Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hearts 4 Hearts Dolls "Shola" and "Mosi" by Playmates Toys--A Guest Review!

I am excited to present another special review!  This time, my guest writer is Nethilia from the American Girl Outsider blog.  I love Nethilia's writing style and eye for detail.  Her educated, sensitive insights into other cultures are perfectly suited to reviewing these two gorgeous new Hearts 4 Hearts dolls.  Over to you, Neth!

Hey y'all--I'm Nethilia (Neth for short). I've been into dolls, toys, ponies and the like since I was a child. I'm the head administrator and founder of the American Girl Wiki and recently started blogging about the dolls (and fandom around them) at American Girl Outsider. While the main doll focus on my blog is American Girl, I personally collect and display all kinds of dolls and toys ranging from easily found shelf play dolls to limited edition resin ball jointed dolls. 

I tend to focus my collection on dolls of color because, as a woman of color, I feel it's very important to see other cultures properly respected and reflected in dolls--not just for the sake of people's exposure to other cultures outside their own, but so that children worldwide can see themselves reflected in their media (you have no idea how much it meant when The Princess and the Frog came out and a Disney Princess finally looked like me). I feel it's very important that even the smallest things and influences try to accurately reflect the diversity of the world--and that dolls of color aren't just, as I've heard it said, "re-dipped Barbie dolls" with the only sign of diversity being the color of the plastic/resin/vinyl/etc.  So, it makes sense that one of the lines that has really caught my interest is the Hearts 4 Hearts dolls. I fell in love with them soon after the initial release: first getting Nahji and then later adding Lauryce and Rahel to my lineup. When Mosi and Shola were announced at Toy Fair, I knew I was going to get my hands on them the moment they were available:

Hearts 4 Hearts "Mosi" and "Shola."
There are very few Native dolls I've seen other than Kaya'atonmy from American Girl and Rose from the Magic Attic series. Shola is the first time I've ever seen an Muslima/Afghani doll in a widespread line. As a person who tries to learn accurately about all cultures, the fact that these two characters were coming out lifted my spirits. I hoped that they would come with truthful educational opportunities.

I was quick on the draw and got both of them right after release from Amazon for $24.99 each before they sold out the first time with free shipping and no tax. (Don't pay inflated prices; just wait for them to come back in stock.) According to the official site, every purchase donates a dollar of the price to programs that support children in that doll's region--4% of what I paid. Specifically, the line is partnered with World Vision.  I would have been more comfortable with my donation if Playmates had, as Karito Kids did, let me pick my own cause.

My review will not only go into the dolls themselves but a few cultural notes. I'm neither Native (bar distant enough Native blood as to be insignificant) nor Muslima--just a black woman who grew up in the South. I don't presume to know everything. So take what I have to say with the knowledge that I am not a firsthand source and I always encourage people to look up data for themselves--thanks to the Internet, we all have information at our fingertips. I've tried to be as respectful and knowledgeable as I can be within my limits.

In the boxes.
The boxes are fairly uniform along the line; the fronts are solid covers with an image of the doll's face close up. The covers, in this case, have the shots from the prototypes that were shown at the Toy Fair and are shown in almost all the marketing.

Mosi comes in a box where looking inside shows her and what she comes with. She's got a comb, bracelet, and booklet along with her. Right away, by just looking at her feather, I could tell that the prototypes weren't the same as the mass produced dolls. This was foreboding. While dolls tend to dramatically change from initial design, the first thing I felt was that a lot of fine details were lost. However, the dress appeared nice enough and the earrings drew me in. Mosi, by the way, is a Navajo name meaning "cat." Mosi was originally planned to focus as Navajo. Unfortunately, the company removed a lot of the details of her tribe to make her "universally Native." I have a lot of issues with that.

Mosi inside the box.
Shola came the same way--doll, comb, bracelet, booklet. She also looks different from her prototype in glaring ways, especially with regards to her clothing and mode of dress. However, I was very glad to see that she had kept her headscarf.  Shola is an authentic Muslim name meaning "flame" or "blaze." I was glad to know that the name picked was accurate to the character; it's often the case that some companies pick very narrow names that are inaccurate, generic, or stereotypical. Since Shola is from Afghanistan, it's highly likely that she is Pashtun.

Shola inside the box.
Many Muslima cover their hair from a young age for both spiritual and cultural reasons. I'm not Muslima, so I can't assume more than what I've learned from knowing others and my personal observance living in an area that has a significant Muslim population.

Unfortunately, I didn't get many good pictures of the boxes' interior flaps or backs and sides. I tend to be a box tosser and rip my dolls out of the packaging as fast as possible. So by the time I was ready to take the pictures of these two for my review I'd already thoughtlessly sent the boxes to the trash. Que sera, sera. Much like the others, the external flap briefly tells the story of each girl.

The boxes were easily opened--I slit open the tape with one of my deboxing knives and slid them out. (I'm not sure what it says of me as a collector that I have small handheld daggers solely for box opening.) I then slid the two out of their boxes, which just left lifting them out.

Box freedom!
The plastic holding the dolls and their accessories is wholly separate from the cardboard backing, so I went ahead and lifted them out. This allowed me to take pictures of the backs of the boxes, which I was glad to see showed their locations in the world.

Kabul, Afghanistan.
Shola's is from Kabul, Afghanistan: this is both the capital of Afghanistan and the largest city.

New Mexico, USA.
Mosi is from New Mexico. A quick search online shows that the Navajo Nation spans over northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. Accuracy! I quickly popped and slid off cords, bands, and papers without even looking away from the show I was watching. Twenty-odd years of opening doll packages have made me a near expert at this.

I've decided to focus on Shola first, followed by Mosi; this way, they can stand as individuals.

Shola and all her accessories.
Shola comes with a bracelet, comb, and booklet telling her story. She is dressed in a sheer pink headscarf, a high waist blue cotton calf length dress, purple plastic ballet flats, three rubber bracelets, and simple white panties. Note that as soon as I got her out of the box, I pulled her headscarf down to cover most of her hair, much like the prototype. While most headscarves cover the ears and all of the hair, there is a bit of lax allowed in younger girls that allows visible ears and hair.

I've got to say, the doll doesn't quite live up to the prototype.

The Shola that could have been.
Side by side:


The prototype shows a very elegant long blue dress with very neat trim at the sleeves and bottom hem, high soft purple boots, corded bracelets, and a softer, more opaque headscarf that is trimmed with lavender lace. I'm rather annoyed that Shola's outfit is not even a quarter as beautiful as the outfit that was shown--doubly so because the prototype picture is what's seen on all the packaging and in almost every image of her. The actual doll just doesn't make the grade that the picture offers, and it feels like her clothing was downgraded for mass production.

Disc.
There's also a paper disc with Shola's name on it. Shola doesn't come with an online code like prior characters.  Instead, she comes with a fact about Kabul: it is over 3000 years old. I actually prefer this to the previous online codes, as I'm generally not a fan of signing up for sites for my dolls and almost never use codes to unlock anything so the code is a waste of paper. Facts, however, are always useful.
There's a URL for the Playmates website. They have a shop there. I find it rather encouraging to find items for purchase on the official sites sometimes, though I don't always buy from them.

Facts!
The bracelet is on a black cord with pink and black heart charms. I didn't try it on; there are things I as an adult collector don't try to do.

Shola's bracelet.
The comb she comes with is pink plastic with an alleged ponytail holder. I never, ever use plastic combs or brushes on doll hair as it will wreck it horribly. Human hair can recover from plastic if it breaks, but doll hair can't. I instead use wire wig brushes such as the ones American Girl sells, and replace them when they break from use. Any wire wig brush will do. I also use mild braid sheen spray or spray in leave in conditioners, which helps keep synthetic hair soft and silky. Into the storage box, unusable comb.

Comb.  Boo on it.
The booklet that comes with Shola is small and retells the story given on the internal flap; it's sewn together and has eight pages not including the cover. It also uses the prototype images throughout. 

