Musings on a Perfect Fake

On Tues. night, Feb. 13, 2007, CBC aired a documentary on The Lens entitled “A Perfect Fake”.

It investigated men who purchase life-sized dolls. While these men were not confined to a Japanese context, that is the milieu upon which the film focused. While surrogate female companionship in itself is not new, the technological sophistication of the figures, in terms of, “realism,” is unprecedented. What I found most interesting, from the point of view of an art historian, was how some of the dolls were based on the manga style of the big-eyed young
girl — which veers away from naturalism as it is conventionally defined.

One man took his favorite doll out to photograph in various settings. One man rented an extra apartment for storing his dolls. Almost all of them spoke of their dolls as if the dolls had their own emotions and personalities. There is even a popular magazine about doll idolatry that makes the men feel connected to other like-minded men and alleviates their own sense of isolation and/or social stigma.

While on the one hand, having erotic encounters with life-size dolls may seem to be a manifestation of the extreme loneliness and alienation that is one symptom of an increasingly on-line, virtual, yet disconnected world, I was struck by the visual differences between the more conventional replicas, and the popular cutesy manga girls, which themselves are based on figures from Japanese illustration, animation, and video games. Commentators in the documentary included the Canadian media theorist Arthur Kroker.

For more information see the description on The Lens website: http://www.cbc.ca/thelens.

– Sandra.

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