Ever After High isn’t happily ever after after all

ever-after-high-logoEver After High is a companion webisode show to the popular Mattel Fashion dolls. Sound familiar? It is. By now, doll companies have figured out that they can not only sell dolls, but they can sell movies, soundtracks, video games and more. Now they not only have 30 second commercials for their dolls and products, they have hour long commercials!

Ever After High is a spin off of the popular doll line, Monster High. Like its predecessor, it features the teenage children of popular characters. But instead of iconic horror movie monster, it’s fairy tale characters. I already did a fair amount of ranting about fairy tales in my Bratz review of the film Bratz Kidz: Fairy Tales, but there’s still plenty more to be had.

Fairy tales are simply not something that girls need thrown at them from every angle. It would be enough if there were just fairy tale story books that parents read to their children, but fairy tales are made into movies, paraded around by Disney, turned into dolls and play sets.

Girls are told to want to be these helpless characters, to dream about their Prince Charming coming to rescue them and take care of them for the rest of their lives. People call girls princesses and believe that they’re all marriage-minded and future mothers even when they’re far too young to understand any of the importance of those actions. Grown women design their weddings and homes around fairy tales and talk about the stories as if they’re something to aspire to.

Some people wonder why girls want fairy tales and as I discussed here, it’s because we’ve told them at every turn to want it. Part of breaking the princess myth from the stranglehold that it’s taken on young women’s minds is to stop producing so much shit for them to consume that is based on fairy tales.

Of course, I wouldn’t be going on this epic rant about fairy tales if Ever After High managed to do something different and empowering with them. So let’s just get the spoilers out of the way, because I can assure you that they don’t. At all.

The webisodes for Ever After High are very short. Most of them around 1:30-2 minutes long. I’m going to be looking at three of the longer episodes in this blog, Raven’s Tale, Apple’s Tale and Legacy Day. These three episodes go over the story arch that the dolls are built around.

Let’s dive in and see just how deep this shit gets. And trust me, it’s going to get deep. First up, Raven’s Tale: Story of a Rebel. The intro is a bunch of friendly watercolor graphics backed by a pop song that croons about individuality and personal choice.

The story begins, “Once upon a time,” with a male narrator talking over the proceedings as Raven Queen, daughter of the evil queen in Snow White, who was so unimportant that she didn’t even warrant a name, is about to complete her part in the school’s Legacy Day. She is on the brink of completing the ritual with Apple White, daughter of Snow White, in the background, urging her to do it. But then a female narrator interrupts and tells the male narrator to go back to the beginning and introduce the school.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing that dueling narrators made me think of was the epically bad 3DO game, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties. Click to view the Angry Video Game Nerd’s review. I wouldn’t link the actual game, although you can play the entire thing on YouTube. Trust me, it’s time that you will never get back.

Anyway, fighting narrators aside, the male narrator introduces Ever After High as a high school for the teenage sons and daughters of famous fairy tale characters. Although it should be noted that the school is populated with only characters that people recognize. There are hundreds of fairy tales written by the Grimm’s Brothers, Hans Christen Anderson and more. But only a fraction of the characters are based off of the sheer amount of fairy tales that have been written in.

The narrator also introduces Legacy Day. It’s the day when the students pledge to follow the same path as their fairy tale parents. As if fairy tales are on a loop with the character’s children playing out the same role as they did. Which is weird. Why would characters need to do this? What kind of a world are they living in where this has to happen?

But no one really addresses or questions this part. The story picks up with Raven Queen talking to her friend Maddie Hatter. Who, of course, is the daughter of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. Maddie can hear the warring narrators for some reason and tells them to be quiet.

Meanwhile, Raven reveals her frustration at people believing that she’s evil just because her mom was. Raven enters the school and everyone promptly freaks out. There is screaming, running in terror, etc. Maddie, however, is completely oblivious to her reception and tells her that everyone loves her. Then her watch goes off and she has a tea party right in the hallway.

At lunch time, Raven sits by herself to eat and Dexter Charming approaches her. He tries to start a conversation but then Apple White and Daring Charming, his older brother, enter the room. Everyone runs over to the couple and gushes all about how amazing they are. Apple greets Raven and Daring explains that he just had his teeth whitened and he can’t smile for fear of blinding people.