Booklet.
Rather than take pictures or scans of the booklet, I'll summarize the story:

Shola's country of Afghanistan has been at war longer than she has been alive (accurate, as the country has been at war since about 2001 and Shola is about ten years old). Her parents and both her brothers were killed and so she and her older sister Mehri lived alone in a poorly constructed house with no roof and three walls. The girls were then approached by a man, Shaya, who had opened a school to teach children circus performance. While the girls were reluctant to go, they attend that night and see the circus, which brings delight to Shola. Shaya invites the girls to enroll in the school and go around with him performing. The two girls agree--Shola agrees only if she can become a juggler. Shola becomes a juggler and stilt walker, and her sister Mehri wears costumes and tells morality stories. They also learn things such as reading and math. Shola wants to share her feelings of hope with other children in her country.

I searched and was happy to find that an Afghani educational circus is a real thing--the Afghani Mobile Mini Circus for Children. I'd like to think that World Vision is sending money to this specific program, but there's no way to know. Again, I really wish that I could have picked a cause to donate to instead of having it picked for me, or had it confirmed that that Shola's purchase was going to this specified program.

It would have also been a neat little addition to include juggling pins with her as more than a picture. The story is pretty shallow, and while we get a glimpse of Shola's personality and struggle, all it is is a mere glimpse--like a smell of a delicious meal that I don't actually get to eat. While a novel is a bit much to ask, even a thicker story would be better.

All the girls.
The back of the booklet shows nine girls--unusually, Shola isn't there. It also has a blurb at the back stating how you--yes you--can help. But it then goes on to say that making the difference is done by collecting all the characters. Not pleased with that at all. There's more that can be done to make a difference in the world than just buying dolls, and I'd rather not promote the idea that buying things is the only way to help. Something as small as mentioning volunteering in the local community would have added another option other than "buy buy buy". Blech. 

Shola's face.
Shola has medium tan skin and a heart shaped face mold with a slightly pointed chin and full cheeks. Her nose is wider than Dell's and narrower than Tipi's, so I'm pretty sure it's a wholly unique mold to her.

Close-up.
She has full lips with a dark rose tint, a wide nose, a light but visible philtrum, feathered brown eyebrows, light blush to the cheeks, painted upper and lower lashes, and gold-hazel eyes that are the same color as Lauryce's. These are reminiscent of Sharbat Gula, the Afghani woman who was photographed in 1984 and later identified in 2002. Eyes are what draw me in to a doll, and Shola has very beautiful eyes.

Compared to Nahji, her face is fuller in the cheeks, her nose narrows more at the bridge and flares more at the sides, and her eyes are a little more pointed at the inner corners.

Next to Nahji.
Next to Lauryce, it's clear her mold is different. Lauryce has the same mold as Rahel. However, their eyes match, and their skin tones are both in the medium spectrum.

Next to Lauryce.
Her profile shows a gentle curve down the forehead to her nose line, over the lips, and a soft point to her chin. It's very realistic. Also, it shows that her eyes have a clear curved lens, like real eyes, and helps the light reflect. 


She has small gold post ball earrings. These wouldn't be visible with the headscarf fully covering her head, but again, exceptions for a doll and a child.

Earrings.
They slide out fully with a little bit of tugging and are gold plastic. It's best to tug them out slowly, lest the plastic warp or break; I almost broke one myself. They appear to have posts about 2mm wide, or what would be about 12 gauge.

Earrings alone.
Compared to actual 18-20 gauge earrings, it's clear that the posts are much thicker:

Compared to actual earrings.
So I tried standard American Girl earrings, but their posts are too big and won't fit. The only way Shola can wear different earrings is to swap with the other H4H girls or purchase 12 gauge earrings. It's probably best just to let her keep what she's got.

Next to American Girl earrings.
Shola's headscarf is sheer pink and neatly wraps around her head, hair, neck and shoulders. It's simplified so that a person who doesn't put on headscarves themselves regularly could put it on and take it off.

Headscarf.
Most headscarves wouldn't be sheer like this, since the intention is to cover the hair so that it can't be seen. But again, Shola is a child.

The right side shows a smooth line and gathers nice over her shoulders:

Right side.
The left side shows the closure. Instead of snaps or clips, her headscarf closes with a square of Velcro. It's a little jarring--most girls would instead wear pins--but I understand the need for the Velcro in order to have the headscarf stay on and wrapped without a pin. However, the Velcro is thick and snaggy--I can see snagged hair and fabric in the future.

Left side.
The headscarf covers her hair fully down the back.

Down the back.
Unhooked, the headscarf hangs free down her back; the Velcro closure on the back is actually more towards the center back but is a little twisted.

Unhooked.
From the front, it looks a touch uneven but might still be somewhat modest in that her hair is covered. For the rest of the review until she's redressed, Shola will have her headscarf off. It's a little disjointing for me to show a Muslima/Afghani character sans headscarf, like taking pictures of a devout nun out of her habit. I personally will probably never photograph her again with her hair uncovered. However, it's part of the review.

From the front.
The headscarf off shows that if unhooked, it would probably be a full square of fabric. However, it's gathered into a headband style so it can be easily slipped off and on by those who don't regularly wear headscarves. One corner has the Velcro square for the closure.

Headscarf off.
The back has a thin elastic band tacked on that is tucked under Shola's hair; the sides are sewn gathered. All someone has to do is slide the band around Shola's head like a headband, adjust it to the right place, and then twist the side over and around to connect to the Velcro square for it. It's not hard or complicated to take off or put on; I've wrapped doll headscarves with just squares or rectangles of fabric, and sometimes wrapped my own hair up in my sarongs.  Probably the hardest part is adjusting the band before the twist around.





Elastic.
The dress is a blue cotton print with flower ribbon trim and contrasting yoke at the bodice both front and back. The flower main print is simple white circular flowers and dots.

Dress.
The yoke is larger print white flowers, and the seam between the two is covered with ribbon twisted trim to resemble flowers. There is a slit at the front neckline topstitched in cream thread. Compared to the the prototype fabric, it's a little boring; the contrast in prints is a little meek.

Yoke.
The sleeve is elbow length with a straight line and simple hem in cream contrast thread. Contrasting fabric at the sleeve would have not only added length but also visual variety. Closer observations show these are raglan sleeves--that is, they're cut in the same piece of the side bodice. They're slightly eased at the top to fit against the yoke bodice.

Sleeve.
The yoke extends to the back with the same larger print flowers of the front. I'm glad to see that the ribbon trim isn't just on the front; many playline doll dresses ignore the back, and considering dolls are three dimensional it's a shortcut that makes clothes feel half done.

Back.
The dress closes with thin non-snag black Velcro. I love non-snag Velcro, as it lessens chances for catching on hair and other sheer fabrics.

Closure with dress off.
I was pleased to see that the yoke bodice was fully lined. Sewing on this small scale can be very hard, and the easiest way for neat and non-bulky seams in such a small scale for bodices is to cut two copies and sew them together. The seams around are fully surged.

Lining.
The skirt hem, like the sleeves, is topstitched with the same cream thread.

Skirt hem.
Shola has three stretch rubber bracelets on her right wrist--lavender, chartreuse, and magenta pink--with no clasps:

Bracelets.
They're just like Lauryce's; Lauryce has an extra sky blue one:

Against Lauryce.
They easily stretch to come off her wrist; still, it might be prudent not to stretch them too far.

Off the wrist.
Under her dress, Shola is wearing simple white knit brief underpants:

Shola's panties.
They're exactly the same as Lauryce's. 

Lauryce's panties.
It appears that if a doll comes in a dress, she's likely to get panties; however, if she's wearing leggings or shorts, she doesn't.  The back has full coverage. You can also see the imprint on her lower back of manufacture. I generally don't care for that on dolls, but most of the time it's at least hidden by clothes.

Back shot.
Her shoes are plain molded lavender ballet flats.

Flats.
There's a slight molded ridge and molded bows; inside is a heart stamp.

Shoes off.
The soles show molded stitching, "gathers", and a seam up the back. These shoes are a major letdown from the beautiful soft ankle boots she was shown with in the prototype. I now want to make or find her a set like the prototypes. I've never been much for plastic shoes for dolls when clothlike shoes seem more realistic.

Soles.
Shola's rooted hair comes in a low ponytail. It's a rich, dark mahogany brown with a high gloss and a slight wave, and is thickly rooted and to her hips.

