Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Why Doll Nation?"

We have our first follower! Hooray! And welcome to Smidge Girl, whose wonderful blog I follow. Welcome to the craziness that is life in the Doll Nation!

"Why Doll Nation?" you may be asking yourself. A friend of mine once asked how many dolls I had. I replied, "I stopped counting when I hit 200 dolls. That's Barbies, Kellys, Tommys, Kens and babies." I elaborated on the fact that I didn't just collect Mattel dolls, but other types such as G.I. Joes, World Peacekeepers, Bratz Boys, and even cute plastic dollar store dolls that were 1/6th scale. I then explained that I had several Barbie houses (13 at last count; one of them is actually a Real Friends House from TRU, and one is a Best Friends House - not the same thing- also from TRU). I then told her about the different dioramas I'd made in the past for them - a library, several clothing stores, a hotel, a coffee shop, a tea shop, an Asian resturant (the only store still standing), and a burger joint. My friend exclaimed, "Wow! You have a doll city!" And I laughed and said, "No, I have a DOLL NATION!" And so the name stuck.

It's pretty apt actually. Over the last few years I've come up with several cities for my dolls - Mountainview (up in the mountains, of course), Palmdale (down by the beach), Barbieville (for an doll magazine I created), Metropolis (my version of the show "Smallville") - and since I don't collect just Mattel dolls, it's also apt to describe all the dolls that reside with me. Especially since they are always coming from (or traveling to) places like Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, even "England." (Yeh, I know - England isn't in the United States.) I even have dolls that travel through space and time, courtesy of my Doctor Who dolls. I've made up my own Harry Potter dolls that reside somewhere in the Doll Nation (probably "England") I have dolls that live back in the past like my Victorian dolls and my Steampunk dolls; the dolls that reside in That 70s House and The Mad Men House (mostly 60s vintage and repro dolls); and the medieval dolls that live in Emseralda's tent. I have the Tonner house, where my 16 inch dolls live, and then there are the baby dolls and one of the large BFCInk girls.

But mostly, the Doll Nation refers to the 1/6th scale dolls. Why? Because they are so much fun to play with and build dioramas for and to come up with stories for!

I've been making up stories for my dolls since I was ten and got Malibu Christie and the (blue) Barbie Country camper and pretended that she was an astronaut and the camper was either the Starship Enterprise or one of the Eagles from "Space:1999" - or that she was a pioneer, and the camper was a wagon, like on "Little House on the Prarie" or "How the West was Won". The stories only got more elaborate when I got the original Happy Family. The B-movie "Queen of Outer Space" made a really big impression on me, as did "Forbidden Planet". Westerns such as "How the West Was Won" and musicals like "Meet me in St. Louis" and "Easter Parade" and oldies like "Little Women" fueled my Victorian/Western fantasies.

I suppose things haven't changed much, except now I include more modern things like college life for my dolls (some of them are simply too young looking to be adults) and the aforementioned stores, coffee shops, etc. And I'm a lot more snarky than my younger self when it comes to just accepting everything that comes via TV and movies.

There have been purges - Bratz girls, Fashion Royalty dolls (except Something Hot Kyori), don't exist in my universe. Even Mattel's My Scene kids didn't make the final cut. Nothing personal (sometimes) against them but they just didn't play well with the others. A lot of Barbies were just not what I wanted. I hope they found good homes from the thrift store.

But like a real nation, the Doll Nation has its immigrations and migrations; its births, marriages, break-ups, even divorces. It's not perfect, but like the real world Constitution says, "in order to form a more perfect union" - or in my case, a more perfect doll nation - you have to play around.

Friday, January 29, 2010

So In Style dolls; or, troll bashing on "that other board"!

So In Style Chandra: Gorgeous doll - too bad she's not just "chocolate dipped" for some people's tastes!

I was on "that other board", the one my frustration with made me finally start keeping this blog, talking about my adventures finding So In Style Chandra (above) and Darren, and feeling pretty good about finding them after hitting two Walmarts and one Target where they were sold out. I finally found them at TRU, and was enjoying the praise of my fellow doll-hunters, when I read a post that made me see RED....

I'm going to post it here in its entirety and I'm going to print the troll's name:

Mattel needs to stop with those Al Jolsen lips on the AA dolls very insensitive - Mark

Excuse me??? One - she doesn't have Al Jolson (and learn to spell his name right, troll!) lips. She has full lips, the way that most black people have. Hell, even Angelina Jolie has lips like that!

