“Cynicism is an unpleasant way of telling the truth.” –Lady Ev, Emerald City
At this risk of looking like a sore loser, and/or an ingrate…I sincerely hope this is received with both good humor – and constructive criticism – if not – to hell with it…here goes…
The 2017 Doll Observers Fashion Doll Awards (DOFDAs) nominations recently were released and voting has begun. Skipping 2016, the last awards were held in 2015 – and as many of my readers will recall, tommydoll was amongst the nominees. I didn’t win – and that’s just fine, I suppose. It was indeed an honor to be included with the other nominees – yes, even “Collecting Fashion Dolls by Terri Gold”, the winner of 2015 DOFDAs, a blog of which I still read to balance my news. Why? Well, it’s because the bloggers represented in the 2015 awards were all consistent. That is an important element of a successful blog – consistency. These authors have been writing their blogs for many years, making it – by default – well-known throughout the online community. In the realm of the DOFDAs, it would seem the blogs are popular – it does not mean, however…that the blogs (including mine) are good.
You see, it was possible for a single person to vote multiple times, through different IP addresses, or even the same email/computer given the lapse of a holding period before the site would re-cycle and allow you to vote again – I voted dozens and dozens of times through my iPhone, personal computer, and my mother’s computer – often with no waiting period at all. Doll Observers tells me that new software used this year shouldn’t allow this to happen based on a user’s IP address; it should be noted there’s nothing they can do about voter fraud using multiple devices, which is fair – it’s not like presidential election voter fraud, now is it?
Many internet-driven social media polls and contests operate like this because they are looking to drive traffic to their website. Unfortunately, the flaw to this end is that people only re-visit the voting page, and not the rest of the website…rendering it online fluff, and not really relevant to the significance of the nominees in each respective category. I don’t think this is what Doll Observers is trying to do – instead, they are legitimately trying to bring notice and honor to those in the industry contributing to community and the love of our favorite fashion dolls. Maybe I’m the one taking this too seriously…hmmm…indeed.
Not unlike Jones Publishing’s Diamond Awards – these doll awards are fairly meaningless because there are no criteria of which the voters know or understand in the merits of each nominee, and why they are being nominated in the first place. In fact, to be nominated for a Diamond Award, you apply online, you pay a fee (yes, that’s right) and submit your own photography once payment is confirmed – presto! You’re nominated. The fee pays for the print space, you know (not unlike buying an ad, instead of the benevolence of a publication honoring its industry on its own dime)…
For the DOFDAs, it’s not readily known how nominees are selected, other than they were selected by the Doll Observers’ Community. It’s a potentially flawed process, because there are such inconsistencies in each category that the voter can’t possibly understand why certain decisions were made, or what the evaluation criteria are. As one who professionally evaluates proposals, I know that a successful competition must inform the competitors/evaluators what the selection criteria are, and then outline how each element will be evaluated. Based on that information, those who vote in the final selection process are informed, and are therefore able to make the best decision based on a level playing field of information and importance to each element. Yeah, okay…so maybe that’s a bit involved for a doll contest, but it would help if Doll Observers included a narrative for each entry as to why it is relevant to the category of which it has been nominated, and objective points describing the nominee’s salient characteristics that are notable for that category.
This is not intended to be a criticism of Doll Observers (and if my nomination doesn’t remain after this is posted, then I’ll know what they thought of it)…and yes, I guess I could go and create my own doll popularity contest to drive traffic to my site (though I am perfectly content with the traffic I receive now, thank you very much).
But being a nominee in this year’s contest has placed me in an awkward position, because I adore and regularly read all the other blog nominees – largely in part due to their devotion and relevance to our community. It doesn’t surprise me that the 2015 DOFDA Best Fashion Doll Blog winner wasn’t nominated, because there are…by far…much better blogs out there. And there are bloggers who are professionally respectful to their industry, and each other – they can still be critical, but they criticize with a well-informed knowledge base…and they aren’t afraid to talk to each other, ask questions, and understand their world and their community as opposed to just publicly commenting and bitching about products of which they are so personally biased toward that it markedly shifts the narrative to a broken subjective prose which is neither informative to…nor supportive of…its community.