Cerise, the daughter of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, enters and is struck by Daring’s glaring teeth. She growls and walks off. After lunch, Raven goes to her dorm, where she thinks that she’s rooming with Maddie, only to find out that Apple has switched roommates with her and now they’re rooming together.

Raven asks why and Apple tells her, “Because you’re such an important part of my story–“, driving home that Apple doesn’t care about her as a person, she just cares about how she plays into her life. Apple tries to convince her new roommate that she will be the perfect rooming partner. She informs Raven that she is sweet and kind and can sing to woodland creatures.

She has also decorated Raven’s half of the room. She has outfitted it with an evil magic mirror, an evil chair, and an evil diadem. Raven is less than pleased. Apple, of course, is oblivious to her feelings.

The next scene takes place at the rehearsal for Legacy Day. Headmaster Grimm, no relation to Principal Grimm in the Bratz movie, is instructing the students on how to complete the ritual. He tells the teens that they will state their names and their pledge to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Then a magical key will appear. They will insert it into the story book of legend and declare their destiny to the world. Then they will see their future in the book and they will sign their names to complete their pledge. Raven has a question, but Grimm ignores her.

Maddie practices her pledge first. Then Hunter Huntsman, the son of the Huntsman in Snow White, then Cedar Wood pledges to follow in her dad’s footsteps and be the next Pinocchio. Then it’s Raven’s turn. She starts, but can’t complete her pledge. She reveals that she doesn’t want to.ever_after_high_group_cutout_by_shaibrooklyn-d67alz0

Everyone gasps in horror. Headmaster Grimm tells the teenage evil queen that if she doesn’t then her story, her and everyone else in her story will cease to exist. “Poof!” he says, for dramatic effect. Apple frets about her possible future and Raven, unable to stand anymore, runs off into the woods and sits by herself. The narrators wonder, what will happen?

This is the end of Raven’s tale. Before I start on Apple’s tale, I’d like to talk about the appearance of all of these fairy tale characters. All of the girls have the same slim body type. They all have exceedingly long hair and they all wear frilly dresses with staggeringly pointed stilettos.

The series tries to separate out the characters into two social groups, the royals and the rebels, but stylistically, they are the same. The only real difference is that the rebels wear darker colors. In fairy tales the bad guys are usually ugly. But in Ever After High, everyone is beautiful and fully made up. There are no tomboys, there are no young women who deviate from the hyper-feminine mold.

Of course, this is by itself is no huge revelation. Most children’s shows do this. But this begs the question, why can’t one show, just one, deviate from this pattern?

Moving on, Apple’s Tale: Story of a Royal, begins with the female narrator describing Apple proudly making her declaration at Legacy Day. Everyone cheers as the teenager states her destiny. Then the male narrator interrupts and tells her to start at the beginning of the school year.

Apple walks to school with Briar Beauty, daughter of Sleeping Beauty. Snow White’s daughter talks about how excited she is for Legacy Day, but Briar is just excited for the after party. The girls states that if she is going to be asleep for 100 years, then she has to party now.

She adds that everyone loves Apple and to prove her point, they enter the school and everyone announces her appearance. The other students fall all over themselves to greet her and talk to her. Tiny, son of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, presumably, asks to carry her books for her. Apple graciously accepts.

The young princess walks over to Daring Charming, who is waiting for her, at her locker. He tells her about his teeth whitening and accidentally blinds Tiny, who promptly falls over. Then Blondie Locks, daughter of Goldie Locks, and the school’s Gossip Girl, approaches the couple. She wants to interview them with her magic mirror but Apple demurs. She tells Blondie that she’s not dating Daring and adds, “This is high school. We have forever after to be together.” Blondie desperately adds that they’re the prefect couple.

While it’s a good thing that the show isn’t pushing the fairy tale’s common practice of teenagers getting married after first meeting and sharing a kiss, the two seem to be single in name only. They go everywhere as a couple, they believe that they are destined to marry, and everyone at the school treats them as a couple. So how not dating are they?