Two - To say a doll has "Al Jolson lips" is to imply that she's covered in tar, or whatever the hell Jolson used to get into "blackface". I think the real problem for this troll - although they won't come out and say so - is that she's too dark for him. I remember reading a post on another board (that OTHER other board) where a person was complaining that Best Model Nichelle was "too dark". She claimed that you "could barely see her features because she was so dark".

I refrained from posting to that particular quote because a) if she couldn't see that the doll was dark skinned from the promo pics, then she was blind as a bat; and b) what the hell did she mean, "too dark"? I'm convinced that the troll above and the poor Best Model Nichelle buyer were both just uncomfortable with the fact that black dolls are not simply white dolls that have been "chocolate dipped".

AA consumers are quite familiar with "chocolate dipped" dolls - the ones that look like Barbies, but you know, are black. Same straight noses, thin lips, but darker skin. Sometimes they just look like Barbies with a dark tan.

The So In Style dolls were one of Mattels attempts (spearheaded by consumers) to come up with dolls that actually have "ethnic sculpting". To give Mattel props, they did have Malibu Christie and Brad/Curtis back in the 70s that had dark skins and fuller lips. I know, because Malibu Christie was the only "Barbie" I had as a child, because my parents refused to buy my their daughters white dolls. They wanted us to have dolls that looked like black people - and why not? To have only white dolls in existence is to say to everyone else - "You're ugly. You don't matter."

And it's not just black people who have problems with the typical Barbie - I have white friends who refuse to buy anything but brown haired or redheaded barbies. Some even want only the short haired Barbies (talk about rarities!)

And that's why I was offended by this person saying that Chandra had "Al Jolson lips". Because not everyone in existence is blonde, blue eyed, straight haired, pale skinned and thin lipped.

Finally, if you don't like the doll, guess what? You don't have to buy her!

But I was polite and this is what I wrote back:

As an AA person, I'm glad that Mattel has dolls that look like most AA people and not just dolls that have caucasian features with darker skin tones (ie Black Barbie from 1980, AA Superstar Barbie, etc.)

... and go fuck yourself. Seriously.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Worst. Outfit. EVER; or, what was Mattel thinking?

Nichelle: Please ignore the clown dress I'm holding up; Mattel stylists were drunk when this was created!

After getting together my steampunk dolly outfits yesterday, I decided to also get rid of some of the outfits my dolls never wear - either they're too ugly to be worn (my dolls having TASTE, like their owner) or too stained or too torn. Not by me - I frequenly get things from thrift stores and yard sales, so sometimes my stuff has been played with by actual KIDS, who aren't the world's best preservers of doll clothing.

As a kid, my dolls had NO store bought clothes except their orginal outfits (bathing suit for Malibu Christie, and the Happy Family outfits.) Any clothes they had were made by me out of scraps I managed to scrounge around the house. It wasn't until I started collecting as an adult back in '99 that my dolls finally had store bought oufits.

Our model, My Room Generation Girl Nichelle, actually came in that monstrosity she's holding up. You may say, "Eh, I've seen worse Barbie outfits!", but hear me out. Nichelle's backstory is that she's a student at International High School (???) in New York and that she's studying FASHION DESIGN.

PARDON ME? Who are her clients - Ringling Brothers? Because they're the only people who might want to buy that clown dress!

And this was the dress that she came in! No wonder there are so many copies of My Room Generation Girl Nichelle out there! Moms (and kids) took one look at this outfit and put her right back on the shelf! I didn't of course - that's because I could see the pretty girl screaming, "Please buy me and get me into some classy clothes!"

And there's no excuse for her not to have a classy outfit - this was the era of Fashion Avenue, for crying out loud! Even her frou-frou pink outfit from the first wave of Generation Girls was better than this thing (although that's not saying much!)

Pretty doll; hideous outfit. But that's pretty much par for the course at Mattel. It wasn't always like this - no wonder people love vintage and mod era outfits so much. Even my era - the Malibu Barbie era - had better clothes than this. But since the 80s, Barbie fashions have been hit or miss - most MISS, and very often FAIL. There have been a few bright shining moments - Fashion Avenue, My Scene and Fashion Fever come to mind. But nowadays when they call the Barbie Aisle "the pink aisle", they aren't kidding! More pink and glitter than anyone could possibly stomach! I had to change Sassy Fashionista out of that pink monstrosity she came boxed in, and put her into (years old) Fashion Fever/My Scene clothes to she would have something decent to wear!

It's a sad statement when you have to change your brand-new doll's clothes and put on clothes from AGES ago so that she'll have a decent wardrobe!

Before (top) and after (right) - You make the call!

