Monday, May 9, 2011

Mary, Mother of Mothers

Wait ... surely I mean Eve? Adam and Eve, parents of all the people. (Note: I'm coming from a Christian perspective - no offense intended to other worldviews.) But no, I am not referring to Eve here. While Eve appears first, Eve does not pack the same emotional impact as maternal Mary. (What do you think when you think Eve? Apple, sin, blame. Adam garbling messages? So, no, not talking Eve here. Eve wouldn't likely be in this situation.) Mary though is all mother. Mary is pure mother. Mary is the Mother. Mother of Mothers.

Let's see, Mary, Mother of Mothers ... oh, yes. Why Mary now? I found the One2Believe Mary action figure in a Ross, Dress for Less store. (Fancy that, hmm? Never know what you can find in these wonderful discount stores.) So I had to photograph Mary. I had to share this response with you. Because I did not buy her. Here is why.

Longtime PhillyCollector readers will recall that I bought Esther and Noah, two other action figures from One2Believe. Esther was my tenth Top Doll for 2009. Both Esther and Noah have interesting faces although their body proportions are odd. Very large heads and torsos. Very short legs. Articulated short legs, too. Hmmmm ... not aesthetically pleasing, but the strength in each of their faces overcame the serious - for me - body distortion. Both DAFs are talkers whose speeches resound when anything looks at their midsection. (Kidding ;-D) They are characters. Period. I never feel uneasy with either of them. They can preach all day.

Mary, on the other hand, I don't know. It would feel weird - for me - to have a doll Mary. (And weird is usually comfortable for me, I confess.) Likewise, the corresponding doll Jesus ... well, that would feel even weirder. No offense to anyone fond of these dolls, but any doll representing divinity or closeness to divinity, like Mary, doesn't seem "proper." My DAFs are secular, not religious. They may or may not have a specific religion as part of their storyline, depending on how elaborate a storyline the character has. Basically though, there is my DAF world and religion. The two do NOT meet. With Mary and Jesus dolls - representing Mother of Christ and Christ himself, I'd keep looking over my shoulder for a thunderbolt. Or for my father to return from the dead and scold me for playing with God.

When I was a child, I went to church regularly. First, both my parents took me and my sisters. After the boys came along, my Mom stayed home while we girls and Daddy went to church. (One of my brothers had problems; he could not go to church. He might throw a temper tantrum, yell out, etc.) We dressed up for church then. Black patent leather Mary Janes and purses and then heels as we moved into our teens. We didn't make noise in church, or we would get hammered with Daddy's nails. Ouch. We tried to be quiet on Sundays. And we took care to NOT disrespect any religious group.

Playing with Mary and Jesus dolls ... well, that would have been um ... blasphemous. In my immediate family, I mean. So religious playthings, I pass. Such passing is/was due to respect and a sense of appropriateness.

My One2Believe Esther and Noah are not religious figures in my doll community. They are current characters with those names who teach biblical studies and portray those characters - among others for the children. (I haven't had time to act that all out, alas, but that is their backstory here.) I don't have any problem with them in the "Thou Shalt Not Worship Graven Images" bit - because these dolls only represent humans.

Course Mary is/was human, and Jesus-before-resurrection is/was human. Mary never became "divine," but she is so closely related to Jesus, I would rather not "play" with her either. What kind of conversation would they have? "Jesus, let's go tussle with Satan. He's up to no good and we have to save the dolls of the Doll Kingdom." Nuh uh. I'm not going there.

But since the subject's been broached, let's look at these dolls as representing biblical humans. Do I think that the dolls accurately represent either Mary or Jesus? Does that matter? Well ... hmm ... I don't know. Back when I was young, I enjoyed viewing the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries. Robert Powell was a sexy Jesus; Olivia Hussey was a stunning Mary. I didn't think of either of them as literal representatives of Jesus or Mary. The miniseries was more infotainment - informative and entertainment than religious. I would have thought that Mary and Jesus were darker complected. Not Black Santa darker, but not blue-eyed as Robert Powell was.

Would I have preferred a darker Mother and Son? No, I can't say that I would have. Neither in the miniseries nor in the dolls. It might have seemed a nudge in the historically correct vein - as I imagined it - but Powell was h-o-t in that role. I wouldn't have missed that. (Odd aside one: Robert Powell never seemed that attractive before or after this role. Odd aside two: Olivia Hussey is actually younger than Robert Powell.)

(Gee am I hoping that my Daddy isn't accessing the Internet from the Other Side. Cause I know a big lightening bolt is coming my way.)

Eh but back to Mary the Doll. Did I really leave a pretty doll behind? Because of my religious quirks? No. I didn't buy her because a.) her box had been opened and her hair fuzzed up AND b.) there were looonnngggg queues at the checkout counters. So I don't doubt that she will sell and likely soon. And I hope she will be appreciated as dolls and action figures should be ... regardless of her role, her complexion, and her odd build.

Oh and a late Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.


AilanthusAltissima said...

A Philly Collector states: "Both Esther and Noah have interesting faces although their body proportions are odd. Very large heads and torsos. Very short legs. Articulated short legs, too. Hmmmm ... "

This is why I *love* reading your blog. You have a great ability to describe what works (and doesn't work) with a doll in a humorous way. The mental imagery that comes to mind when I envision "articulated short legs"...

