RVOD122 William's Doll

(1981, Educational/Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Kid seems too eager. I sense a voodoo practice.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

William gets a football helmet for his birthday, but he really wants a doll.


Made of rawhide, with guns for arms.William is a manly boy who wins footraces at school and plays football with his dad. One day, while he’s playing in the dirt with his toy dump truck, his little sister comes to join him. She abandons her baby doll a few feet away. William eventually tires of the dump truck. Curious about the discarded doll, he picks it up and pretends to nurture it. At this inopportune time, his friends arrive to jeer at him.

Undeterred, William asks his dad to get him his own doll for his birthday. Dad refuses, citing that toy’s traditional gender restriction. How about a football helmet? He receives a football helmet at his party, and enjoys playing with it, but that night he confesses his secret doll desires to his visiting grandfather. Grandfather goes out and buys him a doll.

While William prances rather disturbingly around the house with his new toy, his father expresses his dismay to grandfather. Grandfather tells a few embarrassing childhood stories about father while insisting that men need to learn how to love too. His passionate defense of doll ownership for males moves father to accept William’s non-traditional plaything preferences. Later, William sets the doll aside to go play football in the park with his friends, proving his father’s fears unfounded.


Why is William so keen on getting his own doll? He’s got a little sister. At that age, my boy would have pushed her down and taken one of hers.

All kidding aside, I don’t really have a problem with boys owning dolls. I don’t have a problem with them not owning dolls either. The latter statement seems to put me at odds with the short, which is stridently pro-doll. If I had to extract a message, I’d go with, “You can be effeminate without becoming homosexual,” which is an odd thing for a children’s short to go out of its way to say.

The urgent pro-doll tone is at odds with the short’s source material too—a simple, heartwarming children’s book about not letting traditional gender roles get in the way of good parenting. Something was lost in translation here, or now that I think about it, added. I think it’s the kid who plays William. With just a few words and pictures, the book lets you imagine something sweet and innocent, but the film casts a boy who clearly doesn’t play with dolls in real life. His method of portraying love for a baby, real or otherwise, is to fondle it creepily.

A few favorite comments: When William meets a neighbor’s baby and fondles its hand, Mike says, “She’s yours for fifty bucks. I got a whole trunk full of them.” When he cradles his sister’s doll in his arms, Bill says, “When I’m a dad, I will breastfeed.” When Dad says “no” to William’s doll request, Kevin asks, “What if it’s made out of rawhide and has guns for arms?” It’s one of the most unintentionally creepy things they’ve mocked at Rifftrax, and the riffers take full advantage.