Hey, That Dolly Looks Just Like…

April 3, 2009 at 2:50 am (Uncategorized)

I met up with my Man Town-based writer friend L for a coffee this morning. The sun is back out for the second day straight, so we took our caffeine hits in one of the many cafes overlooking the beachfront, as excited to be able to sit outside as kids ringside at the circus. I may as well just come out and say it. I love L. She’s hilarious. I was so traumatised after that Sydney Writers’ Festival event last year (cuh-learly, as it’s almost exactly a year later and I’m talking about it for the second time this week…), but it was worth it because that’s where I met L. She’s awesome value, one of those people you always hope to be seated next to – on an airplane, at a wedding, during a conference – but never are. She sat directly opposite me at the SWF thing – good enough – and we’ve caught up a number of times since I successfully tracked her down (some people prefer the term “stalked”). She makes me laugh, and you know how I like to do that. 

Anyway, we were heads in, gabbing fit to explode, and had been going at it for an hour and a half when I started thinking about today’s post. Clearly it would be about catching up with L, but what part of the conversation would most edify the readers of DoctorDi…? It was like she read my mind. At the very instant I started reflecting on our catch-up, sifting, filtering, valuing in terms of blog fodder, L starts telling me about her Canadian niece’s (L is a New Yorker trapped in a Canadian’s body) recently published non-fiction book Ego Boom. Great, I think, that’s so timely, because surely this is the most egocentric time in the history of the world. All you have to do is walk down the street and do the barge test. Everyone barges these days, there’s no politely standing aside, there’s no stepping to the left to make way, there’s none of that. No, people and their appendages – dogs on leads, small children (sometimes also on leads…) – prefer to barge on through because they’re the most important thing in the whole entire universe and yes, actually, it is their personal path so just fuck off would you, fellow pedestrians, because it’s all about *ME.* You can see people teaching their children that it’s all about them too, so we can look forward to at least another generation of AWMs (Arseholes Without Manners). Horrible. Horrible, selfish, bovine, rude. Ego Boom? You got that right. 

But that wasn’t all. L asked if I’d heard of the ‘American doll.’

“The what?”

“American doll.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“They don’t talk about it over here, do they? Nobody knows. But it’s all in the book, and I just saw it over in LA. There was a three-storey building, teeming with people, selling the American doll. It’s a doll they make up to look exactly like you.”

“That’s so creepy,” I said. “So, so creepy. So what, you customise your doppelganger?”

“That’s right,” said L. “And you can get clothes made for your doll that match items in your own wardrobe. You can buy your doll accessories and friends and houses that cost a few thousand dollars [and I’m thinking about Grad’s comment on yesterday’s post and thinking, gee, or a new vacuum cleaner… DECISIONS, DECISIONS…]. You can send your doll on a spa retreat and pay for it to get a pedicure.”

I sat back in my seat.

“Why would you do that?” I wanted to know. “Why would anyone want to do something that creepy and crazy?”

“All over LA I saw these groups of young women travelling in packs with their dolls,” L said. “I’m telling you, this place was three storeys tall. Packed to the rafters.”

“With people ordering their mini-me,” I said. 

“That’s right,” said L. “They take them shopping. There are special zones where you can leave your doll with the other dolls where they’ll be looked after while you’re gone.”


“Exactly. Apparently before Christmas, they ran out of white dolls in Chicago, and only had black dolls left, and there were all these white people rioting. You know how Americans get when the shelves run empty, they lose their minds.”

“Lose their minds? I thought that was back when they started modelling miniature dolls after themselves before taking them round the golf course to work on their swing. This entire story is crazy. Are you making this up?”

American doll. There you have it.

Grad, David, you live in the US. Do you know about these White Doll Riots? Is this something that could possibly be true?! I need to know. But regardless, you can see why I love L.



  1. Catherine said,

    My friend Kristy made me go into the American doll shop in NY. There was a doll hairdressers in there, and people were queuing to get their doll’s hair done. They also had matching clothes you could buy for you and your doll, and they were advertising a father’s day daughter/father/doll special event that you had to book for. It was actually a little frightening. I’ll email you a photo. C

  2. doctordi said,

    Oh. My. God. A little frightening? My heart just stopped. I’m laughing, but only in that really, really nervous way.

  3. doctordi said,

    I can’t figure out how to upload Catherine’s photo of the American doll hair salon (so frightening), but I think I’ve found the culprits, trademarked Just Like You:


  4. kate said,

    Mmmmm, no creepier than these Real Life Dolls which you can also customise
    I think it says something scary and sad about the ‘relationships’ people are looking for.

  5. davidrochester said,

    Thank God, I’ve never heard of this.

  6. doctordi said,

    Kate, I wish I hadn’t followed that link. Yech.

