I am sitting here, minding my own business, working on an extended article on the concerted attacks on fatherhood when an news item pops into my box -- highlighting my thesis in the most bizarro way: American Girl has come out with a new item. Meet Gwen, the homeless doll. A reporter from the Post does the honours:
I'd heard about this doll from a friend, and walked into the American Girl store in Midtown to investigate. I found not a store, but a cult.
I asked to see Gwen, and the saleswoman persisted in referring to the inanimate object as "she."
"She's right over here," she said, pointing me to the "limited edition" doll, identical to all other American Girl dolls except for eye, hair and skin color. And still, your kid will bug you to collect them all.
But what is Mattel subtly selling along with its outrageously expensive progeny?
It seems obscene that a company that prides itself on teaching impressionable children about history and grooming -- you can have your doll's hair done for $20! -- should engage in political preaching. What message is being sent with Gwen?
For starters, men are bad. Fathers abandon women without cause. She's also telling me that women are helpless. And that children in this great country, where dolls sell for nearly 100 bucks a pop, are allowed to sleep in motor vehicles. But mothers don't lose custody over this injustice. Because, you see, they are victims, too.
Back to the project at hand. When I nailed the thesis months ago and set about structuring this piece, I knew that if I were correct that everything would fit the paradigm. But I didn't envision the details. $95 to Madison Avenue to feel better about homelessness -- and a kick in the shins to men as icing on the cake.