Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker

Does Monster High Teach Kindness?

It was recently announced that Mattel’s Monster High is teaming with the Kind Campaign, whose mission is stated on their website as “a movement and documentary, based upon the powerful belief in KINDness, that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl “crime”.” They are teaming up to encourage children to be kind to one another and to embrace their own imperfections and those of others. They plan to make some webisodes with the message of kindness and launch more programs. Since the Kind Campaign does go into schools, I assume that their affiliation with Monster High might also be brought into the programs and content that they share with children in the school.

First of all, let me say that I applaud the hard work and dedication that it has clearly taken for the young women who started the Kind Campaign to do so. And, I think their message is valuable and important.  So what is Monster High all about? Is this something that we want coming into our schools to be shared with our children when we are not present to help them process it? Last time I wrote about Monster High, a parent who likes the product chastised me for not talking about the products in-depth. So, I decided at that point to really explore the Monster High brand. I looked closely at the dolls themselves, spent a lot of time on their website, hunted up old press releases, and watched many, many webisodes. I’d like to share with you what I found as I looked very closely at the Monster High brand and then discuss how that relates to how I feel about this brand coming into the school system under the umbrella of the Kind Campaign.

In their press release in 2010, Mattel described Monster High as

Grounded in a fun and humorous storyline, the frighteningly fashionable students at Monster High capture all the awkward moments that teens experience in their high school years, the powerful bonds of friendship and the challenges of fitting in – all delivered through a “monster” chic aesthetic and tone.”

So, Monster High brings “monster chic” to children and talks about the trials and tribulations of high school.  Um…I’m sorry, but do high school students play with these types of dolls? In this HubPages article, the target audience for these dolls in stated to be 8-12 year olds, which sounds about right to me. In fact, 12 may be shooting a little high. I have an 11-year-old that hasn’t played with any type of doll for years.  But this article in Bloomberg Businessweek  quotes the founders of the Kind Campaign as saying, “We are excited to partner with Monster High and have the opportunity to leverage the brand’s scale to reach and relate to our target audience of teen and tween girls.”

It’s clear that the Kind Campaign is targeting tween and teen girls. I’m unsure about the Monster High brand. The clothes are in Justice, which does have sizes up to 18/20, but as the mother of three girls, I can assure you that most 16-year-old girls are not shopping at this store. From my experience and from this description, the target audience is 7-14 year old girls. Perhaps this confusion of the target audience is why we see some of the things that we do in the Monster High brand. Let me share some of what I learned with you.

Appearance

First, let’s talk about the appearance of the dolls. They have the tiny waists, curvy bodies, long, thin legs, and big heads of the Bratz dolls. Their faces are big-eyed, pointy-chinned and highly made-up. The clothing that these dolls wear is very problematic for me. Six out of six of the female characters are wearing very high-heeled shoes and four out of six are wearing very short skirts. These are not outfits that would be allowed in most schools because they would violate the dress code of even the public schools that my children attend.

I asked some tween girls what they thought of the clothes that the Monster High characters wear. These girls said some interesting things. One said that the clothes were inappropriate because they were too tight and short. Another said, “Well, they’re childish, but not.” I asked her what she meant by that, and she said, “Well, one of the girls is wearing a tutu like skirt, which is little girly. But she also has on a shirt that shows her stomach and really high heels. So, is she supposed to look like a little girl or a grown up going to a club or what? It’s confusing.”

This input from the tween girls really spoke to one of my main concerns about these characters. They are highly sexualized. Say whatever you want about the message of fitting in and celebrating differences, but each one of the main characters is dressed in clothing that looks like something that the Pussycat Dolls would wear, rather than a high school student. Even the “fearleaders” wear high heels when they’re doing stunts! This movement of the sexy into our children’s entertainment is alarming. If you want to show girls who are different learning to embrace that, why not make some of them different sizes and shapes, and ditch the sexy outfits?

Beschreibung: The Pussycat Dolls am 18.11.2006...

Image via Wikipedia

Themes

The themes of the webisodes are much like that of many shows directed at children in this age group. I watched a total of 27 webisodes for a total of 86 minutes and 19 seconds. Let me be clear that this content analysis was not a strict scientific experiment, but rather was my own personal attempt to see what kinds of themes were present in the webisodes that I watched. I wanted to see how much “kindness” and learning to love and accept your own and others differences were a part of the Monster High shows. I counted each time that I noticed a particular instance of the themes of Cruelty to Others, Popularity, Boys/Romance, Achievement, Fashion/Make-Overs, Kindness, and Friendship Problems. Overall, there were 37 instances of Cruelty to Others. This was the overwhelming theme that I encountered in these shows. The next highest number of instances was in the search for Popularity with 13 instances, 11 instances of themes of Boys/Romance, and 10 each for Kindness/Positive Friendship and Friendship Problems.

