wiki had just over 850 articles.

Ten years later and with two other admins, we're at a touch over 4000 articles--and I often hear across the fandom how useful the AG Wiki is to pull up information and how nice it is that within days of new stuff coming out, there's at least something on it even just a stubble. And to think, I started the AG wiki with just about 100 or so pages, supervising training at Nintendo, and hoping I was able to do something for American Girl fans with my information, because I was getting damned sick of sites that only talked about the stuff and most of that was in forums people could be banned from.

Oh and the moddie line has gone through about three names--but since category changes are hard, we still call the category by a name several years out of date. Edits, whatcha gonna do.
 
We're fairly quick with the updates--and if you're curious about, say, that one-off character in Felicity's mystery? You can probably get some data or add it in yourself--as long as you follow the rules, are over thirteen, don't edit in garbage, pay attention to the rules about descriptions because a single line edit is not a description unless they're just plain white socks, and don't spam the wiki with petitions to bring back flash games from your childhood because AG is not going to bring back flash games from your childhood. Flash is a terrible thing anyways.

I'm very proud of what the AG Wiki is and has become, and what it will be in the future. 

That being said, I have more to say. Since it has been ten years, I decided that I'm gonna babble on about the Top Five and Bottom Five Things AG has done in the past decade since I started wiking. All opinions are, of course, my own. Of course they are, this is my fucking blog. There will also be some honorable--and dishonorable--mentions in there too.

Hop under the cut and getcha read on.

Top Five AG Events And Occurrences from 2008 - 2018:
Sassy, Classy, Kool-Aid With the Kale


1: The Release of Melody and Nanea

Two of Neth's Fave Historicals!
At the top of the list are my two favorite Historicals in the past ten years: Melody Ellison and Nanea Mitchell.

I was terrified for years that if AG ever touched on the Civil Rights movement, they would do it shit. That they'd gloss over the bad events, keep everything north and polite and smoothed over and happy without any racial talk, or maybe even go as far as to focus on a white character written by a white author and and stick any black character as a side kick. Black People often get regulated to two time periods in all of US History, and then we get stuffed in our underground bunkers until someone wants to say that the Black Lives Matter Movement is mean and no one should ever complain about police brutality and abuse because everything was solved when MLK had his dream. So AG doing a 60s Civil Right character was a risky prospect, and I was wary about anything they'd do to the point I created Edith and was wary of anything that would poke into the 60s.

But they didn't screw it up. They not only covered historical MLK speeches, but the church bombing--something that breaks me to even think about some days. They made Melody nuanced and unique and gave her more than just a white girl dyed brown. They gave her a movie special on Amazon Prime and a creatively spanned collection. They gave her a black author and a black panel with known Civil rights activists. They gave her music that wasn't just what was popular for white people--look, cry all you want but I have a black momma the near same age as Melody and black girls in 1960s Detroit would not have been geeked about the Beatles when Motown was right there. They didn't do a perfect job on her--there's aspects that could improve--but they did such a good job that I jumped all over Melody. I got her as a preorder, got all her outfits at launch, and have a huge amount of her collection. She is quite possibly my fave historical after Addy, and that's saying a lot.

Then they came right up behind it and released Nanea Mitchell, who is also awesome.

Nanea comes before Molly in the timeline and--unlike Molly's underwear fights, turnips and tap dancing--Nanea's home and life is hit very hard by WWII. She's half Hawaiian--and half white, but it's more than just the spoonful of whiteness--and lives not very far from Pearl Harbor, and embraces her Native heritage deeply. She makes huge mistakes, but she tries her best to fix them. She's scared and imperfect as a person, and her impulses get the best of her when she's not thinking, but she tries so hard to do the right thing. One of her two closest friends is Japanese and so very affected by the bombing, as is Nanea's family and the whole of Hawaii under martial law. They gave her a cute new facemold, they try to make her culturally appropriate as things release, and they wrote her books with heart and not just luaus and hula and poi and palm leaves like it easily could have been. Hawaii was fucked up by WWII, and her stories are so good at showing that through the eyes of a native Hawaiian. Again, not everything is perfectly done, but it's damn fine. I adore Nanea and her collection a ton.

