Off Topic Doll 4 – Get Real Girl

16 Oct

Get Real Doll NiniGet Real Girl Passport

Get Real Girl Nini


I don’t remember Get Real Girls at all – apparently they were released in about 2001, designed to provide a healthy, positive alternative to Barbie. Get Real Girls did sports and had adventures, the emphasis being on the play experience rather than how the doll looked. However, despite promising initial sales, they quickly flopped.

Get Real Girls are undoubtedly better toys than Barbies in one particular way – their bodies are well-produced, fully jointed and flexible, and I was surprised to find it was really easy to get Nini (last name: Simone, ha ha) to hang from a vine by one hand. As for the rest – well, its a nice idea, but … well …

From a parental point of view, Get Real Girls probably looked aces, which might explain that initial spike in sales. I know a lot of parents are worried about their daughter’s worship of the Plastic One – “Barbie” is another word for “Bimbo”, after all, and who wants this to rub off on their child? Yes, there’s a value judgement being made here, and although I like Barbie, I’m not about to leap to her defence. There has been much discussion and many books written about whether and how Barbie might damage girl children, and I have no strong feelings about whether they do or don’t and no time to do these arguments justice in this post, so I’m not going there. However, I do believe that usually, children will only take a cue – if that – from the clothes, packaging and advertising around a toy, and that play will develop in strange and unpRredictable ways from there in. Any toy manufacturer who attempts to direct the play experience too strongly is going to be disappointed. I am sure that there were many Get Real Girls who should have been hiking up mountains who ended up shopping and having a tea party, in the same way that there were – and are – many Barbies who explored the Jungle, or lived in a Commune with their friends, or camped out in the haunted woods, or went on quests.

The problem is, I suspect that a child might be able to smell all this worthiness a mile away. This makes Get Real Girls the toy equivalent of cabbage – its good for you, eat it up! Even the story (in the travel passport included with the doll) is a bit preachy and educational. For example, “he told me that every tribe has a different name for Mount Kilimanjaro. The Masai call it ‘Ngaje Ngai’, which means ‘the house of God’.” This might be an interesting fact, but I think that if I tried to drop it into conversation with the next eight year old girl I was to meet, I might be asking for the blank Stare of Death. In what way is Mount Kilimanjaro “real” to a young girl from America or the UK? Perhaps I am being unfair – there were also some sports dolls, and this is surely something that western girl children are able to relate to. But apparently they didn’t, or they didn’t want to.

My Scientist nephew came to visit today, and I was telling him about how my son had recently wanted a little girl doll with a basket of puppies that he saw in a shop. Nephew replied that his Scientist girlfriend has been reading about how there is no “inbuilt” gender preference when it comes to toys, its all about social conditioning – yes, there were some experiments which seemed to indicate that boy chimps preferred diggers and other “boy toys”, but apparently these were only conducted on a small scale and weren’t conclusive anyway, its just that the papers blew them out of all proportion. So really there’s no reason why girls shouldn’t choose active, sporty, muscly dollies – no reason, that is, other than risking the distain of other girls. In the photos above, Nini is actually dressed in her own shorts and a “Ken” shirt, which I put her in because it was a better fit on her muscly frame than Barbie clothes. There’s no denying that these dolls are well, a bit butch – let me just say that I don’t think there’s a single thing wrong with a little girl playing with a sporty doll, but if the little girl and her peers do, the battle is already lost. Little girls since the turn of the century have headed in the opposite direction, more and more of the market going to dolls who are caricatures of femininity, like Bratz and My Scene. Its funny – forty years ago, parents might have worried about giving their girl child a Get Real Girl, as they would have been seen as deeply inappropriate, too “boyish” – the word “lesbian” might have been thought of, if not actually said out loud. Now, she’s cabbage – do we worry about boy’s toys this way?

The last thing I wanted to say about Get Real Girls is this – I think she was doomed from the start just simply because she was never enough of a concept in her own right. She was a reaction against what was currently there – she might as well have been called “Get Real, Barbie – you Bimbo!” All Barbie really had to do was what the Queen does at difficult times – don a dignified smile and wait for it all to blow over.




12 Responses to “Off Topic Doll 4 – Get Real Girl”

  1. Maria October 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    Her grin bothers me…she looks like she wants to force you to join a cult. And lets face it, with her physique she probably could….;)

    As I have previously mentioned Ive moved more towards collecting Ellowyne Wilde dolls, and her backstory is that she suffers from depression, Ennui and sees a therapist on a regular basis. As an adult I find this somewhat gothic and windswept and beautiful and as these dolls are aimed at the adult market it is not a problem. But can you imagine ‘Emotional Barbie’?

    Hey Barbie! Wanna go to the party?

    Not especally thanks. Im just going to stay in and play my Morrissey records..

