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Hey guys, welcome back to my channel! And you probably clicked this video because you remember the American Girl dolls too. Now, before I go into the movies or into the movie that I’ll be talking about today I want to talk about the history of the American Girl dolls for those of you who don’t know what they are. So the American Girl dolls was a franchise that started in the late 1980s by Pleasant Rowland because she wanted to get more girls into history and she thought dolls would be the best way to do this. And the three dolls that she originally created were Samantha, from the 1900s and the turn of the century Kirstin, from the onward expansion westward And the last one I believe was Molly from WWII. And these three girls kind of started the franchise. And each girl would come with period clothing as well as a series of books. And in each book at the end there would be like some historical facts and like real life history that related to the girl’s story because these were clearly historical fiction texts. And later the brand would go on to include Felicity, who’s story takes place during the American Revolution and Kit who’s story took place during the Great Depression And the line up later on as the American Girl dolls became more popular started to receive backlash especially because they were mainly white. There was Addy who was a runaway slave but she was the only dark skinned black girl. There was Josefina who was living in New Mexico under Mexican rule before it became a U.S. state. And then there was Kaya who came out in 2002 and who was a Nez Perce girl from the Nez Perce tribe and she was a Native American. So, you know, they had like 3 token girls of color for a really long time. And they would later come out with Ivy Ling who was Chinese American And actually now they have Melody, who is a dark skinned African girl living in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement. So they are trying to expand their brand. They actually even now include boy dolls. So you can buy a boy doll now. So, you know I think that American Girl even though they were criticized very heavily in the beginning and I totally get that and agree with that They have like, changed since I knew them from like the early 2000s, they have grown a lot to become more progressive And also um, they champion their line where you can now create dolls that look like you. They had this like a long time ago but I think now like the range of skin colors and eye shapes and hair textures are more diverse than they were like say like 15 years ago. So I think that American Girl gets a lot of hate but they are listening and they are trying. Now that we got that out of the way let’s talk about my relationship with the American Girl dolls. So growing up I had literally almost all of them. I had at least seven or six I had Samantha, I had Felicity, I had Kaya, I had Nellie who was Samantha’s friend And actually they made a whole line of friend dolls. I had RUTHIE* who was Kit’s friend and I also had Ivy who was Julie’s friend. Ivy was the Asian American doll that came out in the mid 00s. Having Ivy and having her story, I think it’s Good Luck, Ivy, it was like really awesome to see and to read and it like made me feel seen. So that was really cool. I was like a huge American Girl fan. So when the movie came out, the first movie, which was Samantha, I’m pretty surein 2004 I was like so hyped for this movie. It wasn’t in theaters, it only aired on TV and it was a family event in my household. And after I watched it I was like, this is awesome! It really sparked my interest in historical fiction, historical dramas, and that’s why I’m here to talk to you about the American Girl doll movies they shaped my childhood and I know they shaped yours So I’m gonna be going through each one of the AG (American Girl) movies Originally there were four – Samantha, Felicity, Molly, and Kit and Kit’s movie was the only one to actually premiere in theaters. However, since then they have an American Girl doll series on Amazon Prime I saw the two trailers. One for Melody’s story which looks really good and one for Ivy’s story Which also looks like “eh” I’m really critical of Asian American representation so I probably won’t like Ivy’s movie. Obviously, the AG movies tend to sanitize history and I totally agree with that. There aer some like really stupid parts of these movies but at the same time I think that they’re very mature. They teach really good lessons to young girls who need good role models. Alot of the traits from girl to girl are kind of the same. They’re creative, fiesty, ahead of their time But what really defines the girls and differentiates them is their time period even though they kind of all have a similar personality – curious, they get in trouble They’re a little bit of a tomboy, but also can embrace their feminine side. I think that’s a really