Talky Tina- The Doll and Freakery

Dolls have historically been known to represent childhood, innocence and adorableness (Eberle 179). “The amusement and entertainment derived from toy dolls, and the like is fundamentally related to their ability to mimic the physical geometry, facial expressions, movements, appearances, and physical functions of the human body” (Wagner et al). The seemingly realistic features of dolls are captivating and reveal our fascination with our mirrored reflections, as we look at ourselves from the outside in, also a characteristic of the freak (Harris ;Grosz 65). Dolls normally deemed adorable and cute, take on a form of freakery, when they become almost “too realistic” (Eberle 181) as referred to by one particular doll historian. The overly realistic doll “imperils categories and oppositions dominant in social life” (Grosz 57) namely our definitions of realism and fantasy (Wolfe 95).  In addition, “Because dolls, of all toys, seem to best exemplify the innocence of child’s play, we find it particularly unsettling when they betray those expectations…” (Eberle 179) taking us back to Thomson’s definition of Freakery in which she states “Those of us who have been known since antiquity as “monsters” and more recently as “freaks” defy the ordinary and mock the predictable, exciting both anxiety and speculation among our more banal brethren”(1). Talking Tina, although appearing as the average talking doll, defies our expectations for what a doll should be and in becoming more human than doll, creates a fear and anxiety in the viewer, embodying perfectly the concept of the “freak.”

We are introduced to Talky Tina, as a recently purchased, freckle-faced doll who lovingly and repeatedly states, “My name is Talky Tina, and I love you!” Over the course of the film we learn of the broken family Talky Tina has been adopted into; a sterile Father, Erich Streator who cannot have his own children, and thus rejects and despises his step-daughter and sees the doll as an unwanted reflection of his infertility. Embittered by this infertility, Streator attempts to steal away and destroy the doll, symbolically attempting to steal away both the child’s innocence and love from a father, and to destroy the truth of his lack of fertility (Wolfe 121). The loving and gentle Talky Tina, soon transforms into a malevolent “freak” as she begins to talk back to Streator. Her sweet statements soon become grim, culminating in the infamous line “My name is Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you.” The doll as the symbol of “domestic harmony and sweetness,” begins to change reflecting or mirroring the very nature of Streator’s heart and his own freakery in being sterile, which can be defined as a human “default” (Wolfe 121; Grosz 57). The tiny and perfect looking doll seems to become “too real,” driving Streator almost mad. The viewer and Streator are both fascinated and simultaneously repulsed by the doll, a characteristic of freakery as expressed in “Freaks as/at the Limit” (Grosz 56). Ultimately, Streator is murdered by the doll as he trips down the stairs over the doll. Talky Tina, thus, in her existence defies the conventional; existing at the junction between fantasy and reality, the cute and the uncanny, and human and non-human (Eberle 179; Wolfe 95).

Bibliography

1.Eberle, Scott G. “Exploring the Uncanny Valley to Find the Edge of Play.” American Journal of Play. N.p., Fall 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

2.Grosz, Elizabeth. “Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks As/at the Limit.” Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York and London: New York University Press, 1996. 55-66. Print.

3.Harris, Muriel. “The Doll.” The North American Review 212.781 (1920): 809-15.JSTOR. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. <www.jstor.org/stable/25120637>.

4.Thomson, Rosemarie G. “Introduction: From Wonder to Error — A Genealogy of Freak Discourse in Modernity.” Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York and London: New York University Press, 1996. 1-19. Print.

5.United States of America. United States Patent Office. Simulating Sunburning Toy Dolls and Figurines. By Charles A. Wagner and Herman B. Wagner. N.p.: n.p., 1960. Print.

6.Wolfe, Peter. “Almost Human.” In The Zone: The Twilight World of Rod Sterling. N.p.: Bowling Green State University Popular, 1997. 95-124. Print.

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2 responses to “Talky Tina- The Doll and Freakery

  1. This is a really interesting look at a “doll-monster.” I personally find dolls to often be extremely creepy, and now that I think about it, the point about childhood innocence and perfection is very apt. The idea of an evil doll is so disturbing because they’re supposed to be so sweet and innocent. To have that disrupted (following the ideas of monsters as “matter out of place” or transgressions of norms) is highly unsettling. The idea of the dolls as “too real” is also an insightful point—it ties this back to the idea of monsters as reflections of ourselves, the horror because we fear becoming the monsters ourselves. Very thought-provoking analysis!

  2. Excellent post! I like how you draw a connection between Tina’s “freakish” form and Streater’s infertility. This emerging relationship signifies how freakery is always a collective or interdependent experience.

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