Essay Anthropology: Doll and Blythe

Submitted By scdec
Words: 4324
Pages: 18

Introduction

In
 1972,
 the
 Kenner
 Corporation
 introduced
 a
 fashion
 doll
 onto
 American
 shelves
 that
 could
 only
 be
 described
 as
 innovative;
 sporting
 a
 large,
 oversized
 head
 and
 an
 eye‐changing
 mechanism
 controlled
 by
 a
 pull
 string,
 the
 Blythe
 doll
 was
a
marketing
disaster,
terrifying
girls
rather
than
attracting
them.
Blythe
was
 cast
 into
 obscurity
 until
 it
 came
 to
 the
 attention
 of
 a
 New
 York
 photographer,
 Gina
 Garan,
 in
 the
 1990’s.
 Garan
 started
 photographing
 vintage
 Blythes
 she
 found
 on
 Ebay,
 and
 published
 her
 work
 in
 a
 2000
 book,
 This
 is
 Blythe.
 The
 popularity
 of
 the
 book
 led
 the
 Japanese
 toy
 manufacturer
 Takara
 to
 produce
 a
 new
line
of
Neo‐Blythes
with
a
marketing
strategy
targeted
not
at
little
girls,
but
 rather
 ‘big
 girls’
 like
 Garan
 who
 saw
 in
 her
 the
 “rare
 and
 unique,
 the
 beautiful
 and
 the
 funny”
 (Garan
 2).
 Blythes
 are
 now
 consumed
 internationally
 by
 adults
 who
 identify
 with
 the
 doll
 and
 assign
 to
 them
 an
 emotive,
 as
 well
 as
 creative,
 connection.
 A
 particular
 identity
 arises
 from
 collecting
 Blythe,
 an
 identity
 that
 is
 given
 meaning
 by
 the
 sites
 of
 representation,
 production,
 consumption
 and
 regulation
in
the
“circuit
of
culture”
(du
Gay
et
al
3).
In
particular,
it
is
within
the
 acts
 of
 production
 and
 consumption
 of
 Blythe
 that
 one
 can
 come
 to
 see
 the
 changing
 role
 of
 toys
 in
 the
 lives
 of
 adults,
 and
 how
 they
 are
 no
 longer
 just
 emblems
for
childhood,
but
also
the
embodiments
of
larger
dreams
and
desires.


Identifying
Blythe

“Why
do
all
us
women
collect
dolls
that
were
intended
to
be
children’s
toys?
What
 are
our
reasons?
I
feel
I
grew
up
far
too
young.
My
dolls
for
me
represent
the

2

GEND1002:
Reading
Popular
Culture
 
 Tutor:
Ana
Dragojlovic
 innocence of
my
childhood,
something
I
never
want
to
lose,
or
something
I
am
 trying
to
recapture.”
–
Maddy*1

Toys
 will
 always
 be
 an
 emblem
 of
 childhood,
 and
 the
 innocence
 and
 purity
 associated
with
that
age.
However,
that
is
not
to
say
toys
are
completely
childish;
 rather,
 they
 possess
 a
 certain
 power
 based
 on
 a
 “recognition
 of
 possibility”
 (Phoenix
 9).
 Toys
 are
 essentially,
 representations
 of
 reality,
 an
 
 “abstraction
 instilled
 into
 concrete
 form”
 (Phoenix
 7)
 that
 embody
 a
 particular
 concept.
 For
 Blythe
 collectors,
 their
 11
 inch
 companions
 capture
 some
 a
 simple
 beauty,
 some
 “childhood
 image”
 (Fleming
 43)
 that
 has
 been
 lost
 in
 the
 contemporary
 fast‐ paced
 age
 of
 technology
 and
 mass
 consumerism.
 Their
 vintage
 origin
 further
 makes
 this
 recognition
 possible,
 as
 the
 rediscovery
 of
 Blythe
 translates
 into
 a
 rediscovery
of
this
past
age.


A
 particular
 identity
 is
 associated
 with
 the
 practice
 of
 collecting
 Blythe
 dolls,
 which
 says
 as
 much
 about
 a
 collector
 as
 it
 does
 about
 the
 hobby
 itself.
 As
 a
 consumer
 product,
 it
 is
 marketed
 to
 individuals
 based
 on
 their
 perceived
 identity,
but
it
also
actively
produces
the
identities
that
this
construction
is
based
 upon.
 
 Most
 Blythe
 collectors
 are
 female;
 they
 are
 stay‐at‐home
 mums,
 students
 or
 graphic
 designers
 (Atkinson
 online)
 who
 found
 Blythe
 special
 because
 of
 the
 wider
 practices
 associated
 with
 Blythe
 collecting.
 Many
 of
 these
 women
 had
 not
 collected
 dolls
 before
 Blythe
 and
 thus
 don’t
 identify
 themselves
 as
 strict
 doll
 collectors;
 rather,
 they
 see
 Blythe
 as
 a
 creative
 hobby
 or
 an
 expressive
 outlet
 which
 allows
 them
 to
 customise,
 photograph,
 crochet,
 knit,
 sew,
 paint,
 for
 their
 1
Name
changed
to
protect
identity,
collected
by
interview
via
 http://www.weplaywithdolls.net/forums

3

GEND1002:
Reading
Popular
Culture
 
 Tutor:
Ana
Dragojlovic
 dolls. They
are
often
inclined
towards…