The theme that stood out to me in the Monster High episodes in general was that girls are mean to each other. There were clearly some built-in themes of Friendship and Kindness to others, but they were outweighed by the negative instances of cruel behavior. The 23 minute long episode titled New Ghoul @ School does seem to try to be getting across the message that the most important part of making friends is in being yourself. However, even a sincere apology doesn’t seem to settle the difficulties that the new girl, Frankie, is having. Only when she gets a famous singer to come and give a concert to the student body at her new school does Frankie feel like she is accepted. I’m not sure about the girls that you know, but most of the ones I know will not have the ability to offer anything beyond a sincere apology should they hurt someone’s feelings. Arranging fancy concerts with famous singers is not an option for most girls.

There are two main difficulties with Monster High teaming with the Kind Campaign and coming into schools to teach girls about kindness. The first is the clearly sexualized appearance of the characters. Their clothing is not appropriate for any school setting. In fact, it wouldn’t meet the dress code of most (if any) public schools.

The second difficulty that I have is that I honestly do not see that Monster High is teaching girls to accept their differences and embrace that of their friends. Even in the longer episode, which was clearly made to convey that message, the new girl only ended up feeling truly connected once she had practically bribed her peers to like her. While there are some positive friendship messages embedded in the show, they are not overwhelming. There tend to be “nice” characters and “mean” characters, just as there are in many children’s shows. I didn’t notice any more positivity about individual differences in these shows than I do in your average show that’s aimed at tweens.

I would submit to Mattel the argument that just because you make your characters monsters with “fatal flaws” like their legs flying off at weird times or getting weak at the thought of blood, you are not promoting acceptance of diversity. The characters do have different colored skin/fur and different accents, which is great. But they all continue to meet the thin ideal standard. There are better ways to promote diversity and acceptance than through sexualized monsters. Even in the newer episodes where the girl who was originally mean, Cleo, starts being nicer, a new group of mean girls take her place. There are better ways to promote kindness than through the use of the worn-out “mean girl” trope. To the Kind Campaign and to Mattel, I say this: Our children deserve better than Monster High.

UPDATE: In an interview with Jess Weiner, the founders of the Kind Campaign said that MH will not be coming into the schools as a part of their programming. I’m very happy to hear that! I still do not like the MH brand for the reasons stated above, and worry about the partnership diluting the Kind Campaign’s important message.

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37 comments on “Does Monster High Teach Kindness?

  1. Melissa Wardy
    May 20, 2011

    Excellent, excellent post. This pairing has me dumfounded and incensed. Ultimately, it detracts from the Kind Campaign’s messaging.

    You only get one chance to lose your integrity.

  2. As I tweeted out already, this is multi-layered marketing madness on a variety of misguided levels, including but not limited to:

    a.) body image/sexualization akin to pole dancing Pussycat Dolls a few years back; see comparison in “Vamp Tramp Toys: A Monster Problem” http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=14209

    b.) backending commercialism into schools via brandwashing by Mattel (akin to this post I wrote awhile back, “School Sit-Ups Sponsored by Soda & Snacks?” http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=87

    c.) Monster High dolls come complete with ‘personas’ already cast/created on back of box packaging (so much for free play, imagination; storyline fully developed, early childhood edu folks would have a hissy, tho they’re clearly targeting ‘tweens’–)

    d.) Monster High’s ‘kindness’ tactic of teaming with a nonprofit that appears to reflect the antithesis of MH webisodes/toys creates confusion and does damage with a supremely misguided deployment of a much-needed conversation, per the coded instances you’ve cited.

    Echoed by pros like Rosalind Wiseman and Rachel Simmons, who DO have community strongholds in parent ed/school assemblies, it’s clear we should teach civility and leadership sans toy gimmickry and be mindful of media and marketing that HINDERS rather than helps the messaging about girl on girl relational aggression. (see RW’s post on good vs bad anti-bullying PSAs: http://dld.bz/aaJsT)

    e.) As a former ad agency pro, I can say that this appears to be a cynical spinmeister maneuver to realign Mattel’s sexualized, snippy girl on girl bullying which has taken some heat in the media & marketplace by parents, and attempting to ‘reframe’ and ‘reposition the brand’ as ‘kind’ —It’s an epic ‘brand fail’ imo.

    I could go on and on with my critique of why this MH/Mattel-schools bit is a horrific idea, but I don’t want to be a blog hog, as I think you KNOW how strongly I feel about this from a media literacy run amok and afoul standpoint.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to deconstruct the data. It *will* be put to good use…Mark my words.

    “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain

    Notice Twain says nothing about cash registers going ka-ching and monetizing with sexualized silliness….Nope, Monster High is NOT remotely kind.

