Why I "Hate" Mattel Toys' CEO, Robert Eckert

Some of you may be aware of the American Girl Doll and it's latest addition to their line (yes, it's been out for 10 months). I'm not going to expound upon all the details except to share that the doll's name is "Gwen," a homeless child who sleeps in cars with her mother after after being evicted from their apartment because her dead-beat dad left them.

In an absurd twist, "Gwen" also retails for $95 clams, is nicely groomed, and dressed better than most kids. You can read the rest of the details HERE, but there are several issues that I took offense to with poor Gwen.

What follows is the letter I sent to Mattel's CEO, Robert Eckert, outlining those issues.

Mr. Robert A. Eckert
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Mattel, Inc.
333 Continental Boulevard
El Segundo, CA 90245-5012

Dear Mr. Eckert,

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment over your homeless American Girl Doll, “Gwen.” Although I can appreciate your company’s intent to raise awareness for homelessness, as a businessman with an executive level background in sales and marketing, I question your logic, first in determining a target market for which a product of this nature is appropriate, and secondly, in overlooking the obvious paradox in charging nearly one-hundred dollars for a toy representing extreme poverty. Mr. Eckart, this represents poor leadership on your part.

Mattel was once nationally recognized for its philanthropic contributions, but that reputation appears to have receded (again reflecting your deficient leadership during your five-year tenure). In this vein, I find it enigmatic that you failed to take a more proactive approach in the fight against homelessness. Why not create a doll called “Angel,” for example, who helps her father as a volunteer at a soup kitchen or who starts a clothing drive amongst her friends? How is it that you also didn’t think to donate a portion of the doll’s purchase price to a charity dedicated to helping the homeless?

However, Mr. Eckert, aside from the obscene irony in this product, what I take an even greater offense to is the negative representation of fatherhood included in “Gwen’s” back-story. As a stay-at-home dad with five children (three boys and two stepdaughters), I’m wondering why you felt the need to incorporate a dead-beat dad into the equation? How does this help the problem of homelessness? In no way am I defending irresponsible men, but they compose a small minority of fathers by comparison, so what reason justifies placing this cynical image into the arms of an eight year-old girl? On behalf of the millions of fathers who defy the societal stereotyping you are perpetuating, I would like to express what a great insult your “toy” represents.

Furthermore, the problems boys and young men are struggling with today are well publicized, and thus it is less than helpful to market a product that highlights men’s failures. This sends a discouraging message contrary to the original intent of the American Girl line. Instead of fostering positive self-esteem and empowerment, you are telling girls that they will be abandoned by men while at the same time saying to boys this is as high a mark as you will achieve.

Mr. Eckart, I realize that you may never read this letter, that you are probably sitting around some decadent conference table like the farcical executives of Mooby Cow in the movie Dogma, scrutinizing the latest rounds of earnings, while some assistant scans my words. However, I want you to be aware that I am publicizing this message on my blog Clark Kent’s Lunchbox. It has a modest following, with limited reach, but I’m hoping the viral power of social media to influence major corporations’ decisions will cause you to reconsider your poor judgment in merchandising the Gwen doll, as well as with similar products in the future. I’m also hoping that the $7 million in compensation that Forbes reported Mattel paid you in 2008 (along with the additional $6.2 million from your position at McDonalds) hasn’t insulated you from moral reason.

Am I on a high horse? Yes. But sometimes you have to ride one for worthwhile causes like the welfare of our children.


Ron Mattocks
Writer / Concerned Father

I've been to the American Girl headquarters in Chicago (nearly losing my life--another funny story), and would have loved to see some real homeless child wander in carrying a Gwen doll for a tea party and hair appointment.

Normally, I don't ask for much of readers (I'm just thankful you stop by), but if you feel as strongly as I do, please forward this message through your Twitter, Facebook and other social networking channels. There's just too many idiotic things out there influencing our children to have one more, especially from a product line that once was a vaunted for reinforcing positive self-esteem.

UPDATE: TIME Magazine just named Gwen #1 on their Top 10 List of Dubious Toys

This post brought to you by the great dads (and moms) at Dad-Blogs and Fatherhood Friday.

And also by Kat's Friday series, Dear So & So

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ads Section

Ads Section

  © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP