Meet Gay Bob: The World's First Mass-Produced Gay Doll From The 70s

While the manufacturers of Barbie keep on diversifying their array with a new line of dolls that's more reflective of what actual women look like, and unsatisfied fans everywhere create their own versions of plus-size, hijabi, and "normal" Barbie dolls, we're left wondering – what about the LGBTQ community?

Sure, there was the gender neutral Moschino Barbie but its gender neutrality was focused more on the marketing campaign rather than the toy itself. So it seems like the to this day, the LGBTQ community is still underrepresented in the toy industry. But it wasn't always like this...

One example comes to us from 1977 in the form of Gay Bob – the world's first ever mass-produced gay doll.

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(Photo: Christy Havranek)

Yes, that was the actual name of the doll, and yes, Bob's creator Harvey Rosenberg did identify him as being 100% gay. Gay Bob was marketed through Rosenberg's company, Gizmo Department.

In an interview with the Gadsen Times in 1978, Rosenberg described the doll as looking like "a cross between Paul Newman and Robert Redford."

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The doll itself stood 13 inches tall, wore a flannel shirt, tights jeans, and cowboy boots. His packaging box was even decorated as a closet to reflect on the process of "coming out." One of Bob's major, ahem, assets was his large plastic penis, which definitely sparked even more controversy.

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

Inside the packaging, a "doll clothing fashion catalog" was also included in case owners wanted to change up Bob's style. The catalog also contained the following heartwarming message that was very ahead of its time period:

 

"Hi Boys, Girls, and Grownups... I’m Gay Bob the world’s first gay doll.

I bet you are wondering why I come packed in a closet. 'Coming out of the closet' is an expression which means that you admit the truth about yourself, and are no longer ashamed of what you are.

Gay people use the expression 'coming out of the closet' to explain they are no longer afraid, or ashamed, of being gay, and no longer hide the fact.

Gay people are no different than straight people... If everyone came 'out of their closets,' there wouldn’t be so many angry, frustrated, frightened people.

People who are not ashamed of what they are, are more lovable, kind and understanding. It’s not easy to be honest about what you are — in fact it takes a great deal of courage. But remember, if Gay Bob has the courage to come out his closet, so can you."

 

The public reaction to the doll was completely swamped in controversy, especially since being gay at during the late 70's was still viewed as taboo.

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

Ann Landers, a famous Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist, wrote that the acceptance of such a doll would lead to other "disgusting" dolls like "Priscilla the Prostitute" and "Danny the Dope Pusher."

The doll was also given the "Dubious Achievement Award" in 1978 by Esquire magazine – a category that celebrates "mendacity, mediocrity, and moronic behavior."

Gay Bob was definitely ahead of his time, and instead of being praised for becoming a trailblazer for LGBTQ representation, he was criticized and mocked like most members of the LGBTQ community during the 70's.

Although Gay Bob's premiere was rather bleak, he did inspire the creation of other queer dolls such as Rhogit-RhogitZhdrick & Tiimky, Billy, Carlos & Tyson, and Earring Magic Ken.

(Photo: Magic Earring Ken on Pinterest)

(Photo: Magic Earring Ken/Pinterest)

Sadly, Gay Bob is no longer circulating the mass market, and it doesn't look like he'll make a return anytime soon. But in the meantime, if you want to get your hands on Gay Bob, you can definitely find a few dolls sitting in their cardboard closets on eBay.

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

(Photo: Christy Havranek)

Read More -> This drag queen created 365 different pop culture-inspired looks in 2016

By Xavier Piedra, published on 01/02/2017

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