American Girl’s decision to discontinue four dolls from its historical character collection has drawn swift backlash from customers upset that the decision leaves fewer racially diverse dolls.
The Wisconsin-based company, known for its dolls, retail stores, magazine and books, announced on Facebook and Twitter last week that it would be saying “farewell” to Marie-Grace, Cecile, Ruthie and Ivy: four of the 11 American Girl “historical character” dolls.
— American Girl (@American_Girl) May 20, 2014
The announcement was met with more than 1,000 comments on Facebook, many of them angry that of the four dolls to be discontinued, two were racially diverse dolls, Ivy of Asian descent, and Cecile of African descent.
“I hope you will be introducing more minority characters in the historical line, especially since you’re retiring two of them,” Amanda Pielecha Sauter wrote. “I love the historical books, but there definitely needs to be better representation of the vast diversity that makes up America.”
“Seriously AG… You are getting rid of the ONLY Asian girl in your historical line-up. It was disappointing enough that she was only a “side-kick” doll to Julie, but she was better than nothing….. which is what we have now. How can the historical line represent American if there are no Asians?” Jeanne Buccigross posted.
In announcing the dolls’ retirements, officials for American Girl, a product line owned by Mattel Inc., attributed them to a planned revamping of the historical character line that will be revealed soon.
“This fall, the rest of the historical characters become BeForever, a fresh approach to these American Girl favorites that we’ll reveal in the coming months!” the company wrote.
After the flood of customer outrage, both about the loss of the racially diverse dolls and a change to the historical character collection, American Girl defended its move on Facebook by saying that the four dolls were chosen because they are each part of the three doll pairs in the collection.
“With the re-launch planned for this fall, we have decided to move away from the character-friend strategy within the line, which means we will no longer offer Ruthie, Ivy, or Cecile and Marie-Grace,” the company wrote in the comments section of its original post announcing the discontinuations.
Cécile and Marie-Grace, an African-American and a Caucasian, respectively, and described as having formed “an unlikely bond in their hometown of New Orleans” in the 1800s, were presented as a pair. The Asian-American, Ivy, was the sidekick to Julie, a blond-haired doll from the 1970s. The also-retired Ruthie, a dark-haired doll, was the sidekick to the blond Kit Kittredge, both from the Great Depression-era.
The move leaves Addy, a “courageous girl from the Civil War-era,” Josefina, “a hopeful New Mexican girl,” and Kaya, “a daring Nez Perce girl,” as the remaining dark-skinned dolls in the collection.
American Girl advised collectors that quantities of the remaining dolls and their accessories are “extremely limited.”
American Girl has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
EDITOR’S NOTE -
After this story was published, American Girl provided a statement to ABC News, which reads, in part:
At nearly one million strong, we’re proud of the relationships we’ve built with our dedicated Facebook community. Our fans are very passionate and many of our posts generate a high level of engagement, including comments, likes and shares. Certainly we know that whenever we announce that a character is archiving, it will cause some level of disappointment, especially among our most ardent fans… While demand for characters certainly plays a part in our overall decision making, the main reason for this year’s approach is based on the decision to move away from our friend-character strategy within the historical line. This decision affected Marie-Grace, Ruthie, as well as Ivy and Cecile—the first two racially diverse characters to be archived by American Girl. In comparison, American Girl will be archiving a total of nine Caucasian characters since 2008.