Mattel’s powerhouse American Doll brand recently announced its 2021 “Girl of the Year” doll: 10-year-old Kira, who loves animals. In further backstory from an associated book and video, we discover that Kira is spending the summer at the wildlife sanctuary run by her two aunts, a same-sex couple, in Australia. Such representation is much needed, though some vocal homophobes are giving the book one-star reviews.
The Kira doll has nothing particularly LGBTQ about her—but in the backstory American Girl has given her through the book and video, Kira has two married aunts, Mamie and Lynette. The book mentions that the aunts got married “after the law was changed to allow it.”
Kira “joins American Girl’s line of contemporary characters that inspires children to make a positive difference in the world,” Mattel’s press release tells us. “Whether she’s caring for an orphaned koala joey or facing a bushfire that’s threatening her great-aunts’ wildlife sanctuary in Australia, Kira confronts critical ecological issues, such as wildlife protection and the threat of climate change, that are more relevant to our planet than ever.”
“As American Girl kicks off its 35th year, Kira joins our lineup of diverse and purposeful characters who star in stories that reflect the realities of the times—whether it’s historical or modern-day,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. Cygielman noted the Australian bushfires and U.S. wildfires of the past year and added, “We knew it was important to focus Kira’s story on the major conservation and climate challenges facing our planet today—causes that are extremely important to today’s youth. Through Kira, we hope our fans will learn that we all have a part to play in taking positive action for our planet.”
Those are important lessons—but Kira’s aunts are also having an important impact. Sydney Jean, a blogger on the website American Girl Doll News wrote, “When I found out that Kira had two aunts, Mamie and Lynette, I wanted to cry tears of joy…. it means the world to me that American Girl is taking a big step and representing lesbians—people like me—in their newest book series.” (I’ll note that while they’re clearly a same-sex couple, I’m not sure it’s stated whether they’re lesbians as opposed to bisexual.)
Others were not as thrilled, giving the associated book Kira Down Under one-star reviews at Amazon. One reviewer wrote, “My daughter had no idea what a lesbian couple is and American Girl has cruelly taken away part of her innocence now that I’ve had to explain about that lifestyle.” Another said, “This book blatantly introduces very mature topics.” Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And the aunts’ “lifestyle” consists of being a hardworking, animal-loving couple who cares for their family. (Also, if I wanted to, I could explain the creation of my family to a child without once mentioning sex, which is probably more than these reviewers could do. Whose family really requires the discussion of “mature” topics?)
As Sydney Jean noted, this isn’t the first time American Girl has been the target of homophobes ire. Some called for boycotting the brand in 2005 because of its support of Girls Inc., which supported the LGBTQ community, and again in 2015, when American Girl magazine featured a girl with two dads. Let’s repeat Cygielman’s words (my bold): “Kira joins our lineup of diverse and purposeful characters who star in stories that reflect the realities of the times.”
Watch the start of Kira’s story—and meet her aunts—in the 10-minute video below, part of a series dropping every Friday. Then check out the book and, wherever you bought or borrowed it, go to Amazon and leave your own review.
Now if American Girl would only launch a transgender girl doll next, I’d be even more excited.
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