I’ve been discontinued.

To learn more about Ivy, you can go here: http://americangirl.wikia.com/wiki/Ivy_Ling

So, I signed this petition (I’ve been signing petitions lately.). This one is by 18 Million Rising because American Girl® doll cancelled their only Asian American doll. 18MR basically wants American Girl® to create another doll that looks like us.

Originally, I heard about this campaign through This Flooded Sky, and I thought, “Hey, this is actually important.” Here’s why…

Even though I grew up in ethnically diverse Hawaii, I ended up in ethnically-devoid Barstow California during my pre-teen and early teenage years. And the effects of not having anyone that looked like me in fashion and teeny-bop magazines subconsciously took its toll. I went so far as to have plastic surgery when I was only 16.

I wasn’t obsessed with my ethnicity so much as I think I was just trying to identify with beauty. I think before we find it in ourselves we look for it in the outside world. Like any good teenaged girl, I wanted to be seen as attractive, but when Wonder Bread is the standard, it feels like you aren’t worthy or good enough to be on a magazine cover or in mainstream media.

I want to say that these days representation of Asian Americans is better in the media, but looking through movie previews (or magazines) lately has made me realize – no, they aren’t better. We are horribly under-represented and while there are a multitude of theories as to why this is, it doesn’t change the fact that girls (and boys) need role models that look like them.

 

keanu is buddha
Oh Siddhartha…purrrrrr.

Not even Buddha could be portrayed as a full-blooded Asian in Hollywood. Buddha!! (Keanu Reeves plays Siddhārtha 1993’s Little Buddha) Hellooo!! Really?? Would it be such a large leap to have a leading Asian male for the role of Lord Buddha? Unfortunately, there are many Hollywood and Broadway examples of Asians being side-casted or neglected for a Caucasian or “whiter” actor.

Asian Americans get excited when other AAs end up on TV, movies and advertisements. My favorite X-Men in college was Psylocke, the only Asian superhero that a geek like me could get thrilled about. When I was a kid and Asian Barbie came out, I added her to my blonde Barbie collection. When I was buying magazines, I could tell you which model was half-Asian and then later, I found a magazine that exclusively featured Asian women (FACES, I believe it was called), and I was over the moon.

I’m not sure why, but I don’t think Asian Americans are considered Americans, yet. We are still foreign. American blacks are considered American and to their credit they have created their own magazines, TV channels, and award shows. Latinos probably experience more of a “Are they American or not?” bias, but they are clearly represented in mainstream media. Yet, Asian Americans struggle to be noticed and taken seriously.

I don’t believe the American public is not ready for us, that’s not the problem. I think the elites or the monies behind the media aren’t ready. When there isn’t a gate-keeper, we are indeed out there on YouTube and social media.

In Thailand (and other Asian countries like China and India), even though you see your own kind everywhere, the ideal beauty is white. I look at some of my students with naturally tan or darker skin and I hope to sexy Siddhārtha they don’t fall into the whitening cream and treatment trap. I’m waiting for a tan-skinned Thai movie or TV star to prove to Thais that tan is beautiful, too.

Keep pushing Asian America. There are little girls and little boys watching.

*update: American Girl has brought back an Asian doll, but without the historical storybook.

Hill tribe barbies at Maesai, Thailand, 2010
Hill tribe barbies at Maesai, Thailand, 2010

 

23 thoughts on “I’ve been discontinued.

  1. YES. This reminds me of a friend of mine from Texas, who just adopted a little girl from Ethiopia and ended up sobbing in the Target aisles b/c she couldn’t find any black baby dolls.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well put. I can totally relate as a fellow Asian-American. BTW, I really enjoy your blog! 🙂

    Like

  3. I agree so hard – I want to say Asian representation in American media is better, but it just isn’t. I can’t think of any Asian characters whose “Asian-ness” isn’t part of their characterization, if that makes sense. And even those aren’t that common. Haha, the Keanu Buddha is ridiculous. Did you ever see that kids movie Three Ninjas back in the day? There was a Japanese grandfather, with totally white children and grandchildren. They didn’t even bother to find ones with really dark hair. And I remember being so excited all three times I saw an Asian American model/celebrity in teen magazines when I was 14ish. And being depressed when all those “beauty tips” didn’t work for Asian eyes.

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    1. Oh, I know! I would get upset, too. I wanted eye-makeup tips for Asian eyes! Nowadays you can go online for such tips, but before the Internet, I remember even looking in bookstores and libraries for makeup ideas and tips. Coloring is also something I’ve had to figure out as I’ve grown up. Not all colors look the same on us!

      And no, I did not see “Three White Ninjas” 😉 In fact, I have still not seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” b/c of the horrible white-guy-wearing-Asian-makeup landlord portrayal that I saw a clip of. It was quite insulting.

