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Bjd dolls and the uncanny valley.

Jan 3, 2016

    1. There was a thread like this some years ago here. It's interesting, and I personally don't think I ever had to get over anything. I've always loved dolls, since I was a child. I found comfort and the feeling of magic in having them all around me. I have always collected them, and since I've been an adult I have always been drawn to objects that mimic the human form. I remember discovering Hans Bellmer and Cindy Sherman, and finding it all exceptionally beautiful. I make figures from paper mache, and am working on life sized humans. Statues, mannequins, dolls old and new, bizzare and dark to sweet and cutesy...robots...clowns...I find the beauty far outweighs any slight creepiness.
      #1 orphansparrow, Jan 3, 2016
      Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
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    2. Uncanny Valley is one thing I've never been able to understand. I suppose I've just never felt it. Dolls, clowns, robots, masks, Halloween decorations---they just don't bother me. I used to work at Spencer Gifts, and grown adults would come in, then run out screaming over the Chucky dolls and the latex masks. It all seemed a bit...childish?....to me. Then again, I was the same child who would hug the people in costume and pet the ghosts and monsters at haunted houses, so maybe I'm the abnormal one.
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    3. The majority of dolls I've run across never get close enough to human that I feel the valley looming.
      It helps that most dolls lack certain features of the face.

      But if someone were to painstakingly recreate ever little nook and cranny of the human body and missed the mark by just a little, I'd probably be weirded out. For me, it's usually wax figures, rather than dolls that get close enough.
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    4. I'm also not affected particularly by this effect, so I do think doll collectors must have a land response to it. Of course I've had other doll collectors at meets say my big headed BJD was creepy and weird which surprised me, as she is hardly different from their own dolls.

      I am interested by what does and doesn't trigger this effect. If I share my Lati dolls with non collectors they don't seem to be bothered by her, but they really hate my Blythe who is much more stylised than bjd and so less human like. I would expect that a doll that looks less like a human would be less creepy.
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    5. For me, it's the eyes. If they're positioned incorrectly, they look weird and stare-y and just - wrong. A lot of otherwise beautiful antique dolls I've seen photos of have this effect. Their eyes are positioned dead center, pupil in the exact middle, when in reality, the top of the iris is almost always cut off by the eyelid and you can usually see the bottom of the iris - if not some of the white - at the bottom.

      Also eyes that don't "track." I turned one of my prettiest dolls into a dead-eyed horror movie doll with a pair of cheap acrylics.
    6. Yeah, for me, most bjds are well out of the uncanny valley. It's kinda like what Temishi said; they're beautiful and stylized enough that they stay securely on the "stuffed animals and R2-D2" side. One thing that pushes a lot of very humanlike robots or bad cgi into the uncanny valley is because when they start moving, it's jerky or even just slightly "off". (To get them out of the uncanny valley, you can make the robot/cgi character less humanlike: R2-D2's jerky movements are cute because he's a trashcan-shaped robot, but a realistic mannequin moving the same way would be super creepy!) Bjds can't move, so it's a lot easier for them to stay out of the valley. I think that's also why those moving bjd portraits creeped out so many people that are usually fine with bjds...

      As for still dolls, the only one I can remember that was in the "uncanny valley" for me was that poor little guy that got burnt in a house fire several years ago (and the even more damaged one next to him). They were in such human poses and looked corpse-like enough to actually upset me! At least that thread showed his restoration, though, and he was cute and safely out of the valley by the end of it.

      But also, I think the uncanny valley hypothesis kind of explains why so many people are drawn to bjds! From Wikipedia: "As the appearance of a robot is made more human, some observers' emotional response to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion." Bjds may skirt the edge of the uncanny valley for some people, but as long as they don't "fall in", we'll feel drawn to and sympathetic towards them.
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    7. The only thing I've really noticed the uncanny valley effect with is CGI people, and then it's only with the inside of the mouth, teeth, etc. I haven't seen a doll life-like enough yet. But very realistic CGI still can't get the teeth or speaking mouth right, and it's very unnerving.
    8. What eyes track? That seems like a really neat set. Ones with a raised iris?

      That's an interesting idea! Maybe a lot of bjd lovers naturally have less of an uncanny valley instinct, and as such are more drawn to the dolls since our "appeal zone" is larger, so to speak.
      #8 Epiphany31415, Jan 3, 2016
      Last edited by a moderator: Jan 4, 2016
    9. I actually couldn't be around dolls for the longest time. They seemed too alive(ish) to me. Even a little threatening. But something changed, and they don't bother me for the most part. I do try to be respectful of those who are freaked out as I know how it feels. It's not a fun feeling.
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    10. I remember that doll that got burned in a fire too. And that brings up a good point! Maybe some of us have a quicker empathy response. Maybe so quick that it goes almost unnoticed. For example, if I'm even slightly disturbed by a human form of some sort - like a dummy with blank and staring eyes...or a half rotted mannequin out in the rain - I might feel discomfort for a second, and then it slips quickly into recognition, empathy, and then into affection. And when I feel affection for something "disturbing", my brain recognizes it as a beautiful experience. So I don't feel like I ever fall into that valley, it's more of just a quick glimpse into that fear and then quickly transcending it. ...Okay. I wasn't trying to get all esoteric, but I think I just talked myself into understanding something. Haha!!
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    11. I've definitely felt the uncanny valley feeling before, but BJDs don't tend to bother me... even the more realistic ones. I think that size makes a big difference for me. Hyper realistic mannequins, androids designed to look human (has anyone ever seen "I feel fantastic" on youtube? *shivers*), and some life-sized dolls creep me out sometimes. There are definitely some dolls that I find creepy, but BJDs are usually okay. lol
    12. I turned my nose up at the uncanny valley...and then Doll Chateau came along...:atremblin
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    13. I work in a nursing home and there is a CPR doll that gives me the unsettling "uncanny valley" effect, usually at the end of my shift when I'm heading home and my mind is already out the door. He is in a training room that is right by two intersecting hallways, so that when I turn the corner I glimpse him out of the corner of my eye - he is in different places and positions due to not being put back in the same spot daily and sometimes he is completely out of sight. It gives me quite a startle when I see him and I always have to take a second look, especially since his mouth is gaping wide open and he is proportionate to a human. For a split second I think that it's one of my patient's that has somehow wandered in there and is in distress.