Seriously, Mattel should hire me to line item veto their doll clothes - and let's not get started about "pink everything" furniture! (We'll save that for another column!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Steampunk doll project - the adventure begins!

Okay, Casey's Minis blog finally got me off my butt to getting together my dolls, and since I'm off this weekend (hooray!), I finally get to play! I've been wanting to make some steampunk dollies but it's taken me awhile to finally decide which dolls would be in the story.

The background? It's 1866 - a second Great Exhibition has been mounted in London, and all the world turns out, including the Americans. The events of the anime "Steamboy" kinda/sorta happened, as did certain events in the novel "The Difference Engine" (namely that the difference engine and analytical engine were both built and propelled the world into an early internet...)

In MY universe, however, there are female scientists (thanks to a successful early feminist movement - why should the boys have all the fun?) However, the Martian invasion is 30+ years into the future as are the events of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" movie (more on this later.)

Doctor Athena Parnassos ("Doc A") and Doctor Edward Rudolf ("Doc Rude" - not a nickname he likes) are members of S.I.M.P. - Scientists and Inventors Making Progress, one of the world's most exclusive scientific societies.

Doc Athena is of mixed European heritage - Greek, Italian and English. She's one of the world's foremost computational analysts. She's wearing the latest fashion by Dollymop (snerk) which scandalously shows off her legs and ankles. I wasn't trying to make Athena the typical steampunk girl outfit with scanties and corset, but she insisted on something feminine. Her pink overskirt, white jacket, mesh skirt and purse are Barbiewear, but the ruffleed skirt and "sleeves" came from a cloth angel I got at the thrift store. Her "hat" came from another thrift store ornament doll. She is an I-Girl doll, the zookeeper who came with a panda.

Doc Rudolf is of German descent, by way of the American West. In addition to being a crack shot with a Colt .45 (from a thrift store grab bag) and a Winchester rifle (not shown), he's one of the world's top inventors. He's wering a suede vest from OpsToys (which I'm not sure is still around), a Ken shirt, and G.I. trousers from one of the historical soldiers. He is a G.I. Joe himself, one of the Real Heroes dolls.

Both dolls were chosen because they're articulated and great for posing. Doc Rudolf can actually stand up by himself!

Shoes, however, are going to be a problem.

Athena: Must you wave that pistol around? Rudolf: Not waving it; merely displaying my kung fu grip!

Anyway, my Steampunk world is going to be of various elements from the old and the new with one exception - I LOATHE the Alan Moore "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" comics. He's sexist and violent and disgusting. He's not even original - Phillip Jose Farmer was already using Doc Savage and Tarzan in "new" adventures ages before him; and then of course, writers had already been putting Sherlock Holmes into new adventures as well.

And even though the movie "LXG" isn't that great, it takes out all of the gratuitousness of the Moore comics - and it demotes Mina from founder of the League and makes her into a vampire -it's plus one, minus one and plus one again, in my opinion. Also, it's visually impressive - Nemo's sweet ride of a car and the Nautilus! So, it's part of my universe.

Also, I like the more Jules Verne and H.G. Wells parts of steampunk than I do the more modern aspects - call it more "steam" than "punk". And as I go along, I intend to include more World aspects, with dolls representing all ethnic groups. Hopefully I can find more clothes to repurpose into Steampunk outfits.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Finally! I have Sassy!

As you can see, Suzie (aka Sassy Fashionista) finally arrived! Target got her AND Fashionista Ken in stock, and I got both of them for $9.99 each! Yay! Here, Sassy has taken over the blue dorm room as her own and is catching up on the newspaper since classes are out for the holiday.

I love the Fashionistas! They are possibly the most fun to play with of all the new Mattel dolls! So poseable!

The other dolls I want to get right now are the Rocawear S.I.S. (So In Style) dolls - they aren't as articulated as the Fashionistas but they are bendy (jointed arms and I think, legs), and right now, I'm in the mood to create a college themed land for my dolls. I imagine they attend Doll Nation University, and go to classes and hang out at the coffee shop and sushi parlor. (Well, they would hang out at the sushi parlor if a million storage boxes weren't blocking it!) I'm going to dig out the rest of the Teen Skipper Trendy Loft furniture so they'll have somewhere to sit!

PS: How much fun do I have with these dolls? Well, here's Ken showing off his moves in front of the ladies! What a ham!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catching up with the Happy Family!

This picture (left) is from last Christmas -man, the Happy Family mom looks like how I feel today!

