we will rest upon the ground and look at all the bugs we found
January 19, 2015 9:09 PM   Subscribe

A Tasmanian artist is repainting, reclothing, and re-"homing" Bratz dolls. Underneath the heavy eye-makeup, high heels and porn-star pouts, the artist finds children.

But what is being painted over, and what is erased?
posted by Countess Elena (104 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
I actually found out about these dolls through the wonderful BinaryThis blog who had a few words to say about them.

The dolls do seem to say that 'natural' = good/better. Which is necessarily true.
posted by HarveyDenture at 9:17 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Much make-under! So earth tone!
posted by en forme de poire at 9:18 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I absolutely adore this concept. I particularly love the idea of showing the before & after images to kids, and explaining how you can be the same person and enjoy both ways of dress.
posted by samthemander at 9:26 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh no. I actually mean to type 'isn't necessarily true'
posted by HarveyDenture at 9:30 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thank you for the clarification, Harvey.

At first, I was like hey these are so much nicer and a maybe some sort of better message for my daughter!

Then I started to think that despite the garish, over-the-topness of the Bratz dolls, they have personality and it's very patronizing of me to think my daughter isn't smart enough to appreciate them for the caricatures they are.
posted by cell divide at 9:39 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like the concept but not so much the execution.. It didn't seem like a true before/after on the eyes.
I think it's good for little girls to learn that their face and their skin are acceptable without makeup. It's not a horrible crime to make others look at a plain face with nothing on it. In some families a little girl might never see an unmade face in person. Or on TV.
posted by bleep at 9:40 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


All I know is that those Bratz dolls made me feel just awful about being a girl when I was a kid. The whole "pink aisle" made me feel deeply pressured and uncomfortable, but those in particular made me feel like my body wasn't made the way it was supposed to be. It was absolutely clear to me even as a child that this was how men would see me, or would want to see me. I honestly felt a little squirmy just seeing the dolls again in that article.

I'm in favor of a broad range of role models being provided to girls, and there weren't many toys that looked like the repainted Bratz dolls when I was little. I hope that all kinds of girls have options that make them feel good about who they are and who they want to grow up to be, and I'm sure the Bratz dolls are perfect for somebody. But whatever else might be problematic about it, I really wish I'd had options like the "made under" Bratz when I was a kid.
posted by dialetheia at 9:46 PM on January 19, 2015 [32 favorites]


These are so awesome in look and concept I wouldn't be surprised if they (or something a lot like them, probably made by Hasbro or Mattel) become the next Bratz Doll.
posted by Flashman at 9:50 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The "after" dolls are simply enchanting.
posted by SPrintF at 9:51 PM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I do like the point HarveyDenture's link made (speaking of which, is it too late to add a new favorite MeFi handle to my 2014 list?), that the original dolls looked a lot like drag queens. I can practically hear Milk saying "a subtle lip."
posted by en forme de poire at 10:11 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The after dollls look like something you'd find from a Christian toy company selling "demure" dolls. Not sure it's an improvement.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:30 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


The whole thing is creepy, taking these painted hussies off the street and then scrubbing off all those awful colors and getting rid of those horrible strumpet shoes and dressing them up like proper young ladies in nice beige church clothes. In effect, stripping away their proudly skanky adulthood and making them meek, innocent little children. Yuck.

I know, it's complicated as hell, and I'm not trying to say that the Bratz don't carry some ugly baggage of their own. But the Bratz are ONE kind of role model, representing a kind of loud, drag queen-y, leopard print-y, party girl version of womanhood, and that kind of womanhood does not need to be sandblasted clean and forced into a drab little dress. The "afters" look like little cult members or something.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:00 PM on January 19, 2015 [26 favorites]


On the one hand, hacking dolls has a long tradition, even among children. And I do dislike Bratz dolls. On the other hand, I have to wonder how soon it will be until the idea pops into someone's head to take Rooti Dolls and repaint them to make them Caucasian.
posted by happyroach at 11:49 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah! Femininity. So problematic. Can't paint it any which way without begging a takedown.
posted by damehex at 11:50 PM on January 19, 2015 [27 favorites]


It's weird how several people are equating this style of dress/face with religious/cult members. I encountered this when I was growing up, oddly enough -- I just liked to wear dresses, earthy/natural colors, and very simple styles, and didn't see the point of makeup, and people actually did sometimes assume that I was very religious and usually assumed I was very conservative. So, maybe having a way of breaking the association between dress style and personal beliefs would be nice, especially if the dress style could possibly be interpreted as "as little style as possible, since this person isn't style-aware".

In other words, can't the dolls be dressed this way _without_ being religious? They're not here to judge anybody, they just want to play outside and have fun.
posted by amtho at 11:56 PM on January 19, 2015 [39 favorites]


I really appreciated the perspective from the link Harvey offered... but it's not like "fun with makeup!!!" is exactly foreign to the "pink" aisles in toy stores.
posted by teponaztli at 12:19 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a rather fashionable look in Japan called mori style that is all about superpositions and wool and lace and earth tones, but repainted Bratz dolls in crochet dresses it ain't. They aren't even terribly competent repaints, those eyebrows are awful.

