American Girl’s 1980’s “Gamer Girl” Courtney Moore Has Arrived! She’s Totally Cool!

16 Sep

Greetings, welcome back!

Gen Next is here to bring some exciting news to fans of American Girl: the long anticipated “historical” character, Courtney Moore, has finally been released!

A 1980’s themed character has been in demand since American Girl’s 30th Anniversary in 2016, since many of American Girl’s earliest fans, who grew up with the dolls in the mid-to-late 1980’s, are now full-grown adults with their own children.

Stranger Things has also contributed to the recent surge in popularity of everything ’80s, especially piquing the interest of children.

Many expect Courtney to play the tune of nostalgia.

I’d like to share a little about her collection, then I will give my complete review of the doll and collection.

Courtney Moore is growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley. She’s a total ’80s girl whose favorite place is Smiley’s Arcade because she loves playing video games. Courtney likes being in control of what happens, which isn’t always the case in real life. She and her stepsister, Tina, don’t always get along, and now that Courtney’s mom is running for mayor, things are changing at home. It’s a whole new game for Courtney, and she’s figuring out the rules as she goes.

Here’s a preview of her current collection:

After review of the entire collection and the book, I can say there’s a lot I’m impressed with. While I do still have my criticisms about the entire Courtney release, I can say I’m much more on board than before.

I do still hold some bitterness, since this is supposed to be around the 100th year anniversary since women began exercising their voting rights, which was why I was hoping so hard for a 1920’s character. It would be especially timely given this is the year of the presidential election.

However, given the fact that I know my desires are hardly ever popular, and given the huge interest in pop culture from the 1980’s, I was expecting too much. My 1920’s character may just have to wait another, what, 10 years?

Anyway, my opinions have changed a bit since my last article on the subject: Why is American Girl Sleeping on the ‘Roaring 20’s’?

I decided to toss a coin to decide whether I should share the pros or cons first. “Heads” was for pros; “tails” for cons. I landed “heads”, so here goes.


For starters, I have to say I’m in love with the gamer-girl theme. If you haven’t noticed from the various articles and video-game themed background by now, I’d like to inform you that I’m quite the gamer girl. It took years for me to feel normal for it. When I was in high school, there were very few girls interested in video games.

Nowadays, who hasn’t played a video game? Whether on a phone, tablet, laptop, or console, everyone is into it now. Still, Courtney poses many questions that still plague girl gamers today (I mean, her time period only exists some 30-something years ago): Why aren’t there enough games centered on girls? Why can’t we have more female representation in the gaming scene? Yes, it’s true that there are still more men supporting the industry as a whole, but as more women enter, the faces of our gaming developers may start to change, too.

I like that American Girl has partnered with “Girls Who Code” as well. American Girl allows customers to donate to the cause and plans to award four girls $5,000 scholarships towards a STEM field. I would have died to have this as a child. It’s really exciting to know that American Girl is following after GOTY Luciana and supporting more STEM-related themes.

Aside from the gaming and technology themes, I am actually loving the ’80s-specific collection! I really can’t resist a historical character, no matter how much I pout and cry and throw a tantrum about how she doesn’t fit into the “historical” collection. Who can resist a Pac-Man arcade? Bandai-Namco has partnered with American Girl, and they happen to be one of my favorite video game developers (Tekken comes to mind).

The school supplies give me Lisa Frank vibes as well, which brings me all the way back.

I’m obsessed with Courtney’s style. I am particularly fond of the androgynous colorful top with the tie.

As a huge fan of Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley, Courtney’s era is my era. All of the books, movies, and music that I love to this day were developed in the 1980’s. I believe this era inspired everybody. The collection is my favorite part about this release as a result.

I think this release was a smart move from American Girl, especially considering the pandemic and how difficult it is right now for businesses. While it may not be strong in the history department, and the doll may not look very unique, the era is totally sellable when it comes to the collection.

Finally, the best part about her collection is the mini Molly doll she comes with. I know a lot of fans were hoping for this. Personally, I didn’t expect it, considering we’ve had tons of Girl of the Year characters who could have had their own American Girl doll, and no one has ever asked for any of them to have their own historical character nor has one been released to tie into their collections. Then again, I’ve noticed there hasn’t been too many characters that even come with dolls anymore or are even written as girls who play with dolls, not since Rebecca was released (I plan on doing a video and article on this topic later). With Courtney having Molly, it means the dolls are canon in each of the characters’ worlds. We might start seeing some Girl of the Year characters with their own dolls soon. The possibility of the mini dolls returning full-throttle is exciting for me as well.