  3. Jennifer Shewmaker
    May 24, 2011

    Thanks, Amy! I love your point by point take on this pairing. Point d is right on the money. I can now say that I watched over an hours worth of Monster High videos and they are not about kindness, no way. I’m frankly shocked that the Kind Campaign can see it any other way. Your point e is the only way that this makes any kind of sense. Somebody in marketing is doing some repositioning. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Ronda Hansen
    May 25, 2011

    I think you are jumping to a conclusion before you know what will happen. I have seen the Finding Kind documentary and have seen the positive influence in schools where the Kind Campaign has been. I think this relationship will change and benefit Monster High. Give it a chance before you demean it. If the positive changes don’t come about, then write about it.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      May 25, 2011

      I’ve wondered too if perhaps Monster High will change their approach and truly become kind through the Kind Campaign. But why does the Kind Campaign need to partner with such a large brand that would have to make significant changes to correspond with their message? And, no matter what, I am not in favor of marketing in the school system because it takes advantage of a captive audience of children when their parents aren’t around to help them process the message. As a mother with 3 kids in schools, I would love the Kind Campaign to come to their schools, but not bringing along Monster High. I’m writing about it now in the hopes that the Kind Campaign, who I’ve emailed about this, will reconsider this partnership.

      • Exactly, Jen. My rub is not with Kind.

        I would LOVE for the Kind documentary to have wide distribution into schools, and the Kind women to spread kindness ad infinitum.

        That said, ANY affil w/Mattel MH ‘living dolls’ shifts and dilutes the msg of anti-bullying into a pay for play marketing gimmick that smacks of brandwashing via backdoor marketing access into schools. (akin to Coke red accelerometers for fitness, being ‘unbranded by name’ but infiltrating schools w/’social good’ freebies which earned ‘word of mouth’ cred/spread via educators/parents…the most trusted mouthpieces for kids around)

        That soda sponsoring situps bit was whipsmart marketing; using WOM as a mass distribution channel seeding the brand while earning trust through the community in a zero sum game that never should’ve even been on the playboard.

        @Ronda: no one wishes to ‘demean’ it’s a matter of pragmatics, transparency, and conflict of interest, pure and simple. And @Jen, re: ‘will MH become Kind’ they would HAVE to in order to remotely be plausible/sustainable, but that doesn’t negate the conundrum of commercialization in schools. “Just sayin’…”

        p.s. I’ve purposely remained in a yoga style ‘hold’ position taking a deep breath from all of this, as I DO want to give KIND the opp to respond to kids’ advocates that have approached them. Being an industry insider, I’m the toughest sell of all, as I *know* how these campaigns work, and am frankly fatigued by these subversive corporate “workarounds”… Ethics have devolved to putting profit over public health repeatedly.

  5. Jennifer Shewmaker
    May 26, 2011

    Hopefully the amazing people behind the Kind Campaign will respond to the outreach of activists. If they influence MH for the better, wonderful!! If Mattel wants to aid Kind in going to more schools, but keeps MH out of them, wonderful! I’m just sharing my concerns about this product and pairing. Hopefully we’ll hear more about their intentions soon, which will clarify this issue.

  6. Liz
    September 8, 2011

    At least it perfectly portrays what life is like later on and it teaches girls that in the end they have their friends. Believe it or not, life isn’t all sugar and rainbows. I remember learning more lessons about life and how I shouldn’t act by shows with a villian or a mean girl than I did watching something full of good with no villians or enemies. The only thing I remember from Barney was clean up after yourself and say please and thank you, from shows where people aren’t always nice I learned the power of teamwork, sharing, helping friends out, ask for help, speak up for yourself, be yourself, etc. People don’t always get along, girls will get googly eyed over boys, and no matter what they watch they will wear what they want because of what their friends have, what celebrities have, and what’s on mannequins at the mall. Get your heads out of the clouds where it’s all happiness and sunshine, shows like this work better to get the message across than sugarcoating everything and taking out any “bad influence”.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      September 8, 2011

      Liz, I’m not the one who said that Monster High was teaching kindness. Mattel did when they linked the brand to the Kind Campaign. The brand and company themselves made it public that Monster High was being used to promote kindness. Having watched the show, I never would have put kindness and Monster High together. But, since Mattel did do that, they are clearly saying this show promotes learning to be kind. From what I’ve seen, it does not.

      • Amy Jussel (@ShapingYouth)
        September 8, 2011

        Correct. Monster High does NOT remotely promote ‘kindness/acceptance’–it may try to have a ‘makeover’ by linking to it, but the webisodes you logged clearly convey catty, rude, conniving, belittling, ‘mean girl’ behavior as social norming in typical “Odd Girl Out” clique-ish dramarama that self-perpetuates.

        As Rachel Simmons notes in her forward to her update of OGO: “media portrays this behavior TEN TIMES MORE than it exists in real life”…yet this is the toxic tonic our girls are drinking w/Monster High media msgs…(be on guard/BFFs will trash/undermine you/gossip/etc) And Liz, really…I’m not one for treacly Barney-isms either (though c’mon, that’s preschool, not tweens as target markets, apples to apples por favor?)

        No one is saying Monster High needs to candy coat relationships as ‘happiness and sunshine’ but demoralizing and destroying self-worth via ‘frenemies’ as an inevitable ‘given’ is a destructive message to put out there on the friendship front, n’est ce pas? Pass the elixir.