There are some mori-style Momoko dolls out there right in the box, and a lot of customized Blythes, too.

This is just a guy who hasn't heard about the doll customizing fandom, acting as if he's discovered the wheel.
posted by sukeban at 1:39 AM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


In other words, can't the dolls be dressed this way _without_ being religious? They're not here to judge anybody, they just want to play outside and have fun.

In other words, can't the dolls be dressed colorfully with makeup and exaggerated fashion without being derided? They're not here to judge anybody, they just want to play anywhere (how do you think they got so dirty they ended up at the thrift shop) and have fun.

Two sides of the same coin, here. I feel pretty much like the writer of the article HarveyDenture linked to. I don't get cultish vibes from the repainted dolls, but I also have always found Bratz dolls to be an interesting stylistic outcrop of a very girl-oriented aesthetic. I was too old for them, but they remind me of the way I felt about Lisa Frank. I agree that the pink aisle is pretty traumatizing, but there is a lot to unpack here and big purple lips are fun and everybody should be able to try them out if they want. (And girls with naturally big lips are woefully underrepresented in everything, let alone encouraged to paint them bright, fun colors.)
posted by Mizu at 1:42 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


* Superpositions -> layering clothes, sorry
posted by sukeban at 1:52 AM on January 20, 2015


They aren't even terribly competent repaints, those eyebrows are awful.

No, those eyebrows look just like mine, which have never been plucked.

I love these repainted dolls. I don't see religious cult, I see eyes approaching the size they are in human reality, which can be sad or happy, not just seductive. I see shoes that protect the feet and are ready to climb a tree or walk for a couple of hours, not just heeled-torture devices intended to make butts sexier for other people.

I don't like this "but if you don't want dolls in club clothes, you're anti-sex or a religious prude!" claim. I don't mind dolls in club clothes - and quite like people in club clothes - at a club. But Bratz dolls aren't dressed like this just at clubs. They are dressed for evening everywhere - at school, at the park, at the mall. They take one tiny part of a woman's life - the time when she'd like to wear impractical clothing and use make up to look sexy and over-the-top - and make it all the time.

Well, screw that. My eyes are tiny on my face. My lips are almost the same colour as my skin. And my eyebrows are thick and strong and keep the sweat out of my eyes.

And this is how all women - even those who do wear makeup - look 90% of the time.
posted by jb at 2:10 AM on January 20, 2015 [47 favorites]


Except that even people with large lips don't always have them pursed as if they are sexually aroused - or trying to arouse.

Lips tighten when they are angry, or stretch when they smile.
posted by jb at 2:13 AM on January 20, 2015


I find it interesting that in this thread, we have comments about drag queens, womanhood, and stripping away adulthood--but the Bratz dolls are meant to be teenagers. In the eponymous television series, they're all high school students; in the live-action movie, also set in high school, they're played by actresses between fifteen and twenty-one. The dolls reflect this, too--they're shorter than Barbies, etc, and have wider faces and smaller breasts. (They also manage more racial diversity than Barbie ever has; gold star.) But when looking at them and remembering that these are meant to be teenagers, the dolls strike me as oversexualized and creepy.

On the other hand, the repaints strike me as going too far in the other direction--turning teenagers into sexless children, because the alternative is uncomfortable. I guess in conclusion, teenage sexuality is a problematic and controversial thing to portray and/or market, which...unsurprise.

As for the clothing on the repaints, my suspicion is that it's less about fashion and more about about ease of construction, especially as the guy's mum's making them up for him. I'm a relatively skilled knitter, and knitting pants that are small enough for those dolls but aren't bulky and will stay up sounds like a massive pain in the ass to me.
posted by MeghanC at 2:13 AM on January 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


No, those eyebrows look just like mine, which have never been plucked.

I meant, there are better ways to paint bushy/ unplucked eyebrows. I'm also bushy-eyebrowed myself. F'rex. Or this. Or this.
posted by sukeban at 2:14 AM on January 20, 2015


As for the clothing on the repaints, my suspicion is that it's less about fashion and more about about ease of construction, especially as the guy's mum's making them up for him. I'm a relatively skilled knitter, and knitting pants that are small enough for those dolls but aren't bulky and will stay up sounds like a massive pain in the ass to me.

*Points vaguely in the direction of Etsy for cute handmade 1/6 doll sized clothes* TTYA is good, too. For professionally-made doll clothes, there's always Azone.

There's a whole new world beyond Barbie dolls, guys.
posted by sukeban at 2:46 AM on January 20, 2015


I thought the whole reason they're 'Bratz' is that adults aren't meant to like them one bit. That's the tribe: we dress crazy like this and we don't care what you think. It's like glam-hair-metal for boys. They're suburban bad girls and they love it.

Pop singer Cher Lloyd was mockingly called a Bratz doll by the press but her fans turned it into a nickname for themselves, and now she tweets lovingly to her 'Brats' (I suspect copyright infringement killed the Z).

