The most popular toy inspired by a Tom Petty song, the
Last Dance With Mary Jane American Girl line of dolls has been around for decades, teaching kids lessons from U.S. history while teaching parents that a creepy, soulless, plastic husk can cost $90. The newest American Girl is Courtney Moore, a "historical character" from all the way back in the 1980s, those dark ages when Ronald Reagan was President and society fell prey to the mass delusion that ALF was somehow amusing.
According to the American Girl website, Courtney is the "best gamer in the arcade," and you can even buy a Pac-Man arcade game for her to play. If they really want it to be historically accurate, they should find a way to simulate the scent of second-hand smoke, day-old pizza, and whatever the smell of parental irresponsibility is. (Mountain Dew?)
Courtney is also, apparently, interested in "women in leadership" as well as the "space shuttle program," as evidenced by this photo of her excitedly preparing to watch the 1986 Challenger launch at school ...
Famously, this particular launch ended tragically when the shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after take-off, a disaster that was extensively watched by children in U.S. classrooms. Sure, it makes sense for this to be one of the historical events for this doll to encounter, and it's not like there haven't been some pretty intense American Girl products in the past -- like Addy Walker, a nine-year-old who escapes slavery, or Gwen Thompson, the still jarringly-expensive "homeless" doll.
But it's surprising that the information about the Challenger explosion is tucked away in the background of a photo advertising accessories such as tiny jeans and high-top sneakers, like some depressing Easter Egg. We're forced to glimpse poor Courtney on the precipice of trauma with no way to warn her. They don't do this with other toy lines. There are no "September 10th, 2001 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," with "I <3 FDNY" branded nunchucks for Michalanglo to use. So, sorry, Courtney, about the fallout of the Challenger, Reganomics, and the AIDS crisis in your future ... but, you know, you also get Sonic the Hedgehog.
Top Image: Mattel