The country’s marketing sharks appear to have found their next Hannah Montana: Malia and Sasha Obama. The ink was barely dry on Barack Obama’s first executive orders when Ty (the company best known for Beanie Babies) released its Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha plush dolls, as part of its TyGirlz collection. One wonders how many Ty company lawyers it took to craft the statement that the dolls are “not based on the Obama girls.”
The Obama daughters are going to be followed around for the next four to eight years by heavily armed men wearing dark coats and ear pieces. They don’t need some company cashing in on them, too.
Thus has another cultural line been erased: Hannah aka Miley Cyrus’s parents chose to have their pubescent daughter pose for semi-nudes with Annie Leibovitz. The Obamas chose public service at one of the most challenging moments in our nation’s history. And the end result is that all three girls become, quite literally, someone else’s dolls.
These poor girls deserve better. They are going to be followed around for the next four to eight years by heavily armed men wearing dark coats and ear pieces. Whenever they are out in public with their dad, they are going to be standing behind sheets of bulletproof glass. Half of Washington, D.C. with a cellphone camera is going to be looking to find them in a too-low top or too-short skirt, playing, dancing, or someday sneaking a cigarette or a drink. They may find themselves in their twenties and thirties dodging long-lens paparazzi snapping shots of their boyfriends or girlfriends or zooming in tight on their bellies to see if they have baby bump. They don’t need some company cashing in on them, too. And we don’t need to pay or play.
I’m wondering if right about now, Oprah is going to be calling up American Express to ask them to put a stop payment on her reported $100,000-a-night presidential-suite tab at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C., which she rented for the inauguration. You see, Ty Warner, the toy magnate of Beanie Baby fame, owns a stake in the Four Seasons. And as a result, US Four Seasons hotels routinely hand out Ty toys to their pint-size guests—Marvelous Malia is presumably next.
If marketers are so desperate, why not choose to mass-produce celebrities who actually sell the baby pictures of their kids. How about a Brangelina doll line? There are already six figures already available, it seems guaranteed to increase every year or two, and there are a whole range of satellite family spin-offs—Jennifer Aniston, Billy Bob Thornton. But let the Obama girls be girls. They should be playing with dolls, not having to wonder if their faces are going to be for sale in whatever toy store they might have a rare chance to wander into.
Lyric Wallwork Winik is an award-winning writer and author and the Washington correspondent for Parade Magazine. Her next book will be about Magellan’s voyage for Crown.