Charli XCX has taken over the franchise now tho.
posted by colie at 2:46 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


If dolls for girls were overwhelmingly "naturally styled" and Bratz were an underdog minority in being overly made-up, I'd feel more like defending them against this. As a father of two daughters I feel like this makes a valid point.
posted by iotic at 3:00 AM on January 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


I wasn't sure a man was doing these mods. (The articles I saw seemed to be carefully avoiding pronouns.) Normally I'm the last person to say people of a certain gender have no business making a certain kind of art. But this is a man, using dolls to demonstrate what he thinks girls should wear, saying that they should be modest and innocent and beige. That is all kinds of creepy.

The reason the cult comparison keeps coming up is because these dolls look like what you see when a compound gets raided and all the little child-wives are led out.

That some people who consider themselves feminists are on board with this is disappointing but not surprising. It's that point on the political spectrum where leftists and conservatives converge to agree that women who dare to wear miniskirts should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:15 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wasn't sure a man was doing these mods. (The articles I saw seemed to be carefully avoiding pronouns.)

You're right, I was too hasty and I've been making some unfounded assumptions.
posted by sukeban at 3:16 AM on January 20, 2015


Wait, so we don't know a man did them? The way people were talking, I thought it was settled. If a woman did them, I'm still not a fan.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:26 AM on January 20, 2015


The whole thing is creepy ... dressing them up like proper young ladies in nice beige church clothes. In effect, stripping away their proudly skanky adulthood and making them meek, innocent little children. Yuck.

Speaking as someone who grew up where the artist is from, that's not a church aesthetic, it's an environmentalist one. That she calls her project "Tree Change" is a clue (after popular 1990s Australian TV show SeaChange, about a corporate woman getting away from the rat race by moving to the coast).

The simple and practical clothing also reflects the day-to-day reality of working class and rural Tasmanian kids, which is most Tasmanian kids.
posted by rory at 3:33 AM on January 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


Searching around, the "tip shop" the Bratz dolls come from seem to be saying the artist is female. I guess they should know.
posted by iotic at 3:35 AM on January 20, 2015


Maybe somebody will kidnap some and repaint them again as cult escapees. This process must continue until we discover what Bratz dolls themselves really want.
posted by Segundus at 3:36 AM on January 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


Speaking as someone who grew up where the artist is from, that's not a church aesthetic, it's an environmentalist one.

That was the vibe I got too - the clothes read "70s hippie vibe" for me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:52 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Indeed, with the cult of natural beauty comes a sense that you can’t play around with beauty products or clothing if you want to – you’d just be reinforcing an always-already-oppressive style.
Oh, god yes, please, let's shield our kids from the cult of natural beauty and its relentless presence in our media pressuring us to not buy makeup, not smooth out our fine lines and wrinkles, not spend hundreds or thousands of dollars each year on hair color and styling products. Otherwise our kids may never hear the message that it's OK and fun to wear makeup and sexy clothes!
posted by drlith at 4:00 AM on January 20, 2015 [40 favorites]


It is actually OK and fun to wear make-up and sexy clothes, and we all need to get our heads around how we handle it, at some point, as part of growing up. Young girls need safe places to experiment with these ideas, and dolls of all types are one of the tools they use.

Bratz were pretty useful in this sense compared to Barbie, who is just a conservative grown-up. Bratz didn't care about boys much other than to laugh at them, if I recall correctly.
posted by colie at 4:05 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Alls I'm saying is just because a girl wears clothes like these doesn't mean she's religious. Just like just because a girl wears clothes like the store-boughten Bratz dolls doesn't mean she's not religious. And not every doll's outfit is a prescription (if it were, I'd care a lot more about Bratz dolls than I do, which is to say, more than not at all).

Also, not all girls have the impulse to dress up and wear crazy clothes and makeup, and that's normal too. What I do care about is "Girls are...", "Girls need...", and "Girls like..." statements, because nobody likes to be lumped into a generalization. I recognize that they are necessary for economy of expression, sometimes, but girls are as diverse as any group.
posted by amtho at 4:05 AM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sure, but 'girls need safe places to experiment' very much includes those that decide to reject make-up and 'sexy' clothes, or what they see as undesirable manifestations of those concepts.

In another context I could have said 'kids need safe places' because it's the same for boys in my opinion. What we call 'play' is mainly about creating these zones.
posted by colie at 4:11 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry colie -- you didn't deserve to be the closest visible target of that particular angst. Of course all kids, all people, need safe places to experiment with stuff like this.
posted by amtho at 4:29 AM on January 20, 2015


If a woman did them, I'm still not a fan.

Anyway, my point that these are mediocre repaints and the artist thinks they've invented the wheel when mori is a relatively well-known aesthetic in doll collecting/ customizing circles still stands.
posted by sukeban at 4:29 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I missed an actual artists statement on her motivations, which is interesting because we sure are having a lot of chatter about what it is - which of course reflects on you and not the artist. This is good art because it is engaging and stimulating.
posted by wilful at 4:30 AM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


drlith has it.

