the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson



Doll Games’ only amputation, a cosmetic height-reduction procedure performed on B*****, was accomplished with a pair of kitchen scissors, and amputated both legs approximately 1/2 inch below the knee. The surgery was regarded at the time to be a failure, which may have discouraged further such operations. Temporary loss of limbs, hands and feet was however a common, and even defining, element of the doll games

Baby Doll:
One baby doll belonging to S. Jackson was used in the doll games. Gargantuan in scale, it played adult roles, most importantly that of Matron, becoming a key element in Doll Games’ studies of the "maternal grotesque" as well as the "infant whore."

Home of the Jackson family, and a cultural milieu which must be credited with inspiring and nurturing many of Doll Games’ most important themes, among them a commitment to Utopian models of community and the transcendence of normative gender categories.

Captain Pegleg:
Rakish pirate doll with one "wooden" leg. Coveted for Doll Games before his relatively late entry in 1976 as Alonzo.

Christmas game:
Possibly the last doll game ever played, and certainly one of the last; a grueling, month-long project culminating in a group Christmas, probably held in late Aug. 1977. Many of Doll Games’ finest artifacts were produced for this game, which, however, has been faulted for its emphasis on material goods at the expense of narrative and character, and blamed, perhaps unfairly, for the flagging creative energy and loss of focus that brought the doll games to an end soon thereafter

Clay Parts:
The practice of building prosthetic breasts and penises out of clay probably arose in response to the needs of doll sex games in the early late classical period, rather than out of a more general concern with anatomical correctness; either way, clay parts were nearly universal in later doll games, as no male doll was originally endowed with a penis, and female leads Aina, Mara and Melanie had the smooth torsos of the pre-adolescent Skipper and Fluff (see Skipper, Fluff) It is likely that clay breasts, once introduced, were worn continuously, even when dolls were not in play or fully clothed, and were removed only to be kneaded back into shape when necessary or replaced with freshly manufactured ones (see Fimo). It is not certain whether the same was true of penises, which, due to their shape, would have been more vulnerable to loss inside the doll box or within the folds of a pair of trousers, and thus may have been donned only in anticipation of sexual activity

When admitted to Doll Games, dolls were immediately stripped of the clothes they arrived in. Dolls incapable of nudity, i.e. those who wore plastic clothing molded to their bodies or lacked a realistic body beneath their clothing, were usually disqualified, important exceptions being Josh McBig, tolerated in spite of his molded underwear, and cowboy Dan, handicapped but not ruled out by his full length, but fortunately more or less skin-colored, plastic suit. Doll games used both homemade (see Sock Dresses) and store-bought clothing, the latter often pillaged from dolls excluded from the doll games, or from Gemco (see Gemco.) Store-bought clothes, while more rare, were often highly fetishized for their fitted quality.

Doll games in the decadent period often revolved around staged contests, in which victory for the game’s protagonist was preordained.

Death was nonexistent in the doll games. The only known loss of a doll character, the much-cited "Death of Laurie," happened "offstage" and was never mentioned within the doll world. Some critics have pointed to this as evidence of denial, while others have argued that Laurie was in fact "resurrected" in Jesse, who shared his body and role, if not his head, and that the exclusion of death in the doll world should be interpreted as a commentary on the difference between plastic and mortal flesh, and between the rhythms of doll life—characterized by endless rebirth, as dolls emerged again and again from the doll box, often with memories wiped clean — and human existence. (But see Plastic, decay of)

Doll Box:
A large cardboard box stored in S. Jackson’s closet held dolls and accessories between games. A doll game would generally start with "getting out the doll box" and exploring its contents, picking and choosing intuitively from among them

A modeling clay well stocked in the Jackson household, Fimo proved ideal for the construction of breast and penis due to its availability in flesh tones and its willingness to adhere to plastic torso and crotch, although these qualities also enforced a "disposable" approach to clay parts, as Fimo was easily discolored by dirty hands or floor and had a tendency to pick up hairs. (see Clay Parts)

Flatsy Doll:
Generic name for Phyllis and Anne. Slender, pliable dolls, approx 1/4 inch thick, "Flatsies" entered the 3-Dimensional, and the theatre of Doll Games, by virtue of their rounded cheeks, lips, and breasts, and their lustrous neon-colored hair.

Aina’s original or "trade" name, given by Mattel, denotes Skipper’s best friend, perhaps named for her whimsical appearance. The name may have survived as an alternate after the doll games began, though it would have been employed very rarely, and only when "Aina" was wearing her original head. Manufactured only for one year, in 1970-71, Fluff was one of two dolls present at the inception of Doll Games, a fact which has proved invaluable in efforts to date their origins.

Free Box:
A communal donation center located on a street corner two blocks from the Jackson house (no longer extant) Frequent pilgrimages were made to the free box in search of dolls, clothing, and other accessories for the doll games. It is not known whether any of Doll Games’ main characters were acquired there; B. Jackson’s suggestion that Harvey was found in the free box is contradicted by S. Jackson, and probably merely reflects a desire to distance himself from the doll.

Source of many of Doll Games’ most important characters and accessories, this low-priced department store chain has now been largely forgotten but was frequently visited by the Jackson family during the 1970s.

