I’ve written at some length about how American Girl’s story model is pretty inherently gay: take a girl from a given historical period, have her run up against the gendered conventions of the era, ???, profit. The line was always meant to run counter to hypersexualized dolls like Barbie and Bratz, and so the focus of all the stories is female friendship. It is a rare thing for an American Girl to even speak to a boy to whom she’s not related. And when this does happen, it’s probably because the boy was antagonizing the American Girl in question, and she had to put him in his place. See left, where Kit Kittredge is wasting some Young Republican because he insulted her impoverished family.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that all of the American Girl stories are inherently gay. Or, at the very least, relatable and safe for young, questioning lesbian and bi girls in a way that the vast majority of media isn’t. With that in mind, we’re ranking all of American Girl’s historical characters in order of inherent gayness. Let’s roll.
15. Caroline Abbott
I’ve always been unjustifiably salty about Caroline because American Girl used the real-life story of Laura Secord as the basis for one of her books. Like, why gank the heroism of a Canadian woman for an American Girl doll? Especially when the entire point of the War of 1812 was that Canada was trying to stomp the United States into the dust and burn down the White House?
But I digress. All silly historical revisionism aside, Caroline pretty plainly represents a weird and uncharacteristic attempt by American Girl to cash in on all the traditional trappings of toys for girls. She’s blue-eyed, blonde-haired, peachy pale, sporting a pink dress replete with ruffles and ribbons and florals. There is nothing gay about Caroline. She is heteronormativity embodied. And she didn’t last very long, either – introduced in 2012, retired by mid-2015 – which would indicate that American Girl does, in fact, belong to the gays. Next!
14. Maryellen Larkin
Okay, so I was initially going to write about how Maryellen seems to be pretty straight, representing as she does the halcyon, repressed days of the Eisenhower administration. But. BUT. I just trawled her American Girl Wiki page because I admittedly know nothing about the character and I found some incredible factoids:
- Her favorite TV shows include Davy Crockett and The Lone Ranger, and she dreams up episodes where she gets to be the hero.
- Maryellen is often considered “wild and tomboyish” by her sisters; some of her closest friends are boys and she’s always playing the same things they do.
- She’s also highly interested in science, especially rocket science and medicine (due to her having polio).
- Maryellen is open-minded and doesn’t judge people by appearances or align with popular sentiment. Examples include continuing to be best friends with a boy even after being told that girls “don’t do that.”
- While many of her friends looked down on Italians (due to Italy being aligned with Germany and Japan during WWII), Maryellen befriends an Italian girl.
I apologize, Maryellen, and I support you and your forbidden Italian girlfriend. Long may you watch cowboy movies and pursue rocket science.
13. Kirsten Larson
Boy, they really deep-sixed poor Kirsten, huh? Archived into oblivion in 2010 after being around since the very beginning. Tragic.
Kirsten gains major lesbian cred for the fact that she fell victim to Bury Your Gays in her very first book, when her new friend Marta died tragically before their pioneer families could even complete the journey from Sweden to Minnesota. You know how you could never get through a game of Oregon Trail without some poor pixelated sap dying of cholera? Marta was that poor pixelated sap.
Oh, and here’s an extra tragic little snippet from her AG Wiki page:
Marta’s family does not take the train to Chicago like the Larsons; her father says the train is loud and smoky, and that they might be afraid of them. Because of their separate routes, she is worried that she and Kirsten will never see each other again. Kirsten tells her to look at the sun when she’s lonely as they all see the same sun. Kirsten and Marta promise to look at the sun and pray for each other, and Marta promises to look for her everywhere.
12. Rebecca Rubin
Rebecca is a Russian Jewish immigrant who’s obsessed with Yiddish theatre and vaudeville shows and wears purple all the time. Like! It’s just not subtle. She’s going to be a Broadway diva or a silent film star at the height of the roaring twenties, surrounded by gays on all sides and basking in expressional freedom before the advent of the Hays Code.