        We need a better solution than dichotomies of extremes. Girls (and ALL children) deserve SO much better. Let’s raise the bar for healthier media messaging…

  7. Liz
    September 9, 2011

    I’m saying she’s acting like we need to do that to everything. Have you even read the comments actual younger girls left? They pointed out which characters they liked and in reasoning said it was because the nice personality and almost all of the said they disliked the characters that were mean, they pointed out when a mean girl was doing something nice. Kids see the kindness and other good values this portrays, you only can’t see it because you’re so judgemental an closeminded.

  8. Liz
    September 9, 2011

    Oh and both of you obviously didn’t read what I said at all, I never said YOU were saying it shows kindness, I never said the show was sugar coating life, I never said any of what you corrected me on, I said life isn’t that way and that’s what shows you seem to think are the only good and moral shows for kids are. I said that the show does in fact show kindness, and many kids have commented on it pointing out the kindness you are too blind to see. The fact you didn’t read what actual kids had to say about it and the fact you are incorrectly responding to what you clearly skimmed proves that you are even so closeminded by this that you don’t want to be told somebody disagrees and as facts to back this up. One other thing these dolls promote is acceptance and not judging people; the fact that you were so turned off by the dolls before even studying them makes me think that is somebody talked badly about another human being (and yes, because of looks or personality some kids are called monsters) that you would shut them out without giving them a chance, then when you do you’ll obviously only find bad because you are looking for the worst. Is this what you want your children to learn? Because this is what you’re teaching them by going online and ranting about how awful something is and what a bad influence it is on children because it doesn’t work for you.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      September 9, 2011

      Hi Liz. I’m not going to go back and forth with you on this continually. It’s clear that we disagree and likely will continue to do so, and that’s okay. In fact, that was a free society fosters, is a civil exchange of ideas. I will respond to these last two comments.

      1. The post that you’re responding to is asking the question: Does Monster High Teach Kindness because Mattel linked that brand with the Kind Campaign. That obviously means that they do expect that it does or will when modified teach kindness. I don’t believe that all media of every kind will teach kindness, that is what this company has said that this brand will do or is doing.

      2. After spending a lot of time analyzing the shows, dolls, and website, which I detail in that post, I concluded that it does not, in fact, teach kindness.

      3. There isn’t judgement of people in this post, it’s about evaluating whether or not this particular brand meets the standard that it’s own makers are promoting: Kindness. My own evaluation is that it does not. Each individual person may judge that differently, that’s why I detailed what I saw and how I evaluated it myself. That is not a rant. It is a critical analysis based on facts and personal judgement. Others may indeed come up with different conclusions and they are welcome to share them. For example, I think your point is very interesting and informative that some young girls who commented (I’m not sure where you are reading their comments, on the youtube videos or Monster High website? I’d like to see those so please do share that information) said that they identified with different characters and were able to look at the positives and negatives of the way that they treated others. When I watched and evaluated the webisodes that I discuss there were no comments of any kind on them. But, that was several months ago, so perhaps that’s changed.

      4. The purpose of this blog is to encourage a civil exchange of ideas about how media impacts children, whether in agreement or disagreement. Civil being the key word. I read every word you said and have attempted to respond with civility and thoughtfulness. I appreciate the same from all commenters who would like to continue to share their thoughts here. When I say civil I mean: no name calling, stick to the facts or a clear description of your own opinion, no personal attacks.

      • Marylou
        September 18, 2012

        No personal attacks. Only one question? What is the real message we want our children to relate to. Our children are not dolls, they are humans. Humans with feelings and thoughts. Examples of kindness do not need to be represented by images of dolls. However, the perception of gothic, ghouls, vamps and others is not the human perception that is guided by a higher power!! Time to teach and live by real communication and real life inter action. Time to relate our message that love and kindness comes from God and we are all very special creations. What we look like, is not important, however, how we act is!!!! Unfortunately today we are often impressed with the external and are ignoring the internal.

  9. Amy Jussel (@ShapingYouth)
    September 13, 2011

    Well said. One more closing comment about the MH brand/youth feedback: Aside from semantics of the entire “kindness” disconnect and PR spin, there are many more reasons why vocal parenting communities have disdain for the Monster High toy product line…sexualization is one of them. You can read about that problem on multiple blogs written by leaders in child dev/media circles: (including Dr. Jen’s here!) http://peggyorenstein.com/blog/monster-highs-new-low-u-gotta-c-this or http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/body-image/tarty-toys-for-tots-a-pound-of-flesh-too-much-or-much-ado-about-nothing/ or http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=14209 I couldn’t help but note there were similar voices

