Dolls: cute, creepy, whatever you think of them, they are there, and they are a fixture of our popular culture. Okay, depends on the doll, but there’s a lot of creepy. Some of them are even haunted, although we will thankfully not be discussing any of these here. The most famous doll in the world, of course, is Mattel’s Barbie, which is significantly less creepy than the average. Sometimes lame, but not creepy.
No, we kid; dolls of various shapes and sizes form a core part of the childhoods of generations of boys (yes, action figures are dolls) and girls alike, and we all probably had at least one that we liked a whole lot while growing up. Although, fact: it's more likely than not that said favorite toy has not stood up to the test of time. Of all things in pop culture, toys and dolls are actually probably the least likely things to do so, and if you pulled many out now, they would strike you as strange and unmarketable. And actually, quite a few were pretty weird then, even if you didn’t notice because you were a little kid.
Anyway, dolls, apart from being frequently creepy, were also often offenders of good taste. Even Barbie—Miss Barbie is actually, probably, the worst offender of them all: she’s taken up so many unlikely professions that she can probably be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Yes, she does make a huge chunk of this list; she deserves it. Here are some of the oddest products of the world of dolls to be put on the market throughout the past, ones that will hopefully make you laugh and which probably could not possibly be put on shelves in 2018. Let us begin.
24 Barbie The Entertainer
Well, we’re off to a great start, aren’t we? This thing was seriously marketed? Most kids would be ushered out of any room containing actual people dressed like this, though I suppose others might be intrigued by the whole thing. Cushions wearing that design are considered tacky, for heaven’s sake, and this is a children’s toy. Apparently this kind of thing would fly in 2003, though. Just kind of awkward, albeit amusing, in 2018. There's something for everyone, I guess.
23 Play With Your Sweat
Not at all clear what the attraction of this is supposed to be, and it actually seems extremely, albeit confusingly, threatening. “Maximum sweat?” Since when was sweating considered a fun or desirable feature in a child’s toy? Seriously, that is the focal selling point of this line of toys: fill them up with water and watch them sweat. It’s gross and feels vaguely wrong. I mean: “hardcore figures for hardcore fans.” If I saw my kid playing with this thing I would rapidly take it away.
22 Romeo & Juliet Edition Barbie & Ken
Romeo and Juliet: a literary classic involving gangs and tragedy, and now we can play pretend that Barbie and Ken are involved in all of these activities. No, I mean, come on, why would a parent want their kids playing Romeo and Juliet? What child wants to act out classic Shakespeare plays with Mattel toys? I mean, I’d be impressed, but also a touch disturbed. Comes with Barbie’s very own vial of poison, real poison not included. We think.
21 "Pretty Baby"
Where to begin? First of all, that girl on the box looks actually upset to be holding the thing. She looks like she would be flinging it very far away from her if she was not being paid to touch the awful entity. We sympathize: it looks haunted. Now, we accept that China has put out some pretty odd stuff, but even they should know better than this. What? “It acts like a real baby.” It doesn’t even look like one, is that makeup?
20 Growing Up Skipper
Barbie was, as is well known, one of the biggest sensations ever to hit the world of toys. So, of course, Mattel tried to recruit the rest of her family, to mixed results. Meet Skipper, Barbie's sister who joined the team in 1965. There is clearly something wrong with her: twist her arm and she both grows in height and also chest. Uh, yeah. This is both horror-movie stuff and not great for the age, and it’s hard to believe it was anything else half a century ago—although it was, apparently.
19 Chatty Cathy
Chatty Cathy was Mattel’s attempt to diversity its line of dolls after the roaring success of its Barbie line. It wasn’t quite as good. Kinda creepy, and actually looks pretty haunted in this commercial. Look at those eyes. Anyway, Cathy tried to capitalize on the then-advanced voice recording technology. The thing just seems extremely unnerving to 2018 eyes. I'm guessing the 60s really were a very different era? At least it isn’t anywhere near as bad as Pretty Baby in creepy factor. At least that. Although, honestly, that is a very low bar and Cathy is still creepy as heck.
