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In 1972, children’s book author Charlotte Zolotow took it a step further with her classic story “William’s Doll,” which challenged gender expectations about children and their toys. Inspired by her initial agonizing struggles with fatherhood, Zolotow set out to normalize boys playing with dolls, a theme echoed in the short film and song adaptation.

Hasbro’s bold move in the 80s

Fast forward to 1985 when toy giant Hasbro decided to challenge the norm by introducing My Buddy, a soft-bodied doll aimed at boys. At the time, the idea of ​​boys playing with dolls raised eyebrows. Hasbro’s careful research, including interviews with parents, paved the way for My Buddy to enter a market dominated by electronic toys.

Doll boom in the mid-80s

Amid the rise of electronic toys, dolls experienced a revival between 1983 and 1985, with shipments increasing 111%, generating a whopping $3.36 billion. The iconic Cabbage Patch Kids sparked a craze, leading to riots in stores during the 1985 Christmas season. Hasbro used this favorable moment to challenge stereotypes and offer dolls for both girls and boys.

Action picture of my friend

Despite Hasbro’s acknowledgment that children, regardless of gender, have “softer sides”, advertising for My Buddy veered away from portraying boys as caretakers. Instead, advertisements portrayed the doll as a rugged companion in everyday adventures. The catchy song My Buddy reinforced this image, emphasizing friendship over quasi-parenthood.

Soft Macho success

The marketing strategy worked wonders. Advertising for My Buddy focused on action-oriented appeal, branding it as “The little boy’s special friend! Rough and tough, yet soft and cuddly.” The doll, which retailed for $25, secured the eighth spot on the list of best-selling toys in 1985, ahead of the Cabbage Patch Kids.

Chucky’s Unintended Strike

The success of My Buddy led Hasbro to introduce Kid Sister, a companion doll for girls. However, in 1988, the horror film “Child’s Play” featured a doll named Chucky, which resembles My Buddy. The film’s success inadvertently tarnished My Buddy’s image, contributing to its discontinuation by Hasbro in the early 90s.

Dolls and Boys: A Continuing Conversation

My Buddy’s legacy lingers, creating new challenges. After the doll was discontinued, Playskool took over production, but some children, influenced by Chucky’s portrayal, developed a fear of their once beloved Buddy. The intersection of dolls and boys remained newsworthy, prompting American Girl to introduce Logan Everett, its first boy doll, in 2017.

A modern take on the American girl

In response to long-standing requests, American Girl introduced Logan Everett, a boy doll with his own drum kit, adding diversity to their lineup. While not specifically aimed at boys, the Logan figure is a step toward more comprehensive doll options. Some argue that American Girl missed an opportunity to highlight the benefits of boys playing with dolls. The journey from William’s doll to my friend reflects evolving perspectives on gender norms in the toy realm. While challenges remain, the inclusion of Logan Everett signals a positive shift, inviting children to explore different experiences through dolls, regardless of gender.

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