Monster High is a companion series for a line of Mattel fashion dolls. That’s nothing new, right? But this series IS different! It’s based around monsters. Not feminine, girly things. But the daughter of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula’s daughter, Medusa the Gorgon’s son. There’s nothing frilly and pink about this at all!
Which, superficially is true. On the outside, the show has a darker look with Gothic styling. But the animations, the characters and the plot, are really just Barbies dressed in black. There’s no difference between this show and something like the hyper-girly Ever After High except that one of the characters in this show has fangs.
The show had such potential, but even taking into account the darker aesthetic, it’s just another teen girls show about friendship and clothes. Which is sad, because the market is fucking saturated with them. But let’s dive in and see exactly what this show has to offer young girls and their financially-stretched parents.
The webisode New Ghoul @ School starts off with the show’s theme song. The theme song for Monster High is actually kind of catchy. It introduces the main characters and shows a little bit of the castle-type school that they go to. Over all, one of the better intros I’ve seen from a kid’s show.
The story picks up on Monday with Frankie Stein. Frankie is the daughter of Frankenstein’s Monster. She is pretty, slim and has long hair. Just like every other girl in the entire school. She tells the viewer that she had just turned 16 days old and was on her way to high school.
But the only thing she knew about high school was through magazines and blogs. These sources all told her that it was vital to make an awesome first impression everyone. So immediately upon entering the school, Frankie flings her arms up and shouts, “Hey, ‘sup Monster High!” No one responds.
Frankie marks this as a fail and she even drops her magazines. The next scene shows Frankie standing still while all of the other students more around her. She ponders if she is, “Cursed to spend all high school as… a loner.”
This introduction to Frankie’s character is endearing enough. It’s more accurate than people think for children to be forming opinions about things based off of what they see in media. Media such as this.
It makes me wonder why she views being a loner as such a bad thing. A lot of people desire friendship, but others don’t. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no rule written for human beings that everyone has to be social, all the time, at every point in their lives, without fail. There’s nothing wrong with being a loner or not becoming everyone’s best friend immediately.
But anyway, the story moves onto Tuesday. The viewers are introduced to Deuce Gorgon. Deuce is the aforementioned son of Medusa. He has snakes for hair and wears sunglasses inside, not because he’s a douche, but because he has to in order to stop people from getting temporarily turned to stone when he makes eye contact with them.
Frankie meets Deuce when she drops her books and he stoops down to pick them up for her. Just then, Cleo trips over Frankie. She berates the girl. Then tells her sidekick, Ghoulia, a zombie, to enter Frankie into, “the lowest rung of the popularity data base.” Cleo introduces herself to Frankie as out of her league and Ghoulia growls at her.
It’s true, there will always be mean girls. But what Monster High does is that show this behavior as normal and acceptable and not the harmful disruption that it is. It’s not enough to just say that some people are assholes and bullies at school. It needs to be made clear that it’s not appropriate to treat fellow students like this and make them feel so badly about their social situations that they can’t concentrate on learning.
Later that day, Frankie is in class with a teacher droning on about math. Everyone else in the class is bored. Because teachers and school is just boring, right? Who could possibly be interested in anything that school is trying to teach you? No one, of course. Because important things are best friends and clothes. And school doesn’t help you with that.
Frankie tells herself, “I needed the advice of my besties. Since I didn’t have any, I turned to something almost better.” She picks up a magazine. A publication called The Oracle tells her to be a joiner and find a group. It says to locate others with common interests. Which is actually pretty good advice.
Then Frankie meets Draculaura. Draculaura is, of course, Dracula’s daughter. But the vampire is no blood sucker. In fact, the mere mention of the word blood makes her feel faint. She can’t even say the word herself. While most of the class, including the professor, is asleep, the girls talk about the teen magazines that Frankie was looking at. There is a mention of teen pop sensation, Justin Biter.
Draculaura says that he used to be into the Jaundice Brothers but she likes Justin Biter now. Just then, the bell rings. The students start to move classes while the professor remains asleep.
On her way out, Ghoulia fixes the math problem on the bored. Because, although she’s a zombie and can only communicate with grunts and groans, Ghoulia is very smart. Draculaura walks with Frankie after class.
She asks Frankie if she has a boyfriend. Frankie tells her that she doesn’t. In fact, she’s never even talked to a boy before. Draculaura is upset that her parents won’t let her date until she’s 1700 years old. She then tell her new friend, “Those rides are totally tope.”
Draculaura has to explain that rides are shoes, because you ride on them, and tope is a word that is a combination of “tight” and “rope”. She just made it up herself. Before Frankie can ask her about anything else, they hear something. There’s a zombie flash mob going on.
Some of the confused zombies are saying “trains” and one corrects them to “brains”. Just then, Clawdeen pulls both of the girls into the bathroom. Clawdeen, who is a werewolf, asks who the “fresh blood” is, referring to Frankie. Draculaura passes out at the word blood.
Clawdeen apologizes after Draculaura comes to. It’s then revealed that the vampire can’t see her reflection in the mirror. Which makes it very difficult for her to style her hair and put on makeup. Clawdeen introduces herself to Frankie and they exchange compliments about their staggeringly tall high heels.