Hair.
The ponytail is held with a clear band, much like the ones that held her in the packaging. I went ahead and slid it out; I buy and utilize clear or black hair bands for doll styling when I want unobtrusive hair holders.

Hairband.
With her hair down, it reflects the light rather well, and the flash of the camera gave rich highlights and lowlights. Her hair isn't black like Nahji's; there's a red tint to it. It's a touch uneven all down like this, sort of like it wanted to slope to a point but meandered on the scenic route.

Hair down.
Her front bangs are thatched into a side part that covers the front rooting well.

Bangs.
They're fastened in the back with a band. I didn't let her bangs down because here Shola is almost never to be sans a headscarf again.

Held back.
Shola has the same body structure as any other H4H character--full vinyl body. She is about fourteen inches tall. Her torso is harder vinyl with a slight chest swell, visible collarbone, and delicate sculpting such as a belly button and--not shown--a butt cleft. Her head and limbs are of softer vinyl and she has sculpted  fingers with nails, toes and toenails--her feet aren't flat like an AG's--and knee and elbow indentations.

Standing around.
Much like Em seeks lots of poseability and clothing options among her dolls, I seek dolls that are good for clothing design and pattern drafting--well shaped bodies, easily moveable limbs, and steady standing without a doll stand if possible. This allows me to expand my options for clothing design and drafting. (I often use the Doll's Dressmaker book for patterns.) I am sure that drafting and fitting patterns for her and any other H4H girl will be a breeze; she's got fairly straight proportions and I may be able to scale down American Girl patterns or designs.

The vinyl body is a little darker than the limbs but as Shola will not be wearing bikinis, there's no reason for me to personally care:

Color difference.
She's cord strung, a little like an American Girl Doll and a lot like a Magic Attic doll: at the head, shoulders, and hips. This allows for a lot more posing than flange joints offer. Her head can tilt up and down and turn, and her arms can also hold multiple poses.

Inner cord.
Sideways splits are not very low.

Side splits are no go.
Front to back ones are okay.

Front to back.
Another thing I look for is hair styling; I like to experiment with hair a lot. Her hair holds a braid nicely and will probably hold French braids well. Not that anyone's going to see most of what I do with her hair as it's going to be braided up and under her headscarf. Speaking of which, back into your clothes, Shola....

Braided hair.
Before I show her dressed fully again, there is something I'd like to emphasize that actually matters regarding how Shola is dressed out of the package, something that's socially glaring. The prototype shows Shola's ankles and calves covered by boots and dress, and her arms almost covered to the mid forearms. However, the widespread release shortened the dress to mid-calf and, with the change of her boots to flats, left her calves and ankles bare. That actually is offensive of Playmates; Muslima women often cover up to at least the ankles, even as children. Pants or leggings underneath the skirt are all it would have taken to fix such an utterly glaring mistake this if they didn't want to bring the dress down in length.

Fixing a glaring error.
I purchased the Logo Tee and Leggings some months back  The purple leggings aren't perfect, but they're better than nothing at all and match her shoes.

Dressed more modestly.
With the leggings, she looks a lot better. I'll be making her long enough skirts and bloomers to wear under shorter dress sets.


Shola is a very unique doll, and covers a region and culture that hasn't been seen in dolls widespread outside of niche characters--a Afghani/Muslima girl with a headscarf and modest dress. She has a beautiful face and eyes, and her hair--even though I've chosen to respect the culture and not display her with her hair uncovered again--is thick and lovely to brush. Even if pictures from me may not show her hair, I will likely do neat braids and twists with it. to fit under headscarves. The headscarf is easy enough to put on and take off and simplified so that people not of the culture can learn some of how headscarves are worn and perhaps try new ones with her.

However, there are a lot of ways that Playmates dropped the ball with her outfit--notably the dress being shorter, and not giving her at least leggings when they chose to shorten the dress and shift her boots to flats. I'm just one person and I'm not even Muslima, but I have researched authentic resources of modest Muslim and Afghani dress and knew where the mistakes are. A large toy company shouldn't have let this glaring error go through. And there's been no word on whether this will be rectified in any future releases. Personally, I'm obligated to pick up the slack to give her and her culture the respect due.

*~*~*

Mosi has a shorter review only because there's no need to go into details I've already covered with Shola.

Mosi comes with a bracelet--blue and black charms, not much different than Shola's--a blue comb that found its way into the storage bin right alongside everyone else's, and a booklet with her story. She comes dressed in a red print wrap empire waist dress with blue ribbon and button trim, red fringe gingham trim, grey and white striped leggings, brown plastic cowboy boots, a plastic "silver" bracelet, and a blue plastic feather in her hair.

Mosi and her accessories.
The first thing I was glad to see was that Mosi doesn't fall too far into the trope of "Braids, Beads, and Buckskins." This can be summed up as visually directing a Native person by using shortcuts, the big three being putting them in leather clothing, beaded items (or beads on the leather) and having them have straight black hair worn in two long braids. It also traps Native people in a past narrative, as if Natives don't wear any modern clothing. Seeing that Mosi had little to none of this was very refreshing. Mosi was intended to be Navajo in pre-production, and a lot of her details show this. However, packaging and marketing went for universally Native.

Directly from the Hearts4Hearts Facebook, a representative said: "After careful research and consideration, it was decided to make Mosi "Native American" as opposed to a particular tribe. So she represents many cultures and benefits the work done for more than one tribe." Again, I find myself disappointed. Not all Native people are universal anymore than Europeans or Africans or Latinas. Mosi should have been given the chance to represent the Navajo culture accurately.

The Mosi we didn't get.
Side by side:


The prototype has fewer changes than Shola did. The main changes are a different print for the wrap dress, cloth and leather/faux leather boots, and a dyed blue feather in her hair instead of plastic. I didn't hold out hope for the boots, though cloth shoes would have greatly improved the look. This was also true with the feather, though I'd have hoped it would have been on an easily removable clip or clasp. I was annoyed with Shola, but resigned with Mosi.

Mosi's fact disc got ripped as I was peeling it from the packaging, so I didn't take any pictures. It states that there were once over 800 Native American languages in Canada and the Americas, and that about 175 are still spoken. While a good fact, my knowing why those languages faded out makes the fact very sobering.

Booklet.
The booklet has the short story from the flap. Again, I'll summarize:

Mosi and her family live on a sheep ranch outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her mother is a potter and sells pots and bowls she's made; her father runs the ranch with their Churro sheep (they also have llamas to keep coyotes away). One day, her father brought home a wild black and white pony who had injured its leg. Mosi named it Warrior because he tried to escape from people trying to help him even while injured; she calls him beautiful and fierce and assures herself that they will become friends and ride together like the wind. In the summers she visits her grandmother, who still lives on the reservation far away. She likes hearing the old stories of her people and learning how to make a basket and spin yarn from wool. They sometimes go to a powwow and watch the dancers in their beautiful costumes. Mosi once asked her grandmother why she didn't leave the reservation and she replied saying "My heart cannot walk two paths." Mosi says that perhaps she's doing that but she likes it. The back two pages are no different from Shola's.

Honestly, the whole story feels like a narrow stereotype of Native people and their culture: catching a wild horse and naming it Warrior, an older relative who lives on the reservation while her family lives away, references to the wind, disconnected powwows and referring to dancer's outfits as "costumes," "old stories" about the people, etc. "Two paths" feels a lot less like Native wisdom and more like a Robert Frost quote. The line about how Mosi and her grandmother only watch the dancers "in their beautiful costumes" and don't actively participate is really indicative of how this is not a story by or for Native people; that is what white people do at powwows. The whole thing feels like what I've heard called "woo" by a Native friend: the current prevailing narrative concerning Native people that says they are incredibly spiritual, proud, noble, and close to the earth. It's a model minority stereotype set that denies Native people full, complex humanity and enshrines them instead as anachronistic and "wild."  It feels like Mosi's culture was arrested somewhere in the 1890s and the only way for her to integrate into the modern era involved her and her family divorcing from the reservation life. If Playmates really did their research for Mosi, they didn't do a very good job. If they wanted to do a real Native diaspora narrative, Mosi could spend all summer making regalia with grandma and then dancing with her in the powwow, spending time with her family on the reservation, and learning her language--and and all of this would be so much more interesting than some weird wild pony narrative.