      I think most ball jointed dolls don't give me this effect because they are so small, no human really has those proportions. I think I might get a similar effect with a more lifelike size doll though, like the Dollmore Trinity, even though she is very beautiful she wouldn't be a doll I would have in my collection because of this reason. I don't really think I'm frightened by life size dolls, they would just make me uncomfortable if they were around all the time. Also, I think the "unexpected" element of the CPR training doll is what gives me the eebie jeebies more than anything.
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    14. Most BJD's don't bother me, and yet I'm not repulsed by those that do feel "off". For me, instead of wanting to get away from that feeling I find it really interesting, so I come to enjoy it. It reminds me of dissections in a biology class-everybody has an instinctive reaction to it, but not everyone finds that reaction repulsive and instead some really enjoy learning about the anatomy and such. (Weird comparison, I know, but I think it works.) I suppose I am more likely to like human-ish robots and sculptures and such. I wouldn't go as far to say that I am drawn to that feeling, but I don't find it unpleasant. I wouldn't mind at all having a doll that gave the uncanny valley effect at all.
    15. I am not usually affected by the uncanny valley effect (in fact, dolls that strike my friends as creepy often seem cute to me), with the exception of a couple of Iplehouse's older BID sculpts. For some reason, those look 'dead' to me, as in just slightly not lifelike enough, and it creeps me out. Which was interesting the first time I noticed that, as I'd never felt the uncanny valley thing before.
      #15 Little Lost Pixie, Jan 3, 2016
      Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
    16. BJDs don't fall into the uncanny valley for me. I feel that BJDs are stylized, and oftentimes idealized with perfect, smooth features, so they don't fall into the valley for me. The only specific type of doll that falls into the uncanny valley for me are the reborn baby dolls in general, but especially the ones with electronic devices that are used to mimic heartbeats and breathing.
    17. The better-made glass eyes do - if I remember correctly, it's because the iris and white are one layer of glass and the pupil is part of the dome over the iris and very slightly raised above it. It's a subtle effect. I really didn't realize they did until I figured out the acrylics didn't, which was why Fawn went from beautiful to bizarre with an eye change.
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    18. It just really depends on the doll for me. I would not want a life-size or even half-scale doll, personally, and I am not a fan of hyper-realism (think, that guy on My Strange Addiction that had a life-size, silicone, anatomically-correct doll that he called his soulmate and I believe got legally married to. I get a weird feeling from that thing. And from the dude). The huge eyes of Blythe dolls and some Hujoos give me a weird feeling, and some BJDs just have a certain quality about their faces that just makes them look slightly off, but I really don't know how to define it...
      That being said, most of the time I don't get the uncanny valley feeling. I've always loved dolls, and I remember having a girl say she would be afraid to sleep in my house because my American Girl dolls might murder her. :sweat
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    19. Ooh! I love Cindy Sherman. I could still recall the day when I saw the reproduction of her untitled #168 (Untitled #168 | The Broad) in the local museum, that send chills down my back. That was one of the moment when I realised that a single photograph could capture so many emotions, questions and answers within a single frame.

      Even though Sherman recreated many beautiful shots (be it movie still, historical still or object manipulations), I don't agree that she is a good proposition for the discussion on uncanny valley. She was very perceptive of the issue of mixed fiction/reality and in many cases purposely created disturbing works to make something that was supposed to be innocent extremely creepy, just to destroy popular held belief (e.g. sacred-ness of art) or popular stereotype (e.g. film stills).

      *apologies in advance for my unfamiliarity with Hans Bellmer's work

      I don't slip into the valley easily, since I typically associate dolls with my senses and not feelings. Perhaps it's a sort of de-sensitisation from all the gaming I'd done, especially during the mid- and late-2000s when 3D and high graphical capacity were everything. The graphics capacity at that point were coming closer or even breaking the uncanny valley faster than any dolls, mannequin or wax figure, since characters are interactive, possess personalities and portray lifelike changing expressions. Furthermore, gaming with audio cues take you one step closer to the virtual/reality confusion that even moving dolls can't. Here's a comparison between two of the better examples:

      Kara (Quantic Dreams) - this tech-demo by Quantic Dreams showcase in a few minutes an emotional rollercoaster that no other media thus far could project. David Cage (one of the founder for Quantic Dreams) made the argument of uncanny valley famous in the early 2000s.

      Dancing Doll (RozenZebet) - unfortunately not a lot of information about this enthusiast; his website though is full of amazing robotics for dollfies.

      Honestly, I really don't think dolls would fall through the cracks down the uncanny valley. The way that we are constantly exposed to evolving digital media, and the way statues and mannequins are getting more life-like, dolls would likely remain as unanimated objects for years to come.
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    20. @lille.charlotte Yeah. I agree with you about Sherman. I was kind of typing my thoughts out as they came. But you're right. And I've never played video games myself, but that's a really interesting perspective I hadn't thought of. :)