18 George Washington Barbie
What’s to say here? Mattel has clearly run out of ideas. Seriously, Barbie? No great women of history to go with? Okay, it was the 1990s, but come on. Susan B. Anthony? Amelia Earhart? Dowager Empress Cixi? Martha Washington, even? But no, we went with the founding father. And in pink, for some reason. We’re not actually clear what message this is supposed to be sending, but it's the nineties, so sure. This would have been torn apart on social media if put out now.
17 Baby Laugh-A-Lot
Oh sweet biscuits—no. No, no, no. Please just watch this, and we understand if you have to walk away from the computer and take a break. What is this thing? This is supposed to entertain children? Surely it is more likely to scare the children. Surely it is cursed, I mean, just listen to it. Maybe 70s kids couldn’t detect it, but 2018 kids are definitely smart enough to stay the heck away from this Exorcist reject. Nobody would dare try to put this thing on a store shelf anymore with that laugh.
16 Jude Deveraux's The Raider Barbie & Ken
Here’s a great idea: let’s make a Barbie and Ken pair based off of some romance novel. After all, what do little girls love more than romance? Let’s not dwell too long on the romance part, not like any of these kids are actually going to read the thing or think too hard about it. But then who is this actually for? Adult Barbie collectors, we guess? Who also happen to like romance novels? Really? This just kind of feels like a misfire.
15 Michael Jackson's Thriller Action Figure
Michael Jackson’s Thriller was one of the great milestones of 20th-century pop culture. So, given the iconic nature of the album and especially the title song, naturally, come the tie-ins. Here is one. You can act out the iconic music video, where Michael changes from a normal young man into a dancing zombie. See, you can change his face, which makes sense. But why does it come with so many extra pairs of hands? Michael’s hand positions were not an iconic element of the famous video, and they look kinda grabby. What’s up here?
14 Wash & Watch Barbie
Wash & Watch Barbie. Because Barbie isn’t enough of an archetype already, so they had to make it worse. This isn’t even from the 60s or something: it’s from nineteen ninety-one. Look at the look on her face: she is either brainwashed, heavily out of it, or has already been replaced by a Stepford Wife. Whatever the case, it is not a wholesome situation, and why are we marketing this to children? Didn’t we already know better than this in 1991? Actually, it’s not always clear that we know better than this in 2018 either.
13 Big Loo, The Four-Foot Tall Robot
Okay, maybe not quite a doll, but it will haunt your dreams. I can believe this commercial and the notion that it was created by a mad scientist, and am willing to speculate that its intentions are far from benevolent. That face screams insanity. And it is even specifically marketed as some kind of weapon. It even comes with a built-in aiming sight. Clearly this “Marx” is trying to use this toy to create an army of child drones to bring down Western Civilization.
12 Oreo Barbie
We’re not even clear how this got greenlit. Why did they make the Oreo Barbie black? Is this supposed to be cute or something, and did nobody really notice that it is horrifyingly wrong? Are they saying she's black on the outside, but white on the inside? That's honestly sort of a perfect description of this toy, but we don’t think that was what Mattel was going for in 1997 when they made this monstrosity. The 90s: way more ignorant than we remember it.
Meet Hugo! Someone in a marketing department back in the seventies thought he would be beloved of children! Even though he looks like a criminal. Okay, maybe children were less sensitive to what a psycho looked like forty years ago; after all, nobody was being raised on slasher flicks and the internet yet. On the other hand, kids aren’t stupid—look at those eyes and tell me they don’t strike fear into your heart. For boy points, you can apparently replace bits of his skin and teeth too, which is not creepy at all.
10 Kissing Barbie
Apparently, someone thought it was an okay idea to market the free-love era to children in toy form. Start with the packaging that looks like the poster for a retro flick and you know nothing really needs to go downhill because it's already there. “See her lips pucker!” was an actual tagline for this. Yes. It even comes with its own lipstick included… it looks way too big for Barbie’s tiny lips, first of all. Too much time has passed, clearly, for any of us to relate to this.
