Mattel’s Manipulative Monster High Marketing Machine: Unkind.

June 15, 2012 Last year when I wrote about Mattel’s vampy campy Monster High dolls I purposely didn’t even name their brand, hoping it would quietly fizzle and bury itself in the outcry of parents tired of sexploitation, sassy, rude, mean behavioral cues sent to kids, blatant consumerism and vapid values.

When Mattel tried to backpedal from the toxic messages in their webisodes that had been repeatedly called out by media literacy and adolescent development pros in social media channels, they spun into brand damage control by partnering with the Kind Campaign (young filmmakers with access to schools promoting an “anti-bullying” documentary program). Mainstream media lapped it up like lap dogs.

Voila…halo effect meets brand repositioning into a celebration of ‘diversity’ and uniqueness. Where is the critical thinking in journalism when they run a glorified press release puff piece in the New York Times? Embarrassing.

Despite the wafting stench of Mattel’s Monster High balderdash, I refrained from writing about it further, using media with mindfulness to keep from giving it any heat. Instead, I stepped away from the story hoping to watch it self-implode with critical thinkers everywhere.

I’ve spent 25+ years in new product development, product revamps and line extensions, and this was like being handed a creative brief in classic counter-marketing 101…SURELY people would see through Mattel’s superficial “goodwashing” and savvy consumers would ‘spot the spin’ of their profiteering agenda to save their massive investment from flailing, right? Fat chance.

The dearth of what information literacy professor Howard Rheingold calls “Crap Detection 101” appears to be growing increasingly severe in our sound bite culture, as parenting blogs gobbled up the bait, spewing back ‘wow, I must’ve been wrong-look how they’ve changed’ posts with nary a blink at the actual content of the toy’s messages, webisodes, and hyper-sexualized product toxicity that Mattel’s Monster High brand continues to splatter all over the toy aisles, in the media sphere, and newly minted deals with youth advocates as corporate shills.

Respected media literacy colleagues like Peggy Orenstein (author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter) wrote about it in “Monster High’s New Low…You’ve Gotta See This” deconstructing Mattel’s larger product rollouts to come (including a movie slated for 2012) to give savvy parents a heads up that this product wasn’t going away.

Nationally certified school psychologist, licensed specialist and Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker took critical thinking into granular analysis, time logging each webisode noting behavioral cues and recording data with notes and number crunching on the prolific stereotypes and bullying messages sent to kids, giving us an overview in her post “Does Monster High Teach Kindness?” NO. It does not. (Especially not with an early child age group that has an inability to discern nuance and satire, look at the neuroscience; that’s why there are FTC ‘bumpers’ in programming and advertising for the under 8 crowd, folks!)

This week’s headline in HuffPo “Believing In Girls is Good Business” written by the VP of Girls Marketing Mattel followed by this announcement of Monster High promoting a ‘back to school program’ with Walmart using the goodwashing youth advocate angle put me into shoutout from the windows mode reminiscent of the classic film line from the Network movie,

“I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.”

Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker has always been ‘kind’ with her tempered responses, like this one where she evaluates how to decide whether a product is ‘right for you’…and today’s post noting Monster High ‘may be good for business but is it good for girls?’  and outspoken blogger Melissa Wardy aptly zeroed in on the age compression conflict of interest, calling out Mattel’s shelf positioning at toddler heights and aspirational targeting of a much more vulnerable audience, as she writes in “Don’t Claim to be Promoting Self-Acceptance in Teens While Selling Sexiness to Six Year Olds” (haven’t seen any middle schoolers and high schoolers engaged with doll play lately have you?)

But when critical thinkers are outgunned by mega-millions in marketing dollars promoting propaganda like this, I think it’s time to say “gloves off.”

Using the power of media for positive change also means calling out Mattel’s brandwashing. Decisively.

The ludicrous Monster High chatter about boosting self-esteem is imbecilic and offensive, 

“From creating a fang-tastic playlist to rockin’ a gore-geous accessory as your signature piece, each tip serves to boost one’s self-esteem.”

Ugh. Just TRY to keep your cookies on that one. As Shaping Youth’s newest young writer and soon to be columnist Bailey Shoemaker Richards duly noted, “That doesn’t boost self-esteem, that boosts consumerism and conformity.” 