I'm amazed at all the folks who are like, "make up and sexy clothes are ok and we need to not suppress that message". Have you been down the pink aisle of your local toy department lately? That message is not in danger of being supressed.
posted by iotic at 4:32 AM on January 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


It's the matrix you guys. They start out naked and covered in garish makeup because it's the real world, but then they take the right pills and wind up in Zion with those hand made clothes of scarcity to fight the nearby robots.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:37 AM on January 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's easier to learn about sexy clothes/makeup and explore all the crazy/good/bad attitudes to them through channels like dolls and play when young, rather than wait till you have to do it all for real as an adult. Because you do pretty much have to engage with it.
posted by colie at 4:39 AM on January 20, 2015


Do you have to engage with it though?
posted by oceanjesse at 4:42 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do you have to engage with it, though? I didn't, except when forced to. I also didn't play with dolls. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in either non-experience. And I'm fine with people enjoying fun clothes now (have even done so myself in staged plays when other people dressed me).
posted by amtho at 4:43 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


That message is not in danger of being suppressed.

No indeed. I think the problem is that the artist, along with the intended message, is inadvertently suggesting that girls are essentially passive receivers and need to have a good, wholesome identity painted on to them by some responsible authority. Whereas, say what you like about Bratz (and I don't like much) they are presented as self-assertive.

Better someone who chooses sleazy glitz and fuck you if you don't like it rather than someone who wears tweed because they've been carefully taken in hand?

I don't know, YMMV. They're only dolls.
posted by Segundus at 4:46 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Both the glitz and the tweed can be viewed as either imposed (by a doll creator) or self-assertive (by the imagined person portrayed by the doll).
posted by amtho at 4:47 AM on January 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


I wish there was a way for mass produced dolls to not all be the same shape. Every doll being uniformly skinny-but-with-curves, average height, no muscles--that bothers me way more than the makeup or clothes.
posted by almostmanda at 4:47 AM on January 20, 2015


There are already a few services where you can customize a doll and have it 3D-printed (for example, Makies), but not yet to the point of being able to customize body dimensions. It would be a nightmare to mass-produce clothes, too.
posted by sukeban at 4:50 AM on January 20, 2015


I think the problem is that the artist, along with the intended message, is inadvertently suggesting that girls are essentially passive receivers and need to have a good, wholesome identity painted on to them by some responsible authority. Whereas, say what you like about Bratz (and I don't like much) they are presented as self-assertive.

A doll's identity is more or less definitively "painted on". I'm not sure how you separate which ones are proud of their self-chosen identity and which have had it forced upon them, since they are made of plastic and not sentient.
posted by iotic at 4:51 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


A doll's identity is more or less definitively "painted on".

No, its identity is continuously being constructed and reworked by its owner. That's why girls go crazy for all the different outfits you can buy for Barbie, and make houses for them, and do voices for them as they play etc. It's incredibly sophisticated, brain-growing work, and part of its function is to challenge or affirm parental ideas of what is right and proper.
posted by colie at 4:55 AM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


No, its identity is continuously being constructed and reworked by its owner. That's why girls go crazy for all the different outfits you can buy for Barbie, and make houses for them, and do voices for them as they play etc. It's incredibly sophisticated, brain-growing work, and part of its function is to challenge or affirm parental ideas of what is right and proper.

OK, but that doesn't tell me anything about which out of Bratz and "made under Bratz" is more "self-assertive", to go back to the comment I was replying to.
posted by iotic at 5:15 AM on January 20, 2015


'Made-under Bratz' would be eaten alive by the real Bratz in any play session I can imagine.
posted by colie at 5:21 AM on January 20, 2015


Because the majority of female children like make up and sexy clothes? Feels like a circular argument.
posted by iotic at 5:28 AM on January 20, 2015


I was watching the Swedish film We Are The Best the other night. Set in 1980s Stockholm, the film dealt with three 12 year-old girls who formed a punk band. I thought it was super-affirming in a way I am not used to seeing female identity in mainstream media. Then I saw these dolls and I see them in the same continuum: you can be what you define yourself to be, you are a blank canvas, and you can conform/non-conform however you see fit but you have that choice because you don't have to fit into a very narrow definition of how you are supposed to look ("religious cult"? REALLY?) or act.

