Don't Conform, Transform
I wrote a post last year asking, Does Monster High Teach Kindness and another that provided an exercise in Deconstructing Monster High. My main problem with the Monster High brand is that Mattel says it promotes acceptance of others and oneself by embracing and celebrating the characters’ flaws and imperfections. And yet, again and again in their webisodes you see girl on girl bullying. Very rarely is there a realistic, prosocial approach that models for kids a positive and effective way to deal with problems with friends or bullies.
Some have claimed that I’m just not paying attention to the character development, and the girls do learn and demonstrate prosocial skills later in the series of webisodes. Really? Let me show you two webisodes, one from last year and one new one.
In “Mad Science Fair,” the character Cleo takes advantage of her best friend by claiming that the winning project is her own. Frankie and Lagoona tell Ghoulia that she needs to stand up for herself. Good point, right? Kids need to learn to negotiate this kind of friendship issue. So how do the Monster High characters solve this problem? Is it in a way that promotes acceptance and teaches prosocial skills to young kids? Let’s watch….
Wow, great lesson! If your best friend takes advantage of you, get back at her through physical retaliation! But maybe there’s been character development that I’m not taking into account and the characters have learned to handle conflict better. Let’s check out a newer webisode and see if there’s evidence of that.
In this webisode, we see the Monster High characters responding in a very similar way to the previous one, only this time it’s the mean characters that they’re responding to rather than a friend. In both webisodes, the “nice” Monster High characters respond to bullying by others, whether friend or enemy, by bullying them back.
Listen, I don’t care if Monster High teaches prosocial skills and acceptance or not. If all Mattel wants to do is make money, fine with me, that’s their business. But when they continually promote the Monster High brand as teaching girls about acceptance and then consistently deliver this kind of negative content, I have to call them on it. There are a lot of great educational programs that are carefully developed to teach prosocial skills that give kids tools for dealing with bullying and friendship problems. Monster High isn’t one of them.
If you’re interested in exploring this brand a bit more, I’m following this post up with another analyzing Mattel’s claims a bit more closely.