I’m far too close to this controversy from an industry insider perspective, as I’ve even given up on engaging in rhetorical arguments about whether the brand is appropriate for 6 or 8 or 10- year olds and hopscotched right into the unethical conduct of Mattel’s marketing tactics, including the repeated use of perceived ‘youth advocates’ as corporate shills and corrupt cronieism within industry channels.

It’s high time media people start unearthing the realities of greed ‘monsters’ by going for the corporate jugular vein. (though sadly, it appears when media pundits are power-schmoozed by blood-sucking vampires, they appear to ‘become one of them’ losing objectivity with eyes aglaze)

I’ve decided this is important enough to take a macro lens to countless ‘follow the money’ trails of corporate industry tentacles that repeatedly reach into schools, government, kids health and wellness policies, even food stamps programs, using case study examples like this to reveal the industry workarounds and show-n-tell subversive marketing ploys.

So that post is yet to come…meanwhile:

How about if we show and tell the level of big money/big media entrenchment, far beyond just Mattel? Let’s report the insidious tactics of how industry responds to challenges, (often using bullying I might add, especially legal threats, which Mattel is well-known for deploying) and start connecting the dots back to the corporate ‘handlers’ doling out this brandwashing and goodwashing?

Mattel’s bogus Monster High “self-esteem” spin reads like a how-to case study from Martin Lindstrom’s neuroscience playbook. (if you haven’t read Buyology or Brandwashed, put them on your list pronto for a ‘lift and reveal’ of what’s behind the marketing curtain rivaling the Wizard of Oz)

Just curious: Has anyone else been tracking the emergence of candy-coated pro-Mattel comments that instantly follow any negative input popping up on parenting blogs about Monster High? Is anyone asking whether the majority of the comments are autobots, corporate sock puppet hires, PR interns?

Some had the exact same handles across the blogs, others had the same IP addresses, typos and discordant poseur style (the common tactic marketers use when they try to act like kids in forums using language that ends up being a dead giveaway)

For those of you unfamiliar with spin control, public relations puffery, corporate shilling tied to vested interests, (graphic at left sums the outcomes nicely) these are just a few tactics in the toolchest used when unfavorable posts appear in forums and blogs about a given brand.

On Twitter, Facebook fan pages and other social media channels it can get even messier with faux follower counts created  to give the illusion of brand popularity among consumers, and trumped up manipulation of ‘tweets’ to appear words are golden and the pundit d’jour is an ‘influencer’ with ‘klout’…

There are countless varieties of silly metrics that most intelligent analysts promptly place in the discard bin.

In case there’s any question as to how strongly I feel about the damage of a ‘kind and caring’ credo repositioning Monster High as a ‘good for you’ brand, it wreaks of corporate goodwashing on a par with the new Coke sponsored school fitness centers, (‘unbranded’ is the PR spin, but see the problem with use of the term “unbranded” in this piece  School Sit Ups Sponsored By Soda and Snacks …It’s like dentists giving out lollipops…there’s a head-spinning ‘whaaa?’ factor of discordance.)

As the MissRepresentation.org campaign would say: “Not buying it.” 

Clearly, I’m far too frustrated with this KIND of Mattel marketing manipulation of consumers and obfuscation of the fact that there is complicity here on multiple levels of profiteering, I need to recuse myself temporarily.

Instead, I asked for a fresh, youthful perspective from 22-year old literary pro Bailey Shoemaker Richards who has written on a variety of topics here before.

I asked if she could come up with some ‘solutions-based’ critical thinking to help navigate the Monster High waters. No directives, just give it a go.

Bailey turned around this commentary in a 24-hour ‘whoosh’ with writing depth and analysis drawing from her own research, not mine. She flipped this article to me fast and thorough like a journalist in a war zone, and I read through it with glee, overcome with emotion having my own Sally Field-acceptance speech moment thinking, “she gets it, she REALLY, REALLY gets it.”

Bailey has quickly emerged as an important and impressive media literacy voice in my sphere, and I’m proud to announce that for the first time ever, Shaping Youth will have the honor of a strong and mighty youth voice presented in an ongoing column with Bailey Shoemaker Richards at the helm.

Congratulations, Bailey. Thank you for your remarkable insights, for taking initiative and leading the path through these conversations to deliver important content and educate beyond the ‘140 sound bite’ world. Amazing work…And quite validating to hear a different generation deconstructing with rapid fire speed and finesse.

