Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Why Monster High is Great
I try not to eat food from Mcdonald's, if I can help it, but the last time I found myself hungry at four in the morning, I noticed an advertisement for this year's Halloween Happy Meal treat buckets, a tradition that has come and gone since at least the early eighties.
And like many "Happy Meal" offerings over the years, the treat pails are available in two alternative sets: one intended to be enjoyed by "boys" and the other targeting "girls." We are going to take a look at them, and I want to know if you can guess what's got me so impressed:
We are looking at something that has absolutely never, never happened before in our lifetimes. Do you get it yet? The "boys" get "Angry Birds: Star Wars" buckets for Halloween. "Girls" get "Monster High." Think carefully. Think about what's different here.
I'm not putting down Star-Wars themed "Angry Birds" or the people who enjoy them, I'm really really not, but I think it's obvious which option here is more hardcore, and above all else, actually Halloween themed. For the very first time in the history of Happy Meal Gender Binary, little girls get the horror motif. Not princesses. Not ponies. The little girl buckets are the ones with the corpses on them.
Anybody who has ever shopped for toys knows that the market is starkly divided between two depressingly traditionalist views on human gender. Toys for "male" children encompass everything we associate with action and adventure; Jedi knights, mutant turtles, robotic dinosaurs and undead dragons. Meanwhile, "female" children are the target of aggressive marketing from an entire separate toy industry, built completely on the idea that your dick-free progeny are only interested - or only should be interested - in clothes, shoes, babies, ponies, kittens, babies, flowers, babies, babies, make-up, babies, babies and fucking babies.
This has been the norm for so long, in so much of the world, that manufacturers are seldom brave enough to risk breaking these narrow restrictions, and to keep that money flowing the same old reliable way, they reinforce at every opportunity that this divide is a natural, psychologically healthy phenomenon. Millions of parents were raised under this very impression, and to this day, many parents actively forbid their children from playing with certain toys according to their biological sex, which makes about as much sense as restricting the kind of foods they can eat according to their hair color.
"Monster High" isn't above the same criticisms as other thin, spindly, Hollywood-perfect children's dolls, but as a monster dweeb, I can tell you that no matter what they may look like, the simple fact that monsters are "in" with little girls right now is a BIG step in a great direction. When I was a kid in the 80's, a girly fashion doll of a fucking skeleton would have ABSOLUTELY never flown. Not even close. You would have probably been laughed right out of Mattel's office.
It may not be so true today, but I can recall a time when a girlchild was considered "unhealthy" and "abnormal" if they happened to like invertebrates or reptiles more, or even as much, as horses and dolphins. Now, the same people who make Barbie make a snake woman doll and they sell it to the same exact demographic. Many of the dolls even include pets; pets like snakes, bats, piranhas and sewn-together dead dogs. In the pink toy aisle.
Here's one from one of their "build-a-monster" sets. Can you tell what monster this is supposed to be? Did you guess the blob? Do you think you are anywhere near as tickled as I am that a "girly" toy is modeled after a giant mass of alien protoplasm that engulfs screaming, living victims and dissolves them alive? And her hair is fucking adorable.
The plant here is probably another of my favorites, if only because of her little pal. For the longest time as a child, I was on a never-ending quest for carnivorous plant toys, and I never found a damn one, but if I were a kid today, there'd be one sitting right alongside Beach Party Ken and the damn Bratz. My friend Lucy sent me a "Chewlian" of my own, and I appreciate it more than any grown man probably should.
On a side note, however, I'd like to mention that this very same friend just so happened to come up with an undead fashion doll line years before Monster High, graduated from a design school specializing in toys and actually did pitch her idea to Mattel in person, who totally rejected the concept at the time for probably being too dark. Whether anybody directly cribbed her idea is a can of worms for another day, but I thought it was at least interesting.
I know this is a pretty short post and it isn't saying anything that another thousand people haven't probably said, but every so often, I do get asked what I actually think about this series. Some people, for whatever reason, value my dumb opinions when it comes to monsters, and I just want those people to know that Monster High has 100% of my support. It may not be perfect, but its success has already paved the way for imitators. It has proven that, yes, girls like dead things too, and I think that's just gosh-darn swell.