Gives ’round eyes’ new meaning

How is race portrayed and exemplified in popular culture? We see the odd example of the anthropomorphic Chinese bulldog from the Arthur television program. The aspects of “Chineseness” seem to be played out most visibly in the black hair and in the name of the character, “Mei Lin.”

Now the American Girl company has come out with an Asian doll. Of course, the Asian doll is the sidekick to the starring player, who is a white blonde.

Now Asians can also have the privilege of paying more than $100 for a buck-toothed hunk of plastic and the ability to buy into consumer culture. (Although about two years ago I was taken aback to see an American Girl Store ad at the airport, featuring an Asian American little girl and her mom with a white doll. But hopefully they owned the white and not the other way around.)

How does Ivy Ling’s ethnicity play out in terms of her appearance and her accessories?


Why, she comes with her own brocade outfit, string of firecrackers and a gong! Because every time an Asian person enters stage left, a gong sounds! Goooooong!

But poor little Ivy Ling, the second banana (banana–get it?), otherwise has little to distinguish her from her white friend. Note white-girl Julie on the left and Ivy on the right.

julie.jpg ivy.jpg

Julie has eyebrows. We’re not able to tell if Ivy has eyebrow under those bangs. And Julie’s eyes almost seem like a caricature of the “round-eye” stereotype–they very nearly do appear to be round, with a slight crease above. Note that Ivy’s eyes have a distinct little point on each outer edge, as well as being less round. Ivy also has a lower nose bridge.

I was all set to be offended by her buck teeth, but then I noticed all the American Girl dolls have orthodontic problems. But don’t Ivy’s teeth seem just a teeny bit more protruding?

Ivy comes in casual wear (not brocades, although those are her only clothing option) and carries a Chinese coin.

My two yuan?  Another Asian visible only within the sight of a white person.

One thought on “Gives ’round eyes’ new meaning

  1. To be fair, last year’s Doll of the Year was hapa, and had her own story and stuff.

    American Girl is not exactly known for supporting their more “diverse” dolls well, though. They constantly cut the accessories for the non-white dolls while pushing Samantha, Kit and Felicity like there’s no tomorrow.

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