Mosi's data says that her donation goes to benefit Native Americans--but like Shola it doesn't specify how, where, or through whom. I really wish that online codes had been included or something to allow me to decide where my support was going.



Mosi's face is a lot less full than Shola's; I suspect she has the same face mold as Consuelo. She has dark brown eyes with painted lashes, feathered brows, a wide nose, bow shaped lips with a peach-rose tint, the same delicate philtrum, cheek blush that my camera made look brighter than it is, and a much more pointed chin. She has eyes the same color as Nahji's.


Her earrings are made of silver plastic and resemble the stylized Navajo thunderbird. I think little blue faux turquoise in the center would have added a lot of charm--but then again if we can't even get clips for the feather asking for turquoise is pushing it.

Earrings.
Her earrings are two part--a silver post and the separate thunderbird charm. She could wear just the earrings with the posts alone and no charms, but I think they look best with the charms attached. The backs of the charms are flat and undecorated, so I didn't snap a shot.





The feather is molded blue plastic with a loop at the top and was looped into a lock of Mosi's hair with a clear band attached to the loop. As I said, I was disappointed and resigned by the plastic feather. But the way it was attached was even more souring. I can see young girls struggling when taking out the feather and getting frustrated when it isn't easily put back in. A simple small hair clip would have been perfect.

Feather.
The feather out shows the full shape. It shows some feather veining and a sharply defined center ridge; the loop at the top is plausible for placing a small hair band in to reattach to the hair. Right there is where the clip could have attached.

Feather out.
Mosi has a profile similar to Shola's with a gentle curve from hairline over the nose and lips and down to her chin. Her brow is a touch flatter. She also has the clear eye domes that make her eyes look more realistic.

Mosi's profile.
Mosi's bracelet is plastic silver circlet bangle that comes on her right hand; the center is a heart shaped loop.

Mosi's bracelet.
It is exactly like Lauryce's bracelet. Bracelets appear to be mostly standardized throughout the line--either stretch rubber or silver plastic. A notable exception being Nahji and her gold bangles.

Lauryce's bracelet.
There's an opening in the back that allows the bracelet to easily come off. I actually feel a sense of nostalgia by the bracelet; as a small child I used to wear a copper bracelet everywhere to differentiate my left hand from my right.

Bracelet off.
Mosi's dress is an empire waist red print dress with blue ribbon and gingham contrast trim. The print is made up of horizontal dashes and dots and from a distance looks like tilted rhombuses (rhombi?). While not as neat as the floral print, I think it's lovely in its own way.

Mosi's dress.
The front bodice is a wrap style that doesn't actually open, and has the right "side" over left; a peek under the trim shows the bodice was cut with the design. The bodice is trimmed with red fringe bias cut gingham trim, which is left raw and unfinished and stitched down with decorative blue stitches. The trim goes all around the neckline and down the wrap side. I want to try to reproduce this interesting look.

Bodice.
The waistline is accented with thin blue satin ribbon woven through a blue heart button. The ribbon is tacked on at the side seams and goes all the way around the back. It's a fun splash of one of my favorite colors.

Waistline.
The sleeves are elbow length like Shola's; however where Shola's are straight hemmed, Mosi's are elastic gathered. Her sleeves are also set in at the shoulders with a slight easing gather.

Sleeves.
The skirt hem is a simple tuck under with the same bias gingham trim and blue topstitching.

Skirt hem.
The back closes with thin, non-snag white Velcro. The gingham trim goes all the way around the neckline, as does the ribbon trim. 

Closure.
Let's look a little more at the internal structure.

Internally, the sleeve edge is white bias attached to the sleeve and formed into a channel for the elastic. I also found something rather perplexing; unlike Shola's neatly seamed dress, Mosi's is left with tons of raw edges. There's no reason for this whatsoever and it's an unnecessary cutting of corners. I don't know if they were trying for the same raw look inside (why would they do that?) but fringing and raw edges really show sloppy work from a professional company; the only reason I haven't serged my own doll clothes is because I don't yet own one, and I compensate by trimming the seam allowance with pinking shears. If I start to see fraying on this dress I'm busting out my Fray Check and running it over every seam.

Sleeve gather.
The bodice is fully unlined; the edges were made neat by using while bias tape. Lining the waist is sewn in stretched elastic; when the dress is off Mosi, the elastic pulls together. When closing the back I had to make sure to pull a little tighter there so there wasn't a gap in the closure.

Bodice elastic.
Under the dress Mosi is wearing grey and white striped capri-length leggings that come to just below her knees. Since she has these on, she doesn't come with panties. The fabric is slick and slippery; I suspect it's a lycra knit mix, like what swimsuits are made of. The seams were matched so there's little misalignment on the seam line. The leggings are also un-surged along the seams.

Leggings.
The top stitching is white at the hem and waistband. They come off and go on easily enough.

At the knee.
The boots are molded plastic; not the soft ones shown in the prototype. All the stitching is molded into the boots themselves.

Boots.
The boots are slit open down the back so that they can be taken off and put back on easily. Well, in theory they come off and go on easily. In practice I found myself tugging and tugging on the boots until I just got out a blow dryer to soften up the plastic; they catch hard at the heel. I much prefer American Girl's method of handling boots, where they close the back with Velcro and have the whole back open. (Older AG boots closed with semi-authentic ribbons, laces, buckles, or buttons, like Samantha's original high button shoes.) If they'd gone with the softer cloth and leather boots they could have put that as a closure. The visible dots are likely where the plastic was injected into the mold.

Back opening.
Now, remember how I said I was from the South? Specifically, I grew up in Texas around the Houston area. So I am persnickety about cowboy boots looking right. These get most of the details right: the stitching and bootstraps at the top, the low heel, the top stitching around the bottom (even though it's molded on), and the lines over the toes area. There's little color to them, but since they were molded from one color I'll have to let it pass. I really wish Playmates did color variety in the shoes so they didn't feel so plastic.

Boot profile.
The stitching on the top of the boots is looped to make hearts all over.

Stitching.
The heart stamp is also on the sole of the boot. There's a number 1 on the heel, stitching simulated on the sole, and at the sole near the toe is a L for left or R for right. I'm 100% sure that's a production thing, as Shola's flats also have left and right markers like that.

Sole.
Mosi has the same body structure as Shola and the others; there's also the variance between the hard vinyl body and the softer limbs. She'll be able to use the same general patterns that I use for everyone else once I draft them up, and figure out how to make decent doll shoes.

Mosi bare.
Mosi has luxuriously soft jet black hair that comes down to her hips. It's got a soft wave and splays out at the end. I am so, so glad she was not given stick straight center parted black hair in two long braids or even had her hair pulled into pigtails and was allowed to come with her hair down. I love Kaya but it feels like the default for Native dolls is "two braided stick straight blunt ended pigtails tied with leather or cord" look. I think I'll have a blast brushing through Mosi's hair and finding new styles for her.

Mosi has thatched-in curved-under bangs that stop right above her eyebrows. They likely shouldn't get lost in her hairline. Her part is also thatched, and the rest of her hair flows down from that. The rooting is thicker at the top and thins out lower, so the hair isn't too thick throughout.

Mosi's bangs.
At this point, I'd gotten the feather completely out, and really didn't think I was going to want to put it back in. I kept the section that had held her feather pulled out with a simple black rubber hair band. So, having made a recent run through Michael's for crafting supplies, I decided to make a good blue feather of my own with my jewelry making supplies. I couldn't find any good hair clips--I'll probably have to run through a hair supply store for that--but I did find silver clasps and dyed blue feathers. Some trimming and crimping later and...

A proper feather!
Mosi now has a better looking blue feather in her hair, made with blue dyed feathers and a crimp closure. I still had to loop it in with a rubber hair band, but this is only until I can get a hair clip small enough to jump ring the clasp to. There's really no reason that Playmates couldn't have invested in blue feathers and clasps--making the feather this way took me five minutes (honed by over twenty years of crafting experience) while I was watching TV.