good lesson that the movies show and that we’re gonna see Is that women in the past had to be traditionally feminine and you’d think that all of the AG would be like total tomboys saying that girly stuff is wrong and that you have to be masculine to get ahead The AG dolls and the books and the movies show that you can be both. That gender is fluid. That you can be a bit of a tomboy, a bit reckless, but also learn to play the piano and be good at school and traditionally feminine. So that’s what I like about the AG doll movies and the franchise in general I know it gets a lot of hate but I think they are changing. So without furthur ado let’s go into the first ever American Girl doll movie – Samantha. Alright, so – Samantha Samantha was one of the original American Girl dolls that Pleasant Rowland created so it only makes sense that Samantha is the first AG dolls to get a movie I think this was also because she’s rich and white and that appeals to more people, I guess? So, she’s the first one to get a movie Samantha takes place in 1904 She’s growing up on the Hudson in Mount Bedford, New York And this was when white women were fighting for the right to vote and when social norms were changing. Women wanted to work, women wanted to get out of the home, and this was mainly wealthy white women – let’s keep that in mind women who didn’t have things to lose So 1904 rolls around And Samantha is growing up in this “Gilded Age” and it was called the “Gilded Age” because everything looked nice on the outside but it was only because people were suffering at the bottom. So Samantha is in the top 1% living in the countryside where as people in factories were working 12 hours or more a day Child labor was very prevelant mainly orphans were the ones working in factories Children had no rights at this time and women had no rights at this time. So it looks like everything’s perfect on the outside, Samantha’s pristine life living in a mansion in the countryside where kids her age are slaving away in NYC and also in other mansions throughout her community So the lesson that Samantha learns by the end of the film is that factories are bad. And that America is not really progressing the way that it says that it is. This seems like a very obvious thing now, but when you’re a 9 year old kid and realize “Oh, so America’s not the great and wonderful place I thought it was?” It’s like a big shock when you’re 9 years old I was really grateful that it did this but of course the people at the top like Samantha’s family never look into themselves and look at their choices and realize that they’re reaping the benefits of child labor But they do organize like charity drives for the orphanage and they try to give them clothes, food, so I guess they’re trying to make up for it that way So we already talked about Samantha Now let’s get into the part where she meets Nellie Nellie is the girl that kind of helps her realize her own privilege because she’s the exact same age as Samantha except she’s illiterate she’s never been to school she’s worked most of her life her mother died, she came all the way from Ireland to be a house servant and a child laborer in the U.S. with her and her two sisters and her dad So they kind of create this bond that transcends class of course Samantha teaches Nellie how to read Nellie kind of teaches Samantha street smarts They actually bond very nicely over the fact that they both have dead parents. Samantha is actually being raised by her grandmother They bond over the fact that they’re forgetting what their parents even looked like Because Nellie has her dad but she’s lost her mom and Samantha was also very close to her mom and these two girls bond over the fact that they both lost their mother and that they can’t remember what she looks like or sounds like and that is like reall sad, right? I really thought that the movie did a really good job at doing that. There are some things that the movie doesn’t do well or cannot do well because it’s for kids So there’s one part where race is finally involved because a lot of these AG movies You’ll see are mainly about class about the rich and the poor and the have and the have nots but race is very rarely delved into But in Samantha there is one part where after meeting Nellie and Samantha getting to know her and her life story she’s curious about their black house servant Yes Miss? How old were you when you started to work as a maid? Would you like anything else ma’am? No thank you Jessie, that would be all. Samantha, we do not discuss personal matters with the servants. But in the kitchen- This is not the kitchen. The secret to a happy household is for everyone to know their place I don’t know how realistic this is or if it should have been harsher But I think this is an obviously sugar coated message for kids to realize that and for Samantha to realize that We cannot see these people of color as people because then they’re gonna start