Thursday, March 8, 2012

Monster High: folk tales and mythos in play

As in the words of Monty Python: "And now for something completely different! "
This may be one of the oddest blogs I write, but I've been thinking about this for a good amount of time, ever since my nine year old granddaughter became fascinated with the new line of Monster High dolls made by Mattel.
For any of you not around young girls, this is a line of Barbie like ball joint dolls, each one unique, each one based on a mythological monster.  They all attend Monster High school and are a spin off of a cartoon.  I wish they had these dolls when I was a child and I can't resist and join in to play with her, Here they are, a bunch of freaks with flaws and odd parents - some with no parents at all,  like Frankie who,  in their mythos is only 15 days old when she starts Monster High. And she wasn't born but was made out of pieces - how's that for a metaphor for the fractured and put back together self?
The reason I think these dolls are great for kids is how they embrace uniqueness, creativity and even oddities and freakishness,  as in  Operetta, The daughter of the Phantom of the Opera, who has no problems with hanging out with  Claudine and Claude, the werewolf siblings, or Laguna the monster from the blue lagoon, who is also a mad scientist. Cleo de Nile and her sister Nefera are mummies with their entire arsenal of Egyptian lore and talismans at any child's disposal, and Draculara and Jolt might be seen dancing or studying homework together despite the fact, Draculara might bite the Jolt on the neck, only to get electrocuted!
 Myths and monsters, as anyone who is familiar with fairy tales and Jung, are the ways our brain embraces those parts of us which frighten -  our shadows,  which are also important aspects of ourselves, and when confronted, may hold us in awe because of their unusual and possible beneficial powers.
I am thrilled to see a line of dolls where children can embrace their strangeness, learn a little mythology, literature and fairy tales in the bargain, and not feel as if they have to be perfect or have the perfect families.  Monster High characters are born from a highly dysfunctional group of families, as many of us are as well.  Yet they function, find friends, embrace life and pull their acts together.  They also don't have quite the seductive aspect of Brats, a line of dolls who appear to be to be the opposite aspect of the Barbie line. In my opinion, the  Bratz dolls are too sensual, Snookies reincarnated in plastic, and not the best role models.
While there are some wonderful dolls of more human character and design such as Moxie and Liv dolls, and I think these are great role models for girls, I personally enjoy the Monster High creativity and diversity - the illusive Abbey Snow Man, Ghoulia and Spectra (a ghost), the werecat twins and Jackson who is related to Jekyll and Hyde.  
 You can tell that the writers of the cartoons and doll designers are having a blast coming up with ideas, digging into their own cultural memories of monsters and the things that frighten us - the creatures who live in our unconscious minds as well as in the universal unconscious depths.  Bring them into the light and let them play  -  for play is one of the ways we discover our split off selves. 
Yes, the girl's skirts are a bit too short for a grandma's taste, but otherwise I even love the clothes,  everything from party dresses to kilted skirts, to tomboy sporting clothes for the girls and
I'd love to meet some of the designers and see if they are from the generation whose parents and grandparents first embraced Jung, as well as monster stories, folk and fairy tales and gothic literature. What a goldmine of teachable lessons in restraint, self awareness, social ostracism, control of personal powers and emotions as well as empowerment.
I'm always excited when I see contemporary or even pop culture embrace the dark sides of us all, for without first confronting  and then embracing the shadow, we cannot come to comprehend the numinous or the divine in others or ourselves. 

1 comment:

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