Mosi is a charming little doll--her hair is so soft and silky that I could just pet it daily. Her clothing could use a lot of improvement, but at least on the outside it looks visually creative--the raw edges and blue contrast is very visually interesting, and the leggings make a nice casual modern look. Bar the feather--which is left loose in her hair and not on a  headband--she doesn't have the visual stereotypes that most Native dolls or characters find themselves pigeonholed into. The boots are this side of terrible, though, and they don't come off or go on as easy as I'd like. I'll probably end up seeking nicer replacements. The earrings are stunning, especially with the significance of silversmithing among Navajo people.

Her "story" is where things get really awful. It falls straight into the stereotypes that her clothing avoids. Marketing her as universally Native doesn't help dissipate that. There was no reason to make her universally Native and not let a Navajo story be told for her. The official Facebook said that they aren't going to make her pony, Warrior, as a side item. I'm actually glad this isn't happening, because it would only reinforce the issues that the story has. Again, I feel like I'm left as a consumer to correct the cut corners that Playmates didn't do right--and where Shola's corrections are needed in her dress, Mosi's are needed in her tale.

*~*~*

Mosi, Shola and the conclusion.
Mosi and Shola are both beautiful dolls. Their faces are open and engaging, and Shola especially is beautiful with her light eyes and full cheeks. Mosi has rich brown eyes and a calm, contented look. The shape of their eyes allows for realistic light reflection when photographing them. Shola delights me as the first playline doll I've ever seen with a headscarf that wasn't made for a niche market. Mosi as a Navajo girl has many small details that signify her as such, but she falls flat with the choice by the company to market her as universally Native.

Both dolls have thick, lovely hair--Shola's isn't going to be much for play, but it'll be taken down and brushed often. Mosi's hair is wavy and soft and beautiful, and I can't stop brushing it to self-soothe. I plan to keep her Navajo and look up things that will help her be as such, with an critical eye towards avoiding woo.


The clothing is done well enough, but it's not as well done as it could have been. Shola's headscarf is designed to be easy to put on and take off for people who don't regularly try to wrap headscarves. Her dress is a little bland from what was initially shown, and it should have been longer if there weren't going to be high boots. Combined with the ballet flats, her legs are disrespectfully bare, and all it would have taken is giving her leggings to fill in the gap. All in all, the prototype got my hopes up and the outfit fell short. Mosi avoids a lot of the stereotyped Native look, though I feel like her outfit could have finished the internal seams and the plastic feather was a cop-out--especially just being banded in. The boots are very difficult to get on and off and are probably the worst part of the outfit--I shouldn't feel like I'm doing tug of war with shoes. The prototype outfits were beautiful--Shola's especially--but so much was lost in the final execution.

While the clothes for both girls have a lot of detail, the shoes are not the best they could be. Years of AG and BJD ownership have spoiled me towards doll shoes--I think shoes should be as well done and accurate or authentic as the outfits themselves, and both sets of shoes have the ball dropped by just having single color plastic with molded details. I don't wear plastic shoes outside of jelly sandals, and I feel like my dolls deserve that same sort of shoe respect. Plastic shoes just scream "cut corners" or "Barbie." I'll accept them in smaller play dolls, but I really am probably going to hunt down nicer shoes for them from BJD sizing. My Hujoo dolls have well done, detailed shoes and their feet are only an inch and a half long!

I'm less a doll poser and more a doll designer. I focus less on poseability and more on body shape and form. The easier it appears to sew and draft clothing for a doll, the happier I am. I can tell that, once the initial drafting is done and I know the basics of how to make outfits fit well, I'm going to have a blast designing clothes for them. Especially Shola, whom I plan to make a plethora of lovely headscarves to go with outfits. Mosi especially might be lovely in jeans and tunic tops.


I'm not feeling the stories that come with these dolls. I could say I was spoiled by American Girl six book sets--or even the Karito Kids story books, and in some ways I was. But even mainline play dolls that have notebooks have a lot more to them than just six pages that have less than three hundred words. Some pages in Mosi's story only have one sentence. The ones that come with Monster High are much thicker and richer in less pages and gives each character a profile with age, likes and dislikes, and personality quirks. Even the bookmark tales for Ever After High dolls have more depth than the booklets for these dolls. In the case of Mosi, her thin tale is full of stereotyped woo. Shola's seems upbeat, but I feel like there could have been more to her story than "I was suffering in a war torn country, was invited to be part of and see a circus, am now part of said circus." At least it's based in a lot more fact, and the circus she is written to be part of actually exists. Mosi's gets facts wrong and even cultural references and reads like an outsider's idea of Natives as Noble Savage instead of fully American. These "stories" feel like scattered water drops on the sidewalk--shallow and easily dissipated.

All in all, I'm ecstatic that there's a line of dolls that steps out of the white US suburban paradigm to make an effort to touch on cultures that aren't often brought up. The last doll line like this, Karito Kids, is out of production and hard to obtain on the secondary market--and they never covered a Middle Eastern character. However, it feels like Playmates left me, as a cultural studier, to fill in the gaps they left and correct their mistakes. Covering other cultures requires lots of respect and not falling into trite stereotypes, and making an effort is only the first step. Something is not better than nothing when that something is incorrect or disrespectful to the cultures being covered. All it would have taken was a little more effort or a few more proper steps to have the line mean and do a lot more. The buttons were right there to push, and Playmates just sort of stared at their buttons and said "Eh, what we have is good enough." It's all right, but it's not good enough. It feels like they did the research and then clipped the corners and dropped it all the way when it cost too much to follow through.

The dolls in and of themselves are great. I'm happy I got them, and I am confident that I can boost them up from "all right" to "great," since I have that knowledge of where to start. But they're only a jumping off point to exploration of the world and the depth of their cultures, and if someone doesn't have that knowledge they might take what is offered at face value. Rather unpleasant things will be reinforced or imbedded, and it's harder to un-teach bad messages than to just say it right the first time.

--Neth

40 comments:

  1. Thank you for this incredibly detailed review!

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    1. muslimtoysanddolls.com is the largest seller of Muslim Dolls online in the world we have over 750 different Muslim dolls with hijab of course and over 200 different handmade Islamic outfits with hijab and modest dress of course and will fit fulla,arrosa,salma,norah,Naseem,and many more.take a look at our site.it is also a charity site for Muslims the world over.fee aman Allah,Sis Debbie

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  2. Neth! Y'all, you've seen her, I've pimped her on my blog, this woman knows her stuff, and I'm so glad Em let her write a review!

    I'm not likely to add any Hearts 4 Hearts to my collection, since I'm low on space as it is and also low on money - expensive car repairs will do that - but I do agree that they are, for sure, lovely dolls. If I were to add one, it would be Shola. I'm happy to see a review where Shola's culture is respected, instead of "Eh, I'm going to change her name and her character and her life completely and BEGONE HEADSCARF." Say what you will about headscarves, in this case it is a vital part of the doll's culture and that should be respected.

    It saddens me as well that Mosi was given such a generic "Native" story. Having grown up in South Dakota, I was surrounded by Sioux people for most all of my life. I went to school, played with and studied with many. Others worked for my father's roofing company, and were not just "dad's men," but they were our friends. To erase the things that make each tribe what it is is just so horribly offensive that I don't know if I can, in good conscience, think about adding Mosi to my collection. I have instead used my limited knowledge (and what I learn from the internet) to make my newer AG doll a tribute to the people I grew up with, while hopefully not treading into the realm of offensiveness that Playmates Toys has with Mosi.

    I am glad these dolls exist, because cultures need to be learned about. It's vitally important that children here in the US learn about children from the places these dolls represent. I just wish that Playmates had taken a little more care with the knowledgebase they had to work with.

