American Girl Dolls Declare the 1990s Ancient HistoryBreaking News
tags: toys, Gen X, 1990s
If you, a millennial woman who loved American Girl dolls in your youth, were a bit apoplectic to discover that the brand is now selling a “historical” doll whose story is set in 1999 — because how could the ’90s be ancient history when they only took place, what, five years ago? No? I’m sorry, you’re telling me it was, in fact, 24 years ago? — well, a real-life American girl will set you straight right away.
“I’ve never actually learned a lot about the ’90s,” says Molly Prokop, 9, of Southlake, Tex. “I know it’s like, 30 years back, but I don’t know, it kind of feels like 50 years back.”
“It’s pretty cool to learn about a long time ago with toys and dolls,” says Emilie Wright, 12, of Edmond, Okla.
Yes, a long time ago was a decade when the coolest thing a girl could have was a collection of dolls with outfits and books designed to teach them about the olden days. In the early ’90s, the company sold four history-focused American Girl dolls: Samantha Parkington, of the Victorian era; Felicity Merriman, who lived in Colonial Williamsburg; Kirsten Larson, a Swedish immigrant to Minnesota in the 1850s; and Molly McIntire, who lived during World War II.
“If you read the books, you realize they’re so much like you,” says Lindsay Brison, 34, who had a Samantha doll when she was younger and is now mom to three American Girl-owning daughters in Atlanta. “They design the girls to show you that Samantha lived in the 1900s, but [her story] is still pertinent now.”
And in Oklahoma, Emilie Wright’s mother, Heidi, 38, is showing her a picture of the dolls’ computer-and-desk set ($145), which features a massive monitor that Emilie cannot — cannot! — get over.
“The computer, it’s huge!” says Emilie, amid peals of laughter. “I was wondering what those drawers down there are for.”
She means the CD-ROM drive and hard disk drive, two features she has never known a computer to have in her lifetime. Heidi explains to her how CDs could hold music or programs (“like apps”), how hard disks could store documents (“like a USB”) and how one time, to play a game, she had to install it on her computer via seven disks (“There was no cloud, no browser to play games in”). The conversation turns to more complicated topics, such as how to access the internet.
“There was internet then?” says Emilie. And now Heidi is trying to explain the panic over the Y2K computer glitch, which features prominently in the twins’ book and is utterly incomprehensible to a present-day 12-year-old.
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