Today, Mattel advertises and promotes My American Girl as a collection of dolls that look "just like you!". The current catalogue begins with My American Girl offerings, followed by Dress Like Your Doll and the 2013 Doll of The Year. The girls now include Saige, white and upper-middle-class; McKenna a gymnast; and Lanie, an amateur gardener and butterfly enthusiast. These girls never experience crisis. Their engagement in the world is limited to local activities like bake sales to help save a school arts program or a victory for the organic food movement achieved by persuading a neighbor to stop using pesticides.
Virtually all of the historical figures who made up the original collection have been replaced by bland, parochial, politically correct ciphers who lead lives without serious conflicts or real engagement in the outside world. It's hard to avoid the feelng that Saige, McKenna and Lanie could be living another version of The Truman Show in which the main characters lead pleasureful, self-centered lives also totally devoid of conflict; completely unaware that they're playing roles in a carefully orchestrated story created by a team of clever advertisers, producers and directors.
What does a brief recap of the above scenarios suggest about American culture?
- A woman blacklisted at airports for carring condoms and travelling with a married man.
- A young couple humiliated by a policeman for drinking wine and carrying condoms in a state park.
- A psychology professor ranting against Anthony Weiner in the middle of a seminar on marriage and family therapy.
- A teenager severely censored for reading Nabokov in her literature class.
- New York City educators banning controversial subjects from school tests.
- The Mattel Corporation's advertising and promotion of homogenized, conflict-free American girl dolls leading perfect lives.
In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley portrays a modern utopia in which everyone is conditioned from birth to value consumption and all conflicts such as governmental failures, international disputes and inner psychological turmoil are practically non-existent; a world in which words such as death, disease, divorce, slavery, etc. are never seriously discussed or even thought about. In Huxley's story, a World State, much like the powerful, behind the scenes advertisers, producers and directors who run The Truman show, control societal conflict by encouraging universal consumption of the drug soma, a hallucinogen that takes users on enjoyable, hang-over free holidays.
Soma tablets, taken in various doses with water, coffee, other drinks, or mixed with food or dessert, take users into enjoyble states in which they experience a richly colored, infinitely friendly world where everyone is good looking and, above all, delightfully amusing; much like Saige, McKenna and Lanie in the American Doll world of Mattel.
In this quasi Brave New World, it's not the the woman harrassed by border officials, the young couple humiliated by the state trooper, the people in the audience subjected to the professor's rant againt Anthony Weiner, the children who are prevented from using "bad" words in essays (the very same kids who deeply identify with Stendak's young hero Max and made Where The Wild Things Are a best seller) or the teenager censored for reading Nabokov in her literature class; nor is it the millions of little girls now growing up playing with Mattel's sanitized girl dolls. It's really the customs officials, the state trooper, the psychology professor, the school principle, the New York City educators and Mattel's sophisticated marketing team who are on soma, as they slowly, often imperceptibly, harm the girls, boys, women and men they seek to influence.
When working on an opera adaptation of his book, Sendak gave the monsters on the Island of Malicious Beasts, the names of his relatives: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile and Bernard. I'd suggest the following roles for the above enforcers in an Off-Off Broadway mini extravaganza:
- The customs officals playing condom sniffing border hounds.
- The state trooper as Jack Lemon in Days of Wine and Roses.
- The psychology professor as Lady Chatterley's Lesbian Lover
- The school prinicple as Humbert Humbert obsessively singing Thank Heaven for Little Girls.
- The New York City educators soliciting contributions for a Sanitize the Children Fund, and.
- Mattel's markeing team playing slightly inebriated characters from Madmen, peddling the slogan LSFFC: Local Styles For Finer Children.
Andre Moore, Director of Marriage Couples Counseling and Life Coaching in New York City