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  3. Thanks for the great review! :) I recently added Mosi and Shola to my collection and had some similar thoughts. :)

    Emily, just wanted to let you know that I tagged you for the Elegant Blogger Award. If you don't have the time or aren't interested, don't worry about it. ;) Here are the details: http://nevergrowupdollguide.blogspot.com/2013/08/elegant-blogger-award.html

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    1. Wow! Thank you so much, Beastsbelle! You are so nice to do that--and it was really fun to read your responses in the interview! Neat idea, and I am incredibly honored that you would think of me! :D

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  4. I've seen these dolls around. They're quite lovely to look at if you don't look too closely on the missed details. If I were to rewind the clock and I was given a doll like this as a child, I know I would have ripped her off the box, not bothered with her story and quite possibly make-believe an entire world for her myself so I can understand the lack of details in terms of storyline. It's a shame though that Shola's prototype attire was considerably different in design from the actual product on a doll collector's perspective. Again, if I was a child...I probably wouldn't have noticed. Instead I would've been running around telling everybody I got a cool doll.

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    1. The problem with the idea of just removing the clothes and having a "cool doll" is that there are hundreds of thousands of doll and doll lines that have been created that can just be stripped with no cultural relevance. These dolls and this line was made with the cultures in mind. To just take away the doll from the intended culture does a disservice to the child that could and should learn something new outside of cultures they may not have heard about before. Parents should try to teach their children about other cultures and their uniqueness.

      While these dolls have some huge flaws, they also have at least a jumping off point to start with. If I gave a highly cultural doll to my child and they wanted to just strip them and have "cool dolls," I would take the doll, sit them down, and explain to them that this is not what this doll is for. Or not give them the doll unless they were willing to learn. Learning is as important as just "fun." I made believe entire worlds as a child--and did it culturally, so it's not that hard to do. A child of four can be explained the significance of a headscarf--after all, Muslima children learn younger than that.

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    2. On the other hand, there's a dearth of medium-skinned, dark-haired, green-eyed dolls out there, and the Shola doll could well be one of the few to stand in for a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

      I was just looking for reviews of this doll line (this is fantastically detailed, thank you for that!) because Shola caught my eye as I walked past the toy section in my local Canadian tire - and I noticed her because she has the closest colouration to three of my nieces (two of whom are Indian/Greek, one of whom is Indian/Turkish) of any doll I've seen (outside of pricier custom ones). I agree that children can understand the basics of any culture/religion (and obviously it's great to see this doll here when there are so few central/west Asian dolls available in North America), I just can’t say that one of the few dolls that actually looks like this needs to be so tied to a single culture that little girls from different cultures but with similar features can't be encouraged to identify with her as well.

      Anyway, thanks again for the great and thorough review!

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    3. [i] While these dolls have some huge flaws, they also have at least a jumping off point to start with. If I gave a highly cultural doll to my child and they wanted to just strip them and have "cool dolls," I would take the doll, sit them down, and explain to them that this is not what this doll is for. Or not give them the doll unless they were willing to learn. Learning is as important as just "fun." [/i]

      This is just plain wrong. So wrong, it’s hard to know where to begin. I pray that no one heeds this advice out of some misplaced sense of cultural respect. It’s clear this comment was made by someone who has no children and has little to no contact with actual children. Children will not be confined by an adult perspective. Nor should they be where their toys are concerned. There’s a special kind of adult toy collector that seeks to tell children how to play with their toys as if they know better than a child. Freedom in doll play is so important for allowing girls to explore all kinds of feelings and ideas in a safe and constructive manner.

      I will not tell a child how to dress and style her doll out of some false sense of respect. Besides, there is no need. Muslim girls are allowed to dispense with the headscarf around women and family, which is where most doll play takes place. If it is unacceptable to remove a doll's headscarf, than it is not acceptable for the doll to be in a home where women do not wear a headscarf. I'm not going to enforce somebody’s idea proper Islamic practice is, in my home. I don’t even know where to begin with how bizarre that is. Will you come to my home and ensure our playfood is Hallal too? And I better make sure to keep her from any unchaperoned contact with unrelated male dolls?

      This doll was meant to be played with and that is what would happen in my home. I am not going to let the Dolly Thought Police into my life. I think I'm going to steer my daughters away from buying any more non-white dolls. It's clearly just too difficult a situation for young children to navigate.

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    4. Since I don't check this piece frequently, I just now saw this. And you, Dollydo, would be wrong. While I have no children of my own yet, I've had lots of contact with young children, and it's really easy to explain to a child of any age how to be culturally sensitive. Children as young as three and four can be taught to understand another culture--many children of non-western non-white cultures learn from a young age. I learned from a young age to be culturally sensitive. I am not confining a child to an adult perspective by teaching them better that to do something insensitive. I'd rather my child's imagination be "confined" than to have them perpetuate or be culturally ignorant. A child is capable of learning to be culturally sensitive and not mimic prejudiced play. A doll is meant to be played with--but if a child can;t learn to play in a sensitive, intelligent way, then the play is poor and will perpetuate stereotypes.

      You say "false sense of respect." I say "what kind of parent would I bet to let my child learn and act out prejudice through play?" I--and many people like me--are saying that it's not positive play if it later enforces negative attitudes.

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  5. first thanks Emily for sharing your blog and love dolls with others, that makes your blog so special, I loved this review are special and cute dolls.

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  6. I enjoyed reading your review, Nethilia. You and Emily focus on different details, but you both have review styles that I really like.

    In general, I need to stop looking at doll prototypes--it seems I'm usually disappointed with the final product, whereas before I used to enjoy dolls that others complained about being "too different" from their prototypes. I really fell in love with Mosi and while the actual Mosi is still nice, I'm still a bit disappointed. I'm okay with the plastic feather given that she's meant for children, but you're right--a clip would've been really nice (I was expecting it!). I'm most upset about the change to her dress print and her backstory. In my mind she's still Navajo, but I agree with you that it would've been much better from an educational standpoint to not make her a "generic" native. I'm honestly most sour about the change in her dress print--how much money are they really saving to warrant that change?

    Shola is lovely all-around. At first I wasn't sure about her face mold since she looked a little older to me, but the more I looked at her pictures here, the more I liked her. I agree with you that she needs to be more covered up, but that's a relatively easy fix (though as you said, she shouldn't have to be fixed anyway).

    Overall, I really like these dolls (even Mosi) and I am looking forward to looking for them in my local Target.

    Thanks for the great review!

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    1. Prototypes always overhype the doll. My last major AG disappointment was when I saw Mia prototypes that appeared brown, but then she came out as a white girl. Very disappointing. Even the feather--children can understand a feather clip! I think a lot of toy cut corners assume that children are dumb or that anything that might evoke an issue should be smushed. The only thing I can see with the dress print is that they ran out of fabric, but I'm poretty sure toy companies get specialty fabric printed up for their things and don't have to hike out to Joann's.

      You're welcome!

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  7. Yikes! They called the Native American attire "costumes!" That is insulting. Anyone who has ever done research or attended a powwow knows it is "regalia."

    Please forgive a two part comment. I had to gt that out first and will now read the rest of your review. Wonderful so far by detail, photos, and knowledge.

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    1. As soon as my buddy and I saw that we had a moment of "Are you kidding me?"

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  8. Now, completely finished reading the review. I love the detail and level to which you hold your doll reviews. You are right in noting that this line is to help a child learn about children of other cultures to misrepresent that in any way almost defeats their purpose. As you said, something is not always better than nothing.

    Ever since I was a child I had a unique interest in native American cultures and have always been in awe of the cultures and the people. I've been to several powwows and, as a white woman spectator, was flattered and deeply touched when asked to join the dancers. The story you proposed for Mosi is 1000 times better than the one provided.

    Quick note: When AG introduced Kaya'aton'my I was overjoyed. The research team (then) did a great job (subsequent revisions have not stayed true).

    Thank you again for a fabulous review. These are beautiful dolls that could have been a touch better. Hearts4Hearst should know that the tiny, "minor" details mean a lot.

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    1. Oh, I can't take full credit for the proposed story. My Native friend gave that to me as she was reviewing my post for me.

      I have Kaya in my AG Gang--mine spends a lot of time in modern clothing, because I get tired of the "native in the past" dialog. (A shot of her in modern clothes is my blog header.)

      I wish companies would realize how much of a impact they can have on children. Somewhere a child is getting Mosi with no mitigation of her story, and is getting more of that poor story as an idea of how Native people are.

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    2. I love Kaya and I got her the year she was released as my second AG, and I'm curious, what were the revisions?

