The Obama dolls

So-called Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia are for sale, not complete without cool preppy outfits, makeup and mini-skirts.

Parents devote a considerable amount of time to choosing a name for their child: It often is significant to the parents, evokes a particular nickname and holds a certain audible chime. But would parents ever envision sweet or marvelous as proper modifiers to their daughtersâÄô names? Listed under âÄúrare, hot itemsâÄù on eBay.com âÄî and even making news in the Economic Times in India âÄî are âÄúSweet SashaâÄù and âÄúMarvelous Malia,âÄù dolls referencing Barack and Michele ObamaâÄôs daughters . The companyâÄôs commercial for the dolls dons a jazzy piano riff, black sweeping script and plenty of pink. Their retail for $9.99, according to CNN. But they are sold as Chicago souvenirs for $29.99 on souvenirchicago.com . And on the perpetual bidding auctions of eBay? Roughly $150. ItâÄôs too bad J. Crew didnâÄôt design doll clothes too. But letâÄôs back up. Ty Inc.âÄôs spokesperson recently spoke with the Associated Press and said that âÄúThere is nothing on the dolls that refers to the Obama girls. It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not.âÄù Of course they arenâÄôt. The dolls are the only two marketed black TyGirlz, and accordingly follow the patent of the rest of the companyâÄôs line: a plush 12 inches in height, long hair, big lips and huge eyes âÄî often decorated with makeup or wearing miniskirts. A wholesome ideal to promote to young girls of any skin color, IâÄôd say. Additionally, IâÄôm forced to hypothesize that no one in the company knew the names of the presidentâÄôs daughters during its board meeting last month. After all, their names arenâÄôt remarkably popular: MaliaâÄôs the 424th most popular baby name in the United States, and Sasha? The 350th most popular name in 2007. But as history goes, this has happened before. The Caroline Kennedy doll can be bought on eBay for more than $375, so thereâÄôs no escaping the capital that will inevitably be garnered by TyGirlz. The real issue isnâÄôt whether the dolls were created, or that theyâÄôre wearing cropped pants and ponytails âÄî or even whether they breach the Obama girlsâÄô right to privacy. Amid endless online reader commentary, the consensus of the populous is negative. On Monday, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus cited that the dolls could be seen in a more positive light. She has written that âÄúI say: embrace them. ItâÄôs impossible to read about âÄòSweet SashaâÄô and âÄòMarvelous MaliaâÄô without being reminded of the famous psychology experiment cited in Brown v. Board of education.âÄù She continues to remind readers that given a choice between a black or white doll, young children asked to choose the âÄúgoodâÄù doll and the âÄúbadâÄù doll overwhelmingly chose white as good, brown as bad. Marcus also cites the similar results of a 2005 documentary as insightful to todayâÄôs world, and thus maintains the Obama dolls could promote a dismantling of such âÄúdebilitating internal messages.âÄù But maybe it should be the Obama family who has the voice. By no means do I intend to trivialize this clearly troubling element of our society, but I do believe Marcus supports a tepid argument. Had she visited the TyGirlz website , she might have changed her mind; every doll comes with a secret code that unlocks her virtual world where she can shop with her friends: blue-lipped Sassy Star, Cute Candy, Oo-LaLa Olivia, and purple Punky Penny to name a few. After its teeny-bopper guitar riffs, rhinestones and tinkling links, the site cuts to home videos where dolls model their âÄúcool preppy outfitsâÄù as narrated by the very young girls who send them to the website. I know IâÄôve addressed this before, but weâÄôve apparently hit a hybrid of Sarah PalinâÄôs clothes and the American Girl Dolls âÄî ultimately lending the larger problem I see. Of course these women will remain in the limelight; the girls are quickly becoming AmericaâÄôs Darlings, and they are darling. But we need to get over the fashion analysis, save it for the Oscars and remain attentive to the first ladyâÄôs actions, rather than her rapport with Jason Wu. But even in a simple Google news search of âÄúMichelle Obama,âÄù I had to sift through fashion headlines to find even her bio at whitehouse.gov where she is self-described foremost as âÄúMalia and SashaâÄôs mom.âÄù Among the superior headlines were: âÄúAmericaâÄôs Lady Diana?âÄù âÄúGuide to the First LadyâÄôs fashionable looksâÄù and âÄúMichelle Obama Under fire for not wearing a Black designer,âÄù âÄúMichelle, Malia and Sasha ignite a fashion frenzy.âÄù So they wore J.Crew, as do many Americans. Interestingly, the Obamas are American too. Leave it to a little alliteration for a sunny headline. Never mind Mrs. ObamaâÄôs education at Princeton and Harvard, and her entrepreneurial endeavor in her own successful law firm. Why then is brevity necessary when mentioning Mrs. Obama? The president is married to one brilliant woman. One who even addressed her Princeton thesis âÄî in the most simplified sense âÄî on the issues of race that Marcus extrapolates from the TyGirlz âÄúSweet SashaâÄù and âÄúMarvelous Malia.âÄù Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]