2: The BeForever Relaunch

Improving the Past for a New Generation.

American Girl launched in 1986 with three historicals and until 2014, had pretty much some of the same old stuff still plaguing the line since then. Six books series with illustrations--some of which were not done well3--and stuck in a pattern, and not as appealing to children of the target age range as they should have been because of it. Outfits that varied in accuracy, some of which hadn't changed since a character first launched--and the constant huffing that outfits they tried to make outside of the books images were often smacked down because but it wasn't in the books by people. Mistakes made in the past that kept carrying towards the future. Up and down focus on the historicals, with them in part being overswamped by the moddies. The fact that, barring some massive influx of newness, a person who got a doll at her first launch or even as short as 10 years ago might have everything for her, and thus fade away as a customer. The Historicals were faltering, and with their faltering AG was kind of slipping. They needed to get the old girls to appeal to the youth of today with their Spotify and their Instagrams. 

So they gave their historical characters a whole new coat of paint, changed the books and outfits around, and launched them under BeForever. All but two historicals got new clothes and several got new things, including throwbacks to some older items and ideas. Books were updated--rebundled into larger, more chapter-like volumes so that older girls would be more motivated to read the stories and feel less like they were reading books aimed at early elementary students. Samantha--who in many ways has always been the AG Diamond Girl--came back out, starting the idea that your retired faves4 could and would return with new books and new outfits. Less emphasis on historicals stuck in time to images and old stuff, and more on how girls and collectors could enjoy the characters as characters.

I think it was a damn smart move. Let's face it, one of my complaints about AG before BeForever--among my many bitchy bitches to bitch about--was that I had little motivation to buy anything historical. I had almost everything in Addy's, Kit's, Felicity, and Josefina's collections--especially anything clothing related, which I pretty much had 100% completion on barring some outfits I hated or that cost stupid amounts of money. I'd pick up new outfits here and there as they came out, but that was it. And honestly, some were so long lasting that I could find them on the secondary market for AG prices. BeForever reignited my desire to seek out new historical stuff and add to my old things.

There's been things I haven't liked. Namely, the way Felicity basically did a Malibu Stacy5 and how Samantha took over at the start--of course she did, AG basically has her as the "let's test new shit with an old fave" girl. And they are starting to do the "let's focus on three girls to the exclusion of others" thing again. But overall,  BeForever has been one of my favorite product revamps in AG. And not just because of the new characters, but the life it gave to the the oldies too.

3: The Launch of the WellieWishers

Take a Walk on the Wellie Side!
AG historical books were intended for the eight and up crowd--especially once the illustrations were gone. Bitty Baby, AG's baby line, was aimed at the four and under crowd--even the Bitty Twins, which were more like two Bittys for the price of two and whose clothes went no higher than 6X.  For your five to seven year old into AG, you had...nothing. Nada. Zi-pah. It was part cause of the  dilemma of AG skewing younger and younger, leading to uneducated parents who would give the fancy dolls to too-young kids and then cry about how they wouldn't take care of them.

AG had already tried with the Hopscotch Hill School series, but the small, jointed, slightly creep-faced dolls didn't do so hot.  If at first you don't succeed, try again--and try to be cuter.

And try they did! The WellieWishers launched in 2016--just before Melody, kicking the Bitty Twins out--and have become a runaway hit for AG. They have very well-done books with the illustrations AG books don't have anymore, colorful bright clothing, interesting designs, diversity from launch, and are made in such a way that they can better take the rumble bumpies and tumbles of being carried around and splashing with a early elementary school kid. And as a bonus for collectors, they're just a tick smaller than the 18" dolls to the range of working well as being a little sibling if you're into that. 

I liked them from launch, love to get new stuff for them, read the books--they show real kid problems in real kid ways--and have six of the dolls. Yes, I know there's five characters. I have two "Ashlyns," Ashlyn and Zeblyn are twins. Look, when you see a Wellie for sale at a flea market for 20 bucks you jump on that with a hotness.