      --Kate :)

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  9. I love looking at the Hearts girls, but barring some greatly-appreciated variances in skintone (and their 18" size), I just haven't been in love...and the Generic Indian Maid there just sealed the deal. I'm a daughter of the Cherokee nation and this whole thing where we're all supposed to love wild stallions and feather our hair is bollox that should be obliterated.

    I do love these guest reviews though; always so much fun to compare voices across the blogs.

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  10. Thank you so much for reviewing these two, Nethilia, and Emily for hosting the review!

    I love Shola, and I plan to get her. I am disappointed that Playmates decided to cut corners with her outfit (especially with leaving her ankles bare-- come on, Playmates, that's a pretty glaring flaw). However, I enjoy making doll clothes, and in an odd way, I look forward to designing a pair of cute little pants for her. Who knows? Maybe I'll even try to replicate those boots.

    Mosi, though.... She's cute, but her story is so stereotyped. :( I was also really disappointed when I heard Playmates had decided to make her generically "Native American" instead of specifically Navajo. There's so much diversity in Native American cultures that one can't just lump them all together as one, just like one can't lump all Asian, African, or European cultures and people groups together.

    On another note with the stories: The original dolls had more in-depth "diary"-type stories on the website, and I really enjoyed Nahji's. I'm not sure if Playmates is planning to continue this with the new dolls, though. If they are, Shola's story might improve and become deeper, but Mosi's seems too stereotyped to really improve all that much... :(

    Thank you again, Nethilia! I need to go check out your blog, now-- it sounds great!

    --Kate :)

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    1. I also love making doll clothes, though I'm not good at shoes. I've already tried a new head scarf on Shola with one of my square silk scarfs, and it displays lovely. I may buy more at secondhand stores and make outfits to match them. I'm also debating one of the princess style headscarves.

      Mosi's story just needs to be scrapped and redone by an actual Navajo person. It's like they gave someone a copy of Native Stereotypes and left them alone to write woo.

      I have Nahji, and read her pamphlet when I got her. But it also has bothersome elements. I know the dolls are intended to spread the message of social problems worldwide, but hers has the stereotype of forced youth arraigned marriage. I don't doubt that happens, but she could have not had that element and still had a charming story.

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  11. I really enjoyed the depth of your review, thank you for writing it. I think these two dolls while lovely as they are, need to be used to explain to children that sometimes what you see in a toy is not reality. Shola's outfit is a glaring mistake and if that was explained to a child it opens the door for a deeper conversation on that culture. I think I will just view these as a way to a conversation that will help them learn about the culture more accurately

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  12. I've been considering getting these dolls for a while, and while I'm still thinking about it after this review, you've made some good points with the cultural incorrectness and stereotypes. It seems no matter how hard doll companies try to get ethnically diverse characters in their lineups, they're just never quite right. You have to keep in mind though, doll companies everywhere are cutting corners in some way or another, money isn't exactly flowing in for everybody right now. Some mistakes are just pure laziness though...

    One thing, I have to say though. You mentioned a LOT the cultural differences and specific things they do and don't have. I'm trying to put this in the nicest way possible so don't take it too hard, but it sounds like you're constantly trying to be politically correct and it can sometimes come off as being arrogant. But the extra thought you put into the dolls really shows you care about them and their story making it to the hands of little girls everywhere, so I do commend you for taking the extra step.

    All in all, thanks for the incredible review! and have fun with these girls! I'd love to see some variety in clothing for Shola especially. ;)

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    1. It is not arrogant to want to properly honor the cultures of people of color--which I am. Yes, you're right. It's political correctness. And political correctness is not a bad thing. Nice tones don't matter--just because you said you're putting it nice doesn't mean you said something nice. It's rude to say that another culture matters so little that to point out that people have said incorrect things about it is somehow arrogant or uppity or being too "PC". Why should it be allowable to cut corners and on other people's stories and culture? There will be thousands of girls and parents who will buy or receive these dolls and assume that what the company said is accurate. And the falseness will go unchallenged, and stereotypes will go uncorrected. I pointed these things out because it's something that matters and should matter to people. I care how cultures are shown in media--yes even dolls, which are a form of media--because there's enough mishandling and misrepresentation of non-white non-western culture as it is.

      As for finances and money flow, I doubt that Playmates is hurting so hard for money that they couldn't have taken the time to properly research and respect that they themselves chose to spotlight, Mosi's story and Shola's clothing especially. All Mosi's story needed was actual respect and research and it is a glaring error. It doesn't cost that much to do it right the first time with respect, and if a company wants to bill its toys and dolls as culturally accurate they should, you know, be accurate.

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    2. I apologize then, I guess I just didn't phrase it the way I meant to. The reason as to why they cut corners like this is never always clear, but the best we can do as consumers is email the company and hope they take heed to our suggestions.

      I just wish that toy companies had more confidence when it comes to correct national costumes and stories, and take the easy way out to make it more identifiable to a certain market. If you're going to promote other countries, be brave and get it right!

      Again, I'm sorry. I've seen a lot of doll collectors complain about the incorrectness to the point of where it's become annoying. "Yes we get that she isn't perfect, but you don't have to say it over and over!" It's just gotten extremely tiresome to see that all the time. Besides complaining, do something about it and talk to the company if it aggravates you so much!

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    3. Hi Emma, it’s so hard to discuss these complex topics online, isn't it? Too bad we can’t all sit and talk in person! It would be so interesting to chat about these issues.

      I totally agree with you that corners almost always need to be cut between the original design and the manufactured doll, and it’s unfortunate that in this case the cut corners influenced some of the cultural accuracy. I wonder if the research team is completely separate from the “editing” team? I think you're absolutely right that buyer feedback would be helpful in redirecting how Playmates edits these dolls.

      I also see your point that too much criticism can be tiresome. It’s something I think about a lot. I appreciate your dialogue with Nethilia, though, because while I totally agree that too much criticism can ruin the fun of a toy, I also respect those who criticize, because if no one demands it, there will be no improvement. It's a tricky balance!

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    4. @ Emma: I feel like there is more to do than contact the company. When it comes to companies, concerns are forwarded but not necessary taken into account. I pointed out the many things I did in my review so that other people can be informed about the cultural issues that these dolls have. I can't and don't expect companies or even other people to get my culture or most cultures right--mostly because so many people get things wrong and aren't corrected that I am pessimistic. If many people have the same complaint about a product, it's something that needs to be addressed--but often isn't.

      I don't expect perfection. But I, as a person of color, expect sensitivity and cultural respect, so that later people like me and my friends don't have to deal with the little cuts and pains that these mistakes cause us (i.e. when someone asks my Native friend if she really is Native, because she doesn't look like the stereotypes cultivated in media).

      If someone reads my review and they are soured towards either doll, that's sad but understandable. If a company cuts corners or does actions without thinking about it and offends someone to the point they don't buy or continue to consume a product, then the failure is theirs and not the people who are upset. Companies don't get get gold stars and dollars for just trying to touch on cultures, I feel. I'm hoping that my public complaints will make people think about the stories and details they're absorbing, and be more critical of the messages that are given when someone outside of a culture writes on it.

      @Emily: It's just outside speculation on my part, but it's likely the cuts made were less to save money for the company and more to widen profit margins, so that each dolls cost less to make, and so being sold for the same price made more money for the company. It's not nice to think about, but it's probably true.

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  13. I don't buy dolls terribly often, a matter of space more than anything else, but I do own a Dell doll from this line, bought several years ago and a few outfits. Play dolls are usually simplified from production prototypes to actual dolls, but I have noticed that H4H is particularly bad about this. I won't pre-order anything from them and have to see it in person.

    I was also rather upset to see Mosi taken from being tribe specific to being "Native American", but there is also a part of me which thinks back to the first African American dolls that were produced. I am thinking mostly of Colored Francie here, but I do think it's engaging to see the beginnings of Native American peoples being represented, all be it not in perfect form, in a child's play doll. AG dolls are expensive. Really expensive.

    Mosi is, for better or for worse, the first Native American play doll that I have ever seen, not dressed in some form of traditional garments and widely available on the play market. She's got problems, and I do think as consumers we have an obligation to point out these problems and write to companies and express how we feel, but she's also the best I've seen at her price point in a while.