Also, in the grand American Girl tradition of “never speaking to a boy unless it’s to drag him nearly to death,” here’s a little chunk of the synopsis of her first book:
Leo stared at Rebecca as she swept. She proudly told him she was helping with her Father’s store, but Leo sniffed that Rebecca was nothing but a street sweeper. Angry at Leo, she told him sweeping the sidewalk was very important and if he knew how to work hard, he wouldn’t have to wear the dunce cap at school. Leo’s cheeks turned red as he threatened to leave with his mother if Rebecca wasn’t polite. He then went into the store, slamming the door behind him.
Slay a bit, Rebecca.
11. Josefina Montoya
Josefina has a special place in my heart because Meet Josefina was the first American Girl book I ever read, and therefore a critical factor in propelling me down the road to a lifetime of queerness.
A lot of Josefina’s stories were about grief – her mom passes away sometime prior to the first book, and she’s still very young and learning how the world works and it’s hard and nobody understands. She copes by exploring nature (gay), protecting her rancho from thieving americanos (gay, and absurdly brave), and by playing matchmaker for her widowed father and orchestrating his second wedding, demonstrating a preternatural understanding of true love and commitment only accessible to the gayest minds. Also, her summer riding outfit is, like, one of the gayest things American Girl has ever produced.
10. Melody Ellison
Melody is the third black historical character ever introduced in the American Girl line, and her story revolves around the civil rights movement and the explosion of the Motown sound. I could talk about the invaluable contributions of gay people to the push for civil rights, or about how rock and roll was invented by a black bisexual woman, rendering both of Melody’s principal interests inherently gay. However, the key thing I want to focus on is this snippet from the summary of Melody’s movie:
Early on she and her family faced racial inequality in their hometown, whether being bullied at school by a white student named Donald along with his friends for her ethnicity, or being wrongfully accused of shoplifting at a clothing store where Melody’s mother works.
God damn, American Girl! Pulling zero punches, I see. The American Girl Wiki is not forthcoming about how, exactly, Melody deals with this white student named Donald, but if precedent is anything to go by – see Kit and Rebecca, above – I can only imagine the swift and decisive verbal takedown.
9. Nanea Mitchell
Nanea apparently won’t be released until this fall, but I’m including her anyway , for a couple of reasons. I mean, she’s adorable, and it’s super cool to see American Girl branching into broader representation by creating a Native Hawaiian character. Significantly, too, she comes wearing high-waisted shorts, and I think this is the first time ever that a doll’s intro outfit has included pants rather than a dress or a skirt. That in and of itself is cause for gay celebration, IMO. Here she is playing with a cute pup.
8. Marie-Grace Gardner and Cecile Rey
For a while in the mid-2000s, American Girl started selling best friend dolls – a Ruthie for Kit, an Elizabeth for Felicity, etc. But in 2011, they were like, “Hey, wild idea: what if we rolled out best friends at the same time? And marketed them as a pair? One in blue and one in pink? And tied their stories into one another, so you couldn’t have one without the other?” I mean, it was a blatant marketing ploy to sell two $115 dolls at once, but it was undeniably gay, and I’m very grateful.
7. Molly McIntire
In lieu of a description, please accept this slow cascade of Molly’s butchest looks.
6. Addy Walker
The second book in Addy’s series is about Addy starting school after she and her mother escape from slavery, right, and so Addy is making friends for the first time and enjoying her newfound freedom, and the literal first thing she does is get sucked into what’s essentially a love triangle between a rich girl named Harriet and a working-class seamstress’s daughter named Sarah. Harriet is kind of snobby and treats Addy pretty disrespectfully, so naturally, Addy one-ups her at the school spelling bee and then rides off into the sunset with her one true love, Sarah. A subsequent book, however, sees Addy reconciling with Harriet and putting on a puppet show, so really, Addy has two girlfriends, unprecedented in the American Girl canon.
