In this online video petition, Melissa, a 10 year-old girl with a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-tooth, asks the American Girl doll company (Mattel, Inc.) to create a disabled American Girl doll and story. Melissa is shown sitting in front of a Christmas tree and piano, holding one of her dolls as she explains that she’s read all the American Girl books and has seen all the movies, and would love to learn or read about a girl like her, with a disability. In closing, she says, “disabled girls are American Girls too. We face challenges and overcome them every day,” and asks viewers to sign the change.org petition she put together with her sister.
The American Girl doll company aims to tell the stories of a diverse set of girls facing challenges and overcoming obstacles throughout American history. Why is it important to have positive representations of people who are like you in historical, contemporary, and popular culture?
Why do you think American Girl hasn’t made a disabled doll before? How does marketability, profit, and branding play into this? How does a disabled doll represent the “American” part of the “American Girl” brand?
Can you think of other action figures, dolls, or toys that have disabled people or characters as central figures?
What are some characters from TV shows or movies with mental, learning, or physical disabilities? Were they main characters? How was their disability portrayed?