    The best Native American doll I've seen period is Tlingit Barbie, and it's still got a lot of problems, but at least it is both tribally spefic and Mattel did contact Sealaska Heritage Foundation (one of the Alaskan Native Corps) to advise them on the project.

    Also, can anyone remember what the name is for the traditional style Afghan dress that Shola is wearing? I used to know and now I can't recall and it's bugging me.

    Hmm... it occurs to me that this comment got a little tangental. All in all, I really enjoyed the review and these are both beautiful dolls.

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  14. Nethilia, I love the amount of detail you put into this review. I must admit that I only recently fell in love with the Heart 4 Heart Dolls. I love the amount of effort they have put into bringing the dolls respective cultures to life. While they are not perfect, I think these dolls are a great step forward for teaching our children about different cultures.

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  15. Wow, what an in-depth review! I really appreciate the time and care you put into researching and articulating what is and is not culturally accurate about these dolls, and why that matters. Your perspective is interesting, both as a woman of color who cares deeply about the way global cultures are portrayed and as a doll dressmaker. (Is there a better name for that? Doll fashion designer?)

    I tend to be very different in my approach to dolls. I'm a whimsical, flighty, very frivolous doll tinkerer. I'll redress and swap heads on a whim, cut hair, switch out eyes if I can manage it. I also enjoy making up stories and personalities for my dolls, so these girls were a bit of a challenge to me. Not only did they come with stories, they came with a culture and all the rules, expectations, history, etc. that comes with said culture. I had a long, long staring contest with Shola before I decided to take her home. Once I got her out of the box, I found that I respected her in her hijab, but I was having a really hard time bonding with her. I just felt awkward and sad whenever I looked at her. She was this thing that I wasn't allowed to touch for fear of offending. I've since redressed her in a more modern casual style and given her Molly's schoolbag set from the American Girl store. Now she's beginning to strike me as serious, studious, older-sister type of girl. But see, here's the quandary that I faced: I like to alter my dolls, regardless of how they come to me. I had to ask myself, "Am I being disrespectful? Am I not trying hard enough to understand her? Or am I allowed to make changes to my doll until I feel emotionally connected to her?" I honestly wrestled with this for several days.

    As I read your review, I really enjoyed seeing these two dolls from your perspective. You seem to come at these gals from a place of deep respect, with a keen awareness of what a cultural doll can mean to society. While I came at Shola from a more emotional, much less rational angle, I appreciated hearing your experience with her. And Mosi as well. I just love Mosi for her sweet face and crazy-soft hair. I stopped reading her story when I got to the cringeworthy bit about Warrior the Pony. At that point, I decided she would just be my sweet and curious adorable girl with lovely, brushable hair.

    In addition to your concern for cultural accuracy, I really liked hearing about your dressmaking. I'd never thought about how one's opinion on a doll might be formed if, say, they were really easy to sew for.

    Thanks again for sharing your opinions and thoughts on these gals!

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  16. I really enjoyed the depth of your review, thank you for writing it. I think these two dolls while lovely as they are, need to be used to explain to children that sometimes what you see in a toy is not reality
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  17. For me, the glaring difference in Shola's clothing resulted in me turning her down. I have a friend from that regio who pointed out the glaring errors in the actual production doll. She could have been so beautiful. And accurate. I have Wan Long from Karito Kids and yes, I was spoiled, as an adult I learned a great manhy things about China and pandas in general . I love my Ling and wish I could afford or even find Gia or Pita. As for headscarves, it was really watered down. We're Jewish and sometimes I choose to cover my hair on the High Holidays or for Synagogue and there are all kinds of tichels and headscarves. Unfortunately, I am clumsy with all of them (they are sometimes worn under a shetiel (wig) and I need to "cheat" with two cords that discreetly tie in the back. All of my tichels have banding or detail. I wish it wouldn't have been so sheer. Women with dark hair like to wear opaque headscarves. My friend favors ivory. The missing boots and pants ( I know a lot about modesty in Jewish dress) is awful. Elbows, ankles, collarbones - all covered. As for Mosi, the plastic feather set me off again. I too had hoped they would dedicate themselves to an authentic Navajo culture. She should have been wearing a small silver-toned squash blossom necklace - it has two strands of beadwork and ends in a horse-shoe shape - it's the best way I can describe it. I dated someone Native for several years and Mosi is glaringly watered down. Lauryce was just right. How could the company miss the mark so badly? Still, I have hope for the line in the future, or other lines. If only Karito Kids were still around to make a doll from India or someplace in the world to accurately describe life for a child it would be so wonderful. Awesome review. Just the tops!

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  18. A year ago, I did research into American Girl and some of the big doll market. There, I learned more about the Hearts4Heartsgirl.com doll line. For the price, the H4H dolls can't currently be beat. $25-35 versus $110 for an American girl doll/book.

    I now own all 10 H4H dolls! Noting that most are NOT all white dolls, but represent girls from varied cultures.

    Mattel, as most of you can guess without research, is the Big 1000 Pound Gorilla Doll in the doll manufacturing world! Barbie, Monster High, and American Girl are their big $$$ doll moneymakers. Disney is also huge (i think) and contracts their doll LINES (usually different versions of their Princess dolls) thru various manufacturers. Both Mattel and Disney take up several linear FEET of your local store's shelf space. Hearts4Hearts is in many big box stores, but has maybe only 2-3' of shelf space. Tho they're available online from Target, Amazon, Ebay. I think Walmart (in Canada) and from playmatestoys.com

    What I see from publicly available info on Playmates Toys is...that they are doing respectably with their Hearts4Hearts doll line, but their main current seller is the revived Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line.

    Therefore, PlaymatesToys as a modest player amongst the Mega Doll Manufacturers, has to watch its inventory and maybe has to take less risks than, say, Massive Mattel.

    I don't work for Playmates Toys, but this is my general business assessment.

    So, I am happy with Mosi. Not sure why the inner seams were left unserged, but the frayed outer fringe is what some young clothing designers are doing currently. Even saw veteran sewing teacher Nancy Zieman use the current unfinished fringe on a garment...

    I did communicate some with PlaymatesToys SVP Gina Beebe (who had also once worked for American Girl). She was trying to recapture some of the doll/book wonderful learning experience of American Girl dolls.

    I also found...American Girl has partly deviated from their historical girl doll/researched book combo and gets big $$ sales from two main sources: Their upscale lavish American Girl store$ (appearing in various US upscale malls) and their Doll of the year with book sets.

    So...while PlaymatesToys can definitely learn and improve on details, I overall are VERY impressed with this modest sized company's products.

    The learning/quality/and (general) cultural sensitivity for the modest price, I think, is very good.

    Not perfect, but then I grew up mostly in All White Blonde American Doll world. (Boring!!!)

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  19. Hi, Nethilia. I just now ran across your blog and am curious if you ever found good shoes for the H4H dolls. I know they and the Corolle Les Cheries dolls, the Paola Reina dolls, and 14" Betsy McCall dolls can share clothing, but I am having a very hard time finding shoes for them!

    Riene

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    1. I just now saw this--I've yet to find any! I've been slacking some, but I think I still can on eBay.

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  20. I know I'm a little late getting in on this :) but I just found this review and wanted to add my two cents worth :) having grown up around some dear Navajo friends, I must say I don't find the wild pony bit stereotypical at all. In fact one of my best friend's did have a wild horse that he trained when he was home on the rez. And yes unfortunately there is a very big generational gap between the kids my age and their grandparents... I don't think its offensive to create a story like this for Mosi- its ok for a girl to like horses, native or otherwise. Just my personal thoughts on the matter :)

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  21. Great review! I love how you are so culturally aware and respectful towards Shola and Mosi, I must agree that it was rather disrespectful for them to have shown ankle when the pictures promised not to! I still love these dolls (Shola, Consuelo, & Lilian in particular) and will probably (like you) make some more appropriate clothes.

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  22. After reading this post, I am very interested in getting Shola. I love learning about different cultures, and am very disappointed that both Mosi and Shola are not correct representations in some ways. If I do end up getting Shola, I will probably sew her some pants and a new hijab at least, probably more clothes.
    ~N~

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