Little girls have a lot working against them when it comes to developing self-esteem and a healthy body image. Unfortunately there are a lot of toys out there that do not encourage girls to love their bodies the way they are, and perpetuate a type of beauty and body shape that is both unrealistic and unattainable. Many of the most popular ones also don’t represent the many different ethnicities and differences between faces and bodies from woman to woman and girl to girl around the globe.
In this post, I would like to focus on two lines of dolls for little girls that have swept the country – Bratz and Monster High. They are two of the most popular toys for little girls, almost surpassing Barbie, who currently still holds the record as the best-selling doll, if just barely.
I should preface this (as I do with all my posts) by saying that I don’t have a problem with dolls in general. Honestly, I don’t. And I am definitely not claiming that I will never buy my daughter these if she expressed sincere interest in owning them later on. This post was written simply to point out and acknowledge a common issue we have with dolls that promote the idea that beauty is of paramount importance in life. What is especially troubling are those that have TV shows and movies centered around the dolls, that bring them to life and propel the characters into a kind of role model for little girls who watch.
I’ll start with some of the reasons I hate Bratz dolls. They seemed to pioneer the idea of representing the “modern girl”, who in the start of the 21st century didn’t relate as well to Barbie as previous generations. What supposedly makes these dolls different are their oversized heads and diva-like makeup, outfits and interests that are supposed to reflect what young girls these days are into.
My problem with Bratz dolls starts with their faces. They all have the same heart-shaped faces, no difference in any of the dolls, regardless of what ethnicity they are supposed to reflect.
They all have huge, upward slanting, heavily lidded eyes with a ton of makeup on. One other thing I noticed is that they all have bedroom eyes; a “come hither” look that suggests they are trying to seduce someone.
Next, notice their tiny noses. People have tiny noses, but compared to the rest of their face, the thing is almost nonexistent. Our culture finds large noses rather unappealing; many strive to make it look as small as possible, whether with makeup tricks or plastic surgery, so it is not surprising that dolls reflect this beauty ideal, but their noses are so small you can barely even see them.
Then we have the lips. If it were a typical woman, she very likely would need to have her lips artificially plumped to be that exact size and shape.
One selling point for Bratz is their multi-ethnicity options, but I noticed little to no difference in the facial features of different Bratz dolls aside from their skin tones. The same shaped eyes, tiny nose and huge, collagen-infused lips. What about other cultures who have features that are more/less pronounced than the women these Bratz dolls reflect? They are selling a very limited idea of beauty here that almost no woman can achieve. Except for the real-life Barbie. Heard of her? Ukranian model Valeria Lukyanova. Here’s a picture:
And here is a great quote from her in GQ on interracial marriages being the cause of people’s obsession with plastic surgery, (which by the way, she’s undergone to get the Barbie look):
‘Ethnicities are mixing now, so there’s degeneration, and it didn’t used to be like that. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this. A Russian marries an Armenian, they have a kid, a cute girl, but she has her dad’s nose. She goes and files it down a little, and it’s all good.’
WTF, Barbie? What is this saying to little girls who have noses that aren’t the size of a fingernail? Perhaps that they aren’t conventionally attractive, since there are no dolls in the Bratz line who have different sized or shaped facial features. Beauty is one size fits all.
I almost feel like I don’t need to go into the size and shape of their bodies; they clearly aren’t going for anything realistic with the ridiculous size of those heads, but notice the miniscule torsos and outrageously long legs. Not to mention how thin they are to boot.
That being said, Bratz dolls aren’t currently being sold in stores, as they are being redesigned and released again in 2015. They don’t seem to be selling as well as the early 00’s, and one of the likely reasons is the outrageously successful Monster High dolls that were released in 2010. Since then, they have become a widespread phenomenon. Steve and I were lucky enough to make a trip to Target without the kids, so we were able to browse the doll aisle and check these things out for real.
Here’s a picture:
They’re different because they’re…not human? The Monster High brand’s official tagline is “Be yourself. Be unique. Be a monster.”Their packages denote which monster they descend from so you can tell what their makeup or clothing represents, because you can’t always tell by looking at them. Take this “Daughter of the Zombies” for example:
I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what monster she descended from. Her physical ancestry is eclipsed by those giant lace-up boots and three feet of bumped blue hair. Adorbs.