If I had a daughter or niece, this is the sort of doll I'd want her to have. I'm told by my friends with daughters & nieces that such dolls are pretty much impossible to get hold of unless you buy custom-made ones. And isn't that food for thought?
posted by kariebookish at 5:40 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Its like Pretty Woman - except with dolls - and the artist plays Richard Gere - which isn't at all creepy.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:02 AM on January 20, 2015


Whatever else is going on, this artist is giving the dolls nostrils. Who knew that that needed to be a thing?
posted by allthinky at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread sure takes turns which should be predictable but still surprise me. What do people think of the idea of de-militarising GI joes and making them just ordinary blokes? Sure it takes away some male agency but ... yknow I have no idea.
posted by vicx at 6:16 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you want to see some awesome repaints, look at these Monster High Repaints. It makes me want to own a doll.
posted by Windigo at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does he give them noses?
posted by jonmc at 6:40 AM on January 20, 2015


Why are the before photos all naked though.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:46 AM on January 20, 2015


This is very cool BUT it took me a while to figure out what was bothering me... those girls need eyelashes. Eyelashes aren't sexual. They're just a normal part of a face.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:49 AM on January 20, 2015


St Peeps. Check your ethnocentrism. Ethnic characteristics of eyelashes: a comparative analysis in Asian and Caucasian females.
posted by vicx at 6:52 AM on January 20, 2015


If I were the artist, and my art generated such a richness of response and debate over my intentions as this thread does, I'd say "Success!" Well done, sir or madam.

When is a doll mod not just a doll mod? When it makes us question the very nature of dolls, their assigned and subversive roles, and a lot of other issues, like what it means to wear/not wear makeup and certain kinds of clothes.

I would absolutely be on board with GI Joe mods, but would he need them? Is he super-buff or something? Otherwise, once you take off his armor, isn't he just a dude? I guess you could give him a hipster wardrobe.
posted by emjaybee at 6:54 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


That article doesn't say some cultures don't have any eyelashes, just different amounts and presentation. These dolls have no eyelashes.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:57 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like the remade dolls, but I was very turned off by the artist describing a bunch of the Before-and-After shots as a good depiction of "marry snog avoid." That seems to be taking it very definitely to a Virgin/Whore place and judging teenagers who wear make-up as slutty or bitchy.
posted by jaguar at 6:59 AM on January 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wow, everybody's bringing their own very different and extensive set of baggage on this trip, aren't they? I mean, BinaryThis looks like an interesting blog, but the blogger seems somehow threatened by the makeovers; the redone dolls look no more or less individualistic than the originals.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2015


True. I think Hasbro calling them Bratz and the Bratz cartoon does enough of the work already.
posted by vicx at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2015


This is the best Rorschach test I have seen in years.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:04 AM on January 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


In post-modern crit everything is a test.
posted by vicx at 7:06 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


St Peeps. Check your ethnocentrism. Ethnic characteristics of eyelashes: a comparative analysis in Asian and Caucasian females.

If there's a thing I've learned from twenty+ years of reading Japanese comics is that Japanese women think they have no eyelashes.

And it's not like Japanese dolls made for the Japanese market don't have eyelashes, either.
posted by sukeban at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2015


It's easier to learn about sexy clothes/makeup and explore all the crazy/good/bad attitudes to them through channels like dolls and play when young, rather than wait till you have to do it all for real as an adult. Because you do pretty much have to engage with it.

This is ... the opposite of true, at least for me. It was extremely shitty to learn how I was expected to do these things when I was so young, and dolls like these didn't help me learn how to "engage" with anything, they just taught me that I needed to be sexy all the time when I was still prepubescent.

Besides, you absolutely do not "pretty much have to engage with it" at all. I wear makeup sometimes when I think it would be fun but I certainly don't have to engage with any of it if I choose not to.

The reason the cult comparison keeps coming up is because these dolls look like what you see when a compound gets raided and all the little child-wives are led out.

Wow.
posted by dialetheia at 7:21 AM on January 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


The made-under dolls look a lot like American Girl dolls to me. You won't find those in the pink aisle of the store but even as a kid I always thought they did a good job showing different kinds of actual human girls. I never had any (too expensive) but I read the books.
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:24 AM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Someone turn this doll into a hippy.
posted by vicx at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm amazed at all the folks who are like, "make up and sexy clothes are ok and we need to not suppress that message". Have you been down the pink aisle of your local toy department lately? That message is not in danger of being supressed.

It feels to me more like the criticism of rap music from people who don't listen to rap music. On one hand it's legitimate because the targeted cultural phenomenon is popular and problematic in ways that could be addressed, but on the other hand it comes across as condescending and derogatory toward people who identify with the culture. The lack of makeup and simple clothes of the "after" dolls are not a default normal look that everyone can equally identify with, that appearance has its own cultural baggage and can be problematic in other ways.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:15 AM on January 20, 2015


It's like the dolls were delivered from some human trafficking nightmare.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:22 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am honestly flabbergasted at the backlash. It's like you've never seen the "girl" aisle at the toy store.

If I could find dolls like the after version for my daughter I totally would get them for her. Cult members? They just look like kids.
posted by lydhre at 8:37 AM on January 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


It was extremely shitty to learn how I was expected to do these things when I was so young, and dolls like these didn't help me learn how to "engage" with anything, they just taught me that I needed to be sexy all the time when I was still prepubescent.

QFT. I wasn't specifically familiar with Bratz dolls until I was an adult, but heavily made-up dolls, and the societal expectation that I simply had to want to own and play with them for no other reason because I was a girl... once I realized what the score was, it made me feel kind of broken, like my body was a thing I needed to escape from to be seen as a human being. And that's a feeling that has never left me.