In the next scene, Apple is in her dorm room with Briar, setting up for Raven’s arrival. She thoroughly believes that Raven is going to love her side of the room. Briar asks her friend why she’s doing all of this and Apple explains that it’s because of Raven being so critical to her own story. She needs her.

Although it would be one thing if Apple would eventually realize that other people in the world matter, not just because they have an effect on her life, and they have wants and needs of their own, she doesn’t seem to do so in any of the subsequent episodes. She continues to live, only thinking about people in relation to her own life. With a smile and a flip of her hair, no one sees it as important enough to tell her that others are relevant too, not just because of what they can do for her. Why leave children with the impression that this kind of self-absorption is not only okay but normal?

Anyway, Raven approaches and Apple tells Briar to go. Briar jumps out of the window just before Raven arrives. Briar falls several stories and Daring, who just happened to be standing underneath the window, catches her. They have a brief conversation about him always being there to rescue damsels in distress and Briar runs off to jump out of the window again.

Back in the dorm room, the same scene plays out with Raven asking where Maddie is and Apple explaining to her that they’re roommates now. Cut to later in the day. Apple and Briar are walking through town. They talk about getting a latte, like good preppy girls would do, and run into Ashlynn Ella, the daughter of Cinderella.

Friends-ever-after-high-35090303-1366-768She is obsessed with shoes and even wears high heel earrings. Ashlynn asks the girls if they want to go on a nature hike, talking about how she has missed communing with nature. Because who doesn’t hike in stilettos? But before they can actually do something active like hiking, a talking duck arrives and announces that he has a delivery of 300 shoes for the Glass Slipper, the shoe store that Ashlynn works at.

The shoes are carried in by ducks who drop the boxes as they fly past the store. Ashlynn runs around, trying to collect all of the shoes. Just then, the bell rings and it’s time for the Legacy Day rehearsal.

In the next scene, the narrators continue to argue over whether what Raven is going to do will be good or bad for everyone. The same scene plays out with Grimm explaining how Legacy Day works. Apple goes first and proudly volunteers to pledge her destiny. Briar goes next and vows to sleep for 100 years.

Daring is next. He says that he will be brave, good looking, kind, good looking, thoughtful, good looking… But who are we kidding? Charming princes are as pointless as their fairy tale counterparts. They’re more active, but most of them don’t even have names. They’re just stereotypes that play out their part with the same disconnection that their love interests do.

Then it’s Raven turn. She hesitates, then asks if she has to pledge her destiny. Apple freaks out at the thought of someone jeopardizing her happily ever after. Raven runs off into the woods and Apple takes refuge in a different part of the forest. Headmaster Grimm catches up with her and tells her that she has to keep an eye on Raven. He says, “We must follow the paths that are set out before us. It’s the only way to keep our world safe.” Before Apple can agree, he disappears.

The episode ends with the narrators bickering again. I have to say that I really don’t like watching the same things happen again. It just gets boring to re-watch everything that you’ve already seen happen. The only show that I’ve seen successfully do this is Coupling. Because they set up situations where, when you re-watch the interaction, you’ve been given new information and it puts an entirely different spin on what’s happening.

The next sequential episode is just called Legacy Day. The narrators start out by arguing with each other, yet again. Then the scene opens with Raven confessing to Maddie that she doesn’t think that she can sign the Storybook of Legend. Maddie reminds that her Headmaster Grimm told her that her story will disappear and she will disappear with it. Although she doesn’t seem very concerned when she says it.

Maddie tells her that she knows how she can help. Just then, Apple spots Raven and calls her over. Maddie grabs her wrist and the girls take off through the school. Apple says that she has to get Raven to sign the book as her destiny depends on it, before taking off after her. But the two girls escape Apple by disappearing into a secret portal in the library.

Raven and Maddie and go to see Giles Grimm, Headmaster Grimm’s brother. He was cursed with a babble spell and now speaks in riddlish. A language where he talks in nonsensical rhymes. Thankfully, Maddie speaks riddlish. Kind of.

