My apologies for being a little less than attentive to this blog over the past week or so, but I've been butting up against a few major deadlines (the kind that have to do with my getting tenure, and so my job security depends on them -- you know how it goes) and the blog had to pushed down on my list of priorities. However, the New York Times published -- as I'll repeat from my really boring headline above -- a surprisingly good article reflecting on the American Girl phenomenon in general and on the new "Kit Kittredge" film. Unsurprisingly, this is written by A.O. Scott, one of the best critics out there, in my opinion. Here's a link to the whole article and an excerpt is pasted below. Enjoy:
While some of the historical adventure books acknowledge that opportunities for girls — especially poor and nonwhite girls — were limited in earlier times, they emphasize optimism, good will and self-reliance as the ever-available antidotes to injustice or deprivation. This is certainly the lesson of “Kit Kittredge,” which does not shy away from showing some of the hard realities of the Depression, including homelessness, unemployment and the scapegoating of the poor.
It celebrates, in the midst of hard times, an appealingly ordinary brand of heroism. Kit is brave, smart, determined and kind, but never off-puttingly full of herself or intimidatingly superior. You would want her for a friend. You could easily imagine yourself in her place.
Which may be at least some of what girls want, and what they get from American Girl. As the son and husband of feminists, I can’t entirely suppress a tremor of unease. Is the brand reflecting tastes, or enforcing norms of behavior? Is it teaching girls to be independent spirits or devoted shoppers?
Probably all of those things, and more. I have spent a lot of time, over the years, with Felicity and some others of her kind, and I still haven’t figured her out. She doesn’t say much, and even though her expression is always fixed in a pleasant smile, she seems to change according to the moods and interests of her playmates. She is an athlete, a musician, a clothes horse, a bookworm, a pet owner, a loner and a confidant. A typical American girl, as far as I can tell."