If you’ve spent any time on the internet recently, chances are you’ve seen an American Girl doll on your feed. With their dead eyes and characteristic front teeth, these dolls have consumed public consciousness for decades, and now they’re experiencing a cultural revival thanks to meme accounts like @klit.klittredge.
In just over a year, @klit.klittredge — a play on Kit Kittredge, the Great Depression era doll — has become one of the most prolific American Girl doll meme accounts. Her Instagram boasts over 50,000 followers, and over on Twitter, she has an audience of more than 34,000. A delightful mix of shitposting and leftist memes, @klit.klittredge knows that nothing brings the internet together like nostalgia. And her memes often draw on the shared experience of growing up with American Girl dolls. As any woman of a certain age will tell you, they were more than just dolls. They were an entire moment. Each historical doll had an accompanying chapter-book series that explored their historical period and documented their adolescence.
In an interview with Mashable, the 24-year-old woman behind the memes, Lydia B., opened up about her own childhood nostalgia, why American Girl dolls lend themselves to political discourse, and what legacy they hold in the culture now.
Mashable: What inspired you to start the account?
I have been posting silly memes on the internet for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I’ll do them under my own name, but in the past I’ve run little accounts here and there, so it wasn’t that weird for me to start up a random meme account. As far as American Girl dolls, I thought of the name Klit Kittredge. I don’t even know how I came up with it. But the name came first. Kit was my favorite American Girl doll. And I was like, “Wow, Klit Klittredge, like Kittredge. That’s so funny. That has to be a meme account.” This was back in the summer of 2021. There were a few instances of different American Girl doll memes or tweets going sort of viral, and I thought I could do that. My first TikTok got like 30,000 likes, and I ran with it.
Did your previous meme accounts have specific themes, too?
I’m from Kentucky, and I ran a Twitter account where I would tweet things about what Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was wearing. This was like in 2014/2015, so right before he joined the presidential campaign trail. I don’t know how much you know about Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, but he does not have a great sense of fashion. So I liked to point that out, like there’s an image of him wearing a business shirt and a suit jacket, and a pair of plaid Bermuda shorts. [The account] was called Rand Paul Fashion, and I did that for a while [until] I eventually lost the password and got locked out of the account. I actually would love to pick Rand Paul Fashion back up.
I also ran a Tumblr in college where I would write blog-style posts about how big I thought each president’s penis was. That was a thing that I was really invested in for a little bit.
I love that concept. How long did it take Klit Klittredge to find an audience? Did you start on Instagram or Twitter?
I started it on Instagram, and it got really popular pretty quickly within a very specific online community, which I now talk about a lot. It’s AGIG or the American Girl Instagram community. When I started the account I didn’t know a lot about American Girl doll fandom as it stands today. I was just making content on what I thought about American Girl dolls when I was a kid. A lot of my early posts are like “what your favorite American Girl doll said about you.”
American Girl Instagram found it, and most of them loved it. There are people in that space that have thousands of followers who would share my posts in the first month of me posting. That got me through the beginning of running a meme account. I’d never breached that threshold where you have people consistently liking and commenting on your stuff before. When I gained 500 followers, 1,000 followers, and 3,000 followers, all those sorts of milestones, 100 percent the only people who were liking my content were people who own at least 20 American Girl dolls and are adult American Girl doll collectors, which was fun.
Honestly, I’ve made a lot of friends who collect American Girl dolls. They help me with my content sometimes. If I’m gonna say something about American Girl doll culture through the years or a specific book or something else that I want to fact-check, there are women I who I talk to that help me do that.
Other accounts started cropping up like the Julie Albright account and the Hellicity account. There’s a Lanie account that’s pretty popular now, that sort of took my format. Some of them are from the American Girl doll collector community. They saw me do this and we’re like, “Oh, I want to do it too.” Or were like, “I liked these dolls as a kid. I want to start this too.” Some of them have had super massive viral posts, especially the Felicity account. I’ve benefited from that, too. I’ve gotten a lot of followers as those other people have gotten bigger.
What American Girl dolls did you have?
I have one that looked like me. I had Kit, obviously. I had Julie. I got her the year she came out [in 2007], and that was my last American Girl doll. Who is the other one I had? Oh, Emily. I had Molly’s best friend, Emily. Those are the only ones I had, but I read almost all the books at the library. I was in a book club at my school where we read all the Josefina books. I was very into American Girl dolls, and my friends had some of the other ones, too.
