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October 28, 2011 | Theatre,

Living, Breathing Dolls

By Alyssa Mulligan

At the start of Henrik Ibsen’s iconic play A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer is portrayed as an empty-minded twittering “lark”: frivolously spending money, secretly nibbling on macaroons and endlessly looking for ways to please her husband.  Much like her father considered her, Torvald Helmer views his wife as property, a plaything… in essence, a doll.  Or as Nora phrases it, she was first her father’s “doll-child” and then Torvald’s “doll-wife.” 

Of course, Ibsen’s play directly reflected his time when it was first produced in 1879.  But are there still real-life doll-children and doll-wives today?  Let’s look at popular culture and the many “celebutantes” that don our magazine covers and fill our DVRs.  Current television programming is chock-full of reality star princesses.   And interestingly enough, these business-savvy women have used the “doll” image to forward their careers.  Among them:

1.  Desperate Housewives of Orange County (and New York… and Atlanta… and Miami… and…)

This show peers into the lReal housewivesives of wealthy housewives as they shop, gossip, get plastic surgery and live “the good life.”  The goal of many of these women is to look as young and hot as possible.  One housewife in particular underwent breast augmentation surgery at the request of her husband, after he realized the majority of his friends’ wives were well-endowed.  In Season 1, Jo’s boyfriend gifts her Mercedes cars and a mansion in exchange for her to be a housewife.  In her own words, “Slade is pretty much keeping me.”

2.  Paris “That’s Hot!” HiltonParis

In this heiress’ heyday of The Simple Life, one could not escape the young socialite’s frequent “Paris-isms” (i.e. “Walmart… do they like, make walls there?”).  With her accessory dog Tinkerbell in tow, this blonde-haired, blue-eyed fashionista claims, “I’m like my own Barbie Doll!”

3.  Kim Kardashian & Co. 

KardashiansNever leaving the house without makeup on and Hermes bag in hand, Kim has been referred to as a modern day walking, talking Barbie doll.  Along with her surgically enhanced sisters, Kim stays true to their reference toward the “Joneses”: she spends money like it’s her job.  Hold up, maybe it is…

4.  The Girls Next Door

This series showcases the happenings of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends and their lives together in the Playboy Mansion.  The girls pose, shop, travel, party, and try to please the shared man in their lives.  Former girlfriend Holly Madison reported that at first she was not Hefner’s physical ideal, but that some plastic surgery, tanning makeup and hair treatment fixed that. 

Can you think of any other “Modern Day Noras”?   What is it about these doll-celebrities that continues to draw public audiences in?  Are these women at fault for perpetuating this image, or are they just extremely clever and business-savvy?  Whew… Please feel free to leave your comments, as I peruse the guilty pleasures (AKA some of the aforementioned television shows referenced in this post) secretly tucked away on my DVR…

Don’t miss the last-chance ever to see the world-renowned reinterpretation of Ibsen’s A Doll House:  Mabou Mines DollHouse is playing at The Cutler Majestic Theatre NOV 1-6! 

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