I am puzzled by the range of DOFDA categories and the selected nominees, however – not unlike many of us are when the film award nominees are announced. We are often left wondering what in the hell were they thinking? Why did they choose that one? Why didn’t they choose my favorite? For example:
Disclaimer: It’s not evident if these nominations are made from the previous dolls released in 2016, or current/future dolls from 2017, or if there is a specific period of time a doll must be released – although it seems cover mostly 2016 (maybe I should have done a full year in review to remind folks exactly what was released for consideration). Also, there’s no page I could find to view the nominees – you have to enter the voting to see your choices…
Best Playline Fashion Doll – I guess Mattel and the now defunct Tonner-One (Walmart refers to the brand as ‘Generic’) are the only ones who make these? Well…no…it just seems no one seemed to know about companies like Hasbro, Moose Toys, MGA Entertainment, Bandai, Hunter Products, etc. (yes, there are more). Consider that Disney Descendants, Betty Spaghetty, Musical Moana of Oceania, Bratz Study Abroad, Project Mc2 Camryn with Hoverboard, Miraculous Ladybug, Shibajuku Girl, etc. One can argue that some of these are too ‘child-like’…then explain to me how Monster High fits in this category? Is it the boobs?
Best Collectible Vinyl/Plastic Fashion Doll – Dear LORD…this is such a broad category…but then so is ‘Best Picture’. However, it seems that price range would greatly affect the outcome of judging given some are much more adept at higher levels of quality and included accessories which may easily sway a voter’s opinion as to what’s ‘best’. I was surprised to not see Superdoll, Tonner, BFM Silkstone, and Integrity Toys – snubbed from this category when they all had nomination-worthy beauties? Given the shrinking world of vinyl/hard plastic – you would think they would ramp up the exposure to these endangered species as much as possible…even expanding it to more nominees like The Academy did with ‘Best Picture’.
Best Resin/Porcelain/BJD Fashion Doll – Just no. There is nothing comparable to a resin and porcelain fashion dolls – in no way, shape or form…largely because of who is making them (no porcelains were nominated, by the way). Oh, and Superdoll Dalston is Gen X Vinyl…she shouldn’t be here at all, dears…
Best Convention Exclusive – How are you supposed to judge these very, very different dolls? Some are manufactured, some are not…and the genres/audiences for each are markedly different. Again, not a direct criticism – but an honest question. It would be helpful to have a level playing field of criteria that equally relates to each as a special event doll.
Best Celebrity Fashion Doll – Explain to me how Amazon Princess Wonder Woman and Zomby Gaga are celebrity dolls, and Disney Princesses are not? Aren’t Disney Princesses considered ‘Celebrity’ (maybe not unless it’s Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Emma Watson, etc.?)? Wonder Woman is based on the movie (so says the description), but Gaga is a stretch. Is it because the United Nations named Wonder Woman an Honorary Ambassador of Women’s Rights (well, that didn’t last long, now did it?)? Really.
Best Fashion Doll Accessory/Playset – Accessories and Playsets are not the same thing…one is a football, the other is a whole stadium. If you are going to include these together, and include divisively different price points – a list of selection criteria for the voter to consider is needed once again. Its unfortunate IT’s Give it Up Set, and Barbie Looks Candy Pop are included here as the only representation of an ‘outfit only’, which is now considered an accessory/playset? Tonner, Marcelo Jacobs, Hasbro and others got nothing in outfits only to warrant its own category? Hmmmm…
Best OOAK Fashion Doll Artist – Of for fuck’s sake…really? The only two sets here that are comparable (and not to each other): Noel Cruz and Jon Copeland (face painting should be its OWN category), and Magia2000 and Sebastian Atelier are clothing/face artists (also its OWN category). Joey Versaw is a doll artist/maker, dears…he makes his own doll, painting, clothing and accessories (with occasional support from other clothing/accessory makers) – but make no mistake, his work is by far incomparable to anything else here because it’s not apples to apples. I would suggest: Best OOAK Costume Designer, Best OOAK Wearable Accessory Designer, Best OOAK Face Paint Artist, Best OOAK Coiffure, Best Doll Photography, and Best Overall OOAK Fashion Doll (meaning you have to pick one…and not just the artist). You could also have a shoe category on its own…since they drive so much passion from collectors in and of themselves.
