When a lonely doll living by herself gets an unexpected visit she is euphoric. From that point on she has friends to play with, Mr. Bear and Little Bear. Doesn’t sound very exciting right?
Except when you look at the context… that’s when it becomes deeply unsettling. Dare Wright grew up fairly isolated by a smothering, overbearing mother who pushed her into the spotlight as a model. They even shared the same bed as adults. Jean Nathan, her biographer, reckons that Wright remained a virgin her whole life, except for the rape by a homeless man whom she had previously befriended.
Anyways, I don’t belong to the group who read this classic as a kid, feeling all warm and fuzzy, because this is my first time reading it, but I can clearly see how off-putting it might be when revisiting ‘The Lonely Doll’ as an adult.
Back to the book:
Once when Mr. Bear goes away for a short while, Edith and Little Bear excitedly explore the house, trying on high heels, lipstick and a new dress. Mr. Bear has been watching. WHAT? It just screams pedobear to me…
Little Bear though used to the punishments doled out by Mr. Bear is visibly terrified of the repercussions, just like Edith. Of course he punishes the both of them with a firm spanking which is by far the most famous scene. After some apologising for fear of being abandoned, everything is peace love and understanding. With Mr. Bear touching her on the head or shoulder or standing inappropriately close. #ew #goosebumps #swallow
Reading only the text without the accompanying pictures, it mightn’t seem so repulsive… I don’t think. The combination of the writing and visuals is what makes this utterly compelling. It sort of reminded me of Tender Morsels which I couldn’t finish though I’ve heard nothing but praise about it.
There is just something so upsetting and disgusting when something that should be considered a safe haven for a child gets subverted and violated. In “Lonely Doll” it’s the bears that come for a seemingly friendly visit and then decide to stay indefinitely. It’s just bears, you might say and normally I would agree with you wholeheartedly, but again: context!!! Edith is depicted showing an interest in her sexuality when putting on lipstick and jewellery which is completely natural. You’ll feel chilled though, when an undressed Edith gets touched, by Mr. Bear who clearly is a father figure to her.
Let me rephrase Patricia Arquette’s quote by saying “(..) what is deviant is when [someone] decides that they can break into your sexuality, steal that from you [and] insert themselves”.
Reading this disturbing work just made me sad and mad for the lonely doll and Wright herself.
The point of view is that of a child doll, so you get the sense that the ominous scenes of abuse are downplayed. Edith feels like a ‘bad girl’, displeasing Mr. Bear and fears that she might lose his affection, thus she endures the physical violence inflicted by him. It’s heartbreaking to witness because it’s obvious that ‘if’ not ‘when’ she breaks away it’s going to take a lot of self-strength/will. After all, the Mr. Bears it seems, are good at picking victims and exploiting their weaknesses.
I can definitely see the appeal for audiences and why “The Lonely Doll” has stayed a classic thus far. It’s haunting. It truly is.