4: Gabriela, Z, and Luciana

The three best named moddie girls in the past two years.
Bitch and bitch and bitch, and eventually the monkey's paw curls. I've wanted some decent named moddies that weren't white or the side kicks to white girls since Sonali came out--including a black Girl of the Year--for years.  I love Sonali, and I love Kanani, but man oh man was I tired beyond tired of the parade of white girls we'd had since Kanorbles. And Lea's less-Brazilian-than-I'm-White6 ass didn't count, even if the doll was on the brown side.

Then in 2017, AG released Gabriela--the first ever black girl of the year, who I was super excited to have exist. Then a few months later, they came out with Z Yang, who'd already been teased by AG with her vlogging and was a video blogger from my new hometown, Seattle. Then this year they came out with the near quintessential AGC character--a STEM based PoC, Luciana Vega, who is Latina and into space. Talk about Shut Up and Take My Money.

Every single one of the three of them came home with me--one as a day one purchase, one as an awesome gift, and one after dickering and getting a push from the fates to just bite down and do it, girl, you know you liked her. Honestly, they'd all rank higher if not for the way Gabbi and Z both kinda got screwed over by AG. But if I'm gonna have named moddies with books I'm going to have the best named moddies with books, and so it's these three!

5: A*G Seattle 


Local taxes but also no shipping. Quite the quandary.
Okay, this is just me being super self centered, but it's my fucking blog and I'll be as self centered as I want.

In the late end of 2010, after several stores had been cleared out of a space at the local mall, I saw the curve and the shape of the building going up in the space that had been cleared out and was like BAE BAE BAE WE'RE GETTING AN AG STORE. And I was right. AG Seattle was officially announced  February 2011, opened that summer, and I took the day off work to go to the launch which was the most packed that store has ever been and likely would ever be.

I was super excited to have a local store. Until AG Seattle, I had been regulated to going to an AG store during my yearly trips to Dallas and that was it. That was the most convenient store for me. With a local store, I could go on the regular, take pictures, touch the new stuff in my hands, and pick it up and choose my things without having to pay shipping! Friends and I have met up there to hang out, I got to take my bestie there after Hamilton, and  I wouldn't even really work this blog the way I do without AG Seattle. Granted, I am very pissed they no longer have a bistro--but at least it's in a mall where food is not so far away that I can't walk and get a tasty burger somewhere.

AG Seattle, I adore you.

Honorable Mentions:

AG Rewards:
Wait, you mean AG will give me coupons for buying stuff? Sign me up day one! Took you long enough. Now if you just gave more stuff for my rewards back.

Sonali Matthews:
The first Girl of the Year I wanted so much I got her on the launch day.  Then I had to wait a week for her to arrive because of shipping. Also she wasn't the focus, so she only gets an HM. Still she's my Sonali the Dolly and she's great.

Create Your Own:
Finally, if you want a custom doll, you can get it through AG. I haven't gotten one yet, but I have some plans. HM only because of that and because I know for a fact light skinned Addy-faces that are being made out as white girls exist in this world and it is a sin, I tell you, a damned sin.


Bottom Five AG Events from 2008 - 2018:
Ah Hell Naw, Tenney, Take Your Bland Ass Potato Salad Home


1: Nogan The Face Stealer

Hideous little troll baby.
You knew the goddamn moment I started this post and mentioned there would be a bottom five that he was going to be the top of the garbage heap. King of Trash Mountain. The Highest of the Lowest. The Loser of this Week's Thunderdome.

You all knew I still hate everything about the existence of Logan Everett Nogan the WhiteBoi Face Stealer.

Ain't shit changed in a year and a half. I'm not wasting more words than I have to on him again when I already done that back last year. I still hate him as a character, as a face stealer from Kaya, as a news stealer from Gabbi, and as a boring common white boy who still moons about the collection. 

He still remains garbage. At least now there's other boys to point out how much of a garbage fire he is. You want a boy doll, buy one of the other ones. At least they didn't steal the only Native Doll's face.

2: Tenney Sue, The False Girl Of 2017 
 
Aren't you just a problem.
And right behind Nogan waltzes Tenney Sue. Much like when I bitched hard abut Nogan, I'm not going to do it again for her. I still despise her, but not as much as Nogan. I steal her clothes for everyone else--mainly Gabbi--and try not to be bitter that she clearly got all the of the Girl of the Year focus and had to have her own contemporary section just to remain relevant instead of just being set aside to let Gabbi shine. She couldn't even give Gabbi two months to herself as the centerpiece before showing up and ruining her year. At this point I'm wholly convinced that she was the 2017 GotY until AG got called out for not having any black girls of the year, which is when they tagged Gabbi in and then thought we wouldn't notice the way Tenney tried to slip in with her guitar and her everything for her. I keep trying to read her books but they're so boring and her challenges are weak.

