Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Monster High: Inner Monsters
A couple weeks ago, I talked about Monster High's Secret Creepers, and how they fly in the face of the starkly divided toy industry I grew up with. I also recently talked about Mutagen Man. Both of these things are going to be relevant here.
At first glance, Monster High's "Inner Monster" dolls look like any other, fairly ordinary girly dolls, but you may already notice one or two oddities if you look closely. One of those oddities is that the hair we can see on her is just a cardboard cut-out.
It's an amazingly convincing cardboard cut-out, too. If I were someone's grandparents trying to pick out what I thought was an innocent, cute fashion doll for a niece I barely visit, I might toss this in a shopping cart and wrap it up without ever noticing that anything is amiss. Amiss like this:
When I reviewed the Secret Creepers, I talked a bit about how the toy industry is still run by people who think only the menliest manboymens enjoy monsters, bugs or guts, while "girl" kids are to be sold only the most unaggressive rainbow kitten doily people marketing can cook up, all the time. I see you there, rolling your eyes. Have you ever worked at a store that sells toys for any length of time? Or even shopped in them regularly? If you have, you've almost definitely seen parents even now refusing to let their girls get some damned legos or their boys get any kind of stuffed animal. There are already parents who think Monster High dolls are a corruptive occult influence or just that they're too violent for girls, and if you come to bogleech for lighthearted monster fun instead of being reminded how hard people suck, you probably don't want to visit those links.
The point is, I thought it was surprising enough that the "girl toy" market now included a snake, a scarab beetle or a zombie puppy with a visible brain, but now, the same people who have churned out a constant stream of barbies for half a century are selling a doll of a human being with the entire top of her head sliced off... and that's just for starters.
Let's take a look at some of the accessories.
First, we've got an alternate, clip-on face and the doll's real hair, but it's way more fun to just put those together and make her a terrifying, eyeless, floating head sister. The mask fits into the rubber scalp nice and snug. Not an intentional feature, but I'm sure some kids will figure this out on their own. Two ghastly phantasms for the price of one!
Moving on, there are two things in this set that can clip onto the doll's back; a pair of flaming wings, if you prefer the disturbing anatomical archangel look, and these things; a set of gnarled, hooked arthropod legs with worm-like tentacle clips and even a bony insect body at the center, almost like its own entire parasitic bug creature. I can't believe I'm able to use those words to fairly describe part of a Mattel fashion doll.
Look how unwholesome this thing already looks. You might have noticed her eyes changing - they rotate when you press the brain in. Whiny weiner parents thought "Franky Stein" looked too demonic for their kids? Do they know about this? She already wouldn't look out of place in a music video or a horror manga, and we haven't even gotten into her biggest selling point, what makes this line even more outrageous than if Jem and all the Holograms were melted into one ghoulish blob.
The doll also comes with a set of eight incredibly tiny, colorful charms, referred to by the package as her "emotions." These "emotions" include an assortment of different skulls, a valentine heart, a bunch of dripping, angry ghost hearts, a coiled up snake that kind of looks more like a set of intestines, an entire little pink ghost and a smiling, carnivorous purple flower. Already, these are almost as bad-ass as the inclusion of those mutant crab legs....but what are they for?
To find out, we have to take this thing's clothes off, and that's where it gets all sorts of creepy, but fortunately only the cool, healthy kind of creepy. The "innards visible through transparent flesh" kind of creepy, which you'll recall is one of my ten or fifteen favorite kinds of them all. And it's not just that her torso is a transparent membrane, oh no.
That ectoplasmic chassis is removable, because the only thing children enjoy more than being able to see through something's tissues is being able to peel them off. This is incredibly unsettling.
The "emotions," as you may have guessed, are intended to go in the various holes drilled through her skeleton, allowing kids to customize her guts with assorted spooky symbionts. Getting the plastic shell back on can be tricky, but they designed her limbs to pop out of their sockets so you would have an easier time opening her torso and filling her bones with snakes. I loved every moment of being able to type that.
So here's our final, haunting guro demon, more fearsome, lethal and stylish looking than even most of those Mcfarlane toys I reviewed earlier. Even the Mutagen Man on action figure shelves right now isn't quite this grisly. This is a fashion doll so hardcore, you even get to dress up her viscera. It's even kind of presumed that you'll cover all that up with her punk hair and awesome spooky heart-ghost top, so you don't even rearrange her organs to necessarily show them off. You just do it because.
There are two other dolls in this selection thus far, and while I think I chose the one that looks the coolest, it's worth noting that one of the other ones features octopus tentacles, and even more fantabulously, a cluster of frowning worms to stick in her stomach. Seriously. Right now, as I type this, you can go to Toys R' Us, turn down the aisles with all the La La Loopsies and Twilight Dashes, and get yourself - or your kids - a doll of a teenage girl with parasitic worms. I just...I don't even know what to say. I'm in awe. The people designing these are clearly sick to death of the saccharine, milquetoast drivel long thrust upon approximately half of all children, and are taking full advantage of the line's success to just keep pushing the envelope further.
Still think it's no big deal? Let me just mention that when I was a kid, there used to be church groups that would even get to talk on mainstream, televised news about the children's toys they thought were "evil" every holiday season, and I shit you not, there was one year that the #1 menace on their list was the Toonsylvania toy line. I was there when goofy, cartoon Frankensteinians with arms you could pop oft were accused of being too grotesque for children to play with...and those were still marketed "for boys," under the notion that they're the only ones who have any business taking an interest in anything dark and scary.
THE FACE OF EVIL
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