Artist Captures Modern Girls Searching For Identity In The American Girl Doll Brand

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Even in age of social media, rampant sexualization, and makeup for tweens, American Girl dolls continue to capture the fancy of our modern girls. Nearly two decades later, the brand has become synonymous with American girlhood as every time I pass a little girl on the street, a Molly or Kirsten in hand, I see that that the company is still going strong. I’ll staunchly defend the American Girl doll cult based on my own personal love of Samantha as a girl. However, my experience predates the Mattel takeover as well as the “Just Like Me” series. While my family very much supported me exploring and understanding history through my beloved Samantha, “Just Like Me” seemed to promote a component of the line that they did not support: vanity.

Such has been the focus of photographer Ilona Szwarc, a Polish artist who was very taken with the American Girl doll trend upon arriving in the United States. In a series simply called “American Girls,” Szwarc captured girls with their doll-like twins in a thoughtful examination of girls and identity. She writes:

Each doll can be customized to look exactly like its owner, yet all of them look the same. American girl dolls offer the illusion of choice therefore an illusion of individuality…they play a crucial role for girls in a moment in which they are forming their identity.

The portraits distill a true symbiosis and tenderness as the girls clutch their American doll counterpart. Captured alone without the presence of adults, the images reveal contemporary girls looking for themselves in a brand — evidencing perhaps a very problematic reality for parents.