Better Living Through Barbie In “Living Dolls” Doc: NNN Exclusive Preview

Living Dolls, Logo’s latest What!? documentary, gives us an inside peek at the lives of four very different individuals whose lives are consumed by dolls in some way. One uses them to make art, another takes them as, ahem, companions. But our favorite subject is Mike Meireles, a perky 30-year-old gay man who sees his fascination with Barbie as a celebration of his sexuality. As a closeted teen, Mike could never collect America’s most famous doll—but now as an out gay man, he can put his staggering display front and center—in his parent’s home, where he and his boyfriend live rent-free.

Above, check out an exclusive clip from Living Dolls, in which Mike gets ready to “step outside the box” and go to a Barbie convention. Below, NewNowNext chats with director Maureen Judge about the documentary.

Living Dolls airs Monday, November 4, at 10pm on Logo.

NewNowNext: Maureen, what made you want to do a documentary about doll collectors? 

Maureen Judge: In my last film, Mom’s Home, one of my subjects was a doll collector and, sadly, she was losing her memory. I filmed her in the process of moving and clearing out her dolls, each of which had a special significance and story. She had dolls everywhere, on her bed, the living room couch, in a cabinet…so when she was giving them away, she was giving away a part of herself and, compounded by memory loss, losing some of her personal history. After filming Mom’s Home, it struck me that it would be interesting to understand and emotionally moving to make a documentary around the emotional connection collectors have barbie living dolls documentarybetween themselves and their dolls. And so I began the process of making Living Dolls.

We often make assumptions about people who pursue hobbies like this.  Did your perspective change after making Dolls or did it confirm your feelings?

I didn’t really have a specific perspective [at first]. In the process of making Living Dolls, I realized that the dolls were more than a toy for my subjects.Because dolls are in the form of a human being, they are safe places to our project dreams, desires and hidden selves

…For some, such as Mike, the Barbie collector, the dolls take him back to the innocence and comfort of childhood where there were no rules or societal pressures around sexuality. As a young child, he could be whom he wanted to be when he played with Barbie. It wasn’t until later in life when he was openly gay that he could bring Barbie back out.

Did you have a favorite doll as a child? 

I have two memorable dolls: One was a plastic baby doll that every other little girl had. I could bottle-feed and diaper it. Being one of eight kids, the baby doll gave me the opportunity to do just what my mom was doing. The other doll was a porcelain nun doll, which I still have. It had been my mother’s as a little girl, so it was quite special to have it as my own. I loved the doll’s “costume”—a nun’s habit—and I would imagine wearing it like the nuns who I saw in church every Sunday. It felt quite exotic—I was too young to make a real connection between the outfit and the lifestyle.

Which of the four subjects do you think is the most healthy and well-adjusted?

barbie 2All of the subjects in Living Dolls are self-aware, which is what makes them interesting and dynamic to watch. I believe Mike’s relationship to his Barbie collection is particularly compelling because it is so intertwined with the positive feelings he has around his sexual identity.

Rather than Barbie being an object to project his dreams on, the dolls represent his acceptance and celebration of who he is and that he is gay: “When I was 10…Barbie was buried away because I didn’t want anyone to know, yeah, you’re gay. So I was like, burn all the evidence and…only until I could be true to myself and not have to hide and lie, then I could bring her back out. And that’s what I did. But I brought her back out full force.”

Watch Living Dolls, Monday, November 4, at 10pm on Logo.



Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.