Was Kit always your favorite?
Yes, Kit was the first doll that I got, and I picked her out myself. Honestly, if I had to put my mind in the 5-year-old version of me, I think it’s because my favorite color is purple. I don’t know, but because I loved Kit when I was 5, I love her now.
I never had Kit, but I always liked her story the best.
She’s very fun and a girl boss! I love that she had an opinion on the president. Her uncle is talking about how much he hates FDR and she’s like, “Oh, I love FDR.” I think that’s so funny. I love that. Especially because at any point in my life, I had an opinion on whoever the president was.
On the internet, things from girlhood become instant meme fodder. Why do you think that is?
Nostalgia is always a huge driver of relatability and content. People love to look at something and be like, “Oh, that’s just like me,” and share it. You’re immediately appealing to that sense of, we are in this together, we both recognize this thing from our childhood. That’s always going to be an aspect of internet culture and viral posts. We’re seeing nostalgia for the 2000s as folks that grew up then are getting to be the age where they’re the main drivers of culture.
As far as girlhood, it depends on what scene and space you’re occupying on the internet. The Instagram meme space, in particular, has a lot of women, folks who identify as women, or are folks who were socialized women or grew up as women. That may be why that kind of content does so well on Instagram.
Even if you didn’t have American Girl dolls, The Care and Keeping of You, an American Girl book, played a role in so many people’s development.
There’s always going to be an emotional attachment to the person or the book that guided you through puberty. My mom bought me that book and read it with me, but I know lots of folks who were like, “My mom bought me that book and then that was it. She never gave me The Talk or anything.” So that book really did a lot for some girls.
Plus, there’s the page with the boobs, and everyone loves to talk about the page with the boobs, and how it either scarred them or sexually awakened them. I remember being 10 and being like, “This one’s boobs look like mine.” I’d never seen an image of boobs that looked like mine, so that was pretty transformative and memorable.
You make like a lot of political memes using American Girl dolls. Why do you think they’re a good tool to talk about politics?
The American Girl books have always explored identity and what it means to be an American. As a nation, there are different periods where we have had to grapple with American identity and what that means for us. That the past five years have been a time that Americans have been put through a lot of stress and had to redefine our thoughts about ourselves.
American Girl dolls also live in periods of history that are memorable in our cultural American zeitgeist. The point of them is that you’re looking at a girl that either went through the Great Depression or World War II or had to deal with the Revolutionary War and how that impacted their identity. So there’s some alignment because it does feel like we’re living through like a moment in history. It feels like in the 2100s people are gonna look back and be like “There was a lot going on in the 2020s.”
Definitely. How do you use the American Girl dolls to advocate for your own politics?
From my perspective, and this is funny too, I always saw the dolls as having a leftist slant, which was very frowned upon in the place that I grew up. It’s funny that I have that association, especially now that I am a grown-up with my own political thoughts, that I would think this corporation that sells itself on creating a national identity, would have some kind of leftist slant. I think it’s because they were talking about racial identity and what it means to have your dad lose his job and rely on social services, and these are things I wasn’t exposed to a lot as a child in history classes or regular conversations. These things that I think about a lot now, I can trace my first thoughts about them to the American Girl brand.
That being said, it is easy to put some sort of radical leftist take over a doll that’s been around for 25 years, because it’s just silly to think that a corporation would ever come out with that sort of message. It’s a cheap laugh, but an effective delivery mechanism because of all that context.
American Girl dolls are an interesting phenomenon, because they were pretty expensive, so you had to be of a certain class to own an American Girl doll. But because of the accompanying books that were in school libraries, they’re also really universal.
American Girl dolls were so expensive, especially back when they came out. When I was a kid, those dolls were $100, and in 2001 $100 was worth a lot more than $100 is now. I grew up in the church and there was a lot of community fundraising to buy girls American Girl dolls. There was a huge market of secondhand dolls that I got my hands on. If you would go to someone’s house and they had like 15,000 American Girl dolls that was a sign of wealth and status.
They’re one of the few toys that was an obvious signifier of wealth at a young age. Do you think that American Girl dolls are something that’s aged well? Does the meme work because people are still fond of them, or does the urge to laugh come from how out-of-touch they are?
I describe myself as an anti-capitalist, so I think a lot about the ramifications of making an American Girl doll meme account and how it’s benefiting a corporation. I’ve given this corporation so much easy brand visibility like, damn it! I’m not going to be rooting for any corporation and their profit driven model that at the end of the day is making expensive dolls that not everyone can access. But I don’t have beef with the American Girl brand. I don’t think they’re doing the best that they can to talk about what it means to be an American girl, especially today. They definitely could be doing more, but I don’t expect them to.