Parents and educators will appreciate the helpful talking tips Bailey has provided to navigate the Monster High mixed messaging amidst the “kindness” media morass, and give them the deconstruction they need to be able to recognize “junk food in the toy aisle.”

Meanwhile, let’s all send a strong message to Mattel to knock off the goodwashing and start changing their core content and cruddy cues to kids so consumers don’t have to constantly mitigate this monster problem.

Monster High’s Mixed Messages About Bullying

by Bailey Shoemaker Richards

 

The Monster High line of toys is one that’s come under fire from parents and researchers since it was released – the scantily-clad characters with their impossible proportions, and the short-short skirts, excessive makeup and bad messages have received long, loud cries of, “Boo!” Now the company has been trying to raise the line’s image from the dead, using a tactic called “goodwashing.”

By plastering the website with messages like, “Don’t be a mean ghoul!” and emphasizing in the press that the toy line encourages friendship, the Monster High line is suddenly supposed to look pretty good to parents.

There are a lot of problems with that, though.

For starters, do the toys (and their ubiquitous marketing, commercial spots and webisodes) reflect that messaging? From the outside, a toy line that encourages kids to be themselves and unique would sound like a great option – but aside from the fact that the Monster High characters are monsters, they look just like every other doll on the market.

The monster shell is just that: an extra layer of makeup slapped onto the same old messaging about how girls are expected to look and act. I can’t think of a single line of toys that explicitly encourages girls to try to be like everyone else; uniqueness is a common message, but when most toys offer the same narrow options for appearance and behavior, I’m going to cry foul.

The webisodes don’t fare any better under this type of scrutiny.

The most recent one on the website when I visited it was “The Nine Lives of Toralei,” a school news report on a catty bully, complete with racist undertones (Toralei ends up “in the pound” – still in high heels – where she meets other “kitties from the street,” her “werecat sistahs” – and no, I’m not kidding). 

Toralei and her “sistahs” fight to control the prison by having a catfight with the top dogs, before Toralei and the others are whisked off to Monster High, where it’s indicated that “the same rules apply.”

Apparently it’s a jungle out there, and the only way to get to the top is to bully, fight and intimidate your way there.

Hardly the same message as, “Don’t be a mean ghoul,” is it? But maybe that’s just a bad episode. It’s possible that there are others with better messages about friendship, cooperation, intelligence, kindness and good ethics, right?

“Unlife to Live” features Cleo bullying her boyfriend into buying smoothies (because that’s how girls get what they want: Pouting, glaring, crossing their arms – good lesson!) and talking to Ghoulia, the requisite “smart girl,” who is brilliant but slumped over, drooling and incapable of talking.

As Cleo walks away, she mocks Ghoulia (shown at left) for not having a life. What a good friend.

Ghoulia is then shown answering the brainy equivalent of a Bat-Signal and saving the school, only to be mocked again by Cleo at the end of the episode.

Episode after episode features similar messages: You get to the top by being the biggest monster possible – and not in the fun, unique way the line might insist you should, but by threatening or using physical violence, bullying tactics, cheating, lying and whining.

The occasional episode where these methods don’t work (usually because they’re practiced by someone other than the top Mean Ghouls) fail to enforce any good moral lessons or growth.

So what are we to make of the mixed messages about Monster High?

And, most importantly, how can we communicate to the target audience (girls around the age of 6 through ‘tweens’) that maybe these monsters don’t really have their best interests at heart? (high schoolers don’t play with dolls anymore, but high school looks cool and glamorous to younger girls)

Having an age-appropriate media literacy discussion with kids is a big first step to helping them untangle the web Monster High is trying to weave.

By coating bad messages in an outer layer of good PR and catchy slogans, the company makes it harder for kids and parents to reject the toy without looking like they support bullying.

That’s a slimy tactic, but helping kids develop strong media literacy skills reveals it for what it is.

To make sure kids can understand the spin, parents and older siblings have to understand it first.

Media Literacy Talking Points About Monster High’s Mixed Messages 

1.) Who profits? Who gets the benefit from a major corporation slapping feel-good phrases on a product line that’s been under fire for negative messaging to kids? The corporation does. If the PR works, parents and kids are going to buy into the hype that suddenly Monster High characters’ historically bad attitudes, barely-there clothes and unhealthy bodies play second fiddle to their positive messages about being nice and staying true to yourself.

