the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson



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FIXED IDENTITIES; FLUID IDENTITIES

S: I don’t think [Mara and Melanie] were as malleable. I think part of it was that we went and got these dolls that we just thought were so great—so they weren’t as subject to our vision, they weren’t transformed by us to become different characters, they were our ideal already, so they didn’t change as much. But I think also, because we specifically wanted them to be great dolls that had nothing wrong with them, they were boring characters. They were so fixed. They were always going to be most excellent, they were always going to win in every situation.

P: I think maybe I was intimidated by them. Maybe that’s why I cut Melanie’s hair, maybe it made her less off-putting.

S: You were intimidated because they were too gorgeous?

P: They were too perfect, and they came along so late that it was hard to know them. I remember feeling sort of estranged from Melanie, at least at first, and not knowing how to be her.

S: Yeah, I don’t know. I think it was a lot of factors that made us not feel as much like we could do whatever we wanted to them.

P: Their bodies were not as supple. You couldn’t move them around. I remember being disappointed by their stiffness.

S: It’s weird, our original dolls were Skipper dolls too, so you would think that these later generation Skipper dolls* would have the same structure.

P: Maybe Mara and Melanie are more high tech, maybe they are stronger. Because Laurie’s body is totally bandaged and injured.

S: It’s also much older. But maybe any doll with a more complicated joint structure is more liable to break down. I think the stiff bodies are the more primitive model, but that’s what B*****’s body is like too, isn’t it? I mean the Unnamable’s? Doesn’t it also have arms that are stiff and only swing in that one circle?

P: And the stiff torso and the legs that don’t open.

S: They didn’t have those expressive wrists which the other dolls had. Laurie and Aina and Jesse could do really poignant things with their little hands. Whereas Mara and Melanie could only have that sort of military stance, that sort of curved prong of the arm. Anyway, I think they became an overly fixed points in the doll games, and that changed the kind of games we could play.

P: They always had the same headů

S: That’s true, we would never have substituted a different head.

P: Which was so different from Laurie and Jesse and Aina.

S: Those heads and bodies really went together in a way that the other heads and bodies didn’t seem to need to. It was weird that we were able to take heads off other dolls* and just pop them on to the bodies of our heroes and heroines. We should talk about that issue of having no fixed identity and having moveable heads.

P: And being able to salvage a head* from a completely different context and make a whole new character.

S: A completely unworkable head that’s not appealing in its original location, like those heads that belonged to those cheap one piece plastic bodies. What did that do, what was our thinking at the time about character and identity and where the soul was? Because it wasn’t in the body*, clearly. It was in the head, but then the heads had some characteristics that stayed constant from game to game and others that were constantly changing. Then there’s the whole issue of the gendered parts that we had to add, and the fact that at first we didn’t see the need to add them and then we developed the sense that they were incomplete without them, without their breasts and pubic hair and penises.