Of course, this does present another problem, which I will explain later. Let’s keep focusing on the pros.

I am also happy to announce that American Girl stated her birthday is officially February 12, 1976, which officially makes her the first Aquarius character in the American Girl historical collection (and possibly beyond).

I’m surprisingly intrigued by different parts of her story, particularly the trauma of the Challenger explosion and how that impacted students watching in their classrooms at that time. I’m also interested in how her story will tackle step-families, as none of the other American Girl characters actually have had a whole new family after their parents remarried. Sure, Josefina received a new mom after her father remarried. Samantha received new adopted sisters. Julie was just dealing with the initial trauma of divorce. But a whole new extended family? It’s a little different in a way. There’s also talk of one of Courtney’s friends having a “scary disease”, mentioned in American Girl Publishing’s synopsis. After reviewing the reader’s guide for the first book, it’s likely that subject will go more in-depth in a second book. Courtney feels like a Girl of the Year character, but with more depth, so it’s a nice balance for fans.

American Girl has announced on Facebook that another book will be released for Courtney. I’m not sure what subjects will be covered, but I’m hoping for the traditional holiday story, birthday story, a sweet little summer story, and something that shows she’s changed and grown.

I can’t help but really relate to Courtney as a character. Obviously, I was born close to her time period, so everything feels familiar. It’s so cool to see a miniature world similar to the one I was raised in.

Plus, as a character, she reminds me of myself. Even better, she has the spirit of a true American Girl: brave, empathetic, and imaginative.

Despite my earlier reservations, I’m actually excited for more from her collection.


Overall, even after reading a bit of Courtney’s book, I don’t feel she’s a “historical” character. And I say this with all sincerity. Maybe it’s because I’m old. I did just make 30 years old this year.

I was slow to discuss more about Courtney because I thought she would be like Julie. When Julie first arrived, I thought she was too modern to be a “historical” character. After I read her books, Julie’s story surprised me. It turned out to have shown more history than I anticipated. Julie’s world showed how the 1970’s shaped all of our modern world, from societal norms to politics, fashion, language and speech, music, movies, television, pop culture, education, the environment, the economy, and much more.

But after reading a bit of Courtney’s stories, here’s what I discovered is the difference between Julie and Courtney. Julie’s stories actually VASTLY differed from any of the American Girls that came before her. She was the first American Girl advertised with pants or trousers. Her world showed a strong shift from the reserved and conservative values of Molly’s world (the most modern American Girl world at the time of Julie’s release), and is still even more distinct in comparison to Maryellen and Melody, two characters in decades prior to Julie in the American Girl historical timeline. As mentioned before, the stories thoroughly highlighted how the 1970’s shaped modern society or how events in her time modernized the world. Julie was a unique character in the historical universe.

Courtney’s stories on the other hand feel largely designed to appeal to nostalgia, pop culture fanatics, and overall the doll was just released to give people appealing accessories. She was in demand, and everything that was in demand was written into a story. But it doesn’t feel like the history of the era was really considered, not by those demanding for a 1980’s character or by those developing one. The idea of having a fun throw-back collection was too tempting.

While 1980’s pop culture references throughout the books show how the era largely shaped pop culture today, as far as the historical topics chosen and the way 1980’s history was approached so far, I kind of felt let down.

First off, many are challenging the fact that Courtney comes with scrunchies and that her sister, Tina, in the books is obsessed with them. Courtney is marketed as being from 1986 (though her story timeline appears to be from 1985-1986 thus far). Apparently, scrunchies weren’t patented until 1987, and was said to be more popular in the decade afterwards. From my recollection, Claudia Kishi sported scrunchies in the 1986 illustrations of the Babysitters Club, but it still seemed more like a 1990’s staple. It’s possible that American Girl felt since she was modern, they wouldn’t have to do much research. Many of the people working with American Girl were kids or teenagers in the 1980’s, so they may have drawn from their own experiences rather than waste too much money on an advisory board. The problem is that it shows. Personal memories are valuable, but often flawed. I can barely get dates and times right in my own timeline. Still, like all the other American Girls, it’s likely Courtney’s stories will cover the whole latter half of the decade, so her scrunchies may fit in sooner or later.

If they ever do try to develop a 1990’s character, would she include scrunchies, too? That would make the 1990’s girl look too much like Courtney. They may have to stick with daisy hats if they want to make the 1990’s distinct.

Can’t say I’m too thrilled about the idea of a 1990’s character, considering how I feel about Courtney. When it comes to collection, Courtney is all American Girl offers from the 1980’s, so that makes at least her items appealing. I enjoyed American Girl Today products from the 1990’s a lot more than what I’m sure would be coming out in the near future from the company, so I just don’t have as strong of a desire for a 1990’s character. Then again, if they were to re-release all of those items, I would definitely be excited. My pockets would have holes for sure.

