Well, I don’t always have nice things to say (no really, it’s true)
But readers of my blog know that, and they take it with a grain of salt. I have talked with many of them via email, telephone and even in person. It reminds me of the heterosexual man that is completely comfortable in his own skin and sexuality, that being around gay men simply isn’t a threat or an issue. That’s true of the many friends I have in our community – they are confident in their own tastes and passions for certain types of dolls, knowing that they are not for everyone – and they just aren’t insulted or challenged when someone has critical or horrifically nasty things to say about a doll he or she might love with all his/her heart. It’s a sign of high confidence and maturity – and these doll collectors deserve the most respect of any in our industry because they endure the onslaught of ‘opinions’ from bloggers like me (and others), social media interaction, and the old bulletin boards where faceless opinions spawn perpetually like Southern kudzu.Two communities come largely into play when dissecting the decline of the modern fashion doll: BJDs and Barbie. And before you start throwing vegetables and dirty underwear – hear me out…because what is interesting is what both of these tribes bring to fashion dolls as a collective, yet they both have diametrically opposed points-of-view. One might think that BJDs are on the rise…and they kinda are – you see new makers popping up all the time. Many of them seem to sell out very fast, but when you make ten of something, it probably won’t last long. Their quality is exceptional, they don’t really seem to give a rat’s ass in effectively communicating with the West (though they are very happy to take our money). They are an excellent example of a tribe being defined by a material rather than a look, even though they all largely look the same, despite realistic human-like BJDs and the vastly exaggerated wide-eyed Lolitas that use sexual suggestiveness as an almost sinful barrier to entry (no pun intended) – through a looking glass and into a dark world of elves and fairies and warlords who either slaughter vampires, or they make sweet passionate love to them, thereby creating whole other worlds of characters that seems to run on like a Song of Ice and Fire novel (and this sentence). It doesn’t matter if it’s a diminutive pixie, a toddler of darkness, a coked-up Sailor Moon, or a hot hunky prince – they are all BJDs – and that makes them unified in terms of their fans. They don’t see them all as the same visually – but they do accept broad character definitions as long as they are crafted in that perceived holy grail of materials: resin…and if they are made in the Far East. Think of their world what you may – but what we should learn from the BJD makers and collectors is that they are able to broaden their minds across all different incarnations of beings – holding the artistry and quality of their dolls as one of the top defining characteristics they value the most, despite what their appearance may be. How ironic that many of them may shun plastic fashion dolls and others – or they look upon BJDs made outside of Asia as not a part of the tribe? Not all agree with this opinion, but it still amazes me how one can oooo and coo over a BJD child-like waif from Korea, and turn their nose up to a fantastic representation of a similar child doll – just because it was not made in the Far East. Yet, these are still dolls that wear and exchange fashions – fashion dolls, if you will – just made someplace else and in a different material. Odd. It reminds me of those that refuse to refer to ‘action figures’ as dolls – or those that accept no other fashion doll other than…you guessed it…Barbie.
Barbie is one of the oldest, continuously manufactured fashion dolls out there – and certainly the most famous. Those that gravitate to Barbie do so with verve and vigor – all in the name of nostalgia, campy fun and all that shit Barbie has. It is truly disturbing how many Barbie collectors I’ve met over the years who have never heard of any other fashion doll except Barbie – they don’t read the doll publications – and they generally don’t want to know about anything else other than Barbie.It’s a devotion we see in the BJD collectors, but it’s a concept that’s fractured when seen amongst fashion doll collectors – they don’t respect the overall concept of fashion dolls like the BJD folks…they simply don’t give a fuck about anything except their favorites – and everyone else can go to hell. You might draw the same conclusion of the Barbie collectors – but you’d be wrong. What makes Barbie Collectors different is their ignorance of anything else out there – because it’s not Barbie. But being ignorant to the existence of other fashion dolls doesn’t mean they attack, either. They choose to ignore others – and insulting them has little-to-no meaning as they bathe in their Barbie bliss. This may sound like an insult – quite the contrary – it’s a devotion that fashion doll collectors could learn a great deal by observing. Many Fashion Doll collectors can get down-right violent when they feel threatened by anything new; one that might challenge their favorite’s standing. They are aware of them – many even explore new dolls with curious excitement. Sadly though, not enough of them do. And this is why fashion dolls may be a dying tribe.
