GETTING CURIOUS | Why Do We Play With Dolls? with Freyja Hartzell


Dolls play a huge part in our childhoods. Whether it was your best friend, or it gave you the creeps, your doll probably had some role in making you who you are today. This week, Getting Curious is getting all dolled up! Freyja Hartzell joins Jonathan to talk about disability representation in dolls, why some kids harm their dolls, and what makes play so important. Plus, she shows us perhaps the creepiest doll we’ve ever seen.

Freyja Hartzell teaches the history of modern design, architecture, and art at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. She’s currently writing a new book about dolls, robots, and AI–Doll Parts: Designing Likeness. She’s also working on a related exhibition called Dollatry, which will open at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in February 2025.

You can learn more about Freyja’s work on her website. Her book, Richard Riemerschmid’s Extraordinary Living Things (MIT Press, 2022) can be found here. You can find more information about Tanya Marriott, the toy designer mentioned in the episode, here. You can learn more about Robin Bernstein’s work, here.

You can find links to the audio clips played in the episode, here:

Thomas Edison Talking Doll

Barbie Liberation Organization

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Transcripts for each episode are available at

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Our producer is Chris McClure. Our associate producer is Allison Weiss. Our engineer is Nathanael McClure. Production support from Julie Carrillo, Anne Currie, and Chad Hall.

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Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness