Updated: Dec 23, 2019
No successful business is ever perfect- and American Girl has had it's fair share of controversy. Here's a list of the top 5!
5- The 'I Can' bracelets: In August 2005, American Girl started selling 'I Can' bands to empower girls, and some of the profits went to Girls Inc, an organization helping girls in need. Sounds wholesome, right? How is this even controversial? Well, apparently Girls Inc has also made some political statements that some parents didn't believe in, so they threatened to boycott AG until the sales of the bracelets stopped. In December 2005, the campaign ended, and while others saw this as a victory, in reality the campaign was just a 2005 thing. (Oh, and if you're curious about more details, look it up on your own time- I'm your AG history teacher, not your debate coach!)
4- Marisol: 2005 was a tough year for AG. Earlier that year, they released Marisol Luna as their GOTY, a Latina from Chicago who moved to a suburb in her story. Sounds wholesome, right? Well, some people found offense in a passage in her book where her parents told Marisol that her Plisen neighborhood was dangerous and there was no place for their daughter to play. Residents of Plisen found this inaccurate and protested, but AG didn't change anything. But the controversy hurt author Gary Soto so hard that it was his last piece of children's literature ever.
3- Retiring Best Friends Dolls: In 2014, in preparation of the BeForever revamp of AG's historical line, American Girl decided to retire all the Best Friends dolls. Included in this was Cecile, one of 2 African-American dolls and Ivy, AG's only Asian-American character doll. Frustrated with the lack of choice this would cause, people protested the change on AG's social media, but AG didn't budge and pulled the dolls from sale the day BeForever launched. American Girl released Melody, another African-American doll, in 2016 and they released Z Yang, who was Korean, in 2017, but she retired in 2018, leaving a lack of an Asian-American doll yet again. (If you release another Japanese-American doll AG I'll freak out because you know how much I love Japan)
2- Gwen: In 2009, Chrissa was the Girl of the Year, and her release brought 2 friend dolls with her: Gwen and Sonali. Gwen was a homeless girl for some of the book, living in her mom's car before moving to a homeless shelter and then an apartment. To be honest, I love Gwen's character, but some people well, didn't. They thought AG went too far in depicting the Great Recession (but I don't get how they could've seen that because they had Chrissa in the works since 2007 possibly 2006 since they filmed the movie in Spring 2008), lamented over the cost of the doll, and that it was unacceptable that they were profiting over a 'homeless' doll. American Girl responded to this controversy by reaffirming that they do donate to charities to help the homeless, but since Gwen's buzz, it seems like AG's been trying to play it safe.
1- Permapanties: Ok, we've come to the granddaddy of all AG controversies: THE PERMAPANTIES. Most of you know about this one, but for those who don't, basically in 2017 American Girl started sewing nonremovable underwear in dolls in a cost-cutting move. This resulted in some weirdly-shaped butts and lots of complaints on social media and boycotting. In May of 2017, the decision was reversed, and no new dolls since Truly Me #69 has had these.
(Almost two years late but still THANK YOU CONNIE FOR LETTING ME DO THIS IN YOUR STORE- she's the iconic person who manages the makeup store in my mall and gives me a facial every week while I babble to her about AG)
There's a lot more, but these were the 5 biggest ones I decided to talk about! What was the most interesting to you? I didn't know the Marisol controversy stopped Gary Soto from writing for children until last year, so that was pretty new to me!