9 Little Miss No Name
There's just something a bit off about these dolls. I truthfully don't know that much about them, but they look like the kind of thing that you would see in a horror movie. Annabelle, who? There's just something that rubs me the wrong way. It might be their eyes, which are way larger than they ever need to be. It might be their clothes. Or maybe, just maybe, it's that these dolls have something more sinister about them.
8 Bild Lilli
Speaking of Barbie rip-offs, Barbie is actually a rip-off herself. This is Lilli, clearly not designed for children’s eyes. In summary: she started life at the end of the 1940s as a comic character, a gold-digger who survived by conning wealthy male victims. She was popular enough that a toy version was made as a gag. Then, one day fate intervened, and Mattel founder Ruth Handler saw this, and for some reason decided to steal the design and market it to American children as “Barbie” with, really, only minimal changes.
Here is Sindy, “the doll you love to dress.” No, apparently they could not come up with a less creepy tagline. And… apparently she has a reasonably substantial fan following. Sindy, apparently quite the success in the UK for a few years, looks essentially like Barbie except a couple feet shorter and maybe a little bulkier—and, it turns out, the fashion choices were substantially more on point. Anyway, Mattel sued. Although, honestly, we think Sindy is actually a lot cooler than her American cousin. Just look at stuff like this.
6 Teen Talk Barbie
“What special things will I say to you?” It asks from inside the box. What indeed! “Do you have a crush on anyone?” That standard, cringe-worthy doll says these things, and, worse: “Math class is hard!” As if Mattel needed to drive home all the negative gender stereotypes seething just barely under the surface of this their flagship toy line. Or: she’s just blonde, which goes with the vacant expression but which is only barely better. This was a misfire.
5 Cissy, The Preserved Doll
Dolls are creepy, yes, and plenty of the items on this list have been plenty creep-tastic. But they used to be much worse—meet Cissy. Cissy is a doll, but is not to be played with, and she is example of a trend that was going on back around the 1920s of grown-ups owning these boudoir dolls and keeping them around in this weird preserved, immaculate state. This does not seem at all heathy, and some of these pictures give us the heebie jeebies.
4 Rappin' Rockin' Barbie
Oh no. Barbie is having some kind of nervous breakdown, and she has been joined by all her friends. No, seriously, this is what happens when toy companies try way to hard to be cool and accidentally reveal that they’re all a bunch of bald guys who don’t actually have a clue what the kids are on about. This is like some weird vision of what an upper-middle class, white suburbanite circa 1990 might think the kids were down with downtown, and would be laughed at for actually suggesting. Unfortunately, one of those suburbanites worked at Mattel.
3 Midge & Baby
No, this is not a still from a horror movie, it’s Barbie’s pregnant friend Midge… wait, isn’t Barbie, like, young? So how old is Midge?! Forget the fact that this looks like something out of Alien, we’re also apparently promoting pregnancy on top of it. Maybe that was more okay back in 1965, sure, but just look at this thing. It’s gross. Why would a child want to have a doll with a removable pregnant belly containing baby? That’s not even how birth is supposed to work, not that they’d make a children’s toy of that.
Before we end this list, let’s take a moment to commemorate that scary thing that generations of toy makers believed was good entertainment for children: the jack in the box. Turn the crank, let the creepy music play, and wait for the smiling face to abruptly spring out of the box and make you jump ten feet in the air! Yes, we know better now, but this was somehow one of history’s great enduring toy concepts. My, how far we have come.
1 Elvis & Priscilla Barbie Gift Set
Finally, we come to the end, the rock bottom. Because the kids are totally into this absolutely wholesome celebrity pair, right? Except Priscilla was young when she started a relationship with Elvis Presley. He wasn't great to her, and her dad threatened to have him arrested if he did not marry her. Or so the story goes. Of course there’s going to be a commemorative Barbie of this, what they choose to call “ one of the greatest love stories of the 20th century.” Who wouldn’t want their kids looking up to this?