    Okay, so it looks like it’s mostly for little girls…. but look, if you were a parent, would you really fork out to stay in an American Doll-themed hotel??? It’s just grotesque!

    Here, look:

    I’d particularly like to draw your attention to the following:
    ‘The American Girl Getaway package includes a one-night stay at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, use of an American Girl doll travel bed, a free American Girl-themed dessert for a girl (and one for her doll) at a hotel restaurant, complimentary health club access, and valet parking.’

  7. litlove said,

    Oh my, oh my. Where is Baudrillard when you need him? I could launch into a tirade here about how fantasy and the virtual have completely usurped what’s real, but this coming from someone who wrote earlier this morning in a different comment that she looked forward to the day when all her interactions would be virtual, well… that might be slight double standards. Still. When you’re booking a hotel room for your doll, that is a serious glitch in the order of the universe.

  8. Grad said,

    Sugah, Ahhh caint believe that this sorta thing would go on around heah. Not in Dixie. Those folks on eitha end-a this great country are jus’ plain nuts. We don’ cotton much to those charactahs – nothin’ but book ends to us. Ahh have not seen this dawl y’all are speakin’ of. Sounds a mite peculiah to me. Not somethin’ y’all are gonna find hea in Geo-gah. And ahh say, they betta not trah sneakin’ ’em in.

  9. Grad said,

    Scarlett, my evil twin sister posting as me, seems to forget she’s actually from Chicago. Pay her no mind whatsoever.

  10. Lilian Nattel said,

    It seemed totally bizarre when I thought it was for adults. As a kid’s doll it is excessive but not outright mad.

  11. doctordi said,

    Litlove, I think it’s the travel bed that really gets to me. Yeah, this is definitely one for ‘ole Baudy (my main man), Zizek and J. G. Ballard. They know what’s going on, and they tried to warn us.

    Grad, your southern belle is even better than Llew’s irate Frenchman! It’s giving DoctorDi a very exciting international flavour… Scarlett, y’all do cahm back, ya heah?

    Lilian, that’s exactly what I thought. I came away from my conversation with L thinking this was something grown-ups were doing, and although I’m vastly unsettled by the facts of the matter, at least it’s not quite as diabolical as all that.

  12. Miriam said,

    There was a hilarious and horrifying story on ‘This American Life’ about racial politics of doll-baby adoption. You can listen to the podcast here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1278
    (It’s in the last third of the program but the whole thing’s excellent if you’ve got a spare hour.)

  13. doctordi said,

    Thanks, Ms. M – was wondering where and how you were! Hilarious and horrifying about sums it up.

  14. Pete said,

    Well, well, well. I thought we were mad. But maybe every culture has its own version. Sounds like you and L should just record your conversations and write them up, complete with mini-me versions and all!

  15. doctordi said,

    I definitely think every culture has its version, Pete. And you’re so right – L is definitely tape worthy.

  16. Miriam said,

    I’m glad you enjoyed it – if enjoyed is the right word. Listening to This American Life makes me want to go into radio.

    I’m very well, although chilly (Melbourne seems to have taken the daylight savings transition very seriously). I’ve been thinking about you too – feeling a bit guilty for not answering your call for MS readers. I’m looking forward to reading your novel again one of these days, but I feel like my head and desk are too cluttered at the moment to be offering anyone coherent feedback. Anyway I think you have enough volunteers for this round of drafting, yes?

    The Lady Alzheimer situation sounds awfully stressful. You do a good thing looking out for her, I hope a more stable solution presents itself soon.

  17. doctordi said,

    Radio is a great medium.

    Yes, Ms. M, it’s devastating when daylight savings ends for another year. It’s like the weather gods KNOW; the temperature has plunged in Sydney too, and it’s not good, it’s not good at all. Llew’s already muttering about needing to change the summer blanket to the winter doona, but I’m still in denial.

    Mate, thanks, but I am well catered for with all these wonderful people offering to read the damn thing for me. You’re doubly excused because you’ve already suffered through it once – there’s no need to put yourself through that a second time! Especially, might I add, when you’ve got your own fish to fry. And I hope they’re cooking! xx

  18. Miriam said,

    Get away with your crazy self-deprecating self – I really am looking forward to reading it again, really. I’m fascinated by all the changes you’ve told me about, it sounds like such a totally different book (and how do you do that?? how do you take one book and make it into another book?). I’m just extraordinarily self-involved at the moment, with my fish. Not that my fish are frying with any particular speed or flavour. But I’m watching the pot hawkishly, waiting for them to be miraculously cooked without me having to do much of anything. You gave me the fish analogy, I’m not to be blamed.

  19. doctordi said,

    Oh, I think we can put that one down to my not knowing what I was doing…!

    I’m glad your fish are… simmering. This is good. We must discuss this further. Let’s meet in the kitchen sometime and talk spices!

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