Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I was reading The Atlantic, when I found an article about Luk Thep dolls. The headline and subtitle were, however, unfortunate: Big in Thailand: Fake Kids Middle-class women treat the “child angels” as though they’re real, taking them to get blowouts at salons and even giving them their own seats at restaurants.

Although short, it was an interesting glimpse into a religious practice that I'd never heard of, so I turned to Google to learn more. I found myself confronted with an avalanche of headlines, promising the same "wacky/bizarre foreigner" vibe that I had gotten from The Atlantic. But, as was the case with The Atlantic, not all of them delivered on it. Nikkei Asian Review even turned the tables a bit with their piece, noting the trend of hyper-realistic "newborn" and "reborn" dolls that quietly gained steam in the United States and Europe starting in the 1990s.

The Nikkei Asian Review article notes: "To critics, adults who own such dolls are objects of novelty, amusement or pity -- which is how the media have portrayed Thailand's luk thep owners." And even those that don't take the treatment all the way hint (or more) at it with their headlines - even the straitlaced Nikkei article is titled: "Thailand's 'child angel' dolls blur the line between spiritual and quirky."

There is a lot of what I've come to see as "point and stare" or "point and laugh" media in the world. A lot of it is reality programming of some sort or another, which appeals to media outlets because it's relatively inexpensive to produce when compared to scripted programming. But that doesn't explain why we watch it. Having to wade through a sea of articles playing up the "novelty, amusement or pity" angles to learn more than few sentences about the Luk Thep dolls, it seemed that the only reason that people presumed that anyone would read was the chance to reassure themselves of their own normality at someone else's expense. More's the pity.

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