Day 20: Lessons in Monster High Dolls as a Teachable Moment

Tricks are for kids? I object!

Tricks are for kids? I object!

There are 5 Monster High dolls hidden in my closet. Yes, hidden. Because I dislike these dolls. The reason they are in my house in the first place is because they were gifts from well-meaning family members. So the girls got them for Christmas because the dolls are indeed very popular at the moment. This really bothers me (not so much that they were given the dolls, not everyone analyzes things the way I do and I’ve accepted that), It bothers me that the dolls are made and marketed toward elementary school girls and that it’s working. Almost every girl in my daughter’s third grade class has at least one.

In case you are not familiar with these dolls, let me paint you a picture. Picture Barbie. Now starve Barbie, beat Barbie down, sex her up, then give her opiates until she becomes mired in a cycle of drug addiction that leads her to make her living on the streets. Monster High dolls are taller and skinnier than Barbie, their feet are permanently on point so they can wear boots designed to dance around poles (in other words, “stripper boots”). They are based on spooky characters, I guess they are actually supposed to be monsters, so they are pasty and have big heads with scars all over their arms. Some of them have pointy ears and teeth and they all share a vacant, mid-distant stare. What a lovely toy for my eight year old.

When I picture the designers of Monster High dolls (and so many other sexed-up Tinkerbell type toys marketed to young girls) I picture the brat pack of young copywriters on Mad Men. I picture them laughing, high-fiving each other and saying, “…and then we’ll put them in thigh high black vinyl boots!” Even the name seems to have double meaning. They are monsters and they go to “Monster High”, they also happen to look like they’re high! Charming.

But parenting today is all about teachable moments, isn’t it? Because I can hide the dolls (which my kids barely noticed, honestly, they are more into Japanese erasers and stuffed animals than dolls anyway), but my kids, like most kids, are bombarded with these types of images daily. So before the last one disappeared into my closet (I tried to accept these dolls as playthings for my children but just couldn’t) the girls and I discussed her look. We agreed that she is awfully thin and that her shoes look uncomfortable. We also agreed that her tunic is kind-of cute and that she could very well be a nice person. I couldn’t really get into my issues about her looking like the stereotypical version of a sex worker because, for this beautiful moment in time, my girls don’t really know that’s a thing. And we’re going to keep it that way a little longer.

8 thoughts on “Day 20: Lessons in Monster High Dolls as a Teachable Moment

  1. I’m with you, Paris. Artfully made – and cartoony – on the plus side at least she has calves. But the pink heart purse with bats is so hello goth kitty that I would have thought this was more aimed at adolescent collectors (boys too) who are culturally and self-aware, with sense of humor, and old enough to get IN to see zombie/vampire flicks and have their own *deep* conversations about sex and symbolism, and be all “sex and death” etc. But sexualizing young ones is pervasive and NOT ok. I had a hard time in my day with Barbies and wouldn’t let my little girl have them until relatives ignored my wishes and gave her a couple at Christmas. I came to realize her play with them was pretty much like my own play and fantasies with ballerina and “princess” dolls had been. Inevitable in our culture . So we had the talks about bodies and what they really look like, etc.It did NOT help that her 1st grade teacher LOOKED like Barbie AND was wonderful:-)

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    • That’s exactly it, Connie. These dolls are pretty cool looking in some ways. I appreciate some of the clothes and the moveable joints, this one was fun to photograph for this post, and it’s obviously okay for adults to put on platform boots and do whatever the heck they want with them. But I do feel what they represent is an adult sexuality. Do the dolls sexualize young girls or infantilize young women? I don’t know, but something about seeing my eight year old with one made me uneasy and for me, that’s enough.

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      • Right after you wrote this, I went to a birthday party for a 7-year-old who has developed a new affinity for morbid kinds of things and I knew she would love these. I, however, agree that they are inappropriate in what they represent. The girls mom is also not a fan. The last present she opened was a Monster High doll-I stifled a giggle. I don’t envy her mom the new parenting decision she’s faced with….

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