You can’t always judge a magazine by its cover, especially when it comes to Vanity Fair.
Once you get past whatever celebrity graces the cover and the parade of glossy ads pitching the latest in lifestyle and fashion choices, a selection of excellent writing ranging from politics to science, arts, opinion and culture lies within.
It was Tina Brown who rose above the glass canopy when she took over as editor in 1983 to steer the monthly in a bold new direction. With her hand at the helm until 1992, Vanity Fair hired new writers who raised the periodical’s literary standards, and the shadow of Brown’s fingerprints hover over the magazine to this day.
An article in the May 2015 edition that the bride brought home from our local library caught my wandering eye. I found it buried inside despite the initial distraction of a cover pitching a feature and photo spread on Sophia Vergara, who I consider visual Viagra.
The article, Dawn of the SEXBOTS, takes an in-depth dive into the work of Matt McMullen, the artist and owner behind Abyss Creations, the manufacturer of RealDolls.
These silicone sirens look so lifelike that I would wager a month’s salary that you couldn’t pick one out of a crowd if it was dressed up sitting on a bus or reading Vanity Fair in a doctor’s office.
I’ll double that wager to bet that most of the people who shell out $3,500 to $10,000 for one of McMullen’s creations have limited interest in what the dolls are wearing as well.
RealDolls serves up a selection of 11 different body types and 31 faces, including some celebrities, with their stamp of approval. The attention to detail in each doll is underscored by the fact there are 40 types of nipples to choose from. McMullen, who sells six to 10 of these personalized Barbie-like creations a month, also offers a selection of Ken dolls, which may or may not explain why one in 10 of his customers are women.
Before you quickly dismiss people who purchase these products as a bunch of whack jobs, I must point out that a writer, ironically named George Gurley, interviewed several owners, including a well-known author who spoke intelligently and candidly about the reasons behind his decision to pick one up.
Reading the article and perusing Jonathan Becker’s startling selection of photos does raise issues, for sure. Dr. Henrik Christensen, chair of the European Robotic Network in the Royal Institute of Technology at the University of Stockholm, provided his perspective in 2006 that humans would be having sex with robots within five years.
While that turned out to be ahead of the curve, an expert in a Pew Research Center report predicted in 2014 that robotic sex partners would be mainstream by 2025. He did, however, add that the popularity would be initially greeted with the kind of scorn critics today reserve for selfies.
Artificial intelligence expert David Levy, an international chess champion, suggested by 2050, “Robots will have the capacity to fall in love with humans and make themselves romantically attractive and sexually desirable to humans.”
At the bare minimum, it makes you wonder what’s on the horizon. With two businesses offering doll services opened already in B.C., it makes part of me wish I’d copyrighted rentaraunchyrobot.com when it first crossed my mind.
Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.