I'm incredibly fortunate in that I grew up with people who didn't give a tenth of a shit about their kids' gender compliance (or, for several of us, the complete and total lack thereof). None of the women in my family wore any makeup at all for any reason, no one encouraged me to play with dolls or fashion instead of bugs or trucks. So while I was able to live my first handful of years on earth wholly outside the scope of what was considered "appropriate" for girls because I had absolutely no gender inculcation inside the home whatsoever, once I grew up? Once I got out of childhood and into the world of post-pubescent teenage girls and women? Hoooooooooly shit.

People immediately started treating me like I was defective because I simply could not feign any kind of interest in makeup, shopping, clothes, babies, housekeeping, marriage, etc. (Who am I kidding? They still do.) It wasn't that I thought those things were stupid or wrong, I just didn't give a fuck, profoundly, and when you're a girl or woman who DGAF about fulfilling her assigned gender role as a half-virgin/half-whore/all-subservient pre-wife and pre-mother, frankly, there's hell to pay. And that's not even touching on the incredible horrors so regularly visited upon boys and men who DGAF about fulfilling their assigned gender role; my brother was a phenomenally sparkly princess of a little boy from birth and got nothing but a world of hurt (and 100% of the dolls and dresses that were witlessly gifted to me over the years) in return.

It took me a shamefully long time to realize that the gender role assigned to the word/life of "woman" is not actually an inherent or inborn set of characteristics shared by all women everywhere, or even most women anywhere. Hell, it changes from culture to culture, so it isn't even meaningful outside of an incredibly limited context. Rather, it's just one of the many facets of compulsory femininity, which is such a real and poisonous thing that it kind of staggers me to see people here (or anywhere!) actively defending its existence.

For the love of all that is unholy in this world, just because a woman doesn't wear makeup or bright colors doesn't make her boring, broken, frigid, hyper-religious, or otherwise less of a woman. Sometimes we just DGAF! So if a woman prefers to eschew obvious makeup, if she favors neutral-toned clothing? Ye gods, it's really gross to act like she's some kind of poor, misguided soul who needs to be shamed into compliance with compulsory femininity after being rescued from the cultish religious compound she apparently lives in. We can probably just leave her be. No one's taking away lipstick or miniskirts or the huge swaths of various industries that are built specifically around the deployment and embrace of these things, I promise.

To that end, I hate to get all IBTP up in here JUST KIDDING, I LIVE FOR THIS but here's Twisty Faster with the news:
Pretty is merely a semantic variant of feminine, which is itself a code word meaning 'subjugated, degraded, and controllable.'

Or beautiful, sexy, or fuckable — it's all the same thing: a set of behaviors indicating that the woman in question is dominant-culture-compliant. The degree of compliance is judged according to standards based on a system of male appeasement (compliance should be full and discernible at a glance).

If a woman is unable or unwilling to capitulate to male desire by cute-ing herself up according to the standards of the day, and is resistant enough to broadcast this unwillingness by eschewing beauty, boy is she in for it. The Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women state that a woman will internalize the beauty mandate to the greatest possible extent, lest Dude Nation kick her non-compliant ass.
Girls are people, and people can wear whatever the hell they want, gender roles be damned. But as a whole, I feel confident in my belief that it would be healthier for a whole lot of girls' self-image if we had less media that just so happened to tidily align with the hetero male gaze, not even more, because if you don't identify with or like it, you're a boring prude.
posted by divined by radio at 8:46 AM on January 20, 2015 [34 favorites]


Much beans, so plate. As the father of a self-assertive, no-fucks-giving 6-year-old daughter, I love these and am certain that my daughter would lose her mind over them. She's never had the least interest in Bratz dolls, and if she could dress her Barbies in Star Wars t-shirts and tutus, she'd do it.

As others have said here, more and different images of girls and women presented to children is better than fewer images.

Although I really don't understand the suggestion that the "after" photos look like culty child-brides. They look like all the kids in my daughter's elementary school.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:55 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


A question for those who think that the dresses or skirts the "after" dolls are wearing look like "religious cult wear" - Did you not notice that the skirts are just about barely knee-length, whereas most of the "religious" dresses are ankle-length?

This disparity has me wondering whether people are just so used to dolls in super-short skirts that anything that looks longer than a micromini has people thinking "omigod so prudish", or whether people have warped images of what "religious cult" attire actually looks like.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on January 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Although, the blue onsie on the smaller red-headed doll that is now the top image is reading more like "a six-year-old made this doll outfit", and that's an entirely different problem which I do think the artist could stand to correct. (I know your mom's making these, but maybe a finer eye to general quality is in order?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2015


What is the problem with "a six-year-old made this doll outfit" that needs correcting? (Besides, it looks like a kid's romper to me.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2015


Hmmm... there seems to be some confusion of "liking different things" with "judging others for not being like self". I guess if people are used to being judged, or if they expect to be judged, then it must be hard to read "not X' as "Y or X are both fine".