      Thanks for the inspiration Marielle 🙂

      Like

  4. I was just thinking about this yesterday. Well sorta. My co-worker, a very pretty “local” lady, is often commenting on the lack of “brown” people in advertising or on TV. She is often offended by Caucasian people’s remarks about her skin or hair or whatever. And rightly so. But if it is suggested that she might like to go on a date with someone of color, her instant response is to say, “No. I like white guys.” I find this very odd and kind of sad.
    Is branding of “beauty” not only influencing what we think of as desirable in ourselves, but also what we find attractive in a potential mate? Most of my non-white girlfriends will only date white guys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure. It’s a timeless question. In Thailand, white guys are considered “sugar daddies” – hahahahaha to Thai women.

      For my mom and her friends, many of them came over with their new American husbands during the Vietnam war.

      In general, folks can be attracted to what’s different, but there is this underlying idea of what is attractive and what is not. That being said, I don’t think we can rule out what you’ve suggested. “White” it seems, is the worldwide standard of beauty.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. White people lie out in the sun or in tanning booths to darken their skin. Many Asians use whitening cream. Go figure.

    The most popular cosmetic surgery for women in East Asia is to make the epicanthal fold of the eye less prominent. The most popular cosmetic surgery for white women in America is the well known “nose job” that eliminates the bridge of the nose to make it flatter and wider — essentially, more Asian looking.

    We’re all nuts and want to look like someone else! Both races are beautiful. I have proof of that: my wife is Eurasian.

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  6. How long will it take America to accept all of its races? I hate that I’ve heard people ask Latinos or Asians where they’re from, and when they say Texas or California,or wherever, and the person says, “No, I mean, you’re not American. Where are you really from?” Sigh. Great post!

    Like

    1. Classic! I have a feeling our future selves will look back on this time and wonder for many reasons why we lacked progress and maturity.

      Like

  7. I just signed it. I was excited to someday by an American Girl doll for my daughter as she grows. She looks more Caucasian at the moment so I’m sure I could get her a brown haired doll. Growing up there weren’t many asian looking dolls. My parents did try and some were Japanese and others chinese. I’m a korean adoptee so I was still happy with those dolls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for signing! Yea! No, there weren’t many Asian looking dolls…I’m not sure if there is now! Nice to meet you 🙂

      Like

  8. What did you have plastic surgery for..? Yes, even among Asian beauties that are used for models, etc., they tend to look more white in the beauty scale in terms of skin colour, nose size/shape, eye shape, etc.

    Love those Thai Barbie dolls!

    Like

    1. I wrote about it in the link that I put in the post. But here is it again: http://wp.me/p3EQKe-E

      Short story though, I was young, felt pressured, it didn’t work, and eventually I had to get it removed – so I’m free of it!

      Like

    1. I know, right? Latinos and Asian Americans are two of the biggest growing markets, so you’d think they would tap into that. I remember seeing a map of what the US demographics would look like in the future. It pretty much confirms that Caucasians will become the minority in the US.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Are you serious that Ivy Ling was disappointed?! Urgh! When I was in elementary and middle school I was OBSESSED with American girl dolls! I love them. I never had one, but I love those dolls. I used to read the books and play the games on the website. They were so awesome! So when I heard about Ivy Ling like what a few years ago, I was so excited! I was disappointed that she wasn’t you know one of the main American girl dolls, but as a side character, but I realize you know it still counts. So now I’m sad to know that she’s been discontinued! URGH! Hey, at least we know that American girl considers us Americans, even though we have been discontinued..Hopefully she might come back again, or they will create a new character for us.

    I think Latinos are considered more Americans than us, because truth be told, they look more “Western” whereas Asians look different from the West as far as possible. I think that’s one reason.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very true. Latinos are much more likely to intergrate, but alot depends of you have a foreign accent or not. Latinos also have a longer history with America. At least, I think so.

      American Girls might bring back an Asian doll again. I believe I heard rumors. I’m not sure and would have to check..okay I checked, they have another one, but I don’t see the pictures, maybe it is coming soon 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Blah! I made a mistake 😛 I meant to say “discontinued” not disappointed lol. I don’t know about the Latinos having longer history. Hmmn. I wanna believe that they don’t..but I gotta do more research on that. 😛 I know that the first wave of Asians came because of the gold rush and that was the Chinese..But I heard the first Asians, Fillipinos first visited America was like before 1500.

    Oh really?! That’s cool I see. They better bring in a new Asian doll!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this post. Odd experience–when I was little the American Girl Company had just been created; back then you could only choose Kirsten the pioneer, Samantha the rich orphan, or Molly the WWII kid. Eventually they added two more dolls: Felicity and Addy. I wanted Addy–I didn’t care she didn’t look like me. I was more interested in her life than any other doll’s. Thankfully, my parents got me Addy for Christmas despite the “grave concerns” of my grandparents because owning a doll of color could lead to *gasp* dating a boy of color some day. Yeah. Seriously.
    Frankly I’m more peeved that American Girl has departed so far from the dolls of history–so much history to be learned from all the ethnicities who live here–and instead bank on whatever’s hot in the here and now.
    And I really dig your blog. Thanks so much for visiting mine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thanks. 🙂

      Yeah, I think the American Girl dolls really started off (I’m not sure about now) with such a wonderful idea. Combining history and imagination at a young age. I certainly loved my Sunfire series which were YA books about young women in historical settings. I learned a lot from them!

      Liked by 1 person

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