Something inside me paused when I saw the dolls of the Obama girls last week. It felt wrong.
The media's love affair with the Obamas climbed to its peak during inauguration week last week. Ty Inc. conveniently decided to debut their two newest members of the TyGirlz Line - "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia" - just as the new presidency kicked off with frenzy. The opportunistic naming of the dolls frivolously shifted the media's focus away from the difficulties facing the nation and our leaders at the moment and onto two completely innocent children.
Then, instead of simply acknowledging their marketing blunder, Ty Inc. ridiculously sidestepped their likely intentions behind the product and its launch date. Their lame response was that they thought their "names were pretty" and that the dolls were not meant to resemble the Obama girls. This is coming from a well established brand? (Ty Inc. also creates Beanie Babies). Not only do the dolls exhibit a direct physical resemblance to the Obama daughters, but the TyGirlz Line includes other dolls named after "celebrities": Paris, Lindsay and Britney included... of all the lists to be included on, how embarrassing.
But unlike these other TyGirlz, the Obamas did not thrust themselves into showbusiness or the public spotlight. They have not chosen their careers. They did not ask for the attention and shouldn't have to maintain an image provided without their, or their parents', approval.
For the most part, President and Mrs. Obama have kept the girls out of the media's reach, and a situation like this totally violates and exploits them. Ty Inc. pushed - in Mrs. Obama's words - two "young, private citizens" into a commercialized position of idolization. Not only does this diminish their ability to develop as individuals, but it also leads other young girls to an infatuation about two girls - ages 7 and 10 - who are still figuring it all out for themselves.
Overall, not only was Ty's launch and timing cheap, it was lazy. I wonder if they ever considered approaching the Obama's about doing a tasteful launch and tying it to a national cause or charity. Unfortunately, this requires more creativity than creating a public relations stir.
But Ty Inc. should be careful. Imagine if their brand became known for this type of exploitation. I'd bet parents would think twice about purchasing a doll created without the permission of its underage namesake.
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