Outside, the zombie groans are getting farther and farther away. The girls all leave the bathroom and tell Frankie to text them as they walk off. Frankie calls after them that she doesn’t have their numbers, but it’s too late. They can’t hear her.
As Frankie walks by the other students at their lockers, she inadvertently electrocutes them. But she doesn’t seem to notice. Instead, Frankie decides that she will have to join a club. She tells herself, “Time to join up or shut up.”
It’s interesting here the vast age difference between the characters. Frankie is 16 days old, Draculaura is 1600 years old. Yet they seem to be on the same level, socially and academically. Does Draculaura have to stay in the same grade for 1000 years before she can become an upperclassman? Do vampires develop very slowly so maturity wise, she’s on par with the average 16-year-old human? Has Frankie just gone through all of these changes that quickly?
Also, what about their total lifespans? Draculaura seems to be some kind of immortal. But if Frankie is a teenager in just 16 days, then how long will it be before she becomes old, infirmed and passes on? Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t immortal by any stretch of the imagination. And where does Clawdeen’s age factor into all of this?
Anyway, the story picks up on Wednesday in Chess club. Frankie, however, doesn’t know how to play. She makes an illegal move then stands up and shouts, “Goal!” She sits down, embarrassed and say to herself, “I really should have learned the rules.”
Next, she tries swim team. She gets into her bathing suite and her bathing cap and dives in. She then electrocutes everyone in the pool.
After that, she’s seating in the cafeteria collecting pledges. She asks everyone to sign and says that it’s for a good cause. Cleo asks her what the good cause is exactly and Frankie just smiles and says, “a good cause.” Again. She doesn’t seem to actually know herself.
Cleo agrees to sign, even though she probably shouldn’t have, seeing as she doesn’t even know what the signature is for. Frankie hands her a pencil, but accidentally electrocutes her. Cleo’s hair frizzes out in a bushy circle around her head.
While joining a club is a good idea to meet new friends, the fact of the matter is that you have to join causes and teams that you’re already interested in. There’s no point joining the chess club if you don’t know how to play. There’s no point in doing community service if you don’t care enough to find out exactly how you’re helping anyone.
The next scene is a long montage of Frankie looking mopey while the song We All Have Our Scars plays. It’s actually a decent song and I rather like it. After being emo for a while, Frankie stops and tells herself that she’s, “Gotta pull it together.” She straights the laces on her body parts and looks over to see a fearleading poster. She decides that that’s perfect.
Her plan quickly goes awry when she finds out that Cleo is the head fearleader and that Frankie has to impress her in order to get onto the team. Draculaura and Clawdeen are already fearleaders, making her getting onto the team that much more important.
Frankie is auditioning along with a host of other monsters. She lies about her past experience and Cleo informs all of the girls that there is only one opening on the squad. The head fearleader tells the wannabes that the team will do a dance routine once, then the girls will repeat it.
Showing fluid dancing seems to be a bit of a sticking point in animated shows. This one is no different. It segments the dancer’s bodies and requires a lot of posing. I suppose this makes it easier to animate.
Anyway, as the squad performs the other girls run away in terror at the task. When only Frankie is left, she starts to perform the routine. Everything is going perfectly and the other girls are looking on approvingly when Frankie does a kick and her foot flies off, high heeled sneaker and everything. It lands in Ghoulia’s drink and splashes all over Cleo. The girl screams and Frankie runs out of the gym in tears.
The next scene picks up in the pool room. Frankie mysteriously has her foot back even though it was all the way across the room when we last saw it. The Frankie meets Lagoona Blue, AKA the monster from the blue lagoon. She is a fish person type thingy and speaks with a terrible Australian accent.
Lagoona tells Frankie that she’s an exchange student from “down under” as in down under the sea. Frankie explains her problems and Lagoona comforts her, telling her that she’s trying too hard. She advises the monster to be natural and just be herself.
This sounds like good advice, but it’s really not. In these shows, they mean to be yourself as long as yourself is popular. It doesn’t support people that are different or express themselves in a way that isn’t main stream. It’s like encouraging body image in someone who is conventionally attractive. They can be attractive because they’re the exact way that society wants them to be.
Anyway, Frankie quickly ignores Lagoona’s advice as soon as she sees a headline on a magazine. She then fantasizes about coming in to school dressed differently and performing in front of everyone. She sings and dances her heart out and everyone just loves her.
Her daydream is interrupted by Deuce. He needs to get to his locker and she’s blocking him. With him is a guy that has his head on fire. I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be exactly. Anyway, he tells Frankie, “If you were a booger, I’d pick you first.” For being a weirdo, Deuce turns hi into stone. He then casually walks away after saying goodbye to Frankie.
In the voice over, Frankie admits that she has a little crush on Deuce. Which seems pretty harmless. But is it? Just then, Draculaura and Clawdeen catch up with her and tell Frankie that she has another chance to audition for the fearleading squad.