She'd be higher on the fail list, but at least she's not a face stealer. Just you know, a year stealer and a Tenney-Sue.

3: The Short Range of Cécile, Marie Grace, and Caroline

The Three Year Gang.
Putting ugly white kids aside for the moment and talking about cute ones, AG really undercut three of their historicals badly. These three lasted so little time they were announced and retired during these ten years.

Cécile--the second ever black historical after Addy--is adorable and with a great story as a free black girl of color in the antebellum south of multicultural New Orleans. A story we only got half of, because she was not given the confidence to carry her own time. AG--still holding out hope that people would buy two time periods for the price of two, released Marie-Grace with her--and possibly, Cécile was expected to carry Marie-Grace's new facemold7 as well, one of the first ever after Kaya. Their books were split back and forth, their collection was split half and half, and they weren't out even a half year before AG had them on sales and discounts. They struggled the whole time with a shared collection that never really gave either one of them the spotlight--and once BeForever was a reason to cut off the Best Friends line, they were sent out.

Caroline came out just in time for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. She also got heaped on hard by so many people in the fandom. She wore pink and had blond curls and light eyes, therefore she was the Barbiefication of AG and she didn't deserve any love because she'd taken the place of Felicity, an OG doll. She limped around, trying to show she was worthy of respect--that she was a badass of her own in pink--and yet always being maligned because she wasn't Felicity. They got her into BeForever just long enough to keep the display case warm for Maryellen, and then let her go--and when she was announced to retire, those same people were lamenting that she meant so much to AG. Yeah, well you didn't give her her flowers now, and now she's gone.

All three had the shortest ever availability of a historical at only three years, and all three of them suffered their whole time. They in part failed because AG cut them off at the legs.I have more to say on why Marie-Grace and Cécile failed later, but they weren't given a chance to succeed, and BeForever was the last push AG needed to let them go quietly. As for Caroline, she looked to be getting somewhere in BeForever--lack of Meet changing not withstanding--but soon enough she was gone too, and unlike the others after her she was not cubed. The three of them are solid gone.

Cécile deserved better. Marie-Grace deserved better. Caroline deserved better. It wasn't fair to any of the three of them and their times--especially Cécile who could have carried the series alone if AG had trusted her.

4: Mistreatment of the PoC Characters
They could share it better if you gave them their fair shake, AG.
American Girl offered three girls of color in 2017. They were also really shit about actually supporting them.

Z Yang came out in April 2017 and by that fall one of her major set pieces, her desk, was gone. She's already lost that, an outfit, several accessories, and never got a set of pajamas. She barely shows up in the promotional things anymore. She's not in the catalogs much. I can't think of the last time they vlogged with her. She's supposed to be part of the contemporary line but she's barely there, with barely any display space or promotions. It's like the Contemporary line is basically "Tenney and the Extras if We Can Be Assed."

It didn't just happen to Z, though. It happened to Gabby who, as I said above, was tagged in last minute to be the black GotY while Tenney-Sue got all the stuff and glory. It was Ivy who also barely got any clothes--AG, Asian people wear pajamas. It's Cecile as said above, and Addy getting downplayed for so long, and Josefina almost being the one cut out of BeForever. It's the fact that so many moddies are light toned and Classic Molded and the Addy Mold is getting phased out in place of the Sonali in that line. It's all the little bits that show that AG might be doing better, but they're not doing as well to support dolls of color as they could be.

5: The Mess of Permapanties 

The dumbest controversy.
In February 2017 AG decided to do a whole new body for dolls! They decided they needed to stop losing their underpants and have their underpants integrated into their bodies. The new permanent underwear, quickly dubbed permapanties, started rolling out for moddies, Maryellen, Melody, Tenney, and Julie. They even stuck them on Z when she first came out.

