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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Playing Dolly Doctor: Kennedy, Elvis, and Basma

Today I took three of my "new" dolls, members of what I have dubbed The Sack Gang, and made them look beautiful again.  If you may recall, Elvis, Beyonce, and a blonde My Scene doll were all in the mix, and they were all naked.
Strutting around naked (or darn near) is what the real Beyonce does best, but I will not tolerate such behavior in my house.  This little vinyl lady is about to get some morals bestowed upon her! 

The makeovers were about as rudimentary as doll makeovers can get, by the way.  I gave them each some new clothes (Barbie and Ken clothes purchased at Wal-Mart) and restyled the girls' hair in simple ponytails.  However, even the simplest of makeovers can do wonders for a doll.  Here's what the My Scene doll looks like:
Here's Elvis:
And here's Beyonce:
Not bad!  I managed to refurbish three dolls for under twenty bucks.  All is right with these dolls now...except for the fact that both girls appear to have taken an interest in Elvis.
See, Sasha Fierce?  You can attract a man without taking your clothes off!  These three will have to work out the battle over Elvis on their own, though.  I hate Beyonce Knowles with a passion, by the way (if you couldn't tell from the above commentary), so from now on my Beyonce doll will be referred to as "Basma."  The doll has a gorgeous smile, and "Basma" is the Arabic word for "smile."

Yours truly,

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Costume Bash Jade and a sack of old Barbies

Yesterday was a very dolly day for me.  I hadn't intended for it to be; Mama and I had only gone to Wal-Mart to buy eye drops.  But as usual we both got sidetracked, and I found this in the sales bin.
She's a Costume Bash Jade, one of the newer Bratz with the rescaled body, and possibly the only one I'll ever get like this.  I recently heard that the Bratz are going on hiatus again, which to me sounds troubling since they just came out of hiatus four years ago.  MGA has announced that there will be no new Bratz dolls in the U.S. during 2014, and that preparations are being made for a huge comeback in 2015.  Sheesh, if Bratzillaz and these tall Bratz aren't cutting it then I don't know what will!  But that's for another blog post.

I had planned for this post to be a review on Jade, but that's not the way it went.  I probably WILL review her in the future, but not today.  No, Jade got upstaged by a very, VERY unexpected visit from a friend of mine.  Said friend, whom I'll call Miss Jo, is an older woman who has access to older Barbie dolls.  Today she had a sack of them for me.  Not one or two, but A SACK FULL OF BARBIE DOLLS!!!  And she gave them to me!  With Jade sitting beside me, momentarily forgotten, I opened the sack and began pulling out dolls.  There were two Asian dolls in the mix.  The one in white looks like Western Fun Nia, and I later learned that the one on the left is likely Animal Lovin' Nikki.
There was Malibu Barbie, whom Miss Jo pulled out of the sack to show off.  I'm very excited about this one.  She's wearing a dress that Miss Jo made, which makes her even more special.
My friend was also eager to show me Beauty Secrets Barbie, whose arms move when her torso is gently squeezed.
The sack contained another, smaller doll with an arm mechanism similar to Beauty Secrets Barbie.  I assumed that she was a Skipper of some sort, but my friends on Facebook say that she is likely a Starr doll.
I was particularly happy to be reunited with my childhood friend Maxie, whom I owned when I was a toddler.  She came out of the sack in the arms of a 90's Ken (who unfortunately is nude).  
Another pair of dolls took some time to get acquainted.
"So, do you come here often?"

My Scene Barbie was there, but at first she was too shell-shocked from the trip to take a good picture.  She collapsed next to one of the Asian girls and promptly went to sleep.
"Jeez, I'm beat."

She eventually agreed to stand up and be photographed.  She has pretty lip paint.
The contents of the sack were very star-studded.  Elvis was there, albeit in the buff.
Mary Poppins also showed up naked, so I put her in this Gemini dress which had been crammed onto a doll with much bigger hips.
Dorothy Gale was there, sans ruby slippers.
Beyonce Knowles also made an appearance, which Jade wasn't too happy about.
"What am I, chopped liver?"

