Spill Writing

Island of Toys (Howl Yuan)


When I was younger I had this, this, this doll. Lisa. She had. Red hair. She. She looked like me. When I was younger that is. She was the only doll that I had ever seen in my childhood who had red hair. Like me. I grew up in the nineties. So the time of. Of Barbies. They all had blonde hair and blue eyes.    Not me.

Lisa taught me that I was ok to have red hair. That I had an identity and it was represented all in her. But, when I started longing for other toys: Barbies, Furbies, the new exciting Tamagotchi, I began to forget this important identity. I began to want to be and look like these other things.

Lisa’s one of my only toys left. I keep her in my wardrobe in my home back in Sydney. I don’t really remember her all that often. And I can’t remember when I stopped holding her and playing with her. I just know. That one day…it stopped.

An Asian man in a buzz lightyear suit sets up toy soldiers on the ground as we enter the small room. 

His suit has other toys- mini toy airplanes and chameleons that poke their tongue out- stuck onto him. He shares his experiences of toys when he was younger in a recording; before inviting me to share my own experience, which he records.

This piece speaks to and for the child within me. My memory of the capitalist objects, which I was told through magazines and on the Disney channel that I needed to buy to be accepted, to belong. These objects define my identity and memory of my childhood. The importance it placed on who I would become and how that little burning fire of who I am when I was a kid has grown to this moment.

It makes me think about how my red hair is so much apart of who I am. How having my doll, Lisa, formed part of me. In the midst of distraction of other things, she kept me grounded, reminding me: it is ok to be who I am.

It is so liberating to hear someone talk about the time in which I grew up- the nineties. To share a space with other people my age who also grew up in that time. To speak about my childhood and the dreams I had then; to recall the memory of the hope of what life would become. It is also so very painful to think just how capitalism has consumed our lives. We bought into it when we were younger with our toys. But now. We are victims of that same society we longed to be part of.

I continue to buy things and clothes I don’t need. Countless of them. In an effort to look beautiful or successful or attractive or sexy. As Tonight The Night’s piece tells us. The same burning flame I had when I was younger, now fires up in my new obsessions of clothes and other consumable objects. Capitalism tells me that to be myself and to have an identity, I must buy these objects that I will eventually throw away when I no longer want them anymore.  Just as capitalism wants me. I repeat the cycle.

We consume capitalism. And we let it thrive. Because we have been taught that to be ourselves we buy things to represent ourselves. Our parents let us believe this when we were children. It is fundamental to who we are. Yet it is the cause of:

The difficulties of affording our own houses, or having a substantially paying job straight out of uni. The stress of being beautiful, or finding love. The debt of uni. Our future is decided for us by our parents who we looked up to when we were younger. These are the same people who voted to leave the EU. These are the same people who invoked higher prices on our education. These are the same people who created a recession.

And so, I think about this doll that my parents had bought me when I was younger, and I think…

what kind of world am I living in?  what kind of world will I create for my kids?

-Michelle