I used to sort of enjoy Polly Pockets when Daisy was into them. I think it was their size. And they had some cool gear. And sometimes I’m a hypocrite, so sue me.
Of course, Pollys, like most toys for girls, had aged down: initially, for instance, Barbie was aimed at a 9-12 demographic, but little girls, trying to be cool like their older sisters, start wanting them too and then they became anathema to the older girls. So now rather than starting with Barbies at 9, girls are done with them by 6. I write a lot about age compression in Cinderella Ate My Daughter and also how it’s affected the nature of the Barbie fantasy. Anyway, the thing with the Pollys is that they are now marketed (according to Amazon) to girls ages 2-5. And those little rubber clothes and shoes are really impossible for girls that age to manipulate on their own. Resulting, in our house at least, in a lot of tears of frustration and many “dead Pollys” (dolls whose limbs had all been permanently broken off when clothing was forced on). Though we did get the occasional really cool art project out of it (using aforementioned limbs). So they had to be disappeared. They were too fuss-provoking, even beyond any premature sexualization or fetishized consumerism they communicated.
While playing Polly with Daisy I remembered that I used to play it with my nieces, who are 10+ years older than she. And I was sure that we hadn’t had these problems. So I did a little googling and it turns out Pollys started out COMPLETELY different than they are today and are yet another example of the way girls’ toys have changed and narrowed in scope. Polly came on the market in 1989, created by a dad who wanted to make a toy for his daughter that would fit into her pocket. So he used a powder compact to create a teensy home for a teensy doll named Polly. The result was distributed through a company called Bluebird Toys and looked like this:
I’m not saying original Pollys were stereotype-free or entirely anti-consumerist, but they were more along the lines of Fisher-Price “Little People.” They look like children. And they were self-contained (though you could collect them). There was a cute cafe version and a classroom version and…well, they were all-in-all, even if just COMPARATIVELY, sweet.
Ten years later Mattel bought Bluebird and permanently replaced original Polly with “Fashion Polly,” a taller, skinnier, curvy doll who looked more like this:
These Pollys were all about having the most accessories and clothing (which you could buy and buy and buy and buy). Not to mention the wildest parties. They had more than one limo
There was something called a “race to the mall” play set (“Polly and her friend can race through the big city and win the flag at the finish line, or dine, shop and stop for the view at the high observation deck”) in addition to her REGULAR three story mall play set.
There’s also the World Rockin’ Magic Fashion Stage and, of course, the Ultimate Party Boat Play Set (let’s hope those Pollys stick to apple juice on the high seas). My favorite, though is the Ultimate Polly What Happens in Vegas set. Okay, just kidding. It doesn’t exist, but you believed me for a second, didn’t you?
I can’t totally hate on Polly–I liked surfer Polly circa 2006. I dig some of her cars. The snow boards are fun. But more and more she has become just a tiny, hard to dress Barbie who is all girl power as the power to shop.
Speaking of age compression, I recently saw this interesting post on yahoo answers regarding Monster High. The dolls, you may recall, are supposed to be for older girls (those who had outgrown Barbie and Bratz) but they’re drifting downwards rapidly.
“Okay so i’m going to middle school in the fall and will have a locker i want to print put som MH stickers (the cleo de nile and ghoulia yelps ones but i dont want to be the loser who likes MH!! HELP?”Best Answer Chosen by Asker:“my 5 year old girl loves monster high, but my 12 year old girl thinks that it is lame. you might be getting a bit too old to have ‘characters’ on your locker.”
- Asker’s Comment:
- “Thanks i will not be putting those on my locker i guess i will put a poster of johney depp on the inside
- Thank you for saving me from the biggest mistake of my life!!!”
- Voila! Monster High is now for 5-year-olds. Victoria Secret references and all.
Meanwhile, I continue to get feedback on the post I wrote ages ago on the dolls. Now the comments seemingly from girls themselves who understandably have a hard time seeing the bigger picture. I answered one this way:
“It would be ridiculous to claim that Disney Princesses or Hannah Montana or Bratz dolls or Monster High or Twilight or whatever is inherently harmful. But each one is part of the round-the-clock, all-pervasive media machine aimed at girls from womb to tomb; one that, again and again, presents femininity as performance, sexuality as performance, identity as performance, and each of those traits as available for a price.”
As readers scroll through this blog or read CAMD, I hope that’s the point they get. Because once you see those connections, you can start working to combat them