Almost all movies are made for one or two reasons: Someone either wants to express an artistic vision, or someone wants to make some money. This week’s trip into the darkest corners of streaming video, 2011 homemade documentary All Dolled Up, is an exception to the rule.
First-time director David Hockey (not to be confused with artist David Hockney) made this movie for educational purposes… I guess. He wants you to know there are men out here who have romantic relationships with life-size dolls, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s healthy and normal and not crazy at all, and you should get used to it and support them and stop making fun.
To further the agenda of the agalmatophiliac community (look it up) and dispel the notion that doll-fans are weird perverts, Hockey barely mentions the “fucking dolls” part of the lifestyle, instead detailing an innocent road trip where he and a carload of doll-girlfriends have lighthearted adventures traveling across the country to visit other men with inanimate wives and girlfriends.
“I’m just a regular guy,” Hockey asserts through his film, “traveling across the country with a carload of life-sized sex dolls so I can have fake genitals installed in my favorite. You know, like regular guys do.”
There are other documentaries about dolls lovers out there — Maureen Judge’s Living Dolls (which also features Hockey), Love Me, Love My Doll, a ton of exploitative segments from TLC reality shows — but All Dolled Up is different. It’s not approaching the subject from the removed perspective of a documentarian; it’s a view from the inside of the subculture looking out. So if you’re hoping for a “lookit these freaks!” style movie, you won’t find it here., because against all reason and logic, Hockey isn’t a freak.
This whole thing would make a lot more sense if he was some basement-dwelling social misfit we could laugh at, but Hockey’s a non-threatening, good looking middle-aged dude with a wife and kids, who has appropriate social skills, money, and a sense of humor. Overall, he comes across as a happy, well-adjusted individual.
But the doll thing overshadows all of it. Hockey has a ton of human-sized dolls, and some of them have these weird, creepy mouse faces… and he sleeps with them, and he took one sky-diving. It’s really, really strange.
This tension between the normal and the abnormal is what makes All Dolled Up an awesome documentary, in spite of its amateur production values. The movie probes your psyche and demands you reconsider the boundaries of acceptable behavior.
Philosophically, I agree with Hockey’s argument 100 percent. I’m not in any place to judge other people’s passions or kinks, and as long as no one is being hurt, people should do what they want without fear of ridicule. Life is short, and if you find something that makes you happy, pursue it with your whole heart. (#blessed)
But on the other hand, I can’t shake the thought that this shit is just fucking weird. Even though Hockey insists that sexuality is a minimal part of his larger relationship with fake humans, he does have sex with his dolls… then he brings them on vacation.
There’s this great suspense that comes from watching Hockey interacting with unsuspecting citizens on his road-trip. He’s confronting people with a difficult-to-understand social situation, to which they have to react. Like, what do you say to guy carrying around a sex doll in public?
Their reactions tend to go like this: First, they desperately flip through their mental Rolodex for some way that it could be normal for a middle-aged man to be proudly eating a burger at a highway diner with a human-sized doll seated across from him. Maybe it’s some kind of joke? Maybe he’s doing a performance of some kind? Maybe he’s mentally ill? But eventually, they have to conclude that it’s exactly what it looks like: A grown man is out on a date with his fuck doll.
Everyone who sees Hockey and his “harem” is being shoved into the Uncanny Valley and forced to make on-the-fly value judgments about how to react: Should I call the police? Do I pretend the doll is alive to humor him? Should I shield my children’s eyes?
Encouragingly, people tend to land on “tolerance.” They look confused for a second, then smile wryly as if to say, “He’s not hurting anyone, I guess, and it takes all kinds to make up a world,” and go about their business.
It’s the story you’d want: A courageous iconoclast comes out of the closet to live his best life and is met with bemused acceptance instead of anger… but then why is the whole thing so disturbing?
Am I just a square who is upset that one of his deeply-held beliefs — that people should keep their sex toys in a drawer by their bed, and not bring them to Waffle House — is being questioned? Is there some deep level of misogyny being exposed by literally objectifying women? Am I just mad that I can’t look down on anyone anymore, even people who fuck dolls? I don’t even know.
But I do know you should watch this movie.
Sadly, between having written this and posting it, All Dolled Up has disappeared from Amazon streaming, but you can buy a DVD for 15 bucks. Worth it!