Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Valley of the Dolls

The decor here is overtly feminine, even girlish in a childlike manner. Everywhere you look are bright pinks and sky blues, soft lighting and toys... lots of toys. In normal circumstances you can call it cute, but I find it oddly unsettling as I stand alone in its surroundings, waiting for my hostesses to come for me. Soon, the rhythmic click of high heel shoes approach and I become more nervous.

A woman with wild, corkscrew hair appears. She looks at me, almost accusingly with one hand on a cocked hip and the other holding the end of a lollipop that protrudes from her bright purple lips. After what seems like an eternity she says, "I'm Marti".... "Yes, I know," I reply. "We've met before." She squints at me as if I've said the wrong thing, but rather than reprimand me, she simply says "Let's go" and turns her back to me. I hesitate a moment before following. "You've got five minutes," she says over her shoulder, "so you better play nice."

This time there was no invitation in the mail, no clandestine meeting and no masks to conceal their identities. This time it was me who reached out to them and to my surprise, they accepted. Our last meeting left me with more questions than it did answers but at least, two weeks ago on Impact, some of those questions were answered. The Dollhouse.... that's what they call themselves – a gang of three attractive yet deadly women, who had preached to me that they were going to bring change to the TNA Knockouts Division, were now doing just that and whilst last time I wanted to know who they were, this time I wanted to know why they were. What purpose does this "house" serve?

[Read Part 1 - Playing with Dolls]

Marti leads me to a room which can only be described as a boudoir. It is atmospheric; scented candles burn and all around the room are bowls of candy. In this place, Jade, her blue/black pigtails hanging down around her face, sits at a children's desk that is far too small for her athletic, womanly frame. As I enter the room she pays no attention to me but rather seems to be drawing on a page with a crayon. I stretch my neck to see what the picture is without getting too close but before I can, I jump, startled by the voice behind me.

"Did you come alone?"

A beautiful blonde with an appearance almost as striking as the championship gold on her shoulder steps out from behind me.

"Yes, Taryn, I did," I reply.

"Good," she says, before taking a seat on a leather recliner between Jade and Marti. "So what do you want to know?"

My mind races with a dozen questions but before I can ask one, the Knockouts Champion fires back, "because whatever it is, you can forget it. I'm going to tell you what you need to know."

Already I can see that in this house, I'm not in control and the smart thing would be to let the women who are in control, say what they have to say.

"What you're seeing on Impact Wrestling is the beginning of a new era for women's wrestling," Taryn says. "For too long this industry has treated women like play things, rag dolls to be pulled out, dressed up and made to look, act and wrestle in a certain way. Then, when the industry is finished with them, they are thrown away, discarded like an old toy. For generations we have watched as our sisters sacrificed their bodies, their hearts... only to be mocked, degraded and used – and for what? For an industry that doesn't care about them? We're here to change that."

"Do you hate this industry?" I nervously ask.

The question obviously tickles Taryn because she laughs. "No," she says boldly. "No, I love it, and The Dollhouse are going to make it better than it's ever been. But don't try and tell me that when people look at me, they don't just see blonde hair and big boobs."

I don't argue this because sadly, to a lot of misguided people, that is all they see in Taryn Terrell. For many, that's all they see in women's wrestling, period.

"I know," she continues "that this business wants me to be a nice little dolly, to smile and to slap hands and for far too long, I did that, but not anymore. Where did all that slapping hands and being a goody two shoes get me?"

I stupidly suggest that maybe her good attitude contributed towards her reaching the levels of Knockouts Champion, but Taryn is quick to shoot that down.

"I don't have this championship because of my attitude, and I damn sure don't have it because of my looks. I have it because I earned it."

At this point, Jade giggles to herself but does not break her concentration from her drawing. I stare at her briefly, trying to figure out what's going on in the mind of one of TNA's newest Knockouts, but that seems like a job I don't have time for today, so I return to my questions.

"Why now?" I ask. "Why start by taking out Awesome Kong? I mean, Kong has made a career out of going against what this industry expects women to be. Wouldn't she be a good addition to the Dollhouse? Or Gail Kim, for that matter?"

"This is not some kind of social club," Taryn snaps. "You don't just become a doll, you earn it."

"What about Jade and Marti? Have they earned it?"

With a wry smile, Taryn cryptically says, "You have to climb a lot of mountains to reach the valley of the dolls."

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I've heard that before.

"Okay, so what's next?" I ask. "Where is The Dollhouse going from here?"

The Knockouts Champion rises from her leather throne and steps forward until we are face to face, and I immediately forget what I'd asked. Instead I am captivated by her beauty. Taryn has always been beautiful, but now there is something extra, something unspoken about her. It's in her body language, her mannerisms. She has the confidence of someone who is finally being herself, after years of pretending to be someone else.

"Ask me again why we took out Kong first," she prompts.

"Why did you take out Kong first?" I repeat.

"Because she is the biggest and the baddest and when you want to make a statement, you take out people like that. Just like you do when you take out legends like Gail Kim. Just like you do when you send nosy, opinionated writers away with a special message."

Marti and Jade rise from where they sit and join Taryn in front of me. I am so distracted by what they're doing that I don't notice that the two women have something in their hands. Taryn smiles and winks at me, making me more afraid than it should. Quickly, Jade and Marti grab one of my arms each and hold me in place. I struggle to free myself, but their grip is deceptively strong. Taryn takes the piece of paper from Jade that she had been drawing on, and stuffs it into my pocket. Taryn then is handed something from Marti which she conceals in her hand..

"I want you to go back with a message for the Knockouts Division. Post it on your little website or do what you want, but make sure they know... The Dollhouse are here and we are not here to play."

With that, Taryn reaches up with her elegant, manicured fingers, opens my mouth and stuffs a jawbreaker into it. Marti and Jade release their grip and all three women cackle manically at me. My time, in the Valley of the Dolls, is over.

It is only hours later when I am back home and alone, that I remember the piece of paper that had been stuffed in my pocket. I take it out and unfold it in front of me. What I thought had been a picture that Jade had been drawing is actually a list. It is a list of names that The Dollhouse plan to rid TNA of and at the very top are Awesome Kong and Gail Kim... but there are others too, and if people think The Dollhouse are playing around, they're about to find out otherwise.