    • bat6660 October 17, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      I would actually buy a Morrissey doll if it came with its own bedroom, book and vinyl collection. I do actually have a Morrissey bobble head doll which gazes disparagingly from the living room bookshelf at Claire as she writes these blogs lol x

  2. barbielea October 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    “My Room Morrissey”, what a concept. I will make you one then perhaps bookshelf Morrissey will be appeased.

    Maria, thanks for commenting. I do think other doll manufacturers have it easier than Mattel, who can’t release dolls for the adult market without the media seizing it and gleefully misinterpreting … Ellowyne Wildes are very lovely and I look at pics of them all the time to try and glean painting techniques but I didn’t know about the back story, will look into it 🙂

  3. Maria October 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    A ‘Meat is Murder’ Barbie….loved by all the kids! Hey, the Gladioli would be lovely and pink in any case….;)

    I think you are right..Mattel is a victim of its own success…even with the Celeb dolls, the first whiff of scandal and they have to scrap them. Other doll makers can take the very best of what they have learned over time and then run with it.
    I find Ellowynes to be somewhere in the middle of Barbie and japanese BJD’s…the customisable thing is great (although with a ruthless Annie Lennox hair cut you CAN have a wigged Barbie!) and it is so much easier to sew for her, not to mention all the beautiful clothes of her own she has…but it really only is in the USA you have that adult collector thing. I mean just look at all the magazines they have there *puts on Kevin the Teenager pout* Its SO unfair….

    • bat6660 October 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

      I bought my 21 year old daughter a “meat is murder” T shirt dress. I must admit she looked like a very large barbie in it.

  4. barbielea October 18, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    Aha! I am informed that Scientist nephew may well be moving to America (to do great and worthy science things, bless him). Of course, I will miss him but the consolation will be a steady supply of cheaper dolls, I am hoping. Happy days (tho not for boyf, who is already concerned about where we would store these extra darlings).

    PS. I am liking the wigging thing I have seen other collectors do – where they use modelling clay to create a very short pixie cut on a bald Barbie’s head, then put wigs over this. Looks very effective

    • Maria October 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      I used to dress my daughter in X-Men tshirts and bought her action figures for birthdays…now she still wears x-men t-shirts and gets action figures…only now SHE pays for them…result eh?! Who says brainwashing doesnt work?!

      Im very lucky in that I have found another collector in the US to use as a shipping buddy and can have things sent to her…the only problem is the SLIGHTEST deviation on the customs form and whack…£40 the last one! And it is really like a ransom..if you dont pay you lose the item 😦

      Im not sure what size wig barbie wears…(4-5?) but if you find out there is usually a BJD of some description of the same size and you can pick up chinese wigs cheap..if you like the J-pop look (did you see my blue haired bladerunner-esq light blue wig? on my doll on my negelected blog.. That was about $5)

      For real range though, Check out Marcia’s for great wigs…a really nice lady too! Marcia will also tell you what size you need

      • Maria October 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

        PS…a non inflated balloon is also a great wig cap and not as bulky as clay…

  5. Emma Freed March 5, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    i like what you said about “directing play experience”…im writing a paper right now about that actually…i feel like dolls are becoming increasingly authored and there is very little room for kids to be creative with dolls such as Monster High. Whereas adults get to customize, its a lot harder for kids to make original character’s with Monster High, especially because of all the media associated with it like the web series and books…narrative play is being led by the marketing people at doll companies!

    • barbielea March 5, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Thanks Emma, this is an interesting point. When I wrote this article, I was thinking mostly about my own play experience. I was a child in the early eighties, when “tie-ins” were in their infancy, and I don’t recall ever using toys to play out a pre-set storyline – I wouldn’t have liked that at all. I can see how children now must have much more pressure on them to do this, which is maybe a bit stifling. I would really like to think that some children are rebelling against this process and only taking very loose points of reference from their toys’ backstory? I’m no expert, as I don’t work with children, I’ve only got a very basic grasp of child psychology and my own son is only three, so not doing much narrative play yet. I may look into it a little bit more, although I generally steer away from directly discussing morality issues these days because I often find myself getting tied up in knots, which are hard to work through in a couple of hundred words. For instance, I’m constantly having to resist editing this post – if I start, I’ll never get to do anything else and I’ll just bore everyone stupid in any event … Thanks for your interesting comment 🙂

  6. amystika18n November 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    When I was a kid, I wanted a Get Real Girl doll (I forget which one-maybe one of the athletes?) so that my Barbies could co-opt her accessories and go on adventures. In the end, I ended up not doing it-I think because several of them had creepy faces, like Nini here, and they freaked my mom out.

    • barbielea December 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      yes, I agree that she has a creepy face, but then again I’m not big on smiling dolls. They make my facial muscles ache in sympathy.

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