A small town in Arizona, and the Jackson’s annual summer destination, Globe provided an alternate locale for Doll Games and the invaluable opportunity for extended, uninterrupted play, although it may have been most important in early, adventure-focused Kiddle games involving swimming, climbing cliffs and exploring desert landscapes.

The coiffure was both a language and an art form in Doll Games, where dandy or he-man, tomboy or femme, asserted themselves through signature hairstyles. The most masculine hair was molded firmly to the head, as in Josh McBig and Alonzo, and accompanied by sideburns and facial hair; loose curls feminized Jesse and Laurie, while short-cropped hair signified boyishness for Fluff, whose transformation into Aina was effected by a buzz cut. B*****’s hair was both blackened and cut short to cut ties to her despised original identity (whether Dawn’s hair was cropped in this same spirit or in order to diminish her effectiveness as a femme fatale is controversial) Harvey’s foppish personality was brought into being by his innovative ‘do, molded with perfumed oil, together with his penciled mustache (see Mustaches)

Heads, Removable:
The importance of the removable head to the doll games cannot be stressed enough. It is necessary to remember, however, that not every doll head was removable. In fact, only the original "Skipper" and "Fluff" were affected by the practice of head trading, which was dependent on the construction of their necks, and the fortuitous arrival of two otherwise unusable dolls whose heads fit the bodies as well as did the originals. Aina gained her second head, and Laurie his rival and successor Jesse, thanks to heads donated by these otherwise nameless and forgotten dolls.

While Kiddles are generally relegated to the realm of doll game prehistory, many would argue that these tiny dolls were the first true protagonists of Doll Games. Ranging in size from 2 to 4 inches, Kiddles’ characteristic features were their large heads—30% of the total height in the largest Kiddles and up to 60% in the smallest—:and their cruciform shape: Kiddles’ arms were perpetually outflung. Gradually phased out as the cast of Doll Games proper began to assemble in 1971, Kiddles probably co-existed peacefully with the larger dolls for some time, but remained in a separate Kiddle world which was eventually left behind.

Doll Games elevated natural beauty and artless modesty; thus makeup was used openly only by the vain, the deceitful, and the whorish. Painted blue eyelids identified femme fatale Dawn, and garish rouge was the mark of shame in the slatternly baby doll. Makeup could frequently be procured from the Free Box (see Free Box)

Malibu Skipper:
A variant of Skipper (see Skipper) named after a beach town in Southern California and distinguished by her sun bleached hair and bronzed skin. Two Malibu Skippers were purchased by the Jackson sisters, exact date unknown, and recast as Mara and Melanie, twin heroines of the later doll games. Unlike Doll Games’ original Skipper (see Skipper) neither Malibu Skipper, apparently, was ever considered for a male role.

No money was exchanged in the doll games. Dolls scavenged, stole, and crafted their own goods in the subsistence economies of pirate ship, outlaw den, desert island and orphanage. The coins discovered in one of many faux-leather purses dating from the late decadent period have, however, led to some speculation that Doll Games’ growing interest in realism and material goods might eventually have led to a monetary system, had the games continued long enough.

To decode the language of the mustache it is necessary to call upon Doll Games’ structuring oppositions: between natural and artificial, original and fake, masculine and feminine. In doll games mustaches float and play between the two poles of these dichotomies, as the firm plastic member of a Josh or Alonzo, connoting the natural virility of woodsman or pirate, finds its echo and parody in the penciled affectations of Harvey and Willy, and the symbol of masculine potency takes on connotations of artifice and design—much like makeup (see Makeup)

"Nasty"or "Nastiness":
Word used frequently to describe that which was pornographic, obscene, deviant, or simply sexy in a doll game, or the game itself: a "nasty" doll game involved sex, spying, clay parts and pubic hair May have also been used to diagnose deviance in the players themselves ("We are so nasty")

Always a favorite setting, and one which proved especially fertile for the Doll Games imagination, the orphanage evolved over the years into a hotbed of sex and spying (see Sex, Spying). Presided over by the debauched baby doll, the "nasty orphanage" or "nasty family" was an Oedipal laboratory in which Doll Games conducted many of its boldest experiments.

Doll Games’ Arcadian world of adventure and romance thrived on the absence of parents, excluded both from Shelley’s room and from the narratives of pirate ship, desert island, etc. Restricted to the opening scenes of running away games, parents nonetheless haunted the imagination of Doll Games, returning in surrogate form to run the orphanage and boarding school (see orphanage)

Permanent Marker:
Used three times in Doll Games’ history, never successfully, to dye the hair of a doll, the permanent marker is perhaps most notorious for its role in the Death of Laurie, after which it was finally retired from the doll games. As repeated efforts by the Jackson sisters proved, the ink of this marker will smear and smudge when applied to plastic hair, staining more readily the porous face of the doll than the hair itself.

The motif of the pirate, most prominent in Doll Games’ classical period, is borrowed from the romance tradition and can be traced back to the Greek Heliodorus. Doll Games’ narratives of "running away" to the pirates and being "captured by pirates" are probably influenced most directly by modern versions of the pirate romance found in 19th and 20th century children’s books, by such authors as JM Barrie and Howard Pyle.

