A photo of the author during her high school years.
Monster High dolls are currently one of the best-selling dolls in the world.
The dolls are like Barbie’s Goth cousin—the one who buys black and white Argyle sweaters at Hot Topic and sits in the cemetery rolling her eyes in disgust at the thought of blonde people smiling.
"The message about the brand is really to celebrate your own freaky flaws, especially as bullying has become such a hot topic," Cathy Cline, Mattel's vice president of marketing, told NPR.
Mattel wants to stress that these dolls aren’t just Nightmare Before Christmas-ized Barbies with waists that wouldn’t support an actual uterus—one of them is a socially-conscious vegan!
I joined the recycling club in high school—not because I was socially conscious but because I had a crush on the grunge-y founder, Jeremy. He didn’t like me though. He liked Tara. I took up art not because I had any talent but because I liked Adam. He liked Tara. Tara was neither jockette nor weirdo. She had pouty lips, wavy hair, and never spoke. She was emancipated from her parents and even though we lived in Massachusetts she lived in an apartment in New York City on the weekends. She floated through the hallways. I called her a ghost. I was exactly like my guy friends and my guy friends didn’t like me “in that way.” They didn’t want a clone. They wanted mystery.
I learned this in Boston in the late 90s when I got backstage at a Cure concert on the Wish tour. I stood before Robert Smith with my red lipstick smeared, black eyeliner, and teased hair. I said to Goth’s God, “I know everyone thinks this, but with me it’s true. I’m the female you.” He looked frightened in an Edward Scissorhand-onian way and walked off. Years later I met a Barbie-like blonde chick at a party who said that on the Connecticut leg of the Wish tour she had sex with Robert Smith on a fire escape. Oh.
Now that Goth has been made to be beautiful, normal, and even more beautiful than the usual standard—it reminds me of when I was in high school in September, 1991. “Smells like Teen Spirit” was the number one song in America and within weeks of its release the jocks who used to spit out of their cars and scream “FREAKS!” at my friends started dressing like us. “When did Jonathan and Vanessa figure out where to get Doc Martens?…” we wondered as the star soccer player and female lacrosse team captain walked around looking like if Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love ate their vegetables instead of heroin.
I won’t bore you with more of the same argument that these “Goth Barbies” are doing nothing to empower girls and are just the same old cause of body dysmorphia but with black hair and fishnet gloves. Instead, I’d like to use this op-ed to pitch Mattel their next cash cow. The outcasts are going to need a doll to separate them from the other outcasts. May I present a list of what it takes to make the Teenaged Freak Doll:
1.) Pale, pale skin. Not from a powder that makes you go porcelain but from a crippling commitment to the lyrics of Morrissey and spending warm summer days indoors writing frightening verse.
2.) One blemish mid-cheek that has been picked at but won’t pop, covered with dark brown-tinted Clearasil that in the daylight looks like a shit swipe.
3.) Blistered heels from wearing John Fleuvog men’s shoes without socks. Socks are for cheerleaders. And conformists. Don’t even get me started on scrunchies.
4.) Line of black hair dye underneath the hairline. Pull the string on the back of the doll to hear, “Mom. It’s not PERMANENT! It will wash out in two days. Leave me ALONE.”
5.) A bra that is not filled out in one cup due to the left one growing faster than the right.
6.) Self-cut chin-length bob after seeing Mermaids.
7.) Pack of cigarettes purchased with a fake ID after watching the Brenda in Paris episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.
8.) Note in the other hand from your best friend Teri that says, “Jen, I talked to Adam for you and told him you like him but he says you’re too loud.”
9.) Baggy men’s t-shirt that covers up a flat stomach you would kill for in 20 years.
10.) Diary for writing down deep thoughts like, If I feel but chose not to scream would you hear me anyway?
What do you say, Mattel? Let’s make a whole new generation of girls feel inadequate but this time because they aren’t as flawed, loud, or trite as a doll. Sure, let’s throw in a New York City dream apartment, too.
Fuck you, Tara.
Previously from Jen Kirkman - Have You Seen This Old Rich Lady?