FBLA asked some rhetorical questions last week, and surprise! we got real answers. Kate Hahn responded to our questions about dolls and writing, in reference to her McSweeney’s piece:
FBLA asked: Does Hahn actually have any dolls?
I had Madame Alexander “Little Women” dolls. When you get dolls like this, as you do with the American Girl dolls, their personalities are imposed on you. For example, Amy was supposed to be vain and sweet and girly. Way too boring, so I changed her personality and made her seek out trouble and act rebellious.
FBLA also had the Little Women series and spent many happy hours making them act out scenes, such as Women’s House of Detention.
FBLA asked: Did she spend hours in the store at the Grove, picking up their unvoiced pleas?
When I visited the AGD store at The Grove here in LA, I remembered Amy. At American Girl, great pains have been taken to create fully rounded personalities for these dolls. There are books, videos, accessories, even a theater. But I thought–kids are going to turn these dolls into whatever they want. The other thing I noticed about the store: it was trying to sell little girls the history of America using the same tactics George W. Bush turns to in order to sell adults the current version of America.
FBLA wonders when we’re getting our accessory pack from the White House.
The store doesn’t ask little girls to think critically about history, but turns past events into stories with easy resolutions. The store spins things, like the genocide of Native Americans, by simply ignoring the parts of the story that don’t make good copy.
But I thought — what if the dolls were aware of all that? What if they were aware of the complexity of our country’s past, and were furious about all this simplification?
FBLA is very taken with the idea of furious dolls.
So in writing this piece, I got to play with dolls again, the same way I played with my Madame Alexander Amy doll. I got to ditch their acquiescent personalities and make them say things that were a lot more interesting. Most of them turned about to be really afraid or pissed off. Except Samantha.
FBLA recalls that Samantha is a Victorian-era doll.
FBLA asked: Which voice came the easiest? Hardest?
Felicity was the easiest. I’m from Maryland, my ancestors fought in the American Revolution, and I grew up taking concepts like democracy very seriously. Kaya (the Native American doll) was the hardest–for technical reasons. She was the first one to talk about actually being a doll, so I had to figure out how to write tha transition, and make it funny.
FBLA wants to ask Hahn and her dolls over for a tea party, soon.We should have asked her what dolls she’d like to see from American Girl. We wish here was a Beat-era one, with black leotards and a beret. Or maybe a Flapper, with a flask of bath-tub gin, sold separately, of course.
Kate Hahn Speaks for Those Who Can’t