Posted by terrance | Filed under Random Musings
There’s a bizarre marketing trend happening amongst small businesses in my neighborhood: recently, a string of shops have stationed life-sized, motorized mannequins outside their storefronts in attempts to draw costumers. On one major boulevard, in less than a four-mile stretch, a half-dozen of these sign-waving dummies have emerged over the last month or so.
While there is some variety in the shade, shape, and wardrobe of these statuesque sales props, they are all female. Dead-eyed, come-hither gazes (traditionally found only in strip clubs) are painted on each fiberglass figure. It’s strange. Stranger still, these lifeless lasses are all chained and bolted to dollies—Hannibal Lector-style—then propped beside lampposts, like street bawds from a Victorian melodrama.
Tacky, truly tacky. As such, I’m curious how effective they are at drumming business.
From an economic standpoint, I’m sure there are benefits to using battery-powered models over ones that require sunscreen and bathroom breaks, but is anyone convinced to purchase auto insurance or a haircut because of a plastic hussy with a sign? And how did this become a trend? Was a secret mannequin memo circulated amongst Los Angeles shop owners? Or did those late to the dummy party merely gaze at their competitors’ gaudy mechanical greeters and say, “Damn, I need to get me one of those!”?
Pediophobia—a fear of dolls, including robots and mannequins—is a common anxiety disorder. Popular schools of psychiatry believe that pediophobia springs from a feeling that dolls may come to life.
I don’t harbor any entrenched fear or mistrust of robots or mannequins, but I did have occasion once to visit a prop house filled with dozens of human-sized, standing dolls. It was creepy. The showroom featured an assortment of male, female, and child dummies, and the presentation was claustrophobic; the mannequins were stacked in rows, shoulder-to-shoulder, like a frozen army. I have to admit that squeezing past the stiffs did cause a shudder or two.
On the other end of the cognitive spectrum is agalmatophilia, a sexual attraction to statues, dolls, or mannequins. Mannequin, an unintentionally creepy, yet mainstream romantic comedy from the late-’80s, revolved around this paraphilia. Bizarrely, the film was successful enough at the box office to warrant a sequel in 1991. This was most likely due to the sexiness of a young Kim Cattrall—who plays the plastic department store fixture of the movie’s namesake—than to some sort of mass audience fetish… but who knows?
While I don’t have a thing for dummies, or bad ’80′s films, I have been known to turn a lusty eye at certain curvy jean mannequins placed outside Latino clothing stores in my hood. I’m not sure what this says about me, as these figures are routinely cut off at the waist. They possess no heads, torsos, or arms with which to hold swiveling mechanical signs, but the sculptors did a fine job shaping the bottoms of these would-be ladies.
I read once that a teenaged Jeffrey Dahmer stole a male mannequin from a department store and kept it hidden in his grandmother’s house, where he was living at the time… but I digress.
On a related creepy note, I remember walking through a female clothing store as a wee lad with my mother and being captivated by an underwear display. The presentation was a row of disembodied mannequin hips. The thought of pulling down the panties on the fake flanks occurred to me (you know… to see what was underneath), but even at that tender age, I knew this behavior would come across as pervy, so I refrained.
As an adult, I probably should have also refrained from stoping my vehicle several times along a busy stretch of road to snap photographs of the mannequin mamas featured in this blog, which begs the question: who’s creepier, the entrepreneur who displays mechanical maidens, or the writer who reports on them?
So, now that I’ve shown you my figures and stumps, will you show me yours? Have you, fair readers, noticed humanoid billboards popping up in your town? Do mannequins and dolls frighten or enchant you? Or are you tempted to grab a sign, strap yourself to a dolly, and see how long you can hold a pose without blinking at passing traffic? Share your “Dummy Details” in the “Comments” section below.