American Beauty Doll
Written by Lori Lawton   

Apples and oranges and fashion dolls. To compare them, I think that Barbie and Tyler are apples to Gene’s orange. Barbie is melons (obviously) to the grapes of Bratz. As a consumer and collector, I appreciate them all and I am glad that the manufacturers have given us a wide range of styles from which to choose. But two of these dolls have informed my life. Barbie may have brought fashion dolls into my world, but Tyler brought them back.

Apples and oranges and fashion dolls. To compare them, I think that Barbie and Tyler are apples to Gene’s orange. Barbie is melons (obviously) to the grapes of Bratz. As a consumer and collector, I appreciate them all and I am glad that the manufacturers have given us a wide range of styles from which to choose. But two of these dolls have informed my life. Barbie may have brought fashion dolls into my world, but Tyler brought them back.

Upon her introduction, I had to pass on Gene due to my circumstances at the time. But I was instantly struck by her and that there was an artist who had created something to embody my ideals of the Golden Age of Hollywood and 20th century fashion. Mel Odom is to be praised and thanked for his accomplishment and artistic gift. He shared his dream with us. Gene may be retire, but her world will remain so we can revisit it like old Hollywood movies. But Gene is unique and cannot be compared to the modern girl as fashion icon.

Similarly, I don’t believe that a Bratz can be compared to other fashion dolls. I think they have been a cartoonishly fun addition to a collector’s options and could not have been made to be taken so seriously. Their controversial reign many end but, right or wrong, Bratz grabbed a permanent place in our cultural landscape. Like Blythe, but with more time and opportunity.

Although fifty, Barbie proved long ago that she will live forever. Her face and profession may have changed many times over the years, but she is eternally Barbie. As much as the TNT Barbie sculpt is the icon of my childhood, the Mackie Barbie sculpt is sacred to me as a reborn collector. When you fall in love with a face, that is the one you want to see forever. It might age but it’s still that face. The TNT and Mackie sculpts represent two generations of a beautiful family.

Tyler may be relatively young, but as a tool of fashion and fantasy, she is similar to Barbie as a perfect representation of modern style and sensibilities. Tyler’s classic style has flowed from one season to the next and she has changed face sculpts only once. For me, early Tyler is the personification of a perky preppy as she begins mature into an elegant Grace Kelly. She’s the Hitchcock blonde and a true princess with taste and style all her own. She appears to be self-possessed, wealthy, genetically blessed and, because we admire her character, we forgive her perfection and love and adore her.

Apples and oranges and passion fruit. Of course Tyler has to share her world with Sydney, possibly the most gorgeous doll imaginable. Just as the Steffie sculpt may outshine any Barbie incarnation, Sydney has an indescribable something that captures our attention. But Tyler is the accessible American Beauty and she consistently represents something deeper than that. It’s basic doll play to project a character onto a doll, but sometimes an artist creates a figure that perfectly embodies an archetype. Although, for better or worse, for half a century Barbie has been the most recognized doll in the world, Tyler is something else all together. When we encounter Tyler she is recognized and embraced by our inner world. The place inside that speaks of our true character, inner beauty, is abundant in grace and holds the confidence to achieve our most cherished goals. Tyler is classic beauty, the classic working woman and a classy character. Tyler’s class is unmistakable and undeniable. I’m sure she would graciously acknowledge Barbie, the doll that paved the way for her success. May she bow down to her creator, Robert Tonner, and sincerely thank him for all of us.

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