The Theology of Uglydolls

I have a collection of Uglydolls in my office. I love them, love the Uglydolls.

But I get some puzzled questions from time to time when people come into my office. The other day Geo, my Graduate Assistant, asked me point blank, "Why do you collect Uglydolls?"

"Because I'm a Christian," I answered with a smile.

She looked puzzled. So I explained.

"If Jesus had a doll what kind of doll would it be? It'd be an ugly doll, right? Jesus would pick the most unattractive doll and love it."

If you don't know about Uglydolls they are a brand of stuffed "dolls" that sort of look like monsters. They are also made to look a little dirty. You can look at some of the Uglydolls at their website. Some of my favorite Uglydolls are Ice-Bat, Ox, and Chuckanucka.

Pretty awesome, right?

And I'm not kidding about the Christian theology angle. I'm legitimately interested in Uglydolls because of what they represent. Something ugly being embraced with love.

Because really, if we'd admit it, aren't we all Uglydolls?

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16 thoughts on “The Theology of Uglydolls”

  1. I've written a parable of sorts about the "ugliest princess in all the land." I completely get what you are saying.

  2. This reminds me of a point that's been floating around in my head for a while: being a Christian is inconvenient, because it seems I'm often letting others drive how I spend my time. And if I'm not being inconvenienced, I'm making myself more important than others.

  3. Is pretty going to become the new ugly? I recently showed my kids a film at school called 2081: Everyone Will Finally Be Equal, from a short story based on Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. The pretty people were forced to wear mask in some cases.

  4. The extreme, confusing struggle we face is that there are times when we are walking and talking with God, looking the world right in the eye, announcing boldly, "Yes, I'm ugly, I'm gloriously ugly!" Then, there are the wounding, crippling days that hold a mirror in front of us, and we cry, "Oh, no. How ugly". That is when we want to curl up, alone, with God. And that's OK; we're held until another glorious day.

  5. Richard, dare I say I think you've been conned? Quite apart from the fact that Uglydolls is a business, doing what businesses generally do - i.e., doing whatever it takes to make money - the marketing itself is a classic example of bait-and-switch. For the commodity that is being sold as ugly is not, in fact, ugly at all. The advertisement at the website explicitly, and to purpose, spins ugliness as the "unique and different", marked by "twists and turns", which turns out to be - "real beauty"! Real ugliness, however, must remain implacably ugly, i.e., horrifying and repugnant, it cannot be repackaged as delightful and attractive. And, sure enough, the dolls themselves are actually - cute! They are "monsters" only as the Cookie Monster is a monster, i.e., they are not really monstrous at all.

    For a theology of ugliness, I think you've already provided an important resource, viz., your outstanding book Unclean, with its important socio-psychological insights about purity (beauty?) and disgust (ugliness?). And, of course, biblically, the icon of ugliness is the Cross, the Crucified ("one from whom others hide their faces" - Isaiah 53:3c) surrounded by flies and rats, filthy denizens of the Golgotha Garbage Dump. Christians may want to redefine this ugliness as beauty, but it will be - and remain - a strange and counter-intuitive beauty - and our encounter with it, as Flannery O'Connor observed about grace, will always begin with "recoil" - i.e., with an abhorrence commensurate with the abhorrent. Or to read the famous fairy tale theologically, the Ugly Duckling turns out to be just that - a butt-ugly duckling who will become a butt-ugly drake, not a cygnet who will become a cob!

    On the other hand, maybe I have completely misread you! In any case, I offer this critique in friendship and good faith.

  6. "So, let us move forward with faith in ourselves, in our intelligence, in our indomitable spirit. Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace violence and intolerance with understanding and compassion. And Love."

  7. Yes, we are all ugly dolls. However, some of us do not see that! Only Jesus' indwelling makes us beautiful! One 'saying' is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' I wonder what God sees as He looks at me?

  8. Several years ago, one summer Sunday, the hymn for the recessional was "All Creatures Great and Small." The verses in the hymnal ended as we choir members processed on back to our chairs, and continued singing the verses as written by Monty Python. One old lady noticed and laughed, and the priest (who did not laugh), No one else. I still say it's theologically sound.

  9. A few more Christians with a Monty Python sense of humor is exactly what we need. I have always believed that religious people who have an irreverent edge have some of the sharpest minds and tender souls. Though I do have a few relatives and old church friends who would give me the "glare" for saying that.

  10. Being a Hello Kitty kinda girl myself, I dunno, I think those dolls are pretty darn ugly and creepy. Elmo they ain't.

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