Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gabriela! Z Yang! NANEA! Tenney! ...and the boy doll.

Aloha, peeps.
We're back... for a bit.
StoryTeller's been busy with school and hasn't had much time to hang out with us,
she was home this weekend and was finally able to go to AGP for the first time since Gabriela came out in January!
A lot of stuff has happened with AG in the past month and a half,
and we have opinions.
Oh, yes, we have opinions.
Let's get started!


So, we had a better photo... but then realized that StoryTeller's reflection was in the mirror of Gabriela's dance studio behind her, so we went with this one instead.
But even in this poorly-lit, through-glass picture,
Yes, she's #46 with a collection, but we don't mind.
After what, 15 GotYs, AG has finally released a Black character.
And she's awesome.
We love her stuff.  We think she's beautiful.
We love the fact that American Girl has introduced a character who goes to speech therapy and who uses spoken-word poetry to overcome her stutter.
Gabi's awesome, guys.
Will Gabi join Keiko and Company?
We're not entirely sure.
We like her a LOT, but we don't have a lot of space right now.
And she does look kinda like Cecile,
but then again, McKenna and Lizzy look a lot alike, too.
If she joins us, she will be Afro-Latina, and speak fluent Spanish in addition to English.
We're thinking about it.

Z Yang!!!
Source: screenshot from AG's website
Okay, so we're pretty excited for Z.
We enjoy her videos and we think it's cool that AG has joined in on the stop-motion fun.
We also think that her movie-making interest is a fun new hobby that AG hasn't explored before.
In fact, one thing we're looking forward to most with the new Contemporary Character line is to see what diverse hobbies (and hopefully races and ethnicities) AG will include.
See, with the GotY line, they keep recycling hobbies because every four or so years, the kids in the target market have "aged out," so AG keeps recycling the horses, the dance, etc. to give new target-market-aged kids a chance at getting the dancer doll, etc.
But if the CCs are sticking around, that means that AG won't have to recycle interests and can branch out into new ones, like Z's movie-making hobby.
We're hoping to see some STEAM, some sports they haven't had a character play before (soccer, hockey, etc.), and even more diverse interests,
and more diverse characters.
AG's off to a decent start in that area by introducing Z-- a Korean-American-- as the second Contemporary Character.
We hope they keep it up.
Z may join Keiko and Company at some point, but probably not super soon.

It's everyone's favorite red-headed rebel!
Oh, yeah, Felicity's back.
We like that, but we're not super excited, either.
We'll be more excited if she gets more stuff.
(Well, Cecile and Lizzy will be really excited-- they love 1770s clothes)
Lissie's back, it's cool, now give her more stuff, AG!

And now for the character we're REALLY excited for!
Nanea!  Nanea!!  NANEA!!!

Source:  Screenshot from AG's website
Okay, so we're super stoked for Nanea.
We enjoyed Molly's character-- we think she's fairly easy to relate to for a lot of kids-- but we can't wait to see WWII from another perspective.
Especially since this "another perspective" is from a Girl of Color-- a Hawaiian Girl!
We think she looks awesome.  We love her new face.
Yes, her face looks a little bit like a Wellie Wisher's, but we think they're cute.  And maybe that's a sign as to how well the Wellies' faces mesh with the big dolls'?
She also looks a little like Moana, with her personal coloring and her outfit coloring.
But we don't mind.
Moana is beautiful!  The movie is awesome!
We love Moana and we love Nanea.
Nanea will most definitely be joining Keiko and Company.
In what capacity-- historical, modern?-- we're not sure yet, but she definitely will.

Apparently AG has caught onto AGIG's obsession with Taylor Swift...
Okay, full confession:
Listening to-- and, okay, singing along to-- Taylor Swift's music is one of our guilty pleasures over here at Keiko and Company.
Hey, we enjoy a good bit of pop-psuedo-country once in a while just like we enjoy dipping McDonald's fries in their chocolate milkshakes.
My point being that we all have our weird delights in life.  Don't judge.
So anyway, we have nothing against Taylor Swift or a country-singing doll.
And Tenney as a doll is fine, but she's just not calling to us to come join us.
What we do find annoying is her storyline that sounds like a Disney Channel movie.
We've got nothing against Disney Channel movies, either, but generally AG has been a little better at storytelling than that.
We like her banjo and a couple of her outfits,
but she's not really doing a lot for us.
So that's our commentary on Tenney.