Research continues on the composition of doll flesh; however it is known that most, if not all, of the dolls of Doll Games are made entirely of plastic: a synthetic material well known for its role in the mass production of the first B*****. Plastic can be soft and fleshy, as in the rubbery vinyl limbs of a Skipper or Fluff, or hard and shell-like, as in their torsos. Although it does not decay like organic matter, it can become discolored, break, or tear; plastic joints may wear down, leading to the loss of a limb, and plastic hair, unless molded to the head, may fray and fall out.

Pubic Hair:
Contemporaneous with prosthetic breast and penis (see Clay Parts) pubic hair was offered to female characters exclusively in Doll Games, which suggests that it was intended not only to mark the transition to puberty but also to stand in for that which was otherwise unrepresentable: the female genitals, never attempted in clay. No actual hair, doll or human, was used in the production of pubic hair; instead, a black pen was used to mark the frontal area of the crotch, the surface of which might also be scored with knife or pin to better hold the ink, as pubic hair rubbed off easily and had to be refreshed frequently.

The rug in Shelley’s Room, on which most doll games were mapped out and played, was made up of multicolored scraps of shag carpet, procured by the Jacksons from a carpet store trash bin, fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and glued to the floor. A simple but all-purpose stage set, the rug was invaluable to the doll games: carpet segments could become rooms, apartments, gardens, forests, ships and even bodies of water. Unfortunately, this irreplaceable piece of Doll Games’ history is no longer extant.

Running Away:
A favorite plot device in the doll games, by which dolls ritually exited both the cloister of the family and the constraints and conventions of society at large in order to gain entry to the charmed realm of the outlaw/child. Dolls also ran away from the orphanage (see Orphanage)

Many questions remain concerning how, and when, sex entered the doll games, which evolved from the innocent sensuality of the archaic Kiddle era to the orgiastic excess of the late decadent "nasty" games in a matter of 5 or 6 years. Clay parts were no doubt a turning point in this journey; unfortunately, none of the original breasts or penises remain to assist efforts to date their production. (see Clay Parts) Of particular concern to hagiographers is whether the introduction of clay parts, and therefore sexual intercourse, pre-dated the Death of Laurie, as it cannot at present be definitively proven that Doll Games’ "virgin prince" ended his life in a state of purity.

Shelley’s Room:
After the early Kiddle Era, most doll games took place in this small room at the back of the Jackson house. While early doll games could be performed in the "public" space of the Jackson living room or back yard, doll games required privacy and an undisturbed play space to grow, and the retreat to Shelley’s room marks the beginning of a golden age of experiment and innovation. Shelley’s room was also important as the location of the rug (see Rug)

Shrinky Dink Dolls:
Flat, transparent dolls made from a plastic which shrinks and thickens when baked in the oven. The dolls would be first drawn on the sheet of Shrinky Dink plastic with magic marker, then cut out and cooked. Two anatomically correct female Shrinky Dink dolls, drawn with breasts and pubic hair, were made during the late doll games, perhaps as test models for a new, or alternate, Doll Games cast.

Barbie’s younger sister, Skipper, was one of 2 dolls present from the beginning of the doll games, entering the Jackson household along with her friend Fluff probably in 1971 (see Fluff) Lacking the jutting chest and perpetually pointed toe that marks the adult female, the pre-adolescent Skipper was easily convertible into Doll Games’ first male character, the "Adam" to Aina’s "Eve": Laurie.

Sock Dresses:
A simple tubular dress for a doll could be made out of a sock with a few snips of the scissors. Armholes were cut approx. ½ inch below the top edge of the sock, the foot and heel of the sock were removed and the dress trimmed to the desired length.

One original song was written for the doll games. Titled "Aina, Aina, will you marry me?" it was sung by Dan, in a comic turn as Aina’s luckless but persistent suitor, in what appears to have been Doll Games’ only musical. An original chant was featured in another doll game; delivered again by Dan, now in a military role, it went "I’m a soldier, I’m wounded, I’m returning from the war" Doll games also showcased popular songs of the day in "Singing Contest" games.

Foremost among the sexual perversions explored in the so-called "nasty" games, voyeurism, or spying, probably reached its greatest heights in orphanage and boarding school settings, although it flourished in the doll games wherever private spaces (often marked by segments of rug — see Rug) existed to be violated by curious eye and ear The ubiquity of the practice within the doll games must surely be read in part as a commentary by the authors upon their own voyeuristic relation to the doll world, and may also register a certain paranoia regarding the "parental voyeur" possibly lurking on the other side of the door to Shelley’s room.

Sunshine Family:
A harmonious doll family with earthy, homespun values, the Sunshine Family was marketed in the early 1970s, and came with equipment such as barnyard animals, gardening tools, and a truck carrying crafts for the county fair, as well as with optional grandparents (never owned by the Jacksons) Stripped of their clothing, crafts, and baby upon entering the doll games, the Sunshine Family couple never fully captured Doll Games’ imagination, due perhaps to their bland expressions and large feet.