  10. ashley dunn
    October 24, 2011

    I’m going to start off by saying I am 21 and I love these dolls. I personally am attracted to the modernized take on several fictional characters. I have watched every single webisode and 2 of the 3 books. I also watch to young girls one age 10 and the other 13 that also love these dolls. Neither of which have seen the webisodes but the 13 year old has read all three books. Both girls are attracted to the dolls because they are monsters.
    You state that these dolls are overly sexualized. Yet, it is hard to find a young girl over the age of 6 playing with an American girl doll which may be one of the most wholesome doll brands out there for young girls. Even Barbie is rarely seen among girls older than 8 years old. If she is, she is not in any of her wholesome outfits. She is in her tighter, skimpier outfits. Also I do not know very many children under the age of 16 that are responsible for buying their own clothes. I know I wasn’t. My parents had control over what I wore until I graduated high school. Then they expected me to have self respect.
    I know it’s easy to blame a doll for the standards of young girls, but I have to ask where are these ‘concerned parents’ when these young girls start believing the media? How many girls today have watched their moms or grandmothers put on makeup or do their hair? How many more young girls don’t have a real female role model? How many days a week do you go without makeup? How many days do you go without some hair product in your hair? Like I said it’s easy to blame a doll. But believing the image the dolls produce actually starts at home.

  11. Jennifer Shewmaker
    November 15, 2011

    Ashley, actually my 10 year old daughter plays with American Girl dolls, and many of her friends of the same age do as well. The point isn’t that parents don’t bear any responsibility in helping their children learn to believe that their worth lies in something other than their appearance. In fact, this post and others on the MH brand are calling parents to take responsibility in evaluating the merchandise that they purchase or allow in their homes. Having said that, media, marketers and companies DO have a responsibility to consider the messages that they are sending to their customers. Whether they chose to exercise this social responsibility or not, as a consumer and child activist I will continually call companies to this standard as loudly and often as possible.

  12. sydny
    January 19, 2012

    The first reason the kind can pain joined them is through what you said about cruelty is that its teaching a lesson not to do that.They are also corpses so that’s why they’re skinny.I hope the kind can pain puts monster high back in their speeches and comes to my school because lots of people have trouble being kind here.If a doll influences a child the parent isn’t doing their job and the kid has low self esteem.They have freaky flaws and embrace them by living with them.Also where you said she bribed her friends.If you where listening the only part Frankie didn’t lie about was her father resurrected Justin Biters career so when he gave that concert he was being generous for her dad helping him.They teach great lessons if you look even closer at the heart.Shouldn’t we spend our time stopping that I’m sexy and I Know it song instead.

    • sydny
      January 23, 2012

      Also I’m like the only person at my school who likes MH.I’m never mean on intention and I’ll feel guilt and sadness when it happens.If you want the truth I’m truly the biggest fan in the world.If you read above I said I want the kind can pain to come to my school because people are calling others idiots and 2 girls vandalize their sisters dolls and turn the books that they got for gifts from their granny into doggie toilets and they call MH babiesh and loath it.It actually seams like dds friends didn’t pay close enough attention to the shows and read its cover.Need to work on science project though so peace.:):):):):):):):):):)

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      January 24, 2012

      Hi Sydny. Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that there is a lot of bullying going on at your school. I hope that you will follow up with your counselor or a teacher who you can talk with and ask them to bring some anti-bullying programs to your school that have been proven to be effective. Self-esteem is influenced by a lot of things, but parents certainly are not the only ones who have any effect on it. See my post on Media and Children: It’s not all about the parent for more details.

  13. Lena
    January 23, 2012

    I’m here trying to learn more about Monster High. My daughter (12 soon) has just ended a relationship with a friend who is very heavily into MH. My dd thinks they are gross and ugly. This friend has one of each doll to keep as a collectors piece, still in box and one of each to play with. She has told that she has watched every movie and read all of the books. Her mother said they are safe dolls because they promote kindness but I’m not reading that about them.
    Our dd just told us that her friend has gotten meaner since receiving the dolls for Christmas. No longer can they play with LPS toys but now they must play with MH. Told LPS is for babies. Before the friend received all of her dolls, they played with LPS but the friend’s characters were getting mean during play. Zapping, freezing, and taking control over my dd characters so that they could not speak. She said her friend did voodoo, fortune telling and more. Not living in a state of reality. She said the MH dolls are tricking parents into believing they are nice but they are “underground haters” her words.
    Dd picked up a MH book and read “lmao” in the book. She said that it’s basically the same as swearing but hidden. I was surprised that it would be in the book.
    She visited the friend this weekend for a sleep over with 2 other girls who are also into MH. By the time we picked her up she said she never wanted to go back there again. The girls called her retard and mental, made her sleep on the bed away from them while they slept on the floor and made conversation. They each had a sleeping bag. She said the one girl visiting kept swearing and she asked her to stop but the others just laughed. Three homeschooled one public school.
    I let the mom know that my dd was left in tears but she used the excuse that my dd did not “understand the message of MH. The girls were just role playing and acting out the book and dd has a problem with being too sensitive.” Hardly sounds like the kindness message.
    She won’t ever spend time with this girl again. The mother is angry with me and the friend wrote a letter to dd telling her that if she wants to hate her then she doesn’t care. A very twisted message.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      January 23, 2012

      Hi Lena, thanks for your comment. While I feel certain that the Monster High dolls, shows, and books are probably not the only influence on the way these girls are acting, it is clear that there is a lot of girl on girl meanness that is depicted in the webisodes. After my own analysis of the webisodes and the dolls themselves, I do not allow them in my home. It’s really important that parents be involved in processing media with their children, and perhaps that’s what is missing in the case you’re describing. Left to their own devices, many girls are going to see the cattiness and girl fighting and focus on that rather than any underlying messages about kindness that an adult might be able to pick out. Watching and processing media with your child is key to helping them become a critical consumer.