In addition, there is a werewolf, skeleton, zombie, mummy, daughter of Frankenstein, Dracula, a Chinese Dragon, a Sea Monster, a Genie and a whole bunch of other shit that I couldn’t even describe to you. They market the fact that they’re proud of being different and unique. Each doll has a backstory and a “freaky flaw” that they are proud of, like Howleen Wolf. Her freaky flaw? “My hair. Sometimes it does what I want, sometimes it does what it wants and sometimes it does things that make both of us look bad.” Some others include lack of tact, accidentally setting things on fire, being a perfectionist, claustrophobia, social anxiety, clumsiness, and more.
I’m pretty creeped out by these dolls, I’m not going to lie. That being said, I will admit that in my initial research, I found their attempts at differentiating their personalities from that of other dolls was encouraging. It certainly offers girls a lot of choices of what kind of drop-dead gorgeous daughter of whatever monster they want to be. Unfortunately, despite their unique backstories and attempts at differentiating themselves from Bratz and Barbies, they still have many of the same issues I listed above.
First, while they may have different skin tones (Some are blue and green!), they all still have similar facial structures and layouts of their features. Like Bratz dolls, they all have oversized bedroom eyes with a lot of makeup, small noses and big, pouty lips. I don’t have to tell you how uncommon it is to find someone who looks like that outside of Hollywood. Their differences only extend to what is still considered conventionally attractive in our country’s culture.
Next, they are FRIGHTENINGLY skinny. No pun intended. Or maybe? They are all eating disorder-thin. One may argue that being monsters, their bodies should more closely resemble a corpse, but not all “monsters” are skin and bone corpses. For example, a Chinese dragon? You’re telling me the daughter of a Chinese dragon looks like she hasn’t eaten since she was nine? The daughter of a GARGOYLE? I’m not buying it. Regardless of what sort of monster they come from, these dolls still have little girls who idolize them, and being that thin is not a message we should be sending about what’s attractive and acceptable for high school girls.
Again I will mention the ridiculously long legs and disproportionate torso on all of them. Despite which monster they represent, they all have this same shape. This is likely because our country values skinny women more than any other body type, and also because playing with the actual body type of a human-Chinese dragon offspring would be fucking scary. Yes. Both of those things.
Actually, no, I just Googled what a human-dragon hybrid would look like, and it’s pretty awesome. But it doesn’t have long beautiful blue hair and intellectual-looking glasses. So it probably wouldn’t work in the Monster High line.
I also want to talk about the clothes they wear. As a raging feminist, I will fight for the right for women to wear whatever the hell they want, wherever they want without being persecuted. That being said, a lot of these are clothes that would never be allowed on a middle or high school campus. Take this for example:
The clothing is revealing, and honestly, the jury is still out on how I feel about revealing clothing for adolescents and teens. Because you know, clothing like this is distracting, and boys/men just can’t help themselves when we dress this way. We are telling little girls that this sort of clothing is what is stylish and attractive, that they should be proud to be unique and wear what they want to wear, and yet at the same time warning them that if they wear it in public they should expect to be ogled, groped or worse for tempting men with provocative dress. Let us not forget these dolls are supposed to be in high school.
Also, let us not forget that no high schooler is playing with Monster High dolls. I’m going to sound like a broken record when I say this, but these dolls are hyper-feminine and over-sexualized for the ages they are supposed to represent and for the ages they are marketed to. I know someone who let their four year-old dress up as one of these characters for Halloween, and if they commercialize and mass produce Monster High costumes in that small of a size, it’s not an isolated incident, so I will never buy this BS that the acceptable age for these dolls is 8 and up. It’s not realistic and it’s pretty insulting.
Lastly, I would just like to point out that while I would love to get on board with the “celebrate diversity” idea Monster High is trying to pitch, being obsessed with shopping, boys, hair and clothes is still a main theme underlying all these “unique” monsters, which makes them no better than Barbie or Bratz. As long as you’re feminine, gorgeous and into boys and clothes, it’s okay to be different! Yay!
Do you know any woman in your life that doesn’t fit all of these characteristics? Well, you won’t find her here. Monster High is just more of the same. Rich, beautiful, [mostly] white girls with diva-like clothing and makeup – that’s what all the little girls in our society get to relate to and admire. And that’s sad. I’m sad now.