Saturday, January 3, 2015

Monster High: Moving Forward to the Past?

A few of my granddaughter's Monster High dolls with a couple of friends.
I became aware of Monster High last summer when my 9 year old granddaughter came to visit for a couple of weeks. Living several hundred miles away and only seeing her once a year if I’m lucky, I wanted to learn about her interests and, hopefully, find some common interests that we could share. She pulled several Monster High dolls out of her suitcase, so I had her introduce me to, what I learned was, the Monster High marketing franchise. She enthusiastically told me their names and explained that she follows them on YouTube. Having disconnected my satellite TV the year before I was no longer subject to the constant barrage of advertisements and TV shows that were themselves 30 minute advertisements, that have become much more common and aggressively marketed since the 60s when I was a kid. 

Having had a love of gothic horror since childhood, running home from school each weekday to watch Dark Shadows and catching Creature Feature over the weekend, I was intrigued and hopeful to hear that there’s a cartoon about the offspring of all the classic horror monsters I’d grown up watching. How cool is that! Whoever dreamed up this concept is a genius! Imagine the possibilities for adventure, mystery and magic! Could it be better than Eddie Munster, Wednesday and Pugsley Addams, Ratso and Bratso from the Groovy Ghoulies? I imagined the daughter of Dracula being hunted by and confounding the daughter of Van Helsing with some help from the daughters of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and the Mummy! 

Alas, after watching the movie, Frights, Camera, Action, I was disappointed to learn that not a drop of genius was used in dreaming up Monster High unless the marketing angle is considered. The inventors simply put a new twist on classic characters and borrowed the school for ghouls idea from HarryPotter and merged it with high school from a 50s movie with a fashion upgrade. I was appalled that the marketing leaders in our country are forcing adolescents back into the oppressive 50s’ gender roles where boys are free to pursue whatever activities and adventures they want while the girls limit themselves to groups who define their interests within the realm of competition over appearance, fashion and nurturing their “mansters.” 

Even though there are a few women in congress and a few women CEOs in our country, our little girls are being brainwashed to return and confine and limit themselves to return home to the kitchens of Donna Reed and June Cleever by way of Lily Munster and Morticia Addams. The Monster High girls neither rebel against the restrictions and limitations of traditional 50s double standards for boys and girls by partying and competing in games side-by-side with the boys like in the movie about teens in the 70s, Dazed and Confused, or teens breaking through the conventions of accepted behavior and social class restrictions in the movie The Breakfast Club. No, they quietly look pretty and well-dressed while the boys fulfill themselves and enjoy personal growth with games, magical powers and competitions.

One of the series’ mottos found on the Monster High website is to “celebrate your freaky flaws.” I couldn’t find any freaky flaws on any of the glamorous financially privileged students unless it refers to their “genetic” physical attributes common to their particular monster lineage. Only in superficial materialistic capitalist societies like ours would naturally inherited physical traits be considered flaws. I’m sure it won’t be long before my beautiful granddaughter starts hating at least one of her natural features just as her mother, grandmother, great grandmother and her other female ancestors did. 

Admittedly, Monster High does promote some good moral values like loyalty, friendship and compassion for all living things; however, it confines girls to antiquated stereotypes defining them as materialistic, superficial eye candy who compete for the ultimate reward of attention and admiration from the boys.

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