I never have been a Beyonce fan and I never will be, but I'll still admit that this doll has a lovely face.  Look at that big smile!
Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato rounded out the celebrity group.  
This Barbie had a number of map pins thrust into her head.  I pulled the pins out before I photographed her.
Who does stuff like that???  Why on earth would anyone want to shove map pins into Barbie's head?  Luckily, Fashion Fever Drew escaped such treatment.  She is wearing a slinky black dress which I love.
Lastly, there was this very regal looking Midge, whom I've renamed "Amber" and given the title of princess.
In all, there were nineteen dolls in that sack.  They are varying ages, in varying states of dress, and in varying conditions.  Some of them just need a pair of shoes and a hair fix to make them look good again.  Others present a formidable challenge.  All of the Ken dolls need clothes, but they can't wear any of the outfits made for modern Ken dolls.  Good thing I know how to knit!  Maybe this Christmas my boys can have an ugly sweater party!  In short, I'm thrilled with my sack full of surprises.  Malibu Barbie is only my third vintage doll, and seeing Maxie was like being reunited with a long-lost friend.  I look forward to making Beyonce and Elvis look like A-list dolls again, and I'm excited over Joe Jonas's joints.  These next few weeks and months look to be a lot of fun.  I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Jo for giving these dolls to me.  Thank you, Miss Jo!

Very happily yours,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Barbie gets "real"? Maybe!

Let's talk about Barbie.  Love her or hate her, you can't deny that she's enormously popular, and you can't deny her longevity.  Mattel's second-most popular doll, Chatty Cathy, lasted six years, and while that is a good run for a doll, it is only a fraction of the time that Barbie has spent in production.  With that long run has come a fair amount of controversy, which I've touched on in a couple of other posts (here and here).  The biggest (and oldest) bone of contention has been Barbie's figure; feminists, doctors, and overly-realistic parents have complained for years that Barbie's waist is too skinny, that her boobs are too big, that her legs are too long, and that she gives little girls complexes about their bodies.

Recently this "Barbie is too thin" business has flared up again, this time with a vengeance.  Barbie's site is once again littered with well-meaning but extremely annoying people begging, nagging, and in some cases even insisting that Mattel make a plus-sized Barbie to "make their kids feel better about themselves."  I could go into a lot of detail about how this is the wrong way to build a child's self esteem, but I'll save that little soapbox for quarrels on Facebook.  Instead, I'm going to introduce you to the work of Nickolay Lamm.  So far Mr. Lamm has made three attempts at what collectors are calling an "average-looking" Barbie.  Here is Try No. 1 next to a Barbie that is currently in production.  I like to call this picture "Pretty Barbie and Cow Barbie," or C.B. for short.  See if you can tell which is which!
I probably wouldn't mind C.B. so much if it weren't for two things.  One, she's wearing a two-piece swimsuit.  No offense to heavy people, but if it's one thing I can't stand it's a heavy person in a bikini.  I understand that Mr. Lamm wanted his creation to look as much like a real Barbie as possible, but come on!!!  Most of the heavy women in this world (including myself) would not be caught dead in a swimsuit like what C.B. is wearing.  If we bother with swimsuits at all, we wear a one-piece suit with a sarong.  Or, if you're one of those who can't swim (I can't), a long flowing dress and a sunhat will suffice.  

Okay, so I hate the outfit, which is always a big strike against any doll I'd consider buying.  However, the swimsuit isn't my biggest issue with C.B.  She's a doll, after all, and dolls can wear whatever they want and still look great.  Plus, she can be redressed.  This is my biggest issue with C.B.
NOT PRETTY!!!  I do not like this doll's face AT ALL.  She reminds me of Ann Robinson, the super-nasty mom from "Cheer Perfection" (Google that if you're unfamiliar with the show).  Frankly I probably wouldn't like this face even if there were no Ann Robinson (don't I wish), because...well, I just don't!  She looks vacant and dippy, though in truth Skinny Barbie looks vacant and dippy too.  Not a good start for Mr. Lamm, though.  This one is just too "Barbie-wannabe" for me.

Try No. 2.  I wasn't able to think of a snotty little nickname for this one, because she's not so bad.
I'm still not 100% in love with the result; again, I think she could do to be dressed a little more conservative, but like I said above, she's a doll.  I like the closed lips much better though, and her eyes are much brighter.  Overall she has a lot more character in her face, much more so than C.B.'s face, and also more so than the real Barbie that she is supposed to emulate.  I also like the way her shoes look on her feet.  If I had any other critiques about this one it would be her arms.  They're too stiff and robotic looking.  This is a big improvement over C.B., though.  I'd buy this one if Mr. Lamm released her.

