Picture this: You’re ten years old. It’s your favorite holiday – Halloween. Your grandma got you a Halloween gift, which is new and exciting for you. It’s a doll – you love dolls! And she’s so pretty. She is a super pale pink, with black and pink hair done in low pigtails, and her outfit looks vampiric. Her name on the box says Draculaura. The side of the box says “Monster High” in big letters, intersected by a cute little skull wearing a bow. You’re in love with this doll. She comes with a pet bat named Count Fabulous, a little umbrella she can barely hold in her stiff doll fingers, and a diary that you can read and learn more about your new doll friend. This one generous gift from your grandma leads you down an obsession. You must collect all the others. And, in eleven years, write about it for a website.
As you can probably guess, the aforementioned ten year old that I had you pretend to be was me. My grandma got me the Draculaura doll as a Halloween gift back in 2010, I assume because she knew my love of pink and my love of dolls, and my whole family was riding the Twilight train, so a little pink vampire doll was the perfect gift for her socially outcast granddaughter. She was right. I loved Draculaura with my whole entire being. I combed her hair every single day, and she was the goth teenage daughter to my blonde Barbie and Ken. Throughout the next year, I collected every current Monster High doll I could. Within reason, of course, because my family was very much not made of money. They were the edgy kids in my mix of preppy Barbies and bad bitch Bratz.
There are probably a good majority of you reading this that were not children in 2010 and have little to no idea what Monster High is, but let me explain. Monster High was a web series created by Mattel’s own Garrett Sander based around the children of classic monsters. Draculaura is the adopted daughter of Dracula, Clawdeen is the daughter of the Wolf Man (not exactly confirmed, but c’mon), Deuce Gorgon is the son of Medusa, and so on and so forth. Just from their names you can usually tell who their parents are supposed to be. I bet you’ll never guess who Frankie Stein’s parent is.
I planned on writing a retrospective on the web series and movies, but I opted to wait until Monster High The Movie came out instead. I still watched the old web series and a couple of movies to refresh my brain of the world of Monster High. My expectations for the movie were in the dirt after seeing the character designs, then even deeper when I saw the trailer, but I was committed to watching it and to do my absolute best to keep it as unbiased as possible. The best way for me to do that is to look at it through the lens of a classic Monster High lover, and as a new viewer of the franchise.
The movie is about Clawdeen, who in this version is half werewolf and half human, who gets an invitation to be a student at Monster High. Instead of Monster High being a typical high school like in the original, it’s more like a boarding school here. She really wants to go, but her dad – who is human – is a little worried about it. Monster High hates humans, and will do anything to keep humans out, so if they find out that she’s part human she could get in serious trouble. Despite this, Clawdeen still wants to attend, hoping to find a place she feels she truly belongs. Cue the chaos!
Let’s pause and talk about the characters for a second. The characters in Monster High The Movie are, for the most part, absolutely butchered if you compare them to their source material. I’m not talking about design, their personalities are destroyed. Draculaura is a bitch in the beginning, and for what? In the first generation, she is the purest of all the main cast. She loves making friends, would do anything for them, and loves talking to people. What was the point of changing that? Why would you basically make a Cleo copycat for the first quarter of the movie? This bugged me more than anything else, and maybe it’s because Draculaura holds the biggest spot in my heart. Frankie is the only character that feels like they were given even a modicum of thought. They have the best lines, the best characterization, they feel like their original self. I have complicated feelings about Clawdeen, Lagoona is MASSACRED, Ghoulia is… we don’t talk about her, Deuce is just Jughead Jones, and Heath isn’t even disgustingly horny (maybe that’s for the better though). They ditched Lagoona’s, Draculaura’s, and Abbey’s accents, the things that make them truly stand out, and that made me want to eat my own fingernails.
The music numbers look like those Party City commercials that come on around Halloween, complete with background characters looking like teens that raided Hot Topic’s clearance section. Monster High in live action is a genius way for SFX makeup artists to do amazing work, but they unfortunately did not go that route. I get that the budget probably wasn’t big enough to make every extra look like an actual monster (they couldn’t even do that for their core cast), and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter that much, but for a school that hates humans so much a lot of the student body just looks like regular people, and Heath looks like the orange Doodlebop.
From the point of view of a kid who is watching Monster High for the first time ever, I’m sure they would love it. It has bright colors, fun (albeit kinda dorky) pop songs, and surprisingly good jokes. I was laughing out loud on more than one occasion. I’m sure when I was ten, there was some boring twenty-two year old looking at Monster High with disdain, comparing it to something else, or saying something like, “Um, actually, Frankenstein’s Monster would have never made a monster himself because blah blah blah.” Just say you’re boring.
The cast is, honestly, really good. The acting doesn’t feel cheesy, and you can tell they are having fun. It’s a Nickelodeon TV movie, they should have fun. The songs all sound the same to me, but I guess I’m not unsusceptible to earworms because that first ditty was stuck in my noggin all goddamn night. “Here I am I’m coming out of the daaarrrkkkk…”
Monster High The Movie’s central theme is not unlike any other Monster High webisode or movie theme: even if you feel like you don’t belong, there will be people around you to support you, and you are not as alone as you think you are. Clawdeen has to hide a significant part of her identity – which is something many people can relate to – in order to fit in at Monster High. However, hiding that part of herself stresses her out and keeps her from fitting in even more. The idea of “fitting in” is heavily ingrained in our culture, and even though the whole idea of “be yourself, don’t try to fit in” has been used to Hell and back, it will never not be important. I’m living in a new state, attending a new school, with so many people who are older/smarter/more experienced than me, and holy shit I have never felt more out of place in my life. You will always feel like you don’t belong somewhere. Monster High, as a whole, teaches its audience that it is okay to be weird, unconventional, and different. Monster High The Movie tells that same, tired story, but that’s okay. That’s what it was meant to do.
If you’d like to read more from Lizzy Santana, you can find her other work here!