And lo, the fandom threw a goddamn fit. Images went around of misshaped bottoms, hands squashing faces in to claim squishy vinyl, and lamentations that the bodies were cheap, ugly, ill made, had butt droop or wangs, and that offering AG to the Middle East was why the dolls now had fused in crotchwear. How can my doll pretend to poop on Julie's plastic toilet now for points? I'll never buy Z as long as she has fused underpants!8

A few weeks later AG, getting hella backlash for pink sewn-on underwear, reneged on the situation and immediately went back to standard underwear--as well as returning to the closed up boxes and windowpane boutique style boxes for dolls. And if you'd somehow gotten one of the few dolls wearing the permanent undergarments, then they'll do a body swap free of charge just to appease you. The fandom "rejoiced" and decided every other complain anyone'd had about representation or updating dolls in other ways was a waste of time, because Julie could poop again.

This is low because to be frank, I didn't care that hard. One AG I have had them, and Z doesn't mind it. In ten more years your pink bottomed girls will be a neat novelty, like New Coke and Crystal Pepsi.

Dishonorable Mentions:

The Constant Changing of the Moddie Line Names:
 Just Like You, then My AG, then Truly Me. Stop changing the moddie line names. It's a good thing I can't auto-swap categories on the wiki or I'd have had to do it twice in ten years. Just leave the names alone. I just call them moddies at this point. It's easier.
 
InnerStar U:
In the vein of many companies trying to get the same focus as Webkins, AG created InnerStar University--an online set of games and events that people who bought My AG dolls could use with codes. There were outfits with the logo, there were characters on the site--there were even books. But kids will be kids with fickle fucks to give, and like many other fads it blipped out, and AG took it down. Don't follow the crowd, AG. Just make good stuff. Hey at least it wasn't heeleys--ooooh you made those, right, never mind.

Isabelle, the Wonderbread Ballerina:
Ugh, WonderBread. Four years later and we still make jokes about you being at MCM up to three years after release. Free Toast with every pair of shoes! You were still everything that Marisol was, only worse.

*~*~*


A decade of AG wiki work, keeping  Let's go another decade, I've got the time if you've got the mess. 

And AG, we've all seen the Molly leak. Just let the girl come back already so I can buy that sweet outfit for Nanea.

New stuff feels soon.

---Neth

1 Also my pics are on my phone, because my point and click camera wouldn't white balance and couldn't remove the glare off the cases for several items. I might have to get an actual decent camera that can properly balance and remove glare.
2 More on that in future blog posts.
3 *shakes head at the NOLA girls* 
4 But not mine, she said, staring wistfully at Cécile. 
5 She has a new hat! Oh and books. And an outfit.
6 So I did one of those genetic things and while a huge part of me is, as I already knew, imported African Slave, the European DNA in me adds up to about 20-25% give or take a British Isles. Most of that is Scandinavian at 8%. I am your fave Scandinavian Princess--and with the Southern European bits, I hit about 15%. That's more than 1/8th (12.5%).
7 I've done three eyeswaps on MG heads, and each of them have made me think that AG could really get somewhere offering her face mold again. Maybe.
8 And probably not after that because any reason to skip the PoC, right racist part of the fandom?

4 comments:

  1. The AG Wikia was part of how I found your work! I know you haven't gotten the credit you deserved for it and the fact it's such a valuable resource in the fandom and that is just another reason I truly dislike certain parts of this fandom.

    On behalf of the good part of the fandom and also random folks that stumbled back into it through your work (I definitely fall into the latter and like to think I belong to the former), thank you so much. This is such an important and useful tool.

    PS: I'm now sad about Cécile all over again. I adore Melody and I think she's well-done and long overdue, but I would've liked us to have all three Black historicals at once. Boy AG even does some of its deserving white dolls dirty! Poor Caroline and Marie Grace (she should've been the best friend doll but that's still a cute mold). Totally agree about AG and their apparent bizarre belief that Asian Americans don't wear pajamas.

    ReplyDelete
  2. “And AG, we've all seen the Molly leak. Just let the girl come back already so I can buy that sweet outfit for Nanea.”

    Priceless...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Why is Flash a terrible thing not worth preserving?

    ReplyDelete

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