Thursday, May 03, 2012

Hot Docs Review: The Mechanical Bride


After showing a picture of the “missus” to the camera, Davecat comments that “[he does not] see why that is strange because other people carry pictures of their loved ones in their wallet”. In any other circumstance this statement would go unnoticed, however it is hard not to raise an eyebrow when you see who the love of his life is. Davecat is a self-proclaimed “idolator”, which means that he is infatuated with life-like dolls. The “missus” in the photo is none other than his RealDoll named Sidore. While RealDolls are commonly associated with sexual pleasure, Davecat believes his relationship with Sidore has evolved into something more. He proudly takes Sidore out in public whether it be to a picnic or to meet up with his best friend Mari. In Davecat’s eyes this is what any normal couple would do. His friend Mari remarks that Sidore represents Davecat’s ideal woman, and Davecat himself admits that he will never date an organic woman that is a beautiful as Sidore.

It is the fascination with the idea of the perfect woman that fuels The Mechanical Bride. Narrated by actress Julie Newmar, the film could have easily spent all its time focusing on the men who love erotic dolls, but director Allison de Fren’s film is far more ambitious. The relationships with the dolls are merely a jumping off point for exploring all that the world of erotic dolls encompasses. This includes the various companies who make the dolls, the people who repair the dolls, and the scientific advancements that are happing as a result. The interesting thing about The Mechanical Bride is that most of the people de Fren speaks with are far from what you would have associated with erotic doll users or makers. Whether it is the elderly widower whose deteriorating health makes it hard for him to date real women or the doll making company whose female staff comprises almost half of the company, the film breaks down many misconceptions.


The Mechanical Bride raises several thought provoking questions on both the state of human sexuality and whether the lines between real and synthetic are becoming increasingly blurred. Some of the numerous issues raised in the film include: is the obsession with erotic dolls more about exerting dominance than it is about sex? If a person is excessively rough with a doll is that an indicator of possible domestic violence? At what point do we need to acknowledge the emotional side of the relationship that often develops? Can a doll ever fully replace a real woman? These type of questions will evoke different responses depending on the person and their culture. The film shows how the Japanese are far more accepting of dolls, based on the history of Kabuki theatre, than American culture. The film even hints that the Japanese fascination with dolls has had a strange effect on the teenage girls living in Harajuku, Tokyo, as the rebel by making themselves into exaggerated versions of dolls.

While the cultural examination is intriguing, it does expose one of the problems with The Mechanical Bride, the overall scope of the film is too wide. There are so many interesting individuals in the film that The Mechanical Bride often feels like it is just scratching the surface. This is most noticeable in the latter half of the film which focuses on robotics and science fiction as a whole. The film bounces quickly from one scientific achievement to the next, that it becomes hard to keep track of all the various advancements being made, let alone the individuals behind them. In some ways The Mechanical Bride would work better as a documentary series with each instalment highlighting a different aspect.

Though the film’s large scope hinders the latter half somewhat, The Mechanical Bride is a never dull. The documentary does a good job of showing that the way we look at sex and companionship is changing. The future is a lot closer than we could ever have imagined.

Screening: Sunday May 6th 9:00 pm – Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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