There’s a commercial airing these days for a package-delivery company, where a whole family is held at bay, outside their home, afraid to go inside because of a mechanical clown doll. I was watching that recently with a friend, who remarked offhandedly, “Yeah, dolls are scary.”
I was surprised to hear that because, to me, dolls are a repository of wishes, hopes, dreams and ambitions. They become the outward embodiments of our inner desires, a physical emblem of our better selves.
So, I was taken aback to hear that dolls are considered to be scary. (Clowns, I can understand, but dolls!) Through the years, there have been loads of movies where dolls are forces of evil and are the agents of destruction and chaos. Off the top of my head, I can rattle off all the Chucky franchise entries, Stuart Gordon’s DOLLS from 1987, Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror, Magic, and almost every other Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode. I’ve seen all of these flicks, and have always been amused by them, not alarmed. It’s hard to believe that anybody can find a doll frightening or fierce.
What is it about a doll that can make some people want to cuddle and coo, while other people are recoiling and running for the hills? How come dolls have such power—whether for good or evil, to put it quite bluntly, that they can make strong men cry?
I asked a whole bunch of my friends—from antiques dealers to detectives, retired teachers to casino dealers, investment bankers to bartenders (yes, I hang with an eclectic group), and the consensus was . . . drum roll . . . dolls are scary!
Almost all of the people I spoke to, in my nonscientific poll, thought that dolls had the potential to wreak havoc (I’m not kidding you). They didn’t find this menacing nature in teddy bears, which is odd, since a teddy bear is a shrunk-down version of an actual carnivorous, fanged, clawed and mountainous mammal. For some reason, the scaled-down version of a human is foreboding and haunting, whereas it’s cute and comical when it comes to critters.
I spoke at length about this with two of my friends, who understandably want to remain anonymous. One of them is in law enforcement; the other works for the government. These are both educated and well-respected members of their community, and they both told me how they RESPECT the fact that I can work in a home surrounded by so many dolls and figurines.
“I couldn’t get anything done with all of those eyes looking at me,” my friend the detective said.
“I would think they are breathing down my neck,” chimed in my pal the revenue agent.
How fascinating that the realm of dolls—so reflective of make-believe and merriment for me—is akin to a battlefield to these two seasoned pros. They honestly feel that my workday must be horrific surrounded by painted-on and glass eyes.
They are so wrong. For a doll collector, a doll is always a source of pleasure and delight. Even if its subject matter is dark or adult, it still equals a soaring triumph of the artist and her medium. I could never walk a beat like a cop or land an airplane like a pilot, but I never thought I was being courageous because I can sit and type in the face of plastic faces.
Doll collectors everywhere, take heart. You are a force to be reckoned with, and just be aware, your “army” of dolls may rise up one day to salute you. Just make sure your friends are prepared for that surge.
It's understandable that Virginie Ropars' Scarlet Heart (top) might make your heart and pulse race faster. But what about one of Casie Brabham's adorable Bebe Babies (above)? A bunch of my friends are paralyzed with fright from the mere look of a doll!
Horror movies, like DOLLS (right), have given dolls a bad rap.