Last night I watched an episode of Angel (Redefinition, it was okay) in which the vampires Darla and Dru establish themselves as the only evil game in town. They troll the seedy hangouts of LA’s demon culture, letting the world know: you’re with them or you’re not, and if you’re not they’ll kill you. As modern vampire characters go, Darla and Dru are terrifying. They are sexy, they are powerful and they are straight-up evil. I love them.
They are not harmless dolls.
I am quiet interested in the the cultural acclimation of genre, and nothing hits that subject more directly than Monster High dolls, which are the second highest-selling doll in the world, behind Barbie. Goth meets Barbie makes for big money:
“Goth Barbie. Not only does such a thing exist, but after Barbie, it’s the best-selling doll in the world. The dolls of Monster High are bone-thin beauties all related to famous monsters. They come with books and Web episodes that follow their stories in that place where everyone feels like a freak — in high school.”
Made by Mattel, which also makes Barbie and Hotwheels and Matchbox and Fisher Price and all your board games, etc, the Monster High dolls represent the massive success of mainstream culture-friendly products meant to aid that feeling of isolation and difference that accompanies being a kid (or did me, anyway). But with the twist of cashing in on the ever-increasing popularity of monsters and vampires and zombies. Who could be more lonely and misunderstood than a monster? Monster Highs’ success presumably does not shock anyone. Vampire heart-throbs and teenage zombie romances can only inevitably lead to vampire and zombie dolls.
Are these dolls harmful for girls and boys? I don’t know. Really I don’t even know what that means. The dolls themselves appear to be as inspired by Tim Burton or Edward Gorey sketches as they do Barbies. The inspiration gap between Monster High and my Deathrow Marv and Edward Scissorhands action figures really isn’t that great when it comes right down to it (well, maybe Deathrow Marv is a leap). The idea of a young girl–my future daughter, perhaps–playing with goth dolls inspired by classic horror novels does not bother me nearly as much as the thought of a Ken and Barbie in the red convertible. Perhaps this is meaningless parental justification at work. I’m already crafting my 2-month old son’s comic book collection to my preference for his preference. Am I not just choosing for him or her, when really, a skinny little doll is another skinny little doll.
And Monster High’s girls are about the skinniest toy I have ever seen.
Never having seen the episodes of Monster High that accompany the purchase of these boney dolls, I cannot speak for certain. But somehow I doubt that the vampires and creatures of the Monster High are as evil and terrifying as Darla and Dru in Angel. They are plasticized images of harmless ‘horror,’ given harmless plots with toothless characters: Frankie Stein is “clumsy, polite, kind, and a good friend to have”; Draculara is a vegan and is “scared to say the word “blood”, and the beautifully named Spectra Vondergeist “is the gossip monger of the school”.
Still, even if these dolls are bone-thin, and even if they are boring and represent the least creative vision of alternative/fantasy culture for the express purpose of mass production and are made by the makers of Barbie, Monster High are not Barbie. They are not buxom and blonde women who are made to order for any occasion or job or activity. They are individual monsters finding comfort in the arms of other monsters, looking for a place in the world.
And that’s not that different from what Darla and Dru are doing. Only with a little less murder and evil.
Anyway. Screw Mattel. Buy these.