Goth Barbie: The Answer to Our Barbie Problems?

MattelBlonde, pretty, pin-thin Barbie may be in financial trouble, according to a story published Wednesday in Forbes.

The website reports that global sales of Barbie have decreased 12% in the second quarter (one of the largest quarterly declines during the last ten years) and in 2012, revenue for Barbie dropped by more than 40% to $460 million. Overall, her sales have decreased by 14% to $1.29 million.

Enter Monster High Dolls, a Mattel brand launched in 2009 that's in increasingly high demand—sales of Mattel's Other Girl's business, which Forbes reports is mostly the Monster High brand, got a 23% boost in their most recent quarter. Dubbed “Goth Barbies”, the doll line is geared toward ages 6-12 and feature bony, pale, girls with scars and fangs who wear black lipstick, fishnet tights, and club boots. The dolls attend a fictional “Monster High” where every student is related to a famous horror character. There’s Draculaura, aged 1,599, the daughter of Count Dracula and one of the “coolest ghouls in school” who comes packaged with a pet bat. She’s a vegan so she eats lots of fruit and vegetables (and of course, takes iron supplements) and she loves “smiling, laughing, and encouraging her friends.” Frankie Stein Doll, 15 (days old), is the daughter of Frankenstein, who greets her each morning by shouting, “It’s alive!” Frankie Stein doesn’t have a favorite hobby yet which is OK, because she’s young and wants to “experience everything before I have to choose.” And Nefera de Mile is the daughter of The Mummy, a headstrong girl with blue-streaked hair who's not afraid to deal with problems head-on. “If someone or something annoys me I deal with it. Immediately,” she says in her bio. 

The dolls also have wepisodes, and clothing lines (skirts, T-shirts, pajamas) and accessories (fingerless gloves, hair clips, baseball caps).

On Wednesday, Cathy Cline, a rep for Mattel told NPR, "The message about the brand is really to celebrate your own freaky flaws, especially as bullying has become such a hot topic," says Cathy Cline. Toss in the popularity of Lady Gaga anti-bullying messages, movies such as Twilight and television shows such as The Walking Dead and you have a one super successful doll line. 

The dolls’s freaky flaws aren’t exactly tragic—as Jezebel points out, “If the purported goal of the toy is to teach girls the value of self-acceptance, this really isn't cutting it. In the first place, "hairy legs" or "dry skin" [are] far from the most pressing "freaky flaw" that a youth can face.” However, Monster High Dolls do have self-awareness. It's a quality that seems to allude Barbie. Despite her vast resume (over the past 54 years, she’s held jobs as astronaut, UNICEF ambassador, and news reporter among many more), Barbie has a history of discouraging young girls from school (remember Teen Talk Barbie from 1992 who said things like, “Math class is tough!” and Sleepover Barbie who carried around a bathroom scale?) and still drives a bubble gum pink convertible. She also boasts measurements that in real life, would translate to a six-foot tall woman with a 39" bust, 18" waist, and 33" hips.

Monster High Dolls have a social conscious, too. In 2012, the company partnered with WeStopHate, a nonprofit dedicated to raising kids’s self-esteem through social media platforms. And that same year, they teamed up with the Kind Campaign, a movement and documentary committed to spreading messages of kindness.

It’s no surprise that many mothers are on board with the dolls. The Facebook page, Moms Who Like Monster High and Aren't Ashamed to Admit It is a hub for women to dissect doll-inspired makeup tips and "where to buy" info. While other parents raise concern about the doll’s physical appearance. According to the website Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies, the dolls, with their over-sized eyes and scowls, look mean and their bodies and outfits are hyper-sexualized.

“Whether or not these dolls are good for children depends on the purpose of the doll,” Bethany Marshall, PhD, a Beverly Hills based psychoanalyst told Yahoo! Shine. “If the doll is a role model or aspirational figure, emphasizing their flaws may not make sense, because role models aren’t supposed to have the same problems as little girls—they’re supposed to be examples of how people move past their problems.”

On the flip side, dolls that have relatable problems (unlike Barbie, who earlier this year, sold her dream house for a whopping $25 million) could be a way of taking a childhood crisis (hairy legs, dry skin) and making it positive.

"At the end of the day, little kids can be fickle when it comes to their toys, so the odds of this doll inflicting emotional damage is slim," says Marshall. "It's only as meaningful as people make it."