There’s been a lot of talk this past week about Barbie and her brand-new body. I’ll discuss it at length next week in my blog. For now, let’s just say that as happy as many collectors are about the more realistic figures, there are some die-hard folks who want glamour, fantasy, and unbelievable silhouettes. Case in point: my friend Mickey. Mickey is in his early 50s, loves dolls, adores Hollywood, and has never missed a Turner Classic Movie marathon. He is absolutely irrepressible and opinionated. (He’s also not really named Mickey, but has chosen that as his pseudonym because his height falls “somewhere between Mickey Rooney and Mickey Rourke, AND Mickey Mouse has to rank among America’s greatest contributions to the world.”)
When we were talking about the new Barbies—tall and very thin, petite and very pixie-ish, small and very, very curvy—Mickey rolled his eyes and put up his hands. “Please keep reality away from me. If I wanted to see an average body, I’d look in the mirror,” he argued. “I collect dolls because I want to escape. I want to have fashion and opulence and romance in my life, not everyday people!”
I know that Mickey has always been a devotee of the Gene doll and her movie-studio colleagues. His living room is akin to a Hollywood jumble sale, overflowing with Miss Marshall and her fashions, tons of theatrical posters, and a vinyl record album always waiting to be spun for background mood-setting.
“So, Mickey,” I challenged, “if you’re not impressed with the new Barbie bods, what are you fascinated by these days?”
There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation: “Anything from Integrity,” he answered. “That’s what I’m looking for in a doll. I want that escapism and I want that WOW factor. Their dolls are bursting with it!”
Mickey has a point. If Mattel is taking bows for their recent foray into reality, then Integrity Toys should be climbing to the top of the medal stand for keeping fantasy alive. Their dolls are exacting renderings of beauty, femininity, wealth, sophistication, and sultriness. I guess I can liken it to an all-day marathon of every “Housewife” franchise ever aired on Bravo. Imagine if a Martian came down to Earth and saw these “Real Housewives” as examples of reality. That’s what the Integrity Toys are to me: they are heightened depictions of confident, sexy, and powerful women. They’re not anything like the girl next door. Rather, they’re like the go-getter real-estate developer who is re-imagining, rebuilding, and re-invigorating the ramshackle property next door. When she’s done with it, you know it’s going to be a million-dollar showplace.
“The Integrity dolls are all dressed like ‘Dynasty’ meets VOGUE,” Mickey opined. “How could you NOT want to look like that?”
On some level, I have to agree with him.
It’s true that I could never imagine dressing like the “Be Daring” Imogen Nu Face doll. With her long tawny-hair, sun-kissed skin, and exposed décolletage, she appears like a well-to-do society powerhouse. You can picture her presiding over a business lunch at a Beverly Hills bistro or owning the hottest fashion boutique on Rodeo Drive. She just exudes cosmopolitan confidence. I, on the other hand, attended my kids’ open house today and really rocked a ponytail, argyle sweater, and black polyester stretch pants.
The Imogen “Be Daring” doll is a total fantasy package. True, there are women who look like that in the world. I’ve seen them profiled in magazines, watched them attend the Golden Globes on TV, and have (on occasion) interviewed them for feature articles. However, they are so rarely seen in my real life, they might as well be Leprechauns. I have a better shot at being mistaken for Sofia Vergara than ever looking like the “Be Daring” doll.
But that is EXACTLY why Mickey loves her.
He’s also drooling over the “Take Me On” Vanessa Perrin Fashion Royalty doll. “She’s like if Hedy Lamarr built a time machine and traveled to 2016. She’s got that classic leading-lady Hollywood glamour and charisma,” Mickey described.
I raised an eyebrow at his description.
“Don’t be so judgmental. It’s possible! Hedy Lamarr actually did invent a radio-jamming frequency that defeated the Nazis. We owe our freedom to her! So, who’s to say she didn’t invent time travel,” Mickey reminded me for the 100th time.
Yes, the Vanessa Perrin Fashion Royalty doll has a well-coiffed, well-groomed, well-heeled look that we don’t find in our lives. That’s not to say she isn’t grounded in reality. Just not my ordinary reality.
Mickey is smitten with these two new dolls—along with a Brigitte Bardot doppelganger named “Ma Petite Fleur” Poppy Parker—because he has joined the W Club. As a member, he can choose to purchase any of these three lovelies (called upgrade dolls) and have them delivered this upcoming summer. He’s flipping his lucky coin to see whether he should splurge on all three or just be more “controlled” and only buy two. (I’m betting “control” will lose big-time.)
Listening to him extol the virtues of the dolls is contagious. He makes you want to swoop up the trio. However, to do so, one has to join the W Club, which has a base membership fee of $50. (“Don’t look at it that way,” Mickey insisted. “You immediately get a $25 coupon, so it’s only actually half that amount.”) There are all manner of special perks and privileges, chances to buy exclusive dolls, and opportunities to learn about deals and events before the general public. Membership is open to folks ages 18 and above (if younger, you need your parents’ permission) and they are taking new membership right until February 16.
I can see lots of collectors requesting the W Club membership fee and one of the three upgrade dolls as a Valentine’s Day gift. The designs certainly are as lush as a bouquet of roses, as dreamy as a bottle of champagne, and more gratifying than a box of Godiva chocolates.
“And a lot less calories,” Mickey helpfully pointed out.
When I rolled my eyes at him, he feigned indignation.
“Maybe the new Barbie doesn’t care about weight gain, but these dolls have a certain allure to uphold.”
So, I ask you: Are you interested in collecting dolls because they provide a wish fulfillment for you? They dress in ensembles you could never afford in your real day-to-day life. They never age; they never sag; they never develop worry lines or fret about expenses. (They sound a lot like today’s film and TV stars, don’t they?) While we all deal with everyday anxieties and stress, our dolls remain elegantly and effortlessly frozen in time.
So, do we collect dolls to mirror how we are? Or do we collect them to reflect a life we’re never really a part of? Do you purchase a doll because she reminds you of YOU, or do you purchase one because she swings open the door to a life you’ve only read about or seen in the cinema?
I know why Mickey buys his dolls. Why do you buy yours?