Last night, as I was getting ready to go to bed, I noticed an article on AOL regarding a doll from the American Girl doll line. Part of the attraction of this particular line of dolls are their well-written back stories which serve as important historical and sociological perspectives from the point of view of an eight to twelve year old girl.
The dolls are often in the hundred dollar range, and have whole lines of accessories that can be purchased separately. These range from clothing to furniture and everything in between, and can get quite pricey as well.
Earlier this year, American Girl decided to introduce Gwen Thompson, whose back story includes a detail that has people talking: She's homeless. The AOL article draws from an article in the New York Post by Andrea Peyser in which Ms. Peyser claims that Gwen's dad ran out on the family and Gwen's mother lost her job which resulted in the family becoming homeless.
Some of the commentary on the AOL article suggests that Gwen's father died instead of abandoning the family. Regardless, is social activism legitimate if it is being conducted for profit? Mattel, which owns the American Girl company has not mentioned one word about donating any percentage of the profits to homeless causes. Beyond the fact that it seems absoultely morally bankrupt to turn a profit off someone else's misery (and this company is doing it legally, unfortunately), is introducing a doll like this appropriate with the recession hammering away at so many and a sky-high unemployment rate?
In my own opinion, the answer to this is an unequivocal no. There is no gray area. American Girl claims it wants to educate and foster social responsibility in young girls, but by introducing a doll that is identified as being homeless just for kitsch factor and because some marketing director thought it would be a great way to diversify the company's current lines, they have shown that the only thing they are interested in is their profit margin.
One more thing; for a realistic view on what it is like to be homeless, please read this excellent blog, http://girlsguidetohomelessness.com/. This blog is written by Brianna Karp, who was recently featured on CNN. Oh, and Kelly, the first comment poster on the AOL article, your attempt at levity is solely a thinly veiled attempt to obfuscate your idiocy.
Here is the link for the AOL article: http://www.parentdish.com/2009/09/24/american-girls-newest-doll-is-homeless/1#comments
Here is the link for the New York Post article: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/homeless_doll_costs_hairstyling_4Ic0hC7Lacpfo8HQbczsQM?offset=8#comments