Andrea Peyser for the New York Post: Barbie she's not. Meet Gwen Thompson, the newest addition to the American Girl canon of dolls -- the wildly successful, extremely expensive brand of faux children that are sold out of a four-story town house in the heart of Fifth Avenue.
Little children as young as 4 are addicted to these pricey little monsters. It's like middle-American crack.
You have an African-American doll, an American Indian doll. A Jewish one. A doll who "lived" during the Great Depression, and one from the Roaring '20s.
And while you were snoozing, the creators of American Girl, which is sold by Mattel, got bold. They engaged in all-out political indoctrination.
Snuck into the collection is a doll that comes with a biography that is weird and potentially offensive enough to keep Mom running to the Maalox. Gwen, you see, is harboring a terrible secret.
She is homeless. A homeless doll.
In the history books that come with every American Girl doll -- bringing to life these little monsters until impressionable little ones believe they are actual people -- you learn that Gwen's father walked out on the family. Her mother lost her job.
As the little kiddies learn to read about this doll as if she's a human being, one learns that, as fall turned into winter, Gwen's mom lost her grip.
Mother and daughter started bedding down in a car.
For $95 -- more than your average homeless person would dream of spending on a rather mediocre baby substitute -- Gwen Thompson can be yours. A mixed message if ever there was one.
If you'd like a doll desk, doll horse, doll clothes, doll trunk, a medical kit -- suitable for pretending to administer doll drugs -- that will cost you extra. A lot extra. Did I mention how wildly successful this series is?
I'd heard about this doll from a friend, and walked into the American Girl store in Midtown to investigate. I found not a store, but a cult.
I asked to see Gwen, and the saleswoman persisted in referring to the inanimate object as "she."
"She's right over here," she said, pointing me to the "limited edition" doll, identical to all other American Girl dolls except for eye, hair and skin color. And still, your kid will bug you to collect them all.
But what is Mattel subtly selling along with its outrageously expensive progeny?
It seems obscene that a company that prides itself on teaching impressionable children about history and grooming -- you can have your doll's hair done for $20! -- should engage in political preaching. What message is being sent with Gwen?
For starters, men are bad. Fathers abandon women without cause. She's also telling me that women are helpless. And that children in this great country, where dolls sell for nearly 100 bucks a pop, are allowed to sleep in motor vehicles. But mothers don't lose custody over this injustice. Because, you see, they are victims, too.
The saleswoman asked me the age of the child for whom I was buying. I told her 6 -- my kid, at 10, is already outgrowing these things. The woman informed me that the suggested age for American Girls was 8.
That's not who's buying them.
I know many girls as young as 4 who won't let their mothers sleep without the promise of an American Girl.
So take a close look at what your daughter is playing with. Barbie, the feminists long complained, gave girls body issues.
But she never attempted to politically indoctrinate me.
I'll stick with the thin girl.
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