The tell her to meet them at their lunch table the next day. Frankie decides to read a bunch of her cherished teen magazines in order to prepare. Her voice over ominously states, “The next day would be the worst in my life.” But seeing as she’s only a few days old, what does she really have to compare it to?
Thursday starts off with Frankie getting out of bed and getting ready. Her bed is some kind of high-powered electrical apparatus that charges her volts while she sleeps. Or something. It’s never explained.
Anyway, Frankie gets up and dressed. She has several rats help her do so. Because, why not? Before she leaves for school, she looks around and sees images on the walls from some of the magazines that she regularly reads. One says, “I was a teenage lunch lady. If only I had been popular.” Frank looks at it and in a solemn tone announces, “No way I’m gonna let that happen to me.”
But why not? High school is such a small part of your life. It really is. It doesn’t really matter in the end if you were popular in high school because that counts for so very little when taken into the average lifespan. You can’t get a good job because you were once homecoming queen. You’re not going to convince someone to marry you or have children with you by telling them that you were totes popular at your high school, 15 years ago.
Popularity itself is overrated because the act of being popular is not permanent. How fast to things go in and out of style? People can do the same. Who wants to live a life where they could wake up to find that their social status is destroyed and they have no talents or abilities to help them get through the rest of their school years?
Anyway, Clawdeen and Draculaura meet up with Frankie and quiz her about what she needs to know for the interview with Cleo. They go over music and cool people, then Draculaura mentions boys. Frankie immediately things of Deuce. She zones out for a second, causing Clawdeen to say to her, “Hell? Earth to Frankie, are you picking up what I’m putting down?”
At lunch, Clawdeen checks in with Ghoulia and tells her that Frankie is here for her interview. What follows is a strange exchange of random questions that have nothing to do with cheerleading, athleticism or really anything related to performing the tasks on the squad. It goes something like this;
Cleo: Flats or heels?
Cleo: Skinny or boot cut?
Cleo: Satin with corduroy?
Cleo: Recent book?
Frankie: I blog.
Frankie: Yeah, right.
Cleo: Finish the thought: I can’t leave home without…
Frankie: Lip gloss.
The interview is going well when Frankie mentions Justin Biter and how her dad practically resurrected her career. and Cleo confesses that she’s a huge fan of the pop singer. Everything seems to be going just fine, then Cleo asks Frankie if she has a boyfriend.
Frankie says that she does and, oh, he just walked in. She waves to Deuce and Cleo turns to her in fury. She announces that the interview is over and stomps off, past the other fearleaders. Cleo approaches Deuce and when he asks how she’s doing she tells him that she just met his new girlfriend.
It then all comes together. Deuce is dating Cleo and Frankie essentially just told her that she was being two-timed. The song We All Have Our Scars plays for some more and Frankie finds herself at the pool again, talking to Lagoona.
The fish girl announces that, “I see you made your choice.” Apparently the entire school knows what just happened a few minutes ago in the lunch room. Frankie, still in tears, then runs into Cleo, who is also in the pool crying. Cleo snaps at Frankie and announces, “You are dead to me,” before walking off.
And it’s finally Friday. Frankie is walking through the halls, feeling sorry for herself. Her voice over talks about how she had tried so hard and everything had backfired on her. She finally decides that, “I had to keep it real.” She isn’t sure how, then she sees a magazine with Justin Biter on the cover and gets an idea.
In the bathroom, Clawdeen is helping Draculaura to put lipstick on. The fact that she can’t see her own reflection complicates matters somewhat. Frankie tells her friends that she completely screwed up, but she wants to make things right with her friends. But she needs their help.
In the next scene, Clawdeen and Draculaura are taking Cleo into the hallway. They tell her that they need to talk to her about something. She then sees Deuce and Frankie standing there and gets upset. Frankie quickly tells Cleo that she lied about being Deuce’s girlfriend and that they are absolutely not dating.
Cleo accepts a hug from Deuce, as she seems to have forgiven him. But she turns to Frankie and tells her that she is not pardoned. Frankie says that she wants to make it up to her. So Clawdeen and Draculaura open up the cafeteria doors and Cleo enters, seeing a Justin Biter concert is in progress.
The teenager dedicates his next song to the mummy girl and he starts singing. Apparently this teen pop star also knows how to play the guitar. One up on his real life counterpart. Frankie says that her dad really did reinvent Justin Biter and he owed them a favor. So she got him to play at the school.
During the dance, Cleo forgives Frankie. Lagoona then congratulates her on finding a way to be popular. Frankie then ways that she stopped trying so hard to fit in and she just was her herself and everything worked out perfectly. Which is great if you can naturally be popular, but not everyone can.
It’s also strange how the lesson in this story seems to be about being yourself and other things that are perfectly accessible for young people, then the story wraps up by having a mega-famous pop star come to the school. Just how many teenagers have parents that a popular singer owes a favor to? How can someone apply that to their daily lives?
But really, this is just par for the course when it comes to shows like this. It’s a half-hour long commercial for the dolls that they’re selling. Nothing in the show itself matters as long as impressionable children know that you can purchase everything that you saw on screen. Girls deserve better writing and storylines than what this series has to offer. Just like all of the rest of them.