Female Effigies and Performances of Desire: A Consideration of Identity Performance in Lars and the Real Girl.

Kate E. O’Neill


The female sex doll allows for the projection of uninhibited sexual fantasy and is animated through that fantasy in the mind of her partner. In this way, she can be seen to function as a performative effigy of desire, maintaining heteronormative male sexuality by reflecting a patriarchal ideal of female physicality and objectification while simultaneously demanding a responsive performance of heterosexual masculinity. In the film Lars and the Real Girl, the relationship between the female sex doll and her male partner is shifted into the public sphere, and Lars projects a social, rather than sexual, identity onto Bianca, the sex doll object of his desire. The social identity constructed by Lars reflects his desire for a non-sexual, community-oriented, and ultimately subservient female partner, and the widespread acceptance of this model of femininity by the community is evidenced through the performative interactions that occur between Bianca and those around her. Because the sex doll exists in a potentially deviant category of sexual interaction, the community’s refusal to treat her as an object, but rather as a living subject, reflects the power of performance in the construction and maintenance of social identity. The very fact of Bianca’s object status allows her to take on complex sexual and social fantasy-roles, all of which prove to be problematic, but which ultimately allow for the maintenance of male sexual and social authority.

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ISSN 1749-9771

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