As is made clear through the title of this course, what is considered to be “America” and “American” have been central themes discussed in each of our readings, especially related to girls and women. As Gruesz discusses in her keyword “America” essay, who can be called American can be defined in many ways including geographical location, nationality, and language, just to name a few. As a consumer of media, I have begun to pay closer attention to the context in which America/n is used. This is when Almay’s makeup commercial featuring Carrie Underwood caught my attention. With the tagline “The American Look”, Almay portrays “American” using Carrie Underwood, a white, blond country music singer as their prototype. Similarly, in reading Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten’s Americanness was appearance-based as she was contrasted against Singing Bird, her Indian friend (Shaw). In both Almay’s commercial and Kirsten Learns a Lesson, being American is defined as whiteness, negating the other reasons one would identify as American.
Almay sets the stage of “Americanness” very clearly. In fact, it is quite over the top. The commercial begins with an American flag waving in the background, then cuts to Carrie Underwood at what appears to be a football game viewing party, with her song “American Girl” playing in the background. Finally she tells us that Almay makeup will give us “The American Look.” Assuming Carrie herself has the “American look,” we can infer Almay’s idea of American is white skin and blond hair based on the spokesperson they chose for this commercial.
In comparison, in Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten is considered to be an American, as she is included in the American Girl series. She also has blond hair and white skin. Where it becomes interesting is when she meets Singing Bird, an Indian girl whose tribe lives near Kirsten. We never see Singing Bird portrayed as an American like we do Kirsten, although she and her family have lived in the geographical space now called America for much longer than Kirsten and her family have. The choice the American Girl company made by choosing Kirsten to represent what it means to be “American” is deliberate.