The newest American Girl doll, 10-year-old Kira Bailey, is not unlike many other dolls in the popular series: She has long hair. She wears cute clothes. She sports unique accessories.
But Kira, released in December by Mattel as the 2021 American Girl “Girl of the Year,” has a story that’s dividing the brand’s loyal base: She has an LGBT family storyline.
Kira’s great-aunts, Mamie and Lynette, are a married lesbian couple that live in Australia and operate an animal sanctuary. Kira herself has a passion for caring for animal care and visits her aunts. The plot is described in the accompanying book, Kira Down Under.
It is the first time an American Girl doll’s storyline has included an LGBT angle, according to Yahoo Life. The targeted reading age is 8-10 years old.
Each year, Mattel releases a limited edition “Girl of the Year” doll that has a unique talent. Mattel also releases a book about the character. In Kira Down Under, the reader learns that Mamie and Lynette married “after the law was changed to allow it.” Australia legalized same-sex marriage in 2017.
“From the beginning, our ‘Girl of the Year’ characters have been designed to reflect girls’ lives today and the realities of the times,” Julie Parks, an American Girl spokesperson, told Yahoo Life. “As a brand, we’ve always strived to share the message that there’s no ‘magic recipe’ for a family and that families can be made up of all kinds of ingredients – and each is unique and lovely. We know for girls who can directly relate to Kira’s circumstances (i.e. a father who has passed away or a couple in a same-sex marriage), we’re glad to show them that the make-up of one’s family doesn’t matter – it’s still a family and that’s all the counts. It’s a sentiment we love at American Girl.”
Parks added, “We’re proud of our reputation for having a wide range of inclusive and diverse dolls, accessories and content and we’re excited about our upcoming plans that will allow for even more girls to see themselves reflected in our products.”
The American Girl website doesn’t mention the same-sex relationship. It says, “Kira is thrilled when she gets to spend a month at her aunt’s Bailey Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia helping care for koalas, wombats, and kangaroos.”
On Amazon, customers who purchased the book are divided. One-third of the reviews are one out of five stars — a high percentage of negative reviews for an American Girl book.
“Parents are not informed of lesbian relationship in the story,” a review from a verified purchase reads. “There is a wedding picture of her aunt and a woman named Lynette. … The story is written for ages 8 and up. I think there should a warning to parents so that they can make an informed choice whether or not to allow their young child to read a story that includes a lesbian relationship.”
Another review from a verified purchase wrote, “While we teach kindness to all in our family, there are things that elementary-age little girls do not need to be exposed to, and this book blatantly introduces very mature topics. We have always loved American Girl books and products and I have never had to worry about previewing them for content before. However, we will not be purchasing Kira or any of her books, and I'm not sure we will be reading American Girl books in the future.”
Many customers, though, applauded the book.
“AG, I applaud you for including such issues in her books,” a customer wrote. “They have done so much good by including all of these storylines. Even though there are individuals in these reviews upset about the aunts, I am so happy AG has included this kind of representation. I have gay uncles and a lesbian aunt, and it really touched my heart to have them included in these stories. Family is always family, and the stories don’t hesitate to portray them as loving as two parents would be.”
Photo courtesy: ©Mattel/American Girl
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.