Do we just have to constantly reassure each other that we're not judging each other? Is it truly impossible to create something without implying a value judgment of other things? What if one can only create one thing at a time and doesn't communicate well?


(also: sorry again, colie. I think I did it again. I try to read carefully, but I had no sleep last night. Maybe I'm also an example of what I'm describing in this comment.)
posted by amtho at 9:20 AM on January 20, 2015


What is the problem with "a six-year-old made this doll outfit" that needs correcting?

If you're gonna be selling these on Etsy, I'd imagine you want something that has even hems rather than being something that looks like "this took me twenty seconds to make by cutting holes in the toe of an old sock". That's all - I'm speaking strictly to the craft technique quality.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2015


If you're gonna be selling these on Etsy, I'd imagine you want something that has even hems rather than being something that looks like "this took me twenty seconds to make by cutting holes in the toe of an old sock". That's all - I'm speaking strictly to the craft technique quality.

Ah, gotcha - thanks for clearing up. I think it sort of adds to the charm, but I understand your point.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2015


I think there'd be a difference if these were brand-new dolls, instead of remade dolls. There's a value judgment inherent in the idea of a make-over.
posted by jaguar at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is the problem with "a six-year-old made this doll outfit" that needs correcting?

Absolutely nothing at all. Your hypothetical six year old is very talented. But from a doll repainting/ doll customizing fandom POV, the OP's customs are nothing to write home about.
posted by sukeban at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2015


oh god someone did a Karl Lagerfeld MH edit
posted by sukeban at 9:27 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why are the before photos all naked though.

Because they come from thrift stores.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:31 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think there'd be a difference if these were brand-new dolls, instead of remade dolls. There's a value judgment inherent in the idea of a make-over.

It's really just the hems on that one blue romper-type thing that are making me all twitchy ("the stitching's raw, don't you know that's gonna unravel?...."). The other things look homemade, but also like the person making them finished the job, you know?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on January 20, 2015


The poorly made feet are bugging me, too. Bratz feet are removable at the ankle-- it allows for a wider range of shoes. It's creepy but considering the overall look, a practical choice. The artist has removed or replaced the feet with lumpy plasticine mary-janes. I agree that the artist needs to shoot for a higher level of craft, but for me it's the shoes that are the obvious fault.

Bratz dolls are exciting because nobody I knew as a child looked like that, outrageous and parodic, which is inherently interesting. All I have to say for the made-under dolls is that they had better come with some rad accessories or I can't see why I would play with them. Rad accessories being the main point of the American Girl dolls, for example.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Counterpoint to pre- and post-makeover Bratz: Lammily, a new doll that's being marketed as "what the Barbie would look like if she actually had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman's body (based on CDC data)."

There was an FPP about it when it was in the prototype/idea stage -- Looks Great (Duh) -- but it wound up getting turned into a Kickstarter and was recently released into production.

In addition to regular fashion accessories, you can also pick up some Lammily Marks, a pack of 38 reusable stickers comprising "Cellulite, Stretch marks, Freckles, Acne, Glasses, Blushing, Adhesive bandages, Moles, Temporary Tattoo, Stitches, Scrapes & Scratches, Bruises, Cast, Scars, Mosquito Bites, Grass and Dirt Stains."

Speaking as a very rough-and-tumble girl who was forever wearing some combination of mud, dirt, sand, grass, insects, and/or my own blood from toddlerhood until I entered the workforce at 15, and thus as someone who has been eternally frustrated by the general vibe that girls and women shouldn't/can't do things that make us visibly dirty or give us bruises, scrapes, scratches, and scars, I am putting my vote firmly in the More Of This, Please column.
posted by divined by radio at 10:17 AM on January 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Here's a tip: if you go to a few charity shops/flea markets/jumble sales, sooner or later you should get lucky and find a big bag of Barbie clothes that some wealthier parent has got out of the garage because they have a now-teenage daughter.

We got one for a few pounds that had literally dozens and dozens of great outfits, would have cost hundreds new. The huge sudden quantity and low price took the heat out of it all somehow.
posted by colie at 10:35 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's something I realized. When I posted this last night, I was mostly very charmed by this, but also a little troubled in a way I couldn't articulate. Now I realize what I missed: I would not have liked these made-under dolls at all. I liked Jem, I liked Barbie, I liked She-Ra -- all extremely accessorized straight out of the package.

But then, back in the '80s, it would have been totally foreign to me to see an adult engaging with a children's toy so much. Grownups didn't deal with toys on this level. Their interest in toys was limited to whether they should keep you from having it or not. Grownups might collect toys -- usually boring creepy stuff from a million years ago -- in which case the toys just sat on shelves and got dusted and you weren't supposed to touch them ever. Grownups might say nobody should have a certain kind of toy because it was too violent (if they were teachery types) or because it was Satanic (if they were churchy types). Usually these were the coolest toys.

