My daughter wants a Monster High doll for Christmas, just like thousands of other little girls who made their wish lists and have been extra careful not to dump any bottles of 18 dollar Chanel nail polish on the carpet. I let my daughter play with Barbie and other fashion dolls. I consider myself a feminist, and I’m trying to raise a feminist daughter (and feminist sons!) and we have all sorts of lengthy conversations about why Barbie and her pals are not the best role models when it comes to physical standards of beauty and how Barbie’s physical proportions are impossible for actual real people to duplicate in real life.
We play dolls together, and I am happy with my daughter’s playtime, how she makes her dolls go on all sorts of adventures and restyles their tiny street-lingerie doll clothes using scraps of fabric and sometimes scraps of non-fabric, things like tin foil and paper towels and markers and she has been known to give her dolls shorter hair styles and kick the ass of any dragons who visit the dolls in their beachfront condo. I like how my daughter plays. In my mind I think she gets the reasons why Barbie can do more than just be Ken’s arm-candy and work as a model. I understand why she would want these new dolls, these monster-themed plastic fashionistas to join the party. I would have loved The Monster High dolls when I was little! They look cool! They have cool accessories and sometimes little pets! They have cool hair colors and skin tones and beautifully applied makeup. And there is something refreshing about adding nontraditional beauties to the pile of blond-haired, fair-skinned dolls that reside in her toy box.
But this one doll is giving me pause, because she would be the perfect doll for my daughter, in many ways, but in others, I’m feeling all sorts of feelings and I don’t quite know if I’m overanalyzing my feelings and putting my feelings into this 8-inch piece of plastic that doesn’t have any feelings. Skelita Calaveras, according to the Monster High wiki, is a fifteen-year-old from “Hex-cio” and she is very difficult to find. But she would be so perfect for my daughter. Skelita has beautiful dios de los muertos face paint, which is what my daughter had for Halloween. I think she is a super cool looking doll and I know my daughter would love her but under Skelita’s little festive dress I’m getting all sorts of creeped out. Because Skelita is a skeleton.
All fashion doll toys are unnaturally thin. The Monster High dolls are exceptionally thin and tall. But Skelita here sort of takes the thin thing to a whole new level. She is literally bones. And as a woman who has suffered from disordered eating and as a mom who wants to raise a daughter who is strong and healthy, no matter what her size, Skelita makes me feel all sorts of wrong. I get that I may be totally overanalyzing this, and that a doll is just a doll and I can have conversations with my daughter that not only does this doll need to gain a few pounds, but she could also use some skin covering her bones, but then part of me just looks at her and thinks thin-spiration.
I know dolls don’t cause anorexia. I know that a girl will not start developing a life-threatening disease because she plays with a skeleton doll. But to me the message is still so weird. I’m pretty sure this Monster High doll promotes anorexia in a lot of ways, but I’m also pretty sure a lot of dolls marketed to little girls do as well. To me it isn’t an easy issue like I have not buying my daughter pretend makeup or “play” high heels or any other toys I feel send the exact wrong messages to little girls. I think that the Skelita doll could even facilitate all sorts of conversations about being healthy and weight, but this doll still concerns me.
I know all about monsters. I know about vampire mythology and mummy mythology and that skeletons are skeletons so they are supposed to not have skin. I get that these dolls are fantasy to an extreme, but coupled with the fashionable clothing and the highlighted hair and their makeup it’s hard to just view her as a skeleton, and not some sort of really edgy fashion model doll that could have easily walked down an Alexander McQueen runway.
Raising kids is a tricky business. We all want to raise smart, strong, kind little humans who know that the most important aspects of being human reside not in physical appearances, but what lies under the skin. In the case of Skelita, it’s even more difficult to use her as a teaching tool, because what lies under her outward appearance is just bones.
(photo: tumblr, amazon)