Best Fashion Doll Designer/Brand – Why add ‘Brand’? It’s not the same thing…it’s a category like ‘Best Picture’. It’s best to leave this as ‘Designer’ – because that carries its own prestige and humility. I mean…it diminishes the name of the actual designer. Who gives a crap about the brand? This mostly affects the Mattel and Integrity Toys Designers – because although they may be independent in their design ideas, it is likely they ARE following a brand/corporate concept which will affect their direction as a designer. Superdoll and Dollcis can do what they like, and they can do so much more with exponentially higher budget ranges of which to work their design execution…at a considerably higher retail price.
Best Independent Online Fashion Doll Retailer – In what sense are they the ‘best’? Consider inventory, customer service, responsiveness, pricing, and presence in their community. ‘Best’ is such a subjective term…but what exactly makes them the ‘best’. Unless one actually married Robert Best, you need to give voters more to consider here.
Best Corporate Fashion Doll Retailer – Why is this even a category? Who really cares? Do you really think any of these nominees gives a shit about a win/loss here? It’s an odd choice considering the omission of other relevant categories in the aforementioned paragraphs.
Ahhh…now onto the important stuff…
Best Fashion Doll Blog – It’s wonderful this is a category, and I’d love to see it broken out into sub-categories such as ‘Opinion’, ‘Photography’, and ‘News’ – but we don’t see ‘Best Picture’ broken down at The Oscars (though the Golden Globes does). Nevertheless, it is important to understand that blogging is a vicious mistress, and I am flattered to be in the company of these folks, because they do a much more consistent job than I do at keeping fresh content running in an effort to inform and entertain. I’ve written about what makes a good fashion doll blog (which you can see in its entirety, here – though it’s now somewhat outdated) – however, I never actually summarized the elements of a good fashion doll blog – they are (in order):
Relevance – This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many can deviate from the subject of dolls (um…me, for one) – but yes, it’s true: a fashion doll blog must be relevant to fashion dolls. It doesn’t matter if it’s devoted to one fashion doll, or a variety of fashion dolls – it should not deviate too far into such innocuous subjects as human fashion, child and/or baby dolls, pop culture, shit your kid spits up, or ‘life’s little lessons’ – those blogs lose points on fashion doll relevance. Unless, of course, someone has created a pregnant fashion doll that can be worn as an accessory and vomits with the press of a button to the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme, thus teaching us to be more virtuous. I think you get my drift here…
Knowledgeableness – A fashion doll blogger needs to know about the subject of which one writes. It’s not just about opinion (though that can color the blog with a special shade of you). Personal tastes and observations are only applicable when the writer/photographer actually understands the fashion doll in its various forms, how they are designed, and more importantly – how they are made; this contributes to relevance. Just because you’ve bought every doll out there, taken mediocre photos of them, and provided a highly subjective critique before you unload said doll on your sales pages – well, dear, this does not make you knowledgeable.
When a new doll is introduced, one might note that you’ll probably buy her if the hair comes out like the promo photo – and when it doesn’t – you declare that the doll maker doesn’t understand quality or its customer anymore without substantiating it beyond a production hairdo – well, methinks you need to hang it up and write about belly lint. This is just as bad as encouraging readers to not pay retail for anything without even an informed discussion and/or debate on how this hurts the retailer and the dollmaker – just because it benefits the collector (and the collector alone – doll collecting is a luxury, you mindless twit – not a bargain basement free-for-all) – this does not make it acceptable. ‘Alternate Facts’ like these are the reason we’ve lost great retailers and dollmakers, and let a lunatic waltz into the White House with his mail-order bride obediently behind him (as in 20 feet behind him – yeah, OK…I got that from Bill Maher (at 00:56) – but it’s good, so I’m sticking with it).
Timeliness – If you are a news reporter, or a satirist – it’s critical that your timing be spot on. Talking about a fashion doll released two months ago isn’t so desired (unless the doll just shipped and you have it in your hot little hands first). Keeping blog content fresh also belongs here…this keeps fresh eyes returning to your site to get the latest info. If you return to a blog regularly and frequently get treated to a new post, then that blogger gets top points (and maybe a hand job, because you know they are not doing anything else except blogging – and yes, women can get them, too; and no, I’m not offering)…
Consistency – A blog’s point-of-view must be consistently applied to be successful – this goes hand-in-hand with timeliness; but they can also be severable as well. Consistency helps us to follow the author’s journey through the blogosphere by teaching us not only the focus of the author’s intent, but also how it relates to other blogs, too. Blogs who openly link to other blogs is a good thing…and it shows the author is well-connected to others in his/her community.