Fashion doll collectors do tend to stay informed. They see new offerings, and many can even afford them – but this is where availability becomes the killer. Newer fashion dolls like Superdoll’s GenX Vinyl, Kingdom Doll – even Numina and others…they are controlled by production numbers. They can only do so many – and even though this helps extend their product lifecycle, it also repels those new customers that just can’t be in the right place at the right time – largely because life just isn’t that simple to schedule a doll purchase within a 60-second window at precisely 1:23 Greenwich Mean Time. You need an app for that – and only JAMIEshow has solved this little conundrum.Nope…ain’t gonna happen. The doll may sell out – but any attraction garnered by your latest offering is lost on the new customer because they couldn’t get one…and not that they just simply couldn’t get one – but it’s too difficult to even try getting one. In a world of instant gratification, that just doesn’t play anymore (how complicated – desiring something you can’t get) – it’s all too easy to move on to something else, or just rationalize the money saved, and move on to that pretty little cashmere scarf they saw at Nordstom’s.
Doll collecting is a luxury – one that is driven by impulse and thwarted by buyer’s remorse. Your product needs to be easy to buy in order to thrive and perpetuate – when it’s not, it’s too easy to just say, ‘to hell with it’ – nothing is worth this kind of hassle. And you wonder why there are a million BJDs out there that look exactly alike? Because someone somewhere is smart enough to realize there’s not enough to go around, and they fill that gap in the market. Unfortunately, this concept doesn’t work for Evangeline Ghastly, which in my own humble opinion, mostly look alike – but wait, she’s a BJD, isn’t she – or was – or…oh, who cares?When Miss Gene Marshall established the 16inch collectors doll size as the norm in fashion dolls that weren’t Barbie – everyone saw an opportunity – and many of them offered up Heathers left and right. The market became saturated, people gravitated toward the better-made dolls such as Tonner (which really did set a firm precedence for manufacturing quality with its Tyler Wentworth line) – those who couldn’t tell the difference were left in the dust; and some of those felt cheated by the makers of dolls they loved that just weren’t hitting the mark anymore. These collectors either switched their allegiance, or they rebelled. The resulting fashion doll community is now sharply divided by tribe factions of fans – whether it be Gene, Superdoll, Kingdom Doll, Fashion Royalty – or even that bitch, Ellowyne Wilde. There are still many of us that still love fashion dolls as a collective – and what different colors each brings to our magnificent rainbow. We ignore the dolls we don’t like, and celebrate those we do – but we have a mutual admiration and respect for others – not very different from simple tasks like remembering to use your turn signal. It is this respect and tolerance that is evaporating within the fashion doll community – and it is killing the genre. Think about it: we’re all grown-ups that play with dolls – if there ever was a more unifying commonality, don’t you think this would be it? If I were to make my own doll tomorrow, I’m not sure it would be a fashion doll (though I have great ideas for such Goddesses) – in the end, you can’t make enough to truly capture an audience without saturating too soon – and the have-nots are getting just a little sick and tired of those that do have the new dolls, and ignore any celebration of the older ones that collect dust in our hoarded homes. On the other hand, the owners of these new dolls, just trying to play and share, typically are victimized for monopolizing sharing time with vomit after vomit of photographs, some of which are actually quite good photography (but…dolls do NOT have armpits, people!!!). While all this down-and-dirty is going on – …there are hundreds who leave the hobby altogether…frustrated for multiple reasons – but mostly because they either can’t get access to the new dolls, or the economy has dropped them out of The 1%, and they need other little things in their lives, like food and medical care. And few dollmakers care about them anyway, because they aren’t customers anymore – it is a business, after all. So what can we expect from the future of fashion dolls? I think a bleak future while we all wait for the next original idea like Gene or Tyler, at popular price points that create accessibility. Dolls that invoke the imagination, and have tons of great shit with which to play and play and play. Dolls we want to share with others without fear of retribution. More makers like the BJD world has, and as much variety as Barbie – all with a little less bitchery, shitastic drama, and asswrecks who claim to be experts (some might even say any of these about me – touché). This post is an accurate reflection of our world – but it is not all-inclusive, by any means. Nevertheless, ‘Only fashion dolls matter’ takes on a sadly comical meaning when you examine how divided our community is – I suppose the response to this statement would be, “Yeah, but which ones?” How telling…