No adult ever got down to a kid's level and explored the possibilities of a toy with us. This kind of thing is new.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:55 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: Did you not notice that the skirts are just about barely knee-length, whereas most of the "religious" dresses are ankle-length?

Right--by contrast, this is actual cult wear (the FDLS).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:19 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


No adult ever got down to a kid's level and explored the possibilities of a toy with us.

I think this is why it works as a project and also divides opinion. As an adult, when you see the 'before and after' pictures side by side, you find your brain automatically going into a narrative kind of mode and you're thinking about stories of kids 'rescued from the streets' or 'cult members' or whatever, whether that's good or bad, but you're storytelling to yourself somehow. That's exactly what children start doing whenever they pick up a toy. We tend to lose that ability when we become adults and the desire to invent stories about everything goes underground inside us.
posted by colie at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would have died of boredom if my well-meaning liberal parents had made me play with these ecofriendly quaker dolls. But then, this was my fave as a kid.
posted by 912 Greens at 12:05 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, everybody's bringing their own very different and extensive set of baggage on this trip, aren't they?

Oh god. The baggage. One of the reasons I loathe Bratz is all the little shit they come with that gets strewn all over the house and stepped on, mangled, and lost.



I made the comment to my granddaughter the other day that some of the girls I've seen her hang with are snotty, aggressive, and bossy, but not necessarily confident, assertive, or independent. She said the saddest of them dress and makeup like Bratz dolls.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:14 PM on January 20, 2015


The accessories on Barbie outfits were never satisfactory to me, and they got lost almost immediately. But old rings from Mom's dresser made decent crowns if you tied them on with twist ties, and when she let me cut up some old clothes, I had costumes for months. Couldn't sew for shit, didn't matter.

If I'd had a Bratz doll then, she wouldn't be wearing coordinated outfits of any kind for very long. She'd be wearing a queenly robe that used to be an old slip and was tied on with a shoelace. Her "real" wardrobe would be brought out in bits and pieces as needed, but would as often as not end up being worn by a small stuffed animal or plastic horse (skirts that fastened made good capes).

I probably wouldn't have cared much whether or not she wore makeup.
posted by emjaybee at 1:23 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll be honest, I never got playing with dolls. Perhaps because when I was little, my grandmothers and aunts would bring me these exquisite porcelain dolls from wherever they visited, or were stationed. Gorgeous things, in silken clothes of their country of origin, hand painted faces...just astonishingly beautiful things.

And as soon as we got home, or the relatives would leave, my mother would pack them away somewhere because they were "too special to play with". It's 40 something years ago later, and I think this thread is the first time I've thought of them. But somehow, in my head, it became internalized that "dolls aren't something you play with", so I didn't.

I did however disassemble my sister's "wet-em" doll's bottle, because I wanted to understand how the "milk" in the bottle disappeared when you held it upside down to feed the baby doll.

These seem cute, and harmless, and hardly a stab in the face of makeup and high-heeled agency. I still wouldn't play with them, because I wouldn't know how; but I would buy these for my niece, just like I buy her American Girl things, because ya know, they're not Bratz.
posted by dejah420 at 1:45 PM on January 20, 2015


In other words, can't the dolls be dressed colorfully with makeup and exaggerated fashion without being derided?

The Bratz dolls are not wearing tasteful corporate makeup, they're super sexualized. When they first came out I remember being pretty horrified by them and most of my friends kids weren't allowed to have them (ages 5-10 ish). Now that level of sexualization seems to be normal for pre teens and it disturbs me a lot. Kids on Nickelodeon and Disney shows are super made up with super styled hair, all the girls look 25 years old and act it too. Much older than the male characters look and act. This was not the case 20 years ago and it seems like girls don't get to be kids long enough. We were buying makeup and learning to walk in heels at 14-16, not 8.

Also, and this is not a religious thing, I believe too much obsession with appearance and looks should be discouraged in children. Yes, you should know how to look your best but part of raising a kid is teaching them not to be self centered and have some humility, appreciation for what they have, good work ethic etc. Playing dress up is fine if it's part of a fantastic storyline at that age but not if it's just to draw attention, imho.
posted by fshgrl at 2:17 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would absolutely be on board with GI Joe mods, but would he need them? Is he super-buff or something? Otherwise, once you take off his armor, isn't he just a dude?

GI Joe is super something. Do you think he looks like just an average dude?
posted by vicx at 3:41 PM on January 20, 2015


I would absolutely be on board with GI Joe mods, but would he need them?

Going by that picture, he certainly needs to lose that scowl...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 PM on January 20, 2015


Someone is taking dolls that would otherwise be thrown in the trash and re-doing them. They aren't even for sale (but will probably be on Etsy, at some point.) No one is making any of you play with them. No one is making ANYONE play with them. There is still the full complement of Equestria Girls, Bratz, Monster High, Ever After, Barbies, et al for sale, in every store. The presence of a few re-done toys does not negate the existence of about a billion dolls with exaggerated makeup and heels available for purchase right now.
posted by 41swans at 5:43 AM on January 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


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