Visual Presentation – A blog that is easy to navigate, read, and search is one where the blogger has put in a great deal of time and energy using digital design elements to make their blog not only accessible, but also instantly recognizable – an important part of branding. Graphic placement, consistency and legible fonts play a key factor in making a well-designed and executed blog. Don’t expect perfection – blogs take much to maintain – if the content is good and timely, this can easily be forgiven – which is why this is at the bottom of the list).
Yeah…I score well in some of these…but maybe not as well in timeliness or visual presentation – at least not as much as the other nominees. Be that as it may, if you’ve not visited any of these blogs, you’re a damn fool, for they are among the ones you should have bookmarked to visit frequently. Here’s what makes each of them unique and special, and why I rely on them for news and opinion:
The Fashion Doll Chronicles – News, information, a searchable archive loaded with years of content, photo essays, a side bar link tool to popular fashion doll websites, and of course, informed opinion. Stratos Bacalis’ blog is rich with news mostly covering the plastic/vinyl 12”/16” fashion doll makers, and many of the 16” resin fashion doll makers. His content is better than that of any fashion doll publication, and you could spend hours scrolling through past posts to get an idea of how the industry changes from year to year – or just jump to your favorites using consistently applied tags. Yes, he needs to update his side bars…but whatever – the man has a life, you know.
Dutch Fashion Doll World – formerly Dutch BARBIE World, Rogier Corbeau’s fashion doll blog changed its name after coming under fire from Mattel over unauthorized use of ‘Barbie’ without permission (even though he had been doing it for years) – because everyone just knows how the Dutch are intent on taking over the world and assimilating all of us and our brands. Really, Mattel. And don’t you dare say it’s dilution, when everyone know that argument holds little-to-zero validity. DFDW explores mostly Barbie as she reigns over the fashion doll cosmos of dolls, events, fashion and pop culture; however, Rogier also covers many of his favorites such as Superdoll of London, Ficondoll, Demuse Doll, The Modsdoll, and other fashion dolls that are directly relevant to the world of couture. DFDW is prolific in its postings – many new posts a week are not uncommon (you’ll want to sign up for its email notification to keep up with the latest news). Although it doesn’t have a searchable archive, its keywords and taglines are so well-placed, you can simply Google the subject matter, add ‘Dutch World’ and find virtually anything you need.
tommydoll – What can I say about my blog that’s objective? It’s the only fashion doll blog of its type – by virtue mostly of its writing, animated GIFs, and usage of the word ‘fuck’. I write openly and honestly about my personal struggles with depression (not an easy subject to explore in satire), my history with the doll industry (both good and bad), the shit the doll industry wants you to believe in their ‘sweetness and light’ venues, and the reality of ‘fake news’ and outright lies that wreak havoc on our community. No one writes about the things I do, because it’s not always pretty. Yet in a world that watches itself build barriers-to-entry for new collectors because of stupidity and assholes who don’t know any better, I like to think of myself as an industry whistleblower, a satirist, and a bearer of the unadulterated truth. Partner that with my step-by-step ‘How it’s Made’ series regarding the design and construction of fashion doll clothing, and you have an entertaining view targeted toward the adult collector who likes to laugh at oneself from time to time (it never hurt anyone, except maybe Hitler and OJ Simpson). I lose points on frequency of my postings (but they are sooooo long, Puddings!)…and in its design, things aren’t always easy to find, indicating a lack of focus on exactly what the purpose of my blog is – fashion doll commentary, history, satire, or other? I write because I feel compelled to. My blog is not ‘child-friendly’…so keep your grubby little disease-bearing mongrels from the iPad while reading me.
