Today, I am relaunching my blog with a list that will only appeal to a small (but passionate!) subset of the population. My thoughts on American Girl–not the franchise as a whole because that would take entirely too much energy, but my take top ten American Girl characters.
Now, before the American Girl stans immediately take issue with my ranking, let me clarify that my opinions are based on the following criteria. 1) The products themselves, including dolls, clothing, furniture, etc. 2) Each character’s book series. And 3) The American Girl musical from 2002-ish that legitimately transformed my life. It’s that good.
The clothes are cute, as they should be considering her family has a billion-ish dollars. But Samantha’s privilege and general whininess put her at the bottom of my list. Realizing poor people exist just isn’t the most compelling story. Still, Samantha’s an OG American Girl, so she makes the top ten.
Ivy is the only one of the newer dolls to qualify for my top ten. Call me a traditionalist, but I struggled to keep up once the numbers reached the double digits (and I graduated from fifth grade). But Ivy’s book series is written by the incredible Lisa Yee, who is one of my favorite middle-grade authors, and that gives Ivy a significant advantage over the other new arrivals.
Nellie is the only one of the “best friend” characters to make the cut, and she deserves it for putting up with Samantha’s whole ten-year-old savior complex. I don’t think Nellie is still in circulation, but I would have advocated for her sticking around while Samantha got relegated to a supporting role.
Without a doubt, Addy is the most badass of all the American Girl characters, and I did like her books. However, her song in the musical does this character a huge disservice. A convoluted, eight-minute number that’s mostly talking? The writers should have known their audience better than that.
I always had a soft spot for Kirsten because I could recreate her loopy braids as an eight-year-old. And her number in the musical was so cute and wholesome. But Kirsten gets a few points deducted because her books convinced me as a child that being a pioneer would be cool. It took me years to re-learn that everyone either 1) Was murdered 2) Died of cholera or 3) Died of loneliness.
Kaya’s original release was during the prime of my American Girl years, and I remember enjoying the excitement of it all. (The American Girl fandom was HYPED, y’all.) I appreciate that her books had a bit more emotional depth and historically appropriate conflict. The series also diverted from the classic format, which, in my opinion, limited storytelling potential. In short, Kaya upped American Girl’s game.
Plenty of people dislike Molly for being a bit drab, but I appreciate her “girl next door” persona. While stories about historical girls saving the day and going on dangerous adventures are exciting and most characteristic of the brand, books about kids who hate vegetables and fight with their siblings and dislike their appearance also have value. Mostly, however, I love that Molly tap dances.
Kit has always been cool. She reads, she writes, she loves Amelia Earhart and Ernie Lombardi in equal measure. She has a bit of a “not like the other girls” attitude which sometimes annoys me, but Kit wanted to be a newspaperwoman in 1923, so she probably earned that reputation. And the American Girl designers managed to create some cute Depression-era clothing, which must have been difficult. All around a solid American Girl and a worthy member of the top 3.
My reasons for liking Felicity are less rational and more instinctive. I’ve just always…liked her? Even though she is DEFINITELY a horse girl, which isn’t usually my vibe. I appreciate her general dislike of sewing and housework (all of these American Girls are so darn helpful, so a bit of realism is welcome). I appreciate her hair and clothing. I appreciate that she stands up to gross men and kidnaps their horses. Overall, I just appreciate Felicity as a character and product and think she deserves more love.
And my all-time favorite is…Josefina! Whenever I took a “What American Girl Doll Are You?” quiz, my result was always Josefina, which endeared me to her from a young age. She’s empathetic, loyal, hopeful, idealistic–in my mind, some of the best qualities the American Girl brand should be modeling for kids. And her bedroom set (which I never owned because it cost a trillion dollars) was EVERYTHING.
So there it is. My return to hard-hitting, of-the-moment journalism that my vast and eager audience has been craving for far too long. I recommend browsing the American Girl website if you’re seeking a bit of mindless commercialism amidst the quarantine.