 Oh, yeah, and then there's the boy doll...
StoryTeller's traveling dragon doesn't know what to think of this.
 Aw, yes, Logan.
 So, just to be clear:
We're not against boy dolls.
We're not against boy AG dolls.
We're not even really against an official AG boy doll.
If AG wants to start an offshoot brand of "American Boy" dolls, we don't necessarily mind.
A lot of kids would enjoy having a brother for their AG doll, but a lot of parents don't have the knowledge or necessarily the funds to make or buy a custom doll, or don't know about other brands out their (Carpatina, Boy Story, Kidz n Cats, etc.), or they don't like these brands' aesthetic, so an AG-made boy doll makes sense, especially since there is a market out there, given the sizeable number of custom AG boy dolls out there.
So, to repeat:  Nothing against boy dolls in general, or official AG-made boy dolls in theory.
We think it's good for kids to know that it's okay to be friends with boys and girls and, well, everybody, and a lot of kids would find it fun to have a "brother" doll.

We do, however, have two complaints about Logan.
They are as follows:

Complaint #1:  The Timing
The last few days, what has been the dominating thing about AG in the media?
"It's a boooooyyy!!!"
"It's AG's first BOY doll!"
"Look at the new BOY doll!"
    Here's the thing:
After 17ish years of Girls of the Year, this year, AG released it's FIRST EVER Black GotY.
They have never had a Black GotY.
They have never even had a dark-skinned, main-character GotY of any race (Sonali was a "friend" doll and therefore more like an accessory than a main character).
So AG releases their first modern Black character-- after 17(!!!) years of GotY-- and also announces their first fully-Asian contemporary character (Z), as well as their first Pacific Islander historical girl (Nanea),
but who gets all the attention?
Logan.  The white boy.
"White Boy Pushes Black Girl Out of Spotlight"
or "White Boy is Apparently Cooler than Girls of Color"
is how the hype reads to us.
Again, we've got nothing against boy dolls.
We have nothing against white boy dolls.
But we find it irksome that AG FINALLY decides to release a Black GotY in the same year they release their first 18" boy doll,
probably knowing which one will get the attention and $$$.
"But Black dolls don't sell well" has long been the excuse for why AG hasn't put out more DoC.
Except that's a big pile of baloney sandwiches, because Dolls of Color (Black ones included!) DO sell well.
#46 (aka Gabriela) was one of the best-selling Truly Me dolls, and she's been on back order on AG's site.
And Isabelle, the blonde ballerina GotY from 3 years ago?
AG STILL had back stock of her sitting around at this year's MCM sale.
But with Logan getting all the hype, customers might not even be aware of Gabriela if they're coming in simply for the boy doll, which may only contribute fodder to the excuses for fewer Black dolls if Gabriela does poorly because she's been overshadowed by Logan.
So yeah, timing.  We're annoyed at the timing.

Complaint #2:  The Face of the Matter 
"Take my land, take my water... and now my FACE?!" --salty Kaya is salty
So Logan has Kaya's face mold in a light skintone.
Here's the thing:  The AG face molds represent per-pubescent kids, and there really aren't that many structural differences at that point between sexes.  AG faces are actually quite gender-neutral in that regard.  We've see adorable boy doll customs with every AG face mold, even the Marie-Grace face, which is probably the most feminine-tracking of all of them.
So AG could have used any doll face in their arsenal.  But they used Kaya's.
And we've got a couple of issues with that.

Issue A:  Kaya's Face was Made Special for Her  
A lot of times, dolls representing Native Americans are just given whatever the default face is, but in a medium-brown or olive color.  Not a lot of effort.
But AG didn't do that.  They went the extra mile, did their research, talked to tribal elders of the Nez Perce, and made Kaya her own special face that both has features common among Nez Perce children and also respects her culture's taboo of showing teeth while smiling.
We give AG two thumbs up for that.
But then they used it for a white boy doll, and that makes us raise our eyebrows.
  We know why they probably made this decision-- Kaya's face is the only one with a closed mouth.
But why can't Logan smile with an open mouth?  He is doing that on the cover of the book.
Or if they wanted him with a closed mouth, why not make another closed-mouth mold?
Kaya's face was made special to represent Native American kids, girls in particular.
If AG had used Kaya's face for another Native doll, we wouldn't mind.
 But we're annoyed by the fact that, after only being used for Kaya for so long, the second doll to use it is a white doll, not a modern Native doll or Native-tracking Truly Me dolls or anything along those lines.