PĂPUŞILE MELE – I couldn’t pronounce this if I tried…but I don’t have to. Based in Bucharest, Ada Bogoevici Soci creates a Barbie World that covers everything Barbie, other playline dolls that will become tomorrow’s collectibles, and adult collector dolls worthy of mention across the globe. Her coverage is consistent, if not a little too timely with her partnership with Doll Genie (isn’t witchcraft punishable by fire in Hungary – how else do they get those images so early?)? Oh who cares – Ada’s on top of it all…and we are the better for it. With a searchable multi-year archive, well-organized tags, and personal experiences/commentary on events and industry, PĂPUŞILE MELE is a must-read for novices and seasoned collectors alike.
Inside the Fashion Doll Studio – Yep…Barbie for Big Girls (and boys who want to be girls)…and so much more. I know many of this year’s entries tend to focus on Barbie…but you have to understand that Barbie is the Fashion Doll Queen of the Universe. That being said, the three Barbie-related blogs included in this year’s blog nominees are far from the same – each brings a unique insight into our industry of toy dolls and fashion doll collectibles. Rebecca Berry’s Inside the Fashion Doll Studio is no different. Barbie isn’t all that’s covered here. In a mostly photo-rich blog, Berry covers the Barbie world, but other comparable 12” fashion dolls as well. What makes her site unique is the extraordinary attention to the visuals – a mixture of manufacturer content and her own gifted photography inspired by such fabulous independent designers as Hilda Westervelt and miniature makers as co-nominated blogger, Rogier Corbeau. The result? An explorative eye-candy journey through our miniature fantasy of fashion-made-real by artists who give a shit. A picture is worth a thousand words, and although Rebecca does also write commentary, her images are the prime reason to bookmark and enjoy her blog when all you need is an occasional escape from the human world.
The Rest of the Story…
There are two other categories that need mentioning in the 2017 DOFDAs:
2017 Fashion Doll Innovations Award: Best Customer Relations – I think this might be a mistake? They almost seem like two separate categories. ‘Innovation’ seems to be about design and execution, and ‘Customer Relations’ seems more like…well…customer relations. Blending the two sounds like creating a new app that bitch-slaps collectors who are knowingly stupid or otherwise don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, or one with a Siri-style voice of Alain Tremblay (Integrity Toys) explaining to obnoxious collectors how everything they read on the internet isn’t true – no, really.
DOFDA ‘Fashion Doll Community Friend’: a write-in category – Just a name, dear…don’t bother with an explanation as to why the nomination is warranted (you only get 140 characters, President Trump). I’d love to see the actual results of this to see how many people vote for Barbie, Carrie Fisher, or Caitlyn Jenner. I think the intent here is noble…but man-oh-man…that’s a tough call. Good luck with your nominations, Puddings. My guess would be it will be Robert Tonner, given his obvious snub to the nominations with the sole exception of a toy doll from a merged company that doesn’t exist (did it ever – ‘Generic’?). It’s a hard knock life, dear…
I give Doll Observers much kudos for sponsoring such an undertaking, given the time and energy that it takes to not only run a site such as they do…but to also endure snarky criticism from folks like me and others. I can only hope they see the humor in it all…and maybe they might take away something from it, too. It’s not every day you put yourself in the line of fire directly in a sea of strongly passionate and emotionally charged collectors who would defend their favorites to the death.
I can see a nice expansion in 2018 to further define and bloom recognition in an industry that so well deserves it. That being said, other omissions could be rectified. Why no Artist Fashion Doll which would include Superdoll Chalk White (Pinterest Album by Sandra/NL), Pidgin, Popovy Sis, Rafael Nuri, Marina Bychkova, Mary Magpie, Artists et al.? Should men be considered in its own category – or should they even be considered ‘fashion dolls’ at all? And the Asian BJDs – there should also be a category for them – because an Iplehouse Carved Heritage Doll does not equate to a Sybarite in any sense of the word. Both are easily separated by price, scale and level of detail…apples and oranges…but both worthy of consideration in competition; just not against each other.
Finally, why don’t we have a write-in for the most annoying collector? We all know plenty of them – those that refuse to respect others, learn something new, bully others into submission, or just the sheer need to ruin the fun for everyone else in the sandbox. We’ll call it the Kitty Collier Industry Litterbox Award for Most Annoying Collector. It’s catchy…no?
Thank You, Doll Observers…may the odds be ever in our favor…now, what will I wear on the Red Carpet this February?