Love the Happy Family dolls that came out a few years ago - although I admit that the "mother" and "father" in my version are NOT the dolls that were in the series. I didn't think they were that attractive - I never bought the mom and the dad eventually went (back) to the thrift store, but I kept the kids. Grandma doesn't look like she minds! Mom was a teacher barbie that came with a baby "student" and a lot of school accessories. Someday I will make the dolly daycare I have in mind when I have more room!

I promised a holiday pic for each day of the week for the first week of 2010 - whoops! so much for resolutions!

Anyway, back to these dolls --> the Happy Family AA grandparents are awesome, as are their Caucasian counterparts. It's nice to have dolls of all ages and sizes. Happy Family Grandma is a bit wider in the hips than her daughter - it makes it harder to find nice clothes for them but who says everyone has to be the same size? Her nightie was a thrift store find in a baggie with duplicate outfits (yes, I have a duplicate of this nightie!)

I love the kitchen playset the grandparents came in - it makes a great display! I now have mine permamently open on a shelf. I added items from a couple of other kitchen sets - the wall behind Grandpa is from one (can't remember the name!) and the table and chairs he's sitting at comes from a Barbie dining room set. I love the unknown wall set because of the fireplace - I just love the idea of a kitchen having a fireplace. And you can just barely see it in the pic, but I used "stone" scrapbook paper for the floor! The table and chairs is because I wanted to accomodate more dolls in the kitchen!

Re-ment has some great food sets and things for decorating a kitchen, so the granparents are going to have the coziest kitchen imaginable! There's even a set with those little apple wall decorations my grandparents had!

Okay, I admit it - this playset just takes me back to all those wonderful times I spent in my own grandparents kitchen, eating wonderful food and not worrying about calories or cholesterol! It's probably all idealized (well, except for my grandmama's cooking - she was DA BOMB, baby! when it came to cooking!), but then what happy memory isn't?

These days, even your dolls can have tasty food - the pancakes you see are from Missy's Minis on eBay. Like miniature artists, these days, collectors in 1/6th scale have artists who make wonderful items.

It's a good time to make dioramas!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 - A Doll Odyssey!

The new year just started, and all I want to do is read, sleep and eat!

Was going to tackle my doll collection today - one of the New Year's resolutions is to thin down (yet again!) the hordes that reside in the Doll Nation. And not just the hordes, but all of their STUFF as well!

However, I'm scared of making a mistake like the time I gave away a Barbie desk and then realized - hello! - there are hardly any Barbie desks! So now I think long and hard before I give away any Barbie furniture.

Dolls, on the other hand, are easier for me to get rid of. Since most of the Doll Nation's denizens come from the thrift store, I have no qualms about sending them back to the thrift store. But with this year's monetary outlook, I'm not buying any dolls unless they are on the WANT LIST for a while! And even then, I won't always buy them - like that Ginger Spice doll I found in the box at the thrift store for five bucks. Even though she was on "the list", I didn't get her cause I found diorama stuff I wanted more.

I sent FORTY dolls back to the thrift store in my clean up back in the fall - at about 2 bucks each that represented $80 bucks down the drain! But I have to admit that most of them were from the early days of thrifting when I was like WHOO HOO! DOLLS! at the thrift store. So mistakes were made and lessons were learned.

This year I resolve to stick to Mattel dolls since I like them the best. No more expensive mistakes like the lone Fashion Royalty doll I now have (anybody want to buy Something Hot Kyori?) Even though I like FASHION dolls like the Barbie Basics, I don't like FASHION (ie $70 bucks and up) dolls like Fashion Royalty dolls. I like to play with my dolls, and although they are pretty (some of them) and articulated, FRs just seem like the only roles they can play are snooty, snotty fashionable people. Silkstones have been accused of having an attitude, but mine sit around and gossip, kick off their high heels, wear fuzzy slippers, and occasionally cook (horrors!) in Silkstone Manor. (Yes, Silkstone Manor has a kitchen! Imagine that!) They also have jobs, although I can't figure out for the life of me what they do for a living!

And they don't complain about wearing (gasp! clutch the pearls!) playline clothes. A lot of the owners of FRs act as though they're slumming if they dress their dolls in anything but FR clothes and (expensive) handmade creations. Personally, I'm not going to spend more on a doll's clothes than I do on my own clothes! I'm funny that way!

But I hereby resolve to get the Doll Nation into some semblance of order for 2010. Either the dolls get into dioramas and displayed or they are GONE. The furniture gets used or it is GONE. I forsee having a big ass sale this year - but then I've said THAT for the past two years. This time, I mean it!

We'll see how I've done when January 2011 rolls around!