A look into “Monster High”: Why diversity in kids’ media is important
Diversity is important, yet oftentimes, entertainment omits it or horribly adapts it. Diversity is especially important in kids’ entertainment so that it will foster acceptance in the child’s adulthood. However, time and time again, diversity within kids’ media is often forgotten. Luckily, this was not the case with the fashion doll franchise, “Monster High”.
Starting in July of 2010, the doll lineup was different from other doll franchises out there such as Bratz or Barbie. “
Monster High” included a group of girls who were all humanoid monsters who all had “freaky flaws.” With its slogan as “Be Yourself, Be Unique, Be a Monster,” “Monster High” celebrated differences and inclusivity in a way never seen before in a doll franchise.
Firstly, “Monster High” had many different monsters who were all coded to come from different ethnic backgrounds. It further celebrated diversity by giving almost each and every doll their own individual doll mold that correlated with their supposed ethnic background. “In contrast to both Barbie’s one-size-fits-all and Bratz’s ‘ethnically indeterminate’ approaches, “Monster High” uses an individual face mold for each character and gives the dolls specific ethnic backgrounds, including Chinese, Jewish, Incan, and Tibetan.”
Although it may not seem like much, having different features for each different ethnicity helps combat colorblind racism. Having dolls each with different facial structures also teaches children to embrace their individual features rather than try to model themselves to the traditional beauty standard.
On top of having fashion dolls, “Monster High” also produced movies and webisodes featuring their characters. Topics such as racism were discussed in the movies in a kid-friendly way that was easy to interpret.
In the “Monster High” movie, “Monster High: Fright On!” talks heavily about racism between werewolves and vampires, respectively coded to be African American and European. The movie talks about a longstanding hatred between werewolves and vampires, but then ultimately overcoming it and realizing that they aren’t so different after all.
The movie effectively talks about cultural differences that two people of different heritage can have, but shows that despite that, people are still people. By presenting this to a young audience, “Monster High” helps teach equality while still showcasing diversity.
Finally, the creator of “Monster High”, Garrett Sander, wanted to include LGBTQ+ characters as well within his franchise. However, Mattel (who owned “Monster High”) constantly shut this idea down. According to Sander, Mattel always told him that “it wasn’t the right time.” Despite the pushback from Mattel, Sander always tried to drop hints to the characters’ sexuality in the diaries included with the dolls. Had Mattel allowed Sander to showcase LGBTQ+ dolls, it would have been a first for a major doll company. This would have allowed children to be shown the diversity of sexuality and would have raised more acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.
So, why does all of this matter?
Children are impressionable. Entertainment and media can shape a child into who they become and what morals they carry as adults. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Children are influenced by media–they learn by observing, imitating, and making behaviors their own.” Showing a diverse cast of characters can help foster tolerance and acceptance into children at an early age.
Diversity helps enhance social development, something that is needed for both children and adults. By exposing diversity to children with entertainment, it helps to kick start social development. As stated by AMP Global Youth, “[Diversity] will prepare you to be a part of a global society, whether you are traveling to a new country, working with diverse co-workers, or just reading about events in the news that have heavily impacted a population different than your own.”
Sociologist, Dr. Caleb Rosado claims that diversity and multiculturalism helps foster “recognition of the abundant diversity of cultures, respect for differences, acknowledging the validity of different cultural expressions and contributions, valuing what other cultures offer, encouraging the contribution of diverse groups, empowering people to strengthen themselves and others to achieve their maximum potential by being critical of their own biases, and celebrating rather than just tolerating the differences in order to bring about unity through diversity.” Franchises like “Monster High”, that not only embrace diversity, but also present it in an easy to interpret way, can help the next generation of children grow into becoming accepting people.
Featured Image (at the top of this page): Original “Monster High” lineup
Photo Credit: Mattel