I found Courtney to be too modern to call “historical”, so I’m sure 1990’s would be worse. I might as well begin calling any character released from the 1990’s an “American Girl Today”. Unfortunately, my favorite part about American Girl is the books, and I prefer the historical fiction to the contemporary. The further back it feels, the better for me, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to relive that time period. The 1980’s is pretty fun to relive actually. The history portion is just weak, that’s all.

It’s interesting that her “teacher’s guide” even so obviously pointed out that the 1980’s isn’t even an era that is often taught in classrooms. I mean, why would any educational institution cover the era in-depth? There weren’t many era-defining historical events, and the education system has the challenge of covering EVERYTHING. Pop culture would be last on their list. They would prefer to cover wars, economic hardship, the building of a nation, politics…subjects that impact people on a personal level. We are facing more history-defining events today, in 2020, than Courtney did in her version of the 1980’s, to tell the truth.

After reading Courtney’s books, it’s obvious that the 1980’s isn’t as important as other eras in time. It’s fun, not important. But maybe there should be some room for eras that aren’t necessarily important but just fun. Not my cup of tea, but it’s what the public wants, right? I guess not every American Girl has to tackle the harsh subjects. Still, I always thought that the Girl of the Year characters were for fun subjects; the historical dolls were supposed to be for us grittier people. I digress.

So far, I hadn’t read about any real society-shaping events. The Challenger Explosion was devastating in the 1980’s for sure, but we’ve certainly had more society-shaping events happen decades later (9/11 is a prime example of that, which equally aired in the classrooms and devastated millions of people worldwide).

I dislike that feeling, the feeling that the historical stories I’m reading are shallow in comparison to my world today. Maybe I’m used to thinking that things were much harder for people in the past and that I should be grateful to be living in a modern world. But after reading Courtney, it’s pretty clear that times were much simpler in the 1980’s.

Of course, times were not good for everyone in the 1980’s. Yet, they didn’t choose to tell the story of a family really struggling in that time period. They didn’t choose a character that could really educate its readers. Therefore, Courtney’s story feels like a true modern story to me. Aside from a few 1980’s references, I didn’t really feel the history.

Possibly this comes from reading an overload of Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley books as a child. I used to read them in 2002, and they felt just as relevant to me as to kids in the 1980’s. In fact, I didn’t even know those books were written in the 1980’s until I became an adult. Sure, fashions have changed, but events, situations, politics, economy, and the general outlook of most Americans haven’t changed much since the 1970’s, or at least it doesn’t seem Courtney shows the general difference. I will say the 1980’s invented “pop culture” for sure, but the decade isn’t remembered for its historical moments.

The three things that separate her from a Girl of the Year character are the moments of trauma, such as the Challenger Explosion, the struggle to merge families, and hearing your friend has a disease, which the Girl of the Year characters are careful to steer clear of. However, I believe a modern character, if constructed well, would have a more compelling story than a white middle-class 1980’s character like Courtney, and may even touch on the same subjects.

American Girl may have had an opportunity to teach 1980’s history through a different lens than the white middle-class suburban character. This is also the next disappointment for me. I personally didn’t put much stock in American Girl’s initiative to “include more black characters” in their line-ups. After all, these expensive dolls are mostly purchased by those who have the most money in our society, which would mean the characters have to cater to the largest consumer, i.e. white.

Still, I believe the stories would have been more compelling and interesting if they had deviated from their general “norm”. Lord knows I wanted my Claudia Kishi, and American Girl is dry of Asian American characters. It’s sad that one of Courtney’s friends is Japanese, but they couldn’t decide to create a protagonist from an Asian or Eastern background. They had one more opportunity to create a character of color in an exciting and fun era, and they chose wonder-bread white instead. There will not be another better opportunity to introduce an Asian character, not from a fun and modern era that kids actually find interest in. In any other era, she will surely struggle to sell, aside from Asian dolls struggling to sell to the primary consumer in the first place. Our only hope is another Girl of the Year, which would only last one year, unfortunately. I’m extremely disappointed.

Courtney is so “generic”, both in concept and as a doll. While I still like her personality, I struggle to be interested in the actual doll and her world itself. She’s bland and not very interesting.

The elephant in the room is that she looks a lot like Maryellen. She could have been brunette. Yes, Joss was just released, but among the historical collection, the white brunettes are mostly archived. Though big hair was really popular, not every kid in the 1980’s had trendy hair. They didn’t have to do the curly-haired thing again.