Issue B: Native Women and Girls Are Already Told They're "Too Masculine"
 Again, a large part of this problem comes from the fact that Logan is only the second doll to use this mold.
We fear that, instead of being seen as relatively gender-neutral,
Kaya's face will now be seen as "the boy face,"
and Kaya will be seen as "the boyish one,"
  even though her face is no more "boyish" than the Josefina or Classic or Sonali or Jess or any of the other AG faces.
According to Green Chile Supergirl over at the American Girl Collectors board,
being told they look "too masculine" is an issue that many Native American girls and women deal with, and is a problem she has encountered herself.*
 Using Kaya's face for only the second time on a boy doll reinforces this idea, even among people who might be completely unaware of this association.
It reinforces to Native girls that their faces are "masculine" instead of fitting in with a European standard of femininity.
It may cause girls of other races to see Kaya as not as "pretty" as the other dolls because the only other doll she shares a face with is a boy.
Yes, AG probably was not aware of this issue, and again, probably chose it because of the closed mouth.
But it's still an issue.
If AG had chosen the Josefina face, for example, it would not be seen as "the boyish one" because the face had been used for so many girl dolls previously.
It would simply just be a gender-neutral doll face.
But since Kaya's has only been used for her, and therefore doesn't have a string of girl dolls associated with it, we worry that hers will become "the boy face" and that the perception of Native girls and women looking "masculine" will land on Kaya, too.
 And we don't like that.

So those are the issues we have with Logan.
Does that mean we hate Logan the doll?
Not necessarily.  Objectively, if those issues didn't apply, he is a cute doll.
If someone wants to get Logan, we have no beef with them.
It's okay to be a fan of problematic things, but it's good to be aware of the potential problems instead of ignoring them.
If someone wants to get Logan, they should go ahead and get him!
They should enjoy taking pictures of him and dressing him up and having him interact with their other dolls.
We hold no hard feelings.
We just want people to be aware of the issues so they can make an informed decision.
As for us?
Logan most likely will not be joining Keiko and Company, or IF he does, it won't be for a very long time, long after the hype has died down.
We have other dolls on our list-- Nanea, Maryellen, Z, Addy, to name a few-- that all have higher priority.
 And if a boy doll does join our circle, he will probably be someone's brother who will occasionally guest star, but not necessarily be a regular.
We want girls to know that it's okay to be friends with boys.  It's awesome to have friends who are boys!
But it's equally awesome to have a circle of friends who are girls! 
We need to stop insisting that we "aren't like other girls" and shunning each other.
Girls are capable of epic stuff!
McKenna doesn't need a boy to help her fix the TARDIS's engine.
Cecile doesn't need a boy to help her crack codes.
Kaya doesn't need a boy to help her identify microorganisms in a petri dish.
Josefina doesn't need a boy to help her in her garden.
Elizabeth doesn't need a boy to help her with her writing.
And I, Keiko, certainly don't need a boy to tell me how astrophysics work (unless it's my dad, who is a professor (as is my mom!), and he's teaching me new stuff (usually with my mom!).  But I still know WAY more than any boy my age and I don't want them to tell me otherwise!).
Boys are cool.  But they get celebrated a LOT, and have for a long time.
Girls need to be celebrated, too.
And that's what American Girl's about, right? --Celebrating girls?
So while we don't mind-- in theory-- a boy doll,
we don't like seeing a boy doll being celebrated at the expense of girls, especially Girls of Color, or girls with disabilities, who for so long have not been celebrated.
   So again, no hard feelings if any readers out there want Logan.
If you want Logan, get him!

But let's hear it for the girls, too!


You're cool, Logan, but SO ARE WE!

*Source: Green Chile Supergirl; "The Tenney Grant Discussion Thread"; American Girl Collectors; Jan 31, 2017, 03:34pm; Post #680.
^Okay, so we don't know if that's any official way to cite a message board post, but that's our attempt with basically all the information we could find and we figure it's sufficient.  Always cite your sources-- in whatever way you can!


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