  14. Victor
    February 22, 2012

    I discourage my children to play with the Monster High dolls because I don’t feel that they’re pushing a positive message to my young ones, but, at the same rate: I can’t stop their friends from playing with these dolls which is just one of the numerous reasons we’ve been contemplating home schooling our little ones.

  15. Like I'd type my real name
    May 26, 2012

    I have no idea if you’ll see this but I still want to voice my story:

    I’m a 21 year old girl (22 in August) who lives in Ohio. My mom is a truck driver, has been since before I was born, and as a result my grandma and (when she was alive) great grandma took care of me when my mom was gone which was always. I didn’t have a male figure in my life as my dad was MIA and my grandpa died when I was very young. Incidentally, I had absolutely zero interest in dolls. I loved pink, I wanted to be a cheerleader for as long as I can remember (an unrealized dream) but I scoffed big time at other little girls who were concerned with playing mommy, with Barbie and all her cheap little outfits. I will be frank in this admittance: I hate babies. I hate children. I find pregnancy absolutely disgusting. I have never wanted to be a mother, even when I was little and I thought other girls were downright retarded for wanting that life.

    I liked animals. I had innumerable animal toys. I wanted to BE an animal (and no, I did not grow up to be a furry or anything of the sort), I remember praying that I be turned into one. Which never happened. So I settled on wanting to be a vet. I played in the dirt. I played with bugs. I was on a basketball team for a short while. I was never obsessed with clothes, jewellery, celebrities, I thought makeup was stupid, I had no interest in playing dress up. But people who stupidly assumed that since I was a girl I wanted dolls bought me plenty but I had absolutely no interest in them. According to my family I always stripped them naked then left them for dead. I was like a rapist whose bad at his job of, y’know … actually raping people. And then came Pokemon and Digimon. Which, in case you don’t know, are basically still animals. I was obsessed with them both respectively for a really long time up until, I’d say, 5th or 6th grade. Of course then my thing was anime/manga but that is neither here nor there.

    Now let me tell you that I have extremely awful self confidence. I hate my body. I hate myself. I want to be a flat, ‘boy shaped’ skinny girl, not because I see freaking Paris Hilton looking like that and want to be omg famous too!! It’s just what I find sexually appealing. I want to be what I find the ideal and that has nothing to do with Barbie, nothing to do with Britney Spears, certainly nothing to do with my mom who looks like a raging dyke half the time. It’s just what appeals to ME.

    I’ll also tell you that I am extremely self concious about body hair. To be exact, it freaks me out. I have some Middle Eastern in me so I’m pale white with black hair so obviously it stands out quite jarringly on me. I shave obsessively and am extremely embarrassed by any stray hairs, I get embarrassed seeing OTHER people unshaven. Wanna’ know why? It’s not because of role models or dolls. Its because of boys. I was shamed by boys when I was too young to comprehend anything other then ‘hey, there’s hair down there!’ and it was bad. Even when freshly shaved, my underarms show black stubble because my hair is so thick and BLACK that it just wont disappear. I lifted up my arm once and some boy told me with disgust on his face that I need to shave. And I do. I shave basically everything except my eyebrows which I pluck. I hate it but its that or being a gross yeti.

    Now let me tell you that I love the Monster High dolls. Yes. They came out when I was 19 or 20. I saw one commercial and fell in love with Draculaura because she’s me in the shell of my ideal me. She’s short, I’m short. She’s a vegan, I was a vegetarian for a long time and I plan on going back to that when I have another place of my own. She loves pink, I love pink. She takes old, 18th century styles and updates them in a lot of her outfits, I absolutely love the 18th century and wear a style similar but more baby doll-ish. She enjoy’s writing, I love writing. She’s sweet and bubbly and perky and friendly – all of these things describe me when I’m not shaving or hating myself, haha.

    I absolutely love Monster High and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I own 13 dolls (most of which, yes, are Draculaura), I have the theme song on my MP3 player for no other reason then its uplifting to listen to, I watch the episodes/specials when I can. They’re beautiful dolls that DO promote a good message, one I can easily recognize and perhaps the reason you can’t is because you weren’t on that end. Of being ‘the monster’. In 7th grade, a boy decided I was a lesbian because I’m so pale and I didn’t talk to the boys. To be fair, I didn’t talk to the girls either. Meanwhile, they all decided I’m a witch for some unknown reason. Pale, black hair? Yeah. Gotta’ be witch. Through it all, I was never mean to other people. Even when I went to a new school for 8th grade, I went into as stupidly bubbly and naive as ever. I made friends, found a place of my own and yet still was mocked by people. This eased over time or I just stopped caring to the point it no longer registered but my point is I’ve been on the receiving end of people making snap judgements. I know how the monsters feel about their freaky flaws, about how normal humans see them.

