Pareidolia, Hypervigilance, and the Uncanny Valley - You Know, For Kids!
July 23, 2015 9:12 AM   Subscribe

The History (and Psychology) of Creepy Dolls

Don't miss the linked short paper that attempts to define Creepiness.
posted by Miko (17 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god there's a slideshow, in case you weren't suitably creeped out enough by the dolls pictured in the story itself.
posted by Blue Meanie at 9:28 AM on July 23, 2015

I have a neighbor who decorates her Christmas tree with doll heads. I've not asked to see it.
posted by mollweide at 9:40 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ha. "SEE ALSO: Read about the history and psychology of scary clowns"
posted by Mchelly at 9:43 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

"My name is Talky-Tina and you better be nice to me...."
posted by Sophie1 at 10:02 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

So, er, I collect and customize Asian ball-jointed dolls. They're made of polyurethane resin because they were invented by a garage kit maker (as in figure resin kits), so they can be filed or sanded down and modified with a hobby knife. You can change their eyes and wigs and so on.

It means a) you usually have around the dissecta membra of various dolls you're working on like a Hans Bellmer nightmare [CONTENT WARNING: Bellmer did the creepy doll thing to the max, don't click if you're creeped by dolls], b) you have a collection of realistic-looking glass eyes in some drawer or other, c) even if your doll has a sweet country lolita image, people WILL say it's creepy.

I do have a doll styled like the Japanese equivalent of creepy Victorian dolls (ichimatsu ningyo), but that was very intentional :D
posted by sukeban at 10:08 AM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Of course, there are customizers for whom creepy is the point. One Grey Elephant is probably the best.
posted by sukeban at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls), in Mexico City. So very creepy.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

A wonderfully creepy, beautifully animated short (and award winning) movie about dolls: Alma.
posted by bouvin at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Three directors to watch, if creepy dolls is what you're after, are the Brothers Quay (maybe they should count as one director) and Jan Švankmajer. It's been decades since I was first exposed to their work and there's still a creative influence that can not be shaken off.

Netflix had some Švankmajer, notably Alice, but I'm uncertain if it's still available.
posted by Wetterschneider at 10:22 AM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Obligatory Jonathan Coulton.
posted by Mchelly at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also have Asian BJDs. I used to leave one sitting in the bathroom so it would make eye contact with my SO when he looked in the mirror. Turns out he really doesn't like dolls and it really freaked him out so I stopped, oops. I personally like creepy.

Also I kept a jar of glass eyes on my shelf.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:03 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

A few years back when I started blogging about reborn dolls (on my creepy stuff site), comments and links from other bloggers spiked. Some were people horrified at the practice/movement. Others were from reborn fans and practitioners, appalled that I and others found them creepy. It was a good moment for seeing both sides of the uncanny valley, as it were.
posted by doctornemo at 2:49 PM on July 23, 2015

That's a really good article. I was impressed at the range of sources, from Hoffman ("Sandman" is very disturbing from start to finish) to that Knox research team.

I'd only add Kleist, whose "Marionette Theater" essay is so strange. And maybe Ligotti for full measure.
posted by doctornemo at 2:51 PM on July 23, 2015

There is more than a whiff of creepy doll in Toy Story 3...
posted by childofTethys at 2:55 PM on July 23, 2015

There is more than a whiff of creepy doll in Toy Story 3...

I really need to get to that.
posted by doctornemo at 2:58 PM on July 23, 2015

I was impressed at the range of sources,

Me too. It was a lot more than clickbait, and had lots of great live links.
posted by Miko at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2015

I collect Monster High dolls - the number of people who find them creepy as hell is pretty high, but they're usually just fine with the one or two Barbies I also own. I don't see the creepy in Monster High, myself, I just think they're way more interesting. Reborns, on the other hand... *shudder*
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 11:17 PM on July 23, 2015

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