Second, how many characters do we need from California? I get the Valley Girl theme ties in well, but we have had Kailey, Julie, the recent GOTY 2020 Joss…I’m interested in learning more about other parts of our great nation, and I’m tired of reading about the Pacific coast. We have FIFTY freakin’ states…FIFTY! They couldn’t choose one other one besides California again?

It doesn’t help that Courtney is meant to come right after Julie in the timeline. Another blonde, from California, from a family of divorce, who has an older trendy sister. Unless Julie is headed to the archives, I don’t understand why Courtney’s life had to be so generic.

Last, the Molly doll thing. I both love the inclusion of Molly and am bothered by it. Yes, having her around makes me feel old, just as many have stated.

Someone on Twitter, Audrey Dubois, stated it perfectly:

The fact that the character Courtney owns an original 1986 Molly doll means that the American Girl Company is canon within the American Girl universe. History has caught up with itself. The cycle is complete. This Ouroboros has swallowed its own tail.

There is the realization that American Girl is going to be continuing a cycle that never ends. Eventually, American Girl Today dolls will be considered historical. Blaire Wilson and Luciana will be historical, too. And some future character may have their own Blaire Wilson or Luciana doll. It’s a scary thought.

But there’s one other issue here: Courtney and Molly are meant to be real people in their own respective universes. To the rest of us, they are fictional. In Courtney’s world, Molly is a doll with a book. Does this mean Molly is a fictional character in Courtney’s world? Or is she meant to be a non-fictional character in Courtney’s world, who just happens to have books and a doll? This is the issue when we try to blend the American Girl stories into the same universe, and is probably the reason they’ve never done this before. We are left questioning whether each American Girl is only real in their own universes, but fiction within each others’ universes, or whether the American Girl characters are generally real people with books and dolls in each others’ universes…

Maybe I just think too deeply about it. I didn’t finish reading the books, so Molly could very well end up like the Barbie Cut N’ Curl in Julie’s collection, possibly not even being an important part of the story. That could explain that away.

And not to be a prude, but the illustrations in Molly’s Meet Molly book aren’t the original 1986 illustrations by C.F. Payne. The illustrations they chose weren’t designed until the 1990’s. I’m kind of confused as to why they used the newer ones, though they have been claiming accuracy and authenticity throughout the website on every single page. Possibly they no longer have the rights to the original designs. It would have been best if they just had the doll without the book, if we’re talking accuracy.

Last, I would like to say that I was hoping the outfits would be tied into more specific collections. All of her outfits are mostly mix-and-match. I surely do miss the days of the large collections for each scene or event in the books. I would have liked her pet and school desk to be included. Who knows. It all may be coming soon. It’s not like she’s a Girl of the Year character. She’ll likely be around a while. Still, judging by the other more recent historical characters, it’s not likely her collections will be designed around the events in her story too neatly. Oh well.

Overall, that’s my spin on Courtney Moore.


Pros-Collection, Character’s Personality and Profile, Theme

Cons-Historical issues, Doll, Lack of Diversity

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of Courtney. Are you excited and happy? Or underwhelmed and disappointed? Or somewhere in-between?

Don’t forget to check out her new stop-motion movie coming soon! It’s bound to be cute! Ciao and peace!


4 Responses to “American Girl’s 1980’s “Gamer Girl” Courtney Moore Has Arrived! She’s Totally Cool!”

  1. quinleytheelf 2021/08/09 at 15:32 #

    It does seem strange that a Molly doll would appear in Courtney’s universe, after all I always assumed that AG’s stories were set in a sort of alternate time line where AG doesn’t exist. (Because otherwise we do run into the problem of what is real and what is fiction).

    But I assume they did these for marketing reasons, and thought selling a Molly mini doll with Courtney’s collection would get people to feel nostalgic about getting their first AG doll in the 80s (which would be for older fans of course).

    Overall with Courtney, I am very disappointed because I was hoping AG would release a doll that isn’t so modern for their historical collections.


    Liked by 1 person

    • generationnext 2021/08/26 at 18:15 #

      My sentiments exactly. I’m bitter-sweet about Courtney. There’s so much about her collection and era I love as far as collection, but I’m not as much of a fan of the current story-telling method (which forgoes the six-book format for simpler story models) and the tie-in “pitch” of Molly feels kind of weird. Obviously, though, the fact that having a Molly in her collection was in demand enough that people didn’t even think too carefully about how that even ties into the whole American Girl system is amusing to say the least.

      Thank you for reading and responding! 😀

      Liked by 1 person


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