Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Doll of The World Entry

There are a lot of Dolls of the World (DOTW) peg warmers in the various local toy stores. There is no news of any upcoming dolls in that line. It might as well be dead. Ever wonder how that happened?

Starting 1980, Mattel released Barbie dolls with various ethnicities, like the first Black and Oriental Barbie dolls. Although criticized for a lot of cultural misappropriations or lack of authenticity, it wasn't enough to totally kill the line. It brought different faces to Barbie's circle. It was actually one of the major selling points for these dolls.

Now, ethnic diversity can be had from different Barbie lines. This was one of the reasons why the Barbie Basics was a hit. It was the same for the university cheerleader dolls. (The Barbie look flopped partly because they insisted on including the Mackie and Aphrodite molds a number of times.) With these lines, you get the diversity in ethnicity without the cultural misappropriation. Plus, the idea of getting just one doll is not enough. Collectors welcome the diversity so most bought a few, if not all, of the dolls in a line.

Now the same formula is being used for the current Fashionista line up. You don't have to pay a "collector" price for a DOTW doll just to harvest the head. It is now easier to snag a Lea/Kayla, Mbili or Goddess face molds. These are usually reserved for the collector and exclusive dolls. You also get a reusable piece of clothing with no cultural issues, hopefully.

So what's the point of collectors buying DOTW these days? I'm really fine with them gone AS LONG AS the diversity is present in at least one of their lines available globally.

I wonder how many collectors retain the intended characters for the DOTW dolls during play. Whenever I get a doll, I make my own character. Like this Princess of South Africa Barbie doll, I came up with a totally different background story for her. I didn't use the stuff that she came with, like the staff and the head bands, because I didn't know what they were for. They may be of some cultural significance and that if I misuse them, it might be taken as offensive.

Personally, I have taken some mild offense (I'm using "offense" for lack of a better term) whenever people misrepresent/misunderstood Asians or Filipinos. Let me give examples without naming names.

(1) The dress (especially the outer dress) of Mutya Barbie is for formal occasions. Having it worn over a bikini looks silly. It's not glamorous. The bikini-Filipiniana mash-up is not really a new look. I've seen those in local gag and slapstick shows.

(2) Each Asian country has its own unique culture. When a doll collector dresses Asian-looking dolls, including dolls that look more Malay than Chinese, in cheongsams, and says that they come from various Asian countries is like saying Asia is China. It somewhat belittles the struggle of smaller Asian countries like the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, etc. against China's plan to expand its territory. A Chinese might be happy with the idea of Asia=China but the rest of Asia won't be. It is true that there are Chinese people in different Asian countries but they don't usually dress in cheongsams when they get together, especially the younger ones.

I really can't blame doll collectors if they misunderstood a culture. I certainly don't know a lot about other people's culture. I try not to characterize my dolls with cultures I'm not familiar with. I express my own culture on my dolls whenever possible. For example, Eve (formerly the Princess of South Africa Barbie) was born and raised in the Philippines. Her father is African-American.  Her father used to be stationed in the US Subic Naval Base. He fell in love with Eve's mom and promised to marry her and take her family to the States. But then when Eve was conceived, her father abandoned her pregnant mother. They later found out that his father already had a family in the US. I won't bore you with the details. Her story has been retold a number of times. I'm sure you've heard it all before.

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