Ken Dolls

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Synonyms:
See also: Paper Dolls, fanart, fancraft, Customized Action Figures, Fannish Dolls
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Ken Dolls is the practice of taking Ken dolls (as in "Ken and Barbie" dolls) an posing them together as slash characters. Sometimes other male action figures would be repurposed as slash characters (ex: GI Joe). The dolls began appearing at slash conventions in the 1990s (such as Virgule 1996 where Bodie and Doyle Ken dolls appeared dressed in Highlander tartans.) and were often part of a fixed display in a fan's room or a room party. While some fans enjoyed seeing their favorite characters in sexually suggestive positions, others felt it was silly.
"Oh, please, no, don't bring the dolls back to more public space. "Slashing" Ken dolls is so - so - well, it's exactly the sort of activity which makes outsiders look at fandom the same way I look at the fringe fans Kim so vividly described at the recent Creation Con here. For me, when the dolls are prominently displayed, they make the con (and its members) look silly. And if not wanting the con to look silly makes me a member of the luatic fringe, than I've got a whole lot of company...*Very* pleased not to see the Ken dolls."[1]
Other fans disagreed, pointing out that fannish 'norms' and taboos are forever shifting; no one can afford to look down on a fandom because who knows, next year they might find themselves in the same space:
"I was never (really) a Trek gen fan, so I didn't have to bear the animosity of gen Trek friends when I got into slash.

I didn't get into S/H until after "The One Slash Fandom" concept had passed, so I never had to sneak into corners at Trek parties to talk about my heresy.

I got into Pros [The Professionals] well after it had taken over slash fandom. I got into Multimedia long after the phrase "fannish slut" had been invented.

I got into Wiseguy well after the Church of Frank had set up sanctuary for those of us afraid to admit to liking balding guys.

I spent 10+ years in fandom without ever suffering majority ridicule for my fannish lusts. Then came...

Rock and Roll fandom

Overnight I became a figure of fun to many, and withstood sudden shunning from some. I was told my first vid in the fandom was... "wrong" was... "against everything fandom stood for." I listened to lectures from other fans about how rock slash is real person slash, and "that it opened all of slash fandom to legal exposure."

It was a rough couple of years in some small ways. And even within the small world of Rock and Roll fandom, there were people who thought slashing *their* band was ok (say, U2...), but slashing *my* band (Led Zep) was wrong. So, I feel for the skating fans, the wrestling fans and, yes, the doll fans. Every group needs a small subset of the group to stigmatize, as humorously as possible."[2]

A related phenomenon is Wobblevision, where plastic dolls are posed & photographed to act out Blake's 7 episodes. In more recent years, Supernatural fans have created scripts for Sam and Dean called The Plastic Winchester Theater (link).

Usage

  • "How I spent my K/S day: 2003....I stood my Jim and Spock dolls next to it, holding hands, beside my model of the Enterprise and the bridge set with Barbie and Ken dolls dressed in their 'Fleet uniforms."[3]
  • "I unpacked and set up all the room decorations, and of course, got the dolls out. There are in all, four sets of dolls, my 9 City on the Edge of Forever ones, the 12 Wrath of Khan dolls, the 5" Art Asylum dolls, and the mini mates.... By then the dolls were getting impatient to get going, so out came the handcuffs and [we] went to work making sure they got busy. Unfortunately, the first position she put them in proved to be a bit precarious, as when [we] accidentally shook the table, the dolls tumbled off the bed. But being the troopers that they are, they got up and went right back at it....And while the handcuffs were a perfect fit, unfortunately, try as we might, we couldn‘t get either doll to hold the beer bottle, although we did end up finding other uses for it."[4]

Examples

[Note: we're looking for examples of actual Ken dolls refitted to be TV characters. In the meantime, here are examples of fans repurposing Star Trek action figures.

References

  1. alexfandra's post to the Virgule-L mailing list in 1996 about the Ken doll display at Virgule 1996, quoted with permission.
  2. Sandy Herrold's October 1996 post to the Virgule-L mailing list, quoted with permission.
  3. [LOC] sent to the KS Press letterzine #80, May 2008.
  4. Shore Leave convention report sent to the KS Press letterzine #167, August 2010.