One time I made a meme about how the federal minimum wage hasn’t increased since 2009 and how crazy that is. I had planned to put how much the price an American Girl doll has increased in that post. But I found out that the price of American Girl dolls has really not kept up with inflation. They are much more accessible now than they were when we were children. They’re only $120 and they stayed at $100 for a really long time. Part of that is that Pleasant Company was a smaller company that sold out to Big Toy. The manufacturing prices, all that stuff gets cheaper, so I’m sure there’s exploitation in there somewhere, but I don’t have tons of beef with the American Girl Corporation.
I remember when you posted an Instagram story saying, “I’m not gonna make merch. I’m an anti capitalist.” So if you’re not like interested in monetizing the meme account, what is your goal?
I’ve never had any goals for this account. Maybe when I had 5,000 [followers] I really wanted 10,000 followers because I thought that l0,000 followers made you a meme account. I don’t think of myself as a particularly ambitious content creator. I have a day job that I generally like and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I live pretty comfortably. I don’t feel a need to pursue the bag. I’m just gonna keep making content until it’s not fun anymore. That’s sort of my plan.
I went through a phase when I had like just under 50,000 followers where I was like, 50,000 followers is too many. Once I have 50,000 followers I won’t be funny anymore because there is such a culture in the faceless IG meme community that you can’t have too many followers. Once you have too many followers you sell out to Big Meme and aren’t funny anymore.
The Faceless IG meme community scares me.
They’re horrifying! There’s no accountability to us. We’re all nameless, faceless blobs and we can travel around the internet as we so choose. That’s been good for me. I am glad that I finally found my internet niche where I can feel seen and l’m successful in that other people like and relate to my content — but that I’m not personally in front of it. I like the separation. I also feel no need to dominate and reach 1 million followers and be the voice of the faceless meme accounts.
Do you have a favorite meme that you’ve made?
I’m pretty proud of the one I put out yesterday about the Courtney Molly Paradox, which actually has been sitting in my Canva drafts for almost a year.
I have a series called American Girl Issue Guides that I initially started to produce, so that they looked like they came from American Girl. This was at a time when I didn’t have that many followers, so I was trying to be a troll and trick some people. And then at the end I would have a punch line. I thought that was a really fun format, but it’s a high-effort post. I usually save my best ideas to throw in that format. So almost anything that’s in that series I’m pretty proud of.
The very first one I did, which was my first viral moment, I made a post about what each American Girl doll thinks about abortion. This was before the Supreme Court ruling. This was in September or October 2021, when abortion was in the news again. So I made the post “what each American girl thinks about abortion.” The idea was that it would be a troll and people would think this actually came from American Girl. The punch line was Julie saying “yeetus that fetus.” I thought it was funny because when I was a kid, my church boycotted American Girl because they said they were pro-choice. They weren’t, by the way. They partnered with some after-school program for girls, a nonprofit that had some kind of pro-choice stance. In my mind growing up, an American Girl was pro-choice. When I was making the meme, I knew all of the girls had to be pro-choice, but then to have Julie, the little rad femme second wave feminist doll, say something insane was silly and good content. I’m particularly proud of of that one.
When did you start posting memes on Twitter, too?
Actually, it was that post.
That’s what I thought!
I have an online friend, Clare Egan, and she is a local Twitter celebrity. She’s lovely. And very, very funny. She commented on that Instagram post, I had probably less than 1000 followers at this time, and was like, “This is so funny. You have to put this on Twitter.” I made the Twitter account just to post that, so she could retweet it. That was the whole point of me going to Twitter. She retweeted it, and I got 60,000 likes — that was my most-liked thing I’d ever put on the internet. That was my first viral moment, and it was really just because my friend was like, “You’re very funny.”
Do you prefer Instagram or Twitter?
I’m less invested in Twitter than I am in Instagram. There’s more of a community aspect to Instagram. There’s more interaction, you get more DMs, and you get more comments. I like that, that’s why I post. Twitter all feels very separate. When you blow up on Twitter it sucks because you can’t control the narrative like on Instagram, where you can delete comments on your posts. That just is not fun. As a meme consumer, I’ve always been like, Twitter over Instagram, but as a meme maker, I definitely lean toward Instagram.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.