2.) Is their message consistent? Examining the messaging in its own context – the Monster High website – quickly reveals that the nice girl message is a hastily slapped on façade that attempts to cover the backbiting, bullying, “Mean Girl” perception of reality. Pasting a platitude at the top of the site doesn’t change the fact that the Monster High show relies on girl hate, girl-on-girl violence and stereotyping (both gendered and racial) to feed girls the same old lies.

3.) Can you spot the spin? Arrange to co-view the shows. Girls in the target audience aren’t necessarily going to understand what’s meant by the sexualization of girlhood, but they understand friendship. Watching a few of the Monster High shows (they’re usually about 3 minutes in length) and talking through the behavior of the characters is an easy way to expose the negative messages they contain.

“Is Cleo being nice to Ghoulia? Do you think that’s how friends should treat each other? Is it appropriate to hit, scratch or punch to get your way? How do you think your friends would feel if someone said that to them?”

Asking simple questions about the behaviors of the girls in the show will expose the messaging for what it is, and from there it’s easy to have a frank discussion about why those behaviors are not okay, and why the Monster High toys aren’t welcome in the house.

Kids who are too young to parse the spin doctoring of a toy line’s marketing aren’t too young to know right from wrong. Talking through the lessons imparted by Monster High is the easiest way to expose the monster in the closet, and throw it out for good.

Bailey Shoemaker Richards, 22, is a recent graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, a feminist activist, and a member of the SPARKteam.

She spends her free time writing, reading, playing video games and watching Doctor Who.

Bailey is passionate about grassroots activism, media critique and giving a voice to young women.

AND…Bailey is the first ever Shaping Youth Correspondent turned Columnist, where she will now have a biweekly platform to cover media literacy messaging in the K-12 sphere and beyond.

Follow Bailey at SPARK and on Twitter and right here on Shaping Youth as our new site expansion this summer brings more critical thinking and diverse voices into the media mix.

At A Glance Recap Of Monster High Goodwashing 

1.) Monster High’s multi-layered marketing madness is vile on a variety of misguided levels including body image/sexualization akin to the productization of pole dancing Pussycat Dolls we staved off from Hasbro just a few years ago. (note similarities of dolls in photo)

2.) The ‘kindness’ is a cynical corporate spinmeister maneuver to realign Mattel’s snippy girl on girl bullying and hyper-sexualized dolls which  have taken some heat in the media & marketplace by parents in a lame attempt to ‘reframe’ and ‘reposition the brand’ as ‘kind.’

3.) The ‘kindness’ tactic of teaming with nonprofits that appear to reflect the antithesis of Monster High webisodes and toys not only creates confusion (among both parent purchasers AND child end users) it does damage with a supremely misguided deployment of a much-needed conversation.

4.) 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 and senseless stereotypes. (see Rosalind Wiseman’s excellent post on how to tell the difference between a good and a  bad anti-bullying campaign) 

Sample Monster High Webisode/YouTube Mentioned in Bailey’s Article Above

Comments

  1. Hi Amy!
    Had to respond to this one because I remember looking at these creepy dolls years ago, when my girls were still at the doll-playing stage, and wondering what kind of adult would shell out money for such an object. I figured these dolls had died a quick death years ago, but evidently enough adults have supported the line. Amazing. Think its another case of media literacy for parents, don’t you?

    And great work by Bailey, how nice to have a refreshing young voice in this sphere. I would love to hear her advice to parents! Thanks for the great read.

  2. Thanks, Diana, yes, media/marketing literacy could use a universal overhaul, and we could start with mainstream media “journalism” becoming sensationalized platforms for every corporate gaffe and blunder in ‘outrage baiting’ style (from padded 6X swimsuits to thongs for tweens…to yes…Monster High dolls.

    My biggest fear is they’ll get even MORE press for their controversial tactics and mind-numbingly surreal ethics, trotting out every ‘do gooder’ young goodwashing persona as human shields knowing full well everyone will tip-toe around them to ensure they’re not caught in the blast zone.

    None of us want to harm the youth/nonprofits themselves, and adults at Mattel know this very well.

    It disgusts me at a visceral level.