    You’re misreading what you’re seeing because you’re the human. You just can’t get it from that view point unless you actually try. Frankie didn’t BRIBE anyone for friendship. She knew she’d messed up big time and wanted to make it up to Cleo as best she could. She knew Cleo liked that celebrity and just happened to have connections. It’s on par with knowing someone you’ve wronged really likes Hello Kitty so you buy them a plushie to say sorry. Yeah, Cleo is a queen bee but thats the point, she’s a royal mummy. How else do you expect her to act? At first she doesn’t seem nice at all but as time goes on her kindness starts showing through a little bit at a time which is suppose to show young viewers that the girl whose mean to you isn’t all fire and brimstone. She’s just like you and if you try, she’ll likely become your friend.

    Draculaura shows that stereotypes aren’t always true. She’s a vampire who is, to the contrary, totally opposed to blood! She’s the exact opposite that people say her kind usually are. The ramifications that lesson alone can have on children everywhere is staggering. This is something they NEED to learn. So when they see someone pale with black hair they won’t think ‘witch!’. Lagoona and her boyfriend Gil are two different kinds of sea monsters whose respective species hate each other. But they’re together anyway because love, thats why! They show us that love transcends boundaries and societal norms. If you love someone, you LOVE them and should be with them. This, again, is something that everyone can benefit from and that includes adults. Zombie’s are suppose to be dumb, brainless creatures and yet Ghoulia is the smartest girl in school. Again, defying stereotypes. Spectra is a ghost and we all know ghosts are gloomy souls who do nothing but groan and moan …. except this isn’t the case at all! She’s very sweet and bubbly not to mention inquisitive!

    I could go on but I’ll move to my next point: people don’t always get along. Sometimes, like Cleo, girls are mean to other girls. But what does Frankie do? She takes it in stride. She doesn’t try to get revenge on Cleo, she doesn’t attack her back, she doesn’t let it get to her all that badly either. She just accepts Cleo’s attitude and moves on. Isn’t that what you WANT kids to do? More to the point, as time goes on Cleo becomes kind because she learns that friendship is a great thing to have. Gee, that sounds strangely like the point of this campaign. Then there’s Abbey, she’s from the mountains so she knows little to nothing of big city life. She’s lost on social graces and makes plenty of faux paus but no one is mean to her and, instead of just stewing in her negative sally personality, she tries to learn and better herself so she doesn’t hurt any more feelings. Again, this is something adults could use to learn let alone children.

    Then there’s Ivy. She’s a new character whose doll isn’t even out yet but she preaches one of the best messages of all: save the planet! Which is THE greatest kindness anyone can do. You don’t think children should be exposed to this series? Seriously?

    What WILL hurt them are boys. Parents with boys need to remind THEM of reality instead of placing all the blame on girls for their issues. I got absolutely none of my issues from girls or girl toys. My bodies issues are direct results of boys.

    I’m smart, I’ve always been more intelligent and mature then my peers. I never dressed in a promiscuous way, no short skirts or tummy showing tops. Looking at me, people think I’m as innocent as can be … but thats not the case at all.

    My point is, keeping what you deem negative influences out of your kids life is not going to make them grow into an adult virgin angel. Brittney, Barbie, Paris, Monster High and whatever else does NOT breed sluts. More often then not, its repression that makes people sex crazed maniacs.

    To recap:
    Its boys who cause a lot of girls issues, not girl toys
    Monster High has plenty of good messages about kindness if you’d actually look without bias
    A void of slutty women will not make your daughter the Virgin Marry

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      May 27, 2012

      Thanks for sharing your experience.I had to edit it for length. I think your comment makes the great point that Monster High could be helpful and appropriate for older girls. You say you were in your late teens when you became aware of them, and that seems like a more appropriate market for some of what MH is selling than 6-10 year olds.

  16. jewels931
    December 10, 2012

    I certainly agree with your article, but I think a big problem that so many parents have these days is they just don’t talk about issues with their children anymore. I grew up with Barbie and the Spice Girls (and was just the right age when Bratz launched) but a big thing that helped me was having my Mum sit down and ‘bring me back to reality’ when it came to mixed media messages. I’m 19 now (almost 20, but I keep that to myself ^^) and I have such a soft spot for Monster High. I think that Mattel started with a good idea, but got bogged down by not taking a risk and re-using the same typical fashion doll mold. Granted, it was their makeup that first drew me to them (at the time I was taking a short makeup course and someone in my class had mentioned they inspired a look) and I love the way they look. They have inspired the way I look a great deal and their confidence too, but I work in an almost purely appearance-based industry (I’m a sugar baby) so I’m probably not the most level-headed person when it comes to these sorts of things.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      December 10, 2012

      Thanks for your comment. It once again shows that the target audience for this brand is way too young. Young adults seem really drawn to these dolls, and given the mature themes and appearance, that’s appropriate. Six year olds, not an appropriate audience.