The daughter of the evil queen asks her friend to ask him about the Storybook of Legend. Maddie asks Giles, “Can a musical chair changes its tone when the tablet of granite is inscribed with a bone?” Giles answers in a similarly ridiculous statement. Maddie translates that if she doesn’t sign the book, her story will continue. She thinks. Maddie explains that riddlish is not an exact language. Raven is not comforted.

Cut to Legacy Day. It’s the big event. All of the characters are dressed up in weird, couture versions of their regular clothes. Apple goes first. She inserts her key into the storybook of legend and the book opens. It shows her her future. Raven poisons her, she is revived, she has Raven arrested, she becomes queen, she lives happily ever after. Seeing her future self in the mirrors placed around the stage, Apple smiles happily and signs her name without hesitation. The crowd cheers with delight. But then it’s Raven’s turn.

The princess steps up and states her name as Apple urges her on from the sidelines. She takes her key and inserts it into the book. It opens and she sees her future. Raven poisons Apple, she is rejected by society, eventually arrested, imprisoned and she ends up pushing a shopping cart in shabby clothes, destitute and presumably homeless.

Raven stops and sees the future image of herself in chains, her expression, agonized. Suddenly, she says, “I am Raven Queen and I’m going to write my own destiny. My happily ever after starts now.” She slams the book closed and all of the mirrors set up around the stage shatter.

The rebels cheer her on from the crowd. Raven pauses for a minute, realizing that she hasn’t disappears as promised at all. Grimm, however, is not pleased. Apple tells her that she’s being selfish, with no sense of irony whatsoever.

Raven apologizes to Apple, but the royals and the rest of the crowd has turned against her. She suddenly screams, “Hold everything!” and she freezes the entire crowd. Looking around in surprise, Raven states that she didn’t know that she could do that.

The princess first unfreezes Apple. She tells the girl, “But I don’t want anyone to tell me who to be. I want to figure that out on my own.” She adds that now everyone can choose their own destiny.

This is such a great message for children, particularly, young girls, but delivered by this series, it rings insincere. The young women presented in this series are all attractive, slim body types that wear the sames style clothes and have the same hyper-feminized interests. The ultimate message that is delivered is that you can be who you want, as long as it falls within the narrow box of socially-accepted attractiveness.

Apple, of course, objects to Raven’s actions. She tells the princess that she liked her destiny. She didn’t want to choose another one. Apple tells Raven that now everything is uncertain.

While this could be seen as a great opportunity for growth on Apple’s part, the series does nothing of the sort with this storyline. In the subsequent episodes, Apple remains the same popular, self-obsessed young woman. Her jeopardized destiny doesn’t provide her with any opportunities to grow and discover things for herself. She stays stagnant.

Raven then unfreezes Maddie and the Mad Hatter’s daughter is excited for her friend and overjoyed that she didn’t disappear. The narrators start to bicker over whether or not Raven did the right thing and Maddie tells them to be quiet as she’s trying to have a moment with her friend.

Later that night, in Grimm’s office, he talks to himself and states that Raven has no idea what forces she’s released into the world. He says that the idea that you can choose your own destiny has to be contained before it spreads. Suddenly, there is sinister laughter behind him and when he turns he sees an evil-looking mirror in his office.

That’s the end of the episode. In the following webisodes, this is never explained and the evil mirror is seemingly forgotten. The next episodes are about forming study groups and friction between the royals and the rebels. Nothing really happens with Raven and her chosen destiny.

I wasn’t exactly destined to like this series. I’ve already made it pretty damn clear that I don’t think that fairy tales are anything that girls and young women need to be inundated with to the point of saturation. This series capitalizes on everything that’s wrong with fairy tales and takes it a step further by showing the girls with the same body type and style and skyscraper high heels.

Girls deserve better than anything that fairy tales have to offer and they deserve much more than anything Ever After High has to offer. There are so many amazing stories of unconventional young women waiting to be told, but instead, girls are shown this tale of societally attractive being doing socially acceptable things and showing individuality within a small box of someone else’s idea of what is acceptable for young women. We all deserve better.

Want to read more reviews of Ever After High episodes? Click here to check them out.

One thought on “Ever After High isn’t happily ever after after all

Comments are closed.