    And frankly, whether the young people are pawns or privy, it’s a cowardly, overly-used goodwashing tactic that NEEDS to be called out. With a megaphone. (cuz the microphones appear to be all bought and paid for ;-)

  3. Hi Amy,

    I was at Target the other day and couldn’t believe my eyes. I even whipped out my phone to take a picture of this terrible vampire girl with button eyes. I wasn’t familiar with the line of dolls at the time. But after reading your article I went back to that photo to see if it was the same line, and it was! Who buys these dolls? Do parents just think they are funny?
    I hope that more articles like yours will educate mothers about lines like these and make space for new brands, that give girls positive messages, will come to the forefront.

    Thanks for sharing your thougts.
    -Jen Landis

  4. Amy and Bailey –
    Excellent post. Thank you for adding to the voices that are trying so hard to educate parents and make childhood a more reasonable place for our kids.
    My husband read this along with me last night, and we applaud you both.

    Melissa

  5. Thank you for this fantastic article today. It sparked a conversation about self-worth, media literacy and staying true to oneself with my 13yr old daughter and her friend that slept over.

    I was wondering if Bailey is also going to write articles geared towards the kids themselves–I would love for my daughter to hear a voice that is closer to her own age reinforcing what is being taught here at home.

  6. Great post, Amy and Bailey. Thanks so much for sharing an even deeper look at Mattel’s goodwashing of this brand. It’s important that we educate parents and kids to look beyond the hype and examine the messages themselves.
    Jennifer Shewmaker recently posted..A Monster Problem: Monster High may be good for business, but is it good for girls?My Profile

  7. @Jen, the button eyes dolls remind me more of Coraline, and I’m unfamiliar with Mattel’s marketing of that version so need to look into that more to see the messaging, as I’ve only researched the more prominent hyper-sexualized ‘dead Bratz’ style characters…and yech. After countless hours of viewing webisodes to ‘give it a chance’ it is an “epic fail” as the kids would say.

    @Melissa, thanks. @DrJen–your post is amazing and spot on from a child development standpoint…definitely a MUST to get these points across to parents ‘on the fence’ who have had far too many sips of the pro-social spin-doctoring KoolAid.

    @Terry YES! I think it’s a fabulous idea if Bailey has some columns directed to kids themselves…Just like she had helpful talking points for parents, it would be great if she could serve as sort of a ‘mentor’ by posing some ‘think about it’ conversation openers with kids

    You’ve given me food for thought in our site expansion as it may be that we carve out a separate portion on the site to have an ongoing ‘youth voices’ soundoff akin to the corner we’re starting called “Point/Counterpoint” for folks to thoroughly deconstruct ongoing media/mktg convos lobbed into the sphere…like “Should Facebook be open to under 13″ and run heavy research on both sides…

    Our mission is all about critical thinking so that people can make the decisions for themselves. We’re not telling people WHAT to think, but instead, re-educating on HOW to think.
    amy recently posted..Sexism in Video Games: Tropes, Trolls and Terrific UpstandersMy Profile

  8. Thanks all, for your thoughtful comments! So great to know we’re not alone in seeing the problems here.

    To Terry specifically, that is a great idea! I definitely intend to direct a number of my columns specifically to readers in a younger age bracket – it’s excellent to get parents on board, but it also helps to have a voice for the kids themselves to connect with! Helping kids form a good media literacy foundation from a young age is hugely important for making sure they’re able to process messages like these as they get older.

  9. Thank you, Amy and Bailey for responding to my comment! I do think having a portion of the site specifically for the kids would be a great idea…someplace that they could come to independently for thought-provoking topics and reinforcement of self-worth! Having Bailey as that mentor-type person would be wonderful…she isn’t so much older that she sounds like just another Mom. Sometimes they need to see people closer to their own ages making good, intelligent choices.

    The middle school and early high school years, always a hard time, are, in my opinion, so much more difficult now with media images and the constant technology. With FaceBook, Twitter, texting, etc, these kids can’t get away from the pressures of fitting in…there are very few safe spaces anymore. It truly is heartbreaking.

  10. STANDING OVATION!!!!

  11. Thank you for this fantastic article today. It’s important that we educate parents and kids to look beyond the hype and examine the messages themselves.

  12. @Matthew, thanks for taking the time to reinforce parenting media literacy and discerning between hype vs health…

    So critical to know the difference, as we’re getting desensitized to a shoulder shrug of helplessness w/cruddy cues to kids when parents literally say things like “meh? whatchagonna do?” It’s ‘giveupitis’ at its worst.

