Pleasant Company's American Girls Collection : the corporate construction of girlhood
Story, Nancy Gail
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This study examines the modes of femininity constructed by the texts of Pleasant Company’s The American Girls Collection in an effort to disclose their discursive power to perpetuate ideological messages about what it means to be a girl in America. A feminist, post structual approach, informed by neo-Marxist insights, is employed to analyze the interplay of gender, class, and race, as well as the complex dynamics of the creation, marketing, publication and distribution of the multiple texts of Pleasant Company, with particular emphasis given to the historical fiction books that accompany the doll-characters. The study finds that the selected texts of the The American Girls Collection position subjects in ways that may serve to reinforce rather than challenge traditional gender behaviors and privilege certain social values and social groups. The complex network of texts positions girls as consumers whose consumption practices may shape identity. The dangerous implications of educational books, written, at least in part, as advertisements for products, is noted along with recommendations that parents and teachers assist girl-readers in engaging in critical inquiry with regard to popular culture texts.