Try No. 3.  She's pictured in what I assume would be her stock outfit, and a couple of extra outfits as well.
It took some time, but I've really warmed to this one.  Yeah, she could still lose the two-piece swimsuit (maybe something like this would be better), and her ankle joint is a little funky looking, but other than that she's fine.  Her clothes are cute, modest, and NOT PINK!!!  She's lost the robotic arms, and she has a lovely face.  Here's what she probably would look like up close:
She looks familiar!  I don't know who she reminds me of, but she reminds me of someone I once knew.  Either way I like this face.  She's not overly made-up, and she doesn't have a big dippy grin on her face.  She looks happy, intelligent, and down-to-earth, and yet she's not so focused that she seems to stare right through you.  I wonder what she'd look like with green eyes, or with an African-American skin tone?

Unfortunately, the images of Try No. 3 are computer-generated; we don't know yet what Mr. Lamm's creation, whom he calls "Lammily Dolls," would look like after mass-production.  If they're as pretty as this one, or even the second doll, I'd buy her.  If they all end up looking like C.B., then I'll tear my eyes out and run screaming towards the horizon.  Perhaps I should cut Nickolay Lamm some slack, though.  After all, he is working hard to create an appealing product, something that's a little like Barbie but different enough that she's NOT Barbie.  Plus his goal isn't to unseat Barbie and remove her from her Queen of the Dollies throne.  Rather, he wants to create a realistic alternative, something that kids might want because it's more like them.  The problem is this:  realistic dolls don't seem to sell.  Not realistic toy dolls, anyway; I have no idea how well Tonner Hortencia sold, so I can't give you numbers on collectible plus-sized dolls.  However, there have been plenty of forays into the realistic toy doll world.  There were the Happy To Be Me dolls, who has a backstory similar to that of the Lammily dolls:
There were the Get Real Girls, dolls that were meant to be athletes:
And there were the Smartees, dolls that were meant to portray young women in intelligent careers such as doctors and lawyers.  This one is Ashley the Attorney.
There were other Barbie alternatives that have come and gone, some of which can be seen on this page (UPDATE:  also check out this one; kudos to D7ana for finding it).  I like the idea that the Smartees tried to portray, but none of these dolls sold.  They were there and gone within a very short time frame, and I can't name very many people who have even heard of Smartees.  I know of a few who recognize Happy To Be Me and the Get Real Girls, and I even know of some who liked the Get Real Girls.  The thing is this, though:  little girls (and boys too) aren't into playing "real-life" with their dolls and toys.  They like playing this game called "make-believe," the kind of game where you can fly, travel in time, grow rainbow-colored hair, or visit another planet.  They like dolls like Draculaura, Pinkie Cooper, and Rainbow Dash, all of whom are as realistic as a unicorn with three legs.  As a little bonus, Draculaura, Pinkie, and Rainbow all send the same message that the Lammily Dolls are trying to send, only they do it in a more creative, more original, less in-your-face way.  None of them are realistic, but all three are completely happy the way they are.  Plus, they manage to send this message without comparing themselves to an unrealistic model, like the Lammily Dolls inadvertently do.  Didn't think of that one, did you, Mr. Lamm?  Hmmm...maybe THAT is the reason why so many Barbie alternatives fail.  Perhaps since they are marketed as Barbie alternatives, kids tend to compare them to Barbie, say "I like Barbie better," and walk away without even giving the other dolls a chance.  But I'm going out on a limb, and I'm getting off the subject.  

What do you think?  Will the Lammily Dolls be a hit if they are released, or will they fall victim to the current trend of vampire teenagers and magic girls who morph into horses?  Discuss.

Very truly yours, 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sick of winter?

So are a couple of my girls.
Anticipating some warmer temperatures, I put Crissy and Ana Ming in their new spring dresses and swept the patio free of leaves.  The very next day we got eight inches of sleet and snow.  Here it is March sixth and we've got weather like that!  The storm clouds have a silver lining, however; maybe by the time the snow melts I'll have a few more dolls readied for spring.

Yours somewhat impatiently,