EDIT: A crucial contribution from Tumblr user strewbi, who adds that Addy and Sarah actually got married in canon:
5. Julie Albright
She’s from San Francisco in the 70s and her hobbies include leveraging Title IX to play on the boys’ basketball team and mounting an environmentalist campaign to save the endangered golden eagles of the San Francisco area. Like, they weren’t even trying at this point. They were like, “How gay can we possibly make this character?” and then they just went for it. Short of writing a book called, “Julie Joins the Milk Campaign,” they couldn’t possibly have been more direct.
When I was a kid, the Flash games on the American Girl website were pretty much my sole source of entertainment, and there was this one where you played as Kaya trying to escape on horseback and get back to her family. And there were three levels of difficulty, right, and the highest level of difficulty was to escape with Kaya’s blind adopted sister Speaking Rain. And I played that game over and over and over, and I picked Speaking Rain every time, and now it’s like, okay, Peyton, so your eight-year-old ass was just really preoccupied with saving the pretty girl from mortal peril.
But anyway, like, Kaya spends approximately 99.9% of her time riding around on horseback or training to become a warrior or declaring confidently that she’s going to lead her people one day, not unlike adolescent Diana in the Wonder Woman movie. She’s basically a tiny badass in the very same mold.
3. Samantha Parkington
Samantha herself is pretty femme – kind of a counter to the relative butchness of fellow series originators Molly, Kirsten, and Felicity. Her whole entire story is about becoming best friends with this working-class Irish girl named Nellie, teaching her to read, and then liberating her entire family from the poorhouse. She’s also super envious of her scandalously modern suffragette Aunt Cornelia, who wears dusters and drives around in motorcars. She says that she wants to grow up to be a painter “like Mary Cassatt” or the first woman president of the United States. Like, there’s a lot going on here, and all of it points to Samantha and Nellie getting a domestic partnership in their senior years and then living in the countryside with some cats and a nice, spacious garden.
Also, I’m, like, dying slowly because of this excerpt from the summary of Nellie’s standalone book:
Samantha says she will see Nellie later, and Nellie says she will see Samantha at home.
Samantha skips towards her school and Nellie watches her go.
Samantha has noticed Nellie watching and without turning around, waves goodbye with a very fluttery arm that makes Nellie laugh aloud.
In short, Their In Love.
2. Felicity Merriman
I’m honestly just going to copy and paste the AG Wiki summary of Felicity here, because every word is a resonant confirmation of her lesbianism, and this article took longer to write than I thought it would, and I’m supposed to watch Aliens with Waverly in like, half an hour.
Felicity is a tomboyish, daring, adventurous, spunky, brave, and fiercely independent-minded girl. She is very active for a girl her age in her era and is annoyed at her lack of freedom as a young girl and the ladylike things and personality that is expected of her. Felicity believes in fighting for what she wants and can be quite stubborn and headstrong at times. When she wants something, she goes for it, quite often without thinking about it. She sometimes wavers between brave and foolish and sets her heart on things often. When Felicity is angry, she’s never afraid to speak her mind and stand up to bullies.
She is constantly fussed at for being not very ladylike. For the most part Felicity is a “tomboy” with a love for horses, nature, and the great outdoors. She is quite impatient—especially when it comes to things she finds dull and boring—and is often regarded as “flighty” and “thoughtless” by her mother and often chided for not finishing or tending to her domestic work properly. She shows disinterest for the most part in cooking, sewing, dance, and other then-feminine skills, though she does like working in her garden and playing her guitar. Sewing especially bores her and she is generally sloppy in her work.
1. Kit Kittredge
I truly think Kit Kittredge was the single most decisive factor in me growing up to be a bigender lesbian socialist writer. In many ways, I’m essentially just modeling my life after Kit Kittredge, and I can only hope to embody her tenacious gay spirit in everything I do. I’m going to try to persuade American Girl to let me write a book about Kit as a gay communist journalist working at the height of McCarthyism along with her gay communist girlfriend, Hollywood actress Ruthie Smithens. And if they don’t let me, I’ll just AO3 it. Watch this space.