I think you have asked some very interesting questions in your post. I am not religious, so the representations of Jesus and Mary don't bother me. I imagine that Christians may see the issue in a variety of ways - some may reject them as "graven images" and see them as sacrilegious while others may want their children to play with toys that represent their belief system (rather than with secular toys or with that brazen, worldly Barbie and Ken). I think the broader questions about dolls, representations and belief systems is interesting to contemplate. Some belief traditions include or sanction the use of doll-like representations of humans or gods and may include them as part of the religion. Some Christian traditions display creches (nativity scenes) with figurals to represent Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Aren't these figures also dolls? Does their use in a nativity scene make them any different that the dolls you have described? In a general sense, when is a doll and doll and not something else? And why do they seem to possess so much power through their representations.

Niel Camhalla said...

While I was reading your entry many ideas/reactions popped in my mind. I don't know if I can recall all of them. Lemme try...

1. I enjoy reading this because I learn about the doll at the same time I learn about the collector. You gave me some insight about your values, upbringing and beliefs. I felt that I was really hearing a friend talk and not just another collector.

2. Religion is a touchy topic. enuff said. LOL.

3. I did have one of my dolls play the role of Mother Mary for our doll Santacruzan ( After the event I redressed her to make her look normal.

4. I laughed at the idea of your father reading your blog...and the lightning!

5. A long long time ago (last year I think) somewhere in Flickr (I'll try to look for it) someone created figures of saints (if I remembered correctly) out of Ken and Barbie dolls. I thought it was artistic.

Alrunia said...

Very interesting post. I wasn't aware that Mary and Jesus dolls existed, and I tend to agree that the concept is just slightly off. On one hand, I can almost see the reasoning: "Barbie is a tart and the girls are better off looking up to a more wholesome character". On the other hand not quite thought through since like you said, with Mary there is no equivalent of shopping trip + makeover ;)

limbe dolls said...

Very thoughtful and provocative. One of the doll characters in our Barbie town when I was growing up was a preacher. He was an ex-convict who had found religion in prison and had gone on to divinity school. He and his wife adopted the Big Jim action figures and tried to give them proper guidance, but they had a pet parrot who always said "Scuse me y'all" and then pooped when the Reverend was saying grace. I think we would have done similarly irreverent things with a doll that represented divinity.

I made a creche out of pipe cleaner dolls when I was about 12 that included Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus plus the three wise men and their camels. I didn't play with that set, though. I gave it to my grandmother.

I spent so much time in Catholic schools and in Louisiana where people have statues of the Virgin Mary in their front yards that I don't think the idea of a Mary doll would bother me. I do have reservations about acquiring a President Obama action figure, however. I have so much respect for President Obama that I wouldn't want to engage in any kind of "play" that would diminish the dignity of the man and his office.

D7ana said...

Thanks Kim, Niel, Alrunia, and LimbeDolls for your warm and thought-provoking comments. Your feedback enriches my writing experiences here. If I sound as if I am talking to a friend, that is because I think of you when I write. We rock as collaborators, hey?!

Regarding nativity dolls ... I consider them "cute" dolls. They act out a given story. Period. Then they are either tucked away or returned to street clothes. Usually. One-themed dolls bound to replay a single story. No unease for me there ;-)

On the other hand, the One2Believe dolls represent Good. These “good” dolls could be said to be morally superior to Barbie. That moral superiority is the dolls’ selling point. I can see how the manufacturer could reach that conclusion: Barbie is the ultimate wealthy woman, Ken as her official “helpmate” flips Biblical relations, and Joe kills. Now about the One2 Believe dolls, as an adult collector, I could buy doll Mary and doll Jesus as representative of one company’s view. That would be Dana the Anthropological-Collector. Keep the dolls NRFB.

But incorporating them with my other dolls? Tricky that. See, as Alrunia and Limbe Dolls mention in reference to doll play, playing with dolls involves wardrobe changing and human-themed drama (bad behavior) that would be awkward for me to unfold around doll Mary and doll Jesus. I have two preachers, one rabbi, one priest, and three nuns among my doll and action figures. Like my other figures, they are flawed. I can relate to flaws ;-D

Which sounds like party and play Monday-Saturday and sober up on Sunday. Cut the shenanigans, folks, doll Mary and doll Jesus coming. Sigh. Oh yes, religion is difficult to discuss. Do I have the moral rectitude to “play” Jesus or Mary? Shakes head. No.

But I do have a President Obama action figure. Mine is the DiD one. Course he isn’t the President of the U.S. here in EastPhilly; he is an actor who resembles the current president. Mr. Oscar Barrack, heh heh. Why isn’t he the President? Because if you think religion is a hotbed topic, you ain’t seen nothing until you move into politics. Shudder. Daddy won’t be the only one hurling thunderbolts at me.

Pamela Austria said...


Hello. My name is Pamela Austria and I'm the Associate Producer for a national television show called Treasure Hunters Roadshow. We're coming to the Philadelphia area at the end of May and I'm looking for collectors to highlight. I came across your blog while researching the city. I'd love to talk to you about the possibility of highlighting your collection on our show. I couldn't find your email address on here so I'll provide you with mine and hope you get back to me: and my office number is 312-651-4180. I look forward to hearing from you!