getting ideas then they’ll start collectivizing and wanting rights I think even though it’s sugar coated I’m glad that they at least kind of addressed it They also address feminism later because Aunt Cornelia, Samantha’ s new aunt wants to fight for the right to vote. And Grandmary who’s kind of the old school more conservative woman And Aunt Cornelia who’s kind of like the “hip” woman kind of clash heads because Grandmary doesn’t think that women should have the right to vote I don’t really understand why women need to vote women of my generation found plenty of ways to influence the course of events without having to stand on a soap box And there’s actually another scene where Aunt Cornelia is having a meeting with the other suffragettes and one of them confronts Samantha about the right to vote Are you anxious to vote one day? I’m not sure…no. Then you won’t have to. Isn’t that right Mrs. Vandergelt? Oh quite. It’s the righ the vote we’re fighting for not the requirement. And I think that was like really well said. I wanna talk about how adult and mature the movie is. Usually in kids movies you have adults that are kind of pushed to the side and like dubmed down. But the adults in the AG movies are are like so mature Which is like weird to say because they’re adults But they really are like they teach valuable lessons they communicate You’ll see that in most AG movies the family dynamic is like key to the movie and usually the families are really close knit And even when they’re not they’re able to communicate and overcome hurdles So one example in the Samantha movie is when Samantha’s Uncle Guard comes And Uncle Guard is Samantha’s mother’s brother And that is like Samantha’s only like father figure or guardian figure that she kind of sees her mother in Of course she has her grandmother but her grandmother doesn’t like talking about Samantha’s parents So Samantha only feels as though she can confide in Uncle Guard. And so they have this talk where Samantha admits to Uncle Guard that she misses her parents and they bond But then Uncle Guard kind of drops this zinger that he’s getting married and that he’s going to move to NYC with Cornelia And Samantha is really torn up about this and they actually have a talk about why Samantha doesn’t like Aunt Cornelia and that’s because she feels jealous and that’s totally normal Uncle Guard tells her that just because there’s this new person here doesn’t mean we can’t still be a family That’s just another great part about these movies is that there’s actually communication invovled The other thing I wanna talk about is that the kids’ writing is pretty realistic or at least the way the kids acts There’s a part in act 3 where Samantha again feels resentful of her new aunt and Uncle Guard because she feels like a burden to them. You don’t even want me here. Because she’s not their kid she’s just their niece she doesn’t feel as if they’re her parents and that they should be taking care of her and she bottles this inside for like a really long time until it finally comes out and I really like that part because kids tend to harbor things inside So they kind of show in the movie the communication aspect but also how hard it is sometimes to communicate your feelings. Now I wanna talk about the third act which is about Samantha’s school speech. So, in the third act the kids in Samantha’s new school have to write a speech about what makes America great Samantha wants to write about factories and how they’ve helped people presumably I guess they manufacture things faster and they’re obviously good for the consumer So she wants to write about this but during this time Nellie’s father dies the family doesn’t want to keep Nellie anymore, the family that was using them So her and her sisters have to be sent to an orphanage and at the orphanage they are treated extremely poorly because there were no regulations at that time for orphanages and for children’s rights Samantha helps them escape the orphanage and harbors them at her Aunt and Uncle’s in NYC where Samantha’s also living While Nellie’s there she realizes that she needs to work to make money. Nellie goes to work at a factory, but one day one of Nellie’s sister’s is sick So Samantha goes to the factory and here she sees how horrible they are and decides to write a new school speech which is about the horrors of factory life And before she gives the speech at the end her Uncle and Aunt find out that Samantha is harboring Nellie and her sisters at their house And they need to find some way to deal with this. But then Samantha’s speech comes up and here is where she says and exposes the truth Last week I went to a factory. And what I saw was nothing like what I had been told there were chidlren younger than I am working from early morning until after dark and I find this to be kind of funny because Aunt Cornelia the woke hip aunt is surprised that the factories are using child labor she’s