Valuing queer identity in Monster High doll fandom

Sara Mariel Austin

Abstract


According to Mattel, Monster High dolls topped $500 million in annual sales in 2014, quickly gaining on Barbie, whose $1.3 billion in annual revenue plummeted for the fourth quarter in a row. Monster High's recent ad campaign claims, "We are monsters. We are proud." Race, ethnicity, and disability are coded into the dolls as selling points. The allure of Monster High is, in part, that political identity and the celebration of difference become consumable. The female body, the racialized body, and the disabled body have long been coded as monstrous. Monster High reclaims this label, queering it. Using Jack Halberstam's work on children's culture and Richard Berger's and Rosalind Hanmer's work on fandom, this article explores the queer potential of Monster High. Fans rewrite the Mattel narrative through fan fiction, repainting the dolls, and embodying them through virtual avatars, makeup, and costume play. These fan practices both queer the dolls' identity politics and create communities of interest that act as safe spaces for expressing queer identity and generating fan activism. These fan practices have also influenced Mattel's branding of the dolls, specifically with the recent inclusion of activism campaigns such as WeStopHate and The Kind Campaign into the Monster High Webisodes and Web site. By exploring the queer politics of Monster High fandom, this paper explains how that queering generates social change.

Keywords


Children; Consumer; Fashion; Gender; Sexuality

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2016.0693

License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258, is an online-only Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works. TWC is a member of DOAJ. Contact the Editor with questions.