    Thanks for staying in ‘critical thinking’ mode…

  13. Great work by Bailey, how nice to have a refreshing young voice in this sphere. I would love to hear her advice to parents! Thanks for the great read.

  14. Jame-agree…Bailey’s a shining star, and a busy one. We’ll definitely try to tap her talent as much as we can, as I think her advice would be invaluable!

  15. Watch the Kind Campaign episode, it’s a bit older but it’s probably what you’re looking for if you want to see them promoting kindness. They did another self-esteem episode recently but it doesn’t go through as well as the older one in my opinion. It was about how one person was rotten to somebody and it sent a chain reaction over the school of all the students being mean to each other, but Ghoulia (the zombie, hence why she speaks in moans) the one who managed to stay level-headed called the founders of the Kind Campaign to try and make everyone “find kind” by trying to not let one sour comment change their mood and make them a jerk. Honestly if you’re looking for a good message, that’s where you’re going to find it.
    I’m an honest collector of the series and I thought you could use some insight to people who oppose your opinions. I’ve been with the line since 2010, its start in the world and have been collecting since. I was attracted probably from my childhood background with movies such as “The Nightmare before Christmas” and “Beetlejuice” so the idea of monsters is something I can link back to enjoying as a kid. It started off as something I couldn’t believe I was getting into (I wasn’t a fan of dolls as a child and much preferred play video games like my older brother such as Pokémon) and then I eventually caved and bought two of them off Amazon and didn’t regret it. Yeah the original outfits I am more than willing to admit as a fan are very skimpy (all besides Ghoulia’s whose worst offence is having her shoulders being shown). I believe Mattel listened to this and over time most of the dolls have a lot of their legs covered, heck a lot of the characters are coming in with leggings or pants on them. The only character that’s been released recently that I think about as skimpy as the originals is Nefera who is the “failed fashion model older sister antagonist” and since she is an antagonist I doubt children would think of looking up to her as a role model.
    Now with getting the dolls they come with little dairies which seem to be written on a level probably suggested for ages ten and up. They give the REAL personalities of the characters; the webisodes (those online videos’ general title in the fandom) do not. They explain a character’s origin and a bit of how they go to where they are currently. My personal favorite is Nefera’s because there’s a lot of hidden depth Mattel has given her but they haven’t fully released all of it yet. Nefera is basically shown as delusional and has that constant need to be perfect and this is probably pressured onto her by her dad who expects the best out of the oldest child. In the end you end up feeling bad for her in the oddest way possible because she does something that would be seen as unforgivable but you feel bad for her form of insanity. This is considered okay in my opinion since she is shown as the meanest antagonist in the series as of right now, and since she was made for kids to not like her terrible personality is acceptable by putting her as a character that no kid would want to be. If kids are encouraged to not want to be like the antagonist they’re not going to want to be perfect in her crazy sense. Her whole diary can be taken as a booklet of what not to be like and a GOOD lesson for children and possibly even some adults.
    I hate things like you just wrote because all of you obviously look for the sluttiest dolls you can find from the line and only look at the webisodes which the only ones I’d honestly recommend the television specials Fright On!, and Escape From Skull Shores for newcomers but it wouldn’t be as good unless your knew the main character’s normal personalities. The dairies though are the best source material since they are written to try and give you a character’s perspective on life and by the end of certain ones they tend to tie into one another (some ending with the end of summer, some ending at a middle school carnival, etc). I honestly believe if your kid knows the difference between a doll and a human (which even I did offhand since I was very young) Monster High IS a great influence. It promotes acceptance among others even through difference of species (werewolf vs. vampire, saltwater monsters vs. freshwater monsters and monsters vs. humans have had racial tensions and them being put to an effort to being solved) and cultural background (there are currently German, French, Egyptian, Greek, Transylvanian, Mexican, Chinese, Himalayan/”Yettish”, Australian, British, and Irish characters so far). It has also sponsored two anti-bullying campaigns is its three year existence. The line has a fan base worldwide that all connect with something they all love and have that vast variety of different backgrounds such as the characters in the series do. Sure getting active is good but way overdone, Monster High brings the also slightly overdone anti-bullying messages but it also has brought lesser seen cultural bond beyond the average adding of just one African American seen in most doll lines. If that doesn’t sound like a good influence on people overall I honestly don’t know what is.