  17. Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth
    December 10, 2012

    Agree. And now the target market is also being used for ‘Winx’ cloaking ‘girl empowerment’ into toothpick thin fairy figurines and canted pose propaganda which is cumulatively seeping into wee ones UNDER age six too. See Peggy Orenstein’s post with preK kids titled “There’s a new girl strutting on Monster High’s corner” http://peggyorenstein.com/blog/theres-a-new-girl-strutting-on-monster-highs-corner Thankfully, I just wrote a positive picks post that represents the antithesis to this mass marketed pablum to offer healthier choices for girls: A Mighty Girl: http://www.shapingyouth.org/a-mighty-girl-healthier-media-and-marketing-with-one-stop-shopping/

  18. coloradobirdl
    March 23, 2013

    Very interesting. I like Monster High dolls as a doll collector, because of the “monster” theme, but have actually raised the question once about the clothes. Well, how should a teen-age monster be dressed? But at the same time, I remember the first time I bought one, I thought the long legs and high heels were a proclamation from Hollywood. Something our little girls don’t need.
    So far, though, I haven’t seen that young girls take too much of that in if they have other dolls and other outlets for creative play. The dolls are just one aspect, and maybe the girlishness is the most important aspect? I wonder if most kids even know what the monster theme means?
    Then there are the kids who just want to collect. Of course, Mattel is playing to that crowd as well. I do, generally buy new clothes for my dolls or make new outfits, going ethereal or goth. But that, again, is an adult theme…..
    Another type of doll that I think is sometimes inappropriate for young children is the Blythe/Pullip dolls. I have seen several dolls with short, ruffly skirts, thigh-high hose and garters. These are Japanese designs, causing me to wonder what is going on with the Japanese psyche? Talk about overly sexualized?

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      March 28, 2013

      Good point! These dolls seem to be very popular with collectors and older teens/young adults. I think that may be a more appropriate audience for them than 6 year olds.

  19. Molly
    March 28, 2013

    I completely agree. Why in the hell would I want to rip away my daughters innocence at 8 years of age, by endorsing dolls who look like Sexy, Anorexic vampires?! Parents: wake up!

    Stop being so stupid and letting yourselves be sucked in by the “Kindness” card the Monster Dolls play! You have the responsibility to protect your daughters from the unhealthy, damaging influence of these ugly, sexist, peadophile-fantasy, dark, death-obsessed dolls.

    Barbie for my daughter- any day.
    Or even better- climb a tree, ride a bike or build a cubby house.
    Stop this obsession with looks, popularity, sex, bullying etc. think Simplicity, freedom from “image-pressure”. It’s up to the parents to shout “No- I refuse to have this crap in my home, destroying my daughters healthy self-image”.

    It doesn’t take a psychotherapist or child psychiatrist or in-depth research to see how toxic these dolls are – WAKE UP parents!

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      March 29, 2013

      Molly, I agree, I think parents and caregivers should be mad about this. Companies have a bullseye on our kids, and many have no interest in the healthy development of children, just the growth of consumers.

  20. Ashleigh
    April 5, 2013

    I don’t care. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But your not gonna change my mind. I like it, and I don’t care what anyone else says.

  21. Sonya Alicia Kilpatrick
    April 21, 2013

    I have an 8 year old with aspergers who likes Monster High because of the uniqueness of the individuals. She knows she is different and so is everyone else. Because of her condition having a show like this helps her understand things easier. The only other shows that help children like herself is Aurther, Barney, and other shows for a younger audiance. True there are flaws like the clothing and small figures, but she does not know that. She attends church every Sunday, eats right and dresses appropriately. All in all it relays the values she needs to understand.

  22. Toson.Kisoji.Org
    April 28, 2013

    I absolutely love your site.. Excellent colors & theme.

    Did you create this website yourself? Please reply
    back as I’m looking to create my very own blog and want to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Kudos!

  23. Leve Bunion
    May 30, 2013

    My 6 year old loves these dolls. She has 1 barbie and 7 MH dolls. We often play with them. Yes, as a parent I sit in the floor and play with my child. I influence what the dolls say and how they act. I send those messages to my child.
    I serious question parents out there who feel like Mattel or any other toy company should be responsible for teaching your child values.
    Most of our play is Barbie being afraid of the monsters until she learns how nice they are. Oh, and Barbie’s pets are 3 imaginex dinosaurs. Its called PLAYING.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      June 19, 2013

      It’s great that you’re playing with your child. That’s such an important part of making sure that your child is processing things with your guidance instead of in isolation. However, it’s important to know that children are impacted by systems besides the family. Check out my posts on Systems of Influence and How Media impacts Children for more details on that.

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