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Sunday, 5 August 2018

Review: Secrets of the Living Dolls (2014)

Secrets of the Living Dolls

Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look at a hidden sub-culture: the secretive world of female masking where men transform themselves into dolls by squeezing into elaborate rubber second skins

'Surface Level Stuff That Never Goes Skin Deep'

Secrets of the Living Dolls originally aired on Channel 4 in the UK, 4 years ago and is a documentary on the so-called relatively new trend, well not exactly a trend but it has been doing the rounds in America especially. The programme surprised, shocked, as well as fascinated and made some see the funny side to it as it gives us a glimpse, more so than a thorough insight into this so-called surreal sub-culture, as men don latex and rubber costumes of the female form on a daily basis to become the person they want to be.

This is far beyond the realms of 1993's Mrs Doubtfire starring Robin Williams that's for sure, although like the character, Daniel in the film, it's not about men wanting to become women and of whom are gay/homosexual themselves, because all the men here are straight and are either married or have girlfriends. Rather, it's experiencing life as the opposite sex by transforming into and becoming somebody else, where no one knows who they are and seeing what it is like and how it feels. For some, it's just for fun and for others, they want to be a version of their own fantasy woman by transforming themselves as her. And yet at the same time, it is beyond weird. 

The rubber-doll outfits are almost drag-like but more artificial than those resembling a plastic Barbie doll and whilst the facial masks look realistic, they can't move. Even when they speak, you can barely see their lips move. Oddly enough, one of the dolls looks a bit like Peggy Bundy from Married With Children. 

There are interviews with a few female maskers from the U.S and one or two from the UK. The interviews with the men/maskers involved were all right, yet I wished the researchers had delved a little deeper into the topic and probed them further in their line of questioning; instead, it appears that they were most concerned with and focused more on physicality and the aesthetics of female masking.

Sadly, but for one scene where the dolls get stared at by onlookers and passers-by and are heckled and even verbally abused on the street, which is awful by itself, Secrets of the Living Dolls just wasn't as outrageous and oddball enough to be as entertaining as it ought to have been. Also, though the topic is fascinating by itself, the film doesn't dig into the psychological effects of female/gender masking far enough. There is little exploration and barely any insight into the psychological effects, nor are the motives of the masking community, besides the desire of wanting to dress up as a woman, made explicitly clear. 

Final Verdict:

The subject matter of Secrets of the Living Dolls is a fascinating one to behold, but as far as to its handling and execution, it just wasn't all that fulfilling and I was left pondering that this was a missed golden opportunity for Channel 4 to do something really grand with it that it will become memorable in years to come as well. 


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