  16. @Mary, thanks for your detailed, alternative response but you’re talking ‘pre and post’ good-washing with the Monster High/Kind campaign for starters…

    We have researcher analyst colleagues who have literally time stamped the heck out of these webisodes logging and recording positive and negative cues and ‘kind’ vs ‘unkind’ credos for academic publication; it’s a very lop-sided ledger. Her book will publish soon derailing this notion that MH is a ‘great’ influence; and you can read for yourself, as it’s quite a substantial indictment…(it’s no wonder Monster High needs massive product repositioning)

    @Ninapedia This applies to your comment too…Here are my initial thoughts on the whole sudden shift from relational aggression/bullying into repositioning in the marketplace as ‘kind’ —In short, not buying the corporate spin balderdash.

    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 about diversity, compassion, and ‘kindness’

    To recap from my comment on *this* post:
    http://jennifershewmaker.com/2011/05/20/does-monster-high-teach-kindness/

    “My rub is not with the Kind Campaign, or BEING kind, or the Kind documentary; may it have wide distribution into schools, and the Kind women to spread kindness ad infinitum…But that’s not the Monster High product.

    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 to try to suddenly ‘be good’…

    In industry parlance we call this a ‘concept overhaul’ to try to turn the vapid webisode content into something more palatable, since parents and educators exposed to the brand were upended by the mean girl messaging.

    Likewise, the Monster High dolls that come complete with ‘personas’ already cast/created on back of box packaging derail the plausibility of ‘free play’ using one’s own imagination…If they truly want kids to be unique, diverse, and individual, why not let the dolls ‘be whoever they want to be’ rather than follow the tight constructs of pre-fab personas?

    Guess I’ll do a whole follow-up post on why the MH repositioning w/Kind is manipulative goodwashing…it’s ‘revisionist history’ at best, though I’m VERY thankful Mattel ‘gets it’ that what they’re putting out there needed an overhaul.

    Which brings up the execution, and the conduits w/new partner orgs and youth salesagents which disturbs me even more…

    Back atcha soon to explain why/how, and also some toy visuals and product photos and messaging to help explain how this impacts little kids. (yes, wee ones, not ‘collectors’ and not even ‘tweens’…LITTLE kids)

  17. God really? I seriously hat mothers like you people you all suck. You want them all to be like little barbies well guess what Barbie is a damn Whore. MH dolls teach girls to be theselves. the slogan is “Be Unique Be Yourself Be a Monster” That means be diffrent not Be a stupid perfect cake face Mannequins. They try to teach kids to be kind to others to be nice and accepting. Which you people obviously are not. a button eye vampire OOOOOH SCARY. yet i bet you let your children watch Coraline. and the “little kids” um it clearly says on the box “for ages 6 and up” yet a barbie box says “for ages 3 and up” teach a three year old how to dress like a slut. i wish there were words to describe how stupid you all are. “Mixed signals?” They say “Don’t be a mean Ghoul” how is that a “mixed signal” teaching children how to be kind is a mixed signal? Ok then it’s all right if you buy your child a barbie that say’s “Math is Hard” how stupid is barbie. i would rather buy my child an MH doll and A Bratz doll than let her play with a blonde skinny skank who wears micro minis tube tops and thongs.

  18. Sadly, you’ve missed the entire point and obviously not read the full article, or the links. The hackneyed Barbie bit is old news, and we’ve skewered the ‘math is hard’ nonsense to a farethewell in triple-distilled style, so no fan here, I can attest. For a great example of expressing opposing points of view with respect, see Mary’s response above. Alas…

    It’s clearly time to close comments as the trolls and vitriol are only serving as a red alert reminder of why we need media literacy, digital literacy and more to teach civility. Great site here by the way and book called “choosing civility” >> http://krieger.jhu.edu/civility/choosingcivility.html

    As a colleague of mine just reminded me, “Your blog is YOUR space. It’s YOUR party. And if people get rip-roaring drunk and start puking on other guests and saying vile, sexist, racist things at your house during a party you get them out of there, right? You don’t let people violate your space and your guests. You do not owe the world the right to say anything they want to on your blog. It’s not censorship to insist on civil discourse or to say a discussion has run its course.”

    Not saying you did that, just saying, Yep. Sure enough. Convo has run it’s course. Buh-bye.

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