supposed to be like informed, she’s supposed to an activist She’s been living in NYC and she hasn’t realized that chld labor is a thing?! Then later on Nellie confesses To Uncle Guard and Aunt Cornelia that the orphanage was going to send Nellie on the orphan train without her sisters And Aunt Cornelia stupidly says tHeY’rE nOt SuPpOsEd To SePaRaTe fAmILiEs. You really think people are abiding the law?! That’s like one of those stupid moments in these movies Where like really? You didn’t know what was going on right under your nose?! And in the ed of the movie after the speech Aunt Cornelia and Uncle Guard decide to adopt Nellie and her sisters and also Samantha so they’re gonna be one big happy family There is one funny part at the very end after the speech where Samantha is trying to persuade Uncle Guard and Aunt Cornelia to adopt or to indenture Nellie and her sisters After all, it is a very large house for one person to keep. And how many more maids do we need? Three. You just gave a speech condemning child labor but you’re trying to convince your aunt and uncle to hire and indenture these three young girls So that’s the end of the movie everything ends happily ever after The production value of the movie is surprisingly very high for just a straight to TV movie The costumes and sets are believable The acting for the most part is pretty good It looks like they shot everything on location, at least the scenes in Mount Bedford on the Hudson They looked very real The houses looked like they were really there This was only made in 2004 so I’m sure they did shoot on location so that’s amazing I also really like the special effects like with the stereopticon Where we get to see some big world events like the St. Louis World Fair The Flat Iron building being built The first subways in NYC being built Really great history that I can just eat up for days As for the acting – let’s get into the acting Samantha is played by Anna Sophia Robb who you might now from Bridge to Terabithia Honestly she was a really good choice. I wanna say that the casting for most of the AG movies is really spot on. She’s a kid obviously so she’s able to portray innocence in a really good way but she also sounds very authoritative when she has to be So she’s a really good choice. As for Kelsey Lewis as Nellie… Her delivery is not good. She’s a kid – I’m not here to bully her but there are some lines that are just cringey Especially this one I knew better, I did. Even as a kid I like she’s not a good actor It’s kind of hard to watch her and I feel bad for her. She’s just not able to put any emotion into her lines. If the director just kind of pushed her more or did another take. We have one character who is the millennial bully in Samantha’s school after she moves to NYC And it is painful to watch because it just takes you out of the film Because she’s talking like 00s kid What’s the basket for? It’s for coats. Coats go in the coat closet. These are for old coats that you don’t want anymore. Why do you want our old coats? It’s for an orphanage. They need all kinds of things like hats and gloves and anything warm really. They’re stuck there and we need to help them. Maybe you do. Even though the other girls, like Nellie’s and Samantha’s characters do talk in a modern way It’s never so jarring as to take you out of the film But the millennial bully is kind of annoying. So that’s it, that’s the Samantha movie I hope you enjoyed my take on it It’s a really good movie. If you wanna learn about American history during the turn of the century I highly suggest it. If you have kids definitley show them this movie. I think it still holds up today, so give it a watch! Next week I will be reviewing Felicity! So keep a look out for that one! Alright, I’ll see you guys in the next one, bye 🙂

James Carver

3 Replies to “Do you remember the American Girl Movies? Samantha: An American Girl Holiday (2004) | Cheyenne Lin”

  1. I think I've seen those dolls at a few toy stores, here in Fortaleza. They are so beautiful and full of details! The design is very classic and unique. My wife and I collect toys, as a hobby, and we almost bought one, but they were so expensive! ^^' I didn't know they were so popular in USA, with books and films about them. It's great that they made nice movies about the dolls. (Most movies about toy lines are not that good…). I think my niece would like the American Girls movies. I'm gonna look for a dubbed version to show her.
    Another great video review! Keep it up! 🙂

  2. So glad I found your video. Samantha will always be my favorite AG movie because it was the first one I saw. I also had a Samantha doll growing up. I love all the other historical fiction doll movies but I think Samantha will always be my favorite. I would love to see AG finish the historical doll movies. I’d love a movie Kirsten, Kaya, Addy, and Josefina. Maybe one day 😊

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