Everyone likes to complain about the appearances of celebrities and models and toys these days, and how they affect children, but how many people actually think to do something about it? Meet Sonia Singh, an Australian scientist, whose Tree Change Dolls project turns sexy dolls into wholesome toys for real girls. She thought to herself that the dolls in stores looked more than a little sad (and more than a little ridiculous), so she starting picking them up, cleaning them off, and giving them "makeunders."
It's amazing what some realistic, hand-painted facial features and hand-knit clothing (courtesy of Sonia's mother) can do. The dolls go from looking like try-hard, late-20s, clubbing addicts to friendly children. Sonia photographs the Tree Change dolls lovingly in her garden in Tasmania, and expresses shock that her Tumblr and Facebook shares of them have gone viral. But with so much heart and earnestness, I can't say I'm too surprised.
In a brief documentary about the Tree Change dolls from the Australian public broadcasting channel SBS, Sonia's supportive husband claims that he's much more of a self-declared feminist than she is. Sonia explains that, rather than make some political statement, she was mostly interested in producing dolls that look like someone young girls might know. Indeed, the children featured in the video seem to identify deeply with dolls, perhaps enhancing their ability to empathize with them imaginatively. Watch this lucky doll undergo her transformation:
In the end, maybe that's what the Tree Change project is really about: the capacity for humans to make (and re-make) themselves and their identities. Everyone loves a good transformation story, and the grateful recipients of these dolls are no different. Hopefully the Tree Change transformation lesson is one that they can take with them through their various adolescent identity experiments, and into their adulthoods beyond.