Good Riddance To a Bad Idea

Courtesy of The Black Snob, I learned that Ty’s controversial Sasha and Malia dolls are being pulled from the shelves. If you visit Ty’s website, the dolls show up at the bottom of the page with a big red stamp next to them that says “retired.”

About time if you ask me.

As someone with more than a passing interest in dolls and playthings for children of color, I was seriously disheartened by the cynical and exploitative move by Ty Inc. from the get-go.

In case you missed this story, here’s what went down. After releasing the dolls and upsetting the First Lady, Ty tried to deny the dolls were named after the Obama girls in the first place. This despite obvious in-store displays indicating otherwise. In response to the controversy, Ty put the dolls into retirement — no wait, the just went ahead and renamed them. Now instead of “Marvelous Malia” and “Sweet Sasha,” the Ty Girlz collection will include “Marvelous Mariah” and “Sweet Sydney.”

Cynics could argue that Ty got what they wanted out of this deal (headlines, attention, sales) and collectors are spending beaucoup bucks on these newly pulled-from-the-shelves collectors items. Game, set, Ty.

As the President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama have elected for a life as public figures, and that comes with commemorative coins, teeshirts, calendars, and collectibles. But their children haven’t. I love that two little black girls are living in the White House, but when cameras follow them to school or news anchors reveal what they have for lunch every day or what toys they’re playing with, it irks me. They’re America’s first family, but we need to fall back and let these kids be kids. I sincerely hope that they get that opportunity.

I liked the anecdote that Emily Bazelon of Slate revealed at the end of her Obama doll article:

I heard a reassuring story, third-hand, along these lines: Soon after Sasha showed up for school, the mother of one of the boys in her class couldn’t resist pumping her son for details. What was the president’s daughter like? His answer went something like, “I don’t know. She’s a girl. I don’t talk to girls.” That’s the best news I’ve heard yet about Barack Obama’s girls since they moved to the White House.”

That’s how it should be at school. These kids shouldn’t be regarded as little celebs, they need to live life and make friends just like regular kids do.

Like the rest of the world, I’m absolutely fascinated by Sasha and Malia and their dog and their clothes and their seemingly magical lives. I can’t wait to watch them grow up before my eyes. But they aren’t our little dolls. They’re not little commodities. They’re real children. Lord have mercy, I just imagine how I might have acted at that age, in their position. It wouldn’t have been pretty, or doll-like, or befitting of my father’s new job.

Real kids get cranky and tired, they might act bratty or misbehave, and they need the caring attention and guiding hands of their parents, not the burning eyes of a curious nation, or the grasping hands of companies seeking to exploit their image.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

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Comments

  1. I think they deserve to be left alone. They won’t be able to make a lot of the mistakes that we make/made and move on because the world will talk about it.
    I hope President and Mrs. Obama can protect them at least as much as President and Mrs. Clinton protected Chelsea Clinton. We rarely saw or heard of her.( except in the beginning when she was trying to learn how to work with her curls, after than rudeness Mrs. Clinton put a stop to it.)
    We can do our part by not clicking on, a story about them or buying magazines that focus on them. If people see money on quasi stalking the girls they won’t be left alone, but if we act as if we don’t care, and they won’t make money off of them, people won’t try to make money off of them.
    That will be hard because I like seeing little girls in the white house that look like they could be my cousin or maybe daughter. The cornrows on the campaign trail made me smile.

  2. The media and companies need to respect the privacy of peoples children. I wouldn’t want my children to have a doll specifically made for them if I was First Lady either. Somethings are just hands off.

  3. Sincerely says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is so far as the company renamed the doll so that it wasn’t related to Sasha and Malia.

    My only criticism is the fact that they didn’t get permission from President BO and Michelle, and as parents Pres BO and Michelle want to protect their daughters.

    But the dolls are soo cute, I want one and I’m a young adult.

  4. I totally agree. Too much exposure too soon can ruin a child and her childhood. I hope people respect that family and not go hunting after those babies with cameras all day.

  5. I’m happy that there are no longer selling. The company was very negligent IMO.

  6. I get really worried for Malia and Sasha and the pressure that will come with being the “President’s daughter.” Fortunately, they have such a strong mother and extended family that I’m sure they’ll be fine. Yet I do wonder what it will be like to have the majority of their formative years in the spotlight, so-to-speak. I guess since it will be all that they have known, it may not be too bad. I’m just going to keep thme in prayer.

  7. Ty should have just asked for permission . . . who were they trying to fool? lol.

    I desperately want for the girls to be able to just be girls not little “celebutantes.” The further out of the limelight, the better IMO. You’re right, Afrobella, they are not commodities and I hope people remember that!

  8. I recently heard someone say that the Obamas are putting their daughters in the spotlight. I completely disagree. I think what the Obamas are promoting and spotlighting is family.

    With that said, Ty was out of line. While they can step away safely with the likeness, it was obvious that the company wanted to capitalize on President Obama’s daughters.

    Ty was wrong, even it trying to justify by changing the names. Too little, too late.

  9. They should be left alone as far as possible given their position (which means they won’t be left totally alone), but I think the Obamas, like the Clintons and the Carters, will make sure of that, as evidenced by Michelle’s quick response to Ty’s very ill-advised move. We’ll still get glimpses, I think, but there certainly does not need to be intense or even steady coverage of those little girls.

    I love what that little boy said.

  10. Shanessence says:

    Word, Bella. This hearkens up the history of the commodification of blackness, and the dolls don’t even look like them in the first place. Double strike-out, Ty.

  11. Wow. This literally just made my mouth drop open. What were the producers thinking?

    I will take Angela over Renee anyday, but more importantly, with a genre as stale as romantic comedy, why not try to shake things up?

  12. I think that the fact that they tried to profit off of Malia and Sasha can be historically linked to the exploitation of black womens’ bodies and images. Its nothing sexual but its the fact that they did not ask for consent and ASSUMED control of their images. I have not seen this done to other very public figures’ children. Just my opinion.

  13. Before Mrs Obama took offense, I was looking EVERYWHERE for those dolls! LOL! I think they are adorable.

    I used to collect Beanie Babies. Now that they have retired the Sasha and Malia dolls, they are going to be worth money some day.

  14. Eyehavenaps says:

    I don’t really see what the big deal is over these dolls. They are super cute dolls and I was hoping to find some for my niece and younger female cousins. The Obama girls are extraordinarily poised and beautiful young children who are amazing roll models for any child regardless of race or sex! I would much prefer seeing girls playing with these dolls rather than a sexed up Barbie!

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