An American documentary

Had a curious experience watching television the other day. I was sitting there on the couch with a friend, switching through the channels without any real interest when we stopped on an HBO documentary called Hard Times for an American Girl: The Great Depression, though we didn’t know that was the title at the time.

The program was a thoughtful and quirky look at how the harsh economic conditions of the 1930s and 1940s affected people’s lives. Basically, the program followed children around as they interviewed (sometimes in endearingly scripted ways) senior citizens (at least one was more than 100 years old) about their experiences as children during the Depression. The program was alternately funny and heart-breaking, and we were riveted.

But then we started noticing the dolls. Some of the girls doing the interviews or talking later about what they heard were holding dolls. One girl held a doll wearing exactly the same dress she had on.
“That’s an American GirlĀ doll,” my friend said. “Each doll is tailored exactly to the girl. They’re quite pricey.”
It was only at the end of the program, when we finally saw the complete name of the documentary, that the whole thing made sense. Turns out the whole thing was just an advertisement for the American Doll company. In fact, according to this February 21, 2007 Time Warner press release, American Girl and HBO are making all sorts of stuff together.
“HBO and American Girl, one of the nation’s top direct marketers, children’s publishers and experiential retailers, have entered into an overall relationship to develop a variety of multi-platform ventures including theatrical films, series, specials, and documentaries,” the release stated. Further on in the release, HBO Films President Colin Callender offers this gem of corporate stooge-speak: “This is an unprecedented opportunity to align the forces of both the HBO and the American Girl brands in a groundbreaking collaboration that will enable us to take advantage of the rapidly expanding, multi-platform, multi-faceted promotional opportunities spanning all areas of distribution.”
Experiential retailer? Overall relationship? Multi-platform ventures? Multi-faceted promotional opportunities?
Yeah, I’d guess I’d spout euphemistic nonsense like that if I was turning 16 years of unimaginable hardship and misery into advertisements for expensive dolls.

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