Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

School

Communication

Committee Chair

Christopher P. Campbell

Committee Chair School

Communication

Committee Member 2

David Davies

Committee Member 2 School

Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering

Committee Member 3

Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 3 School

Communication

Committee Member 4

Loren Coleman

Committee Member 4 School

Communication

Committee Member 5

Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 School

Communication

Abstract

This research examines the historical, cultural, and social context in relation to the monster characters of Mattel’s Monster High, a franchise about animated dolls that are the offspring of famous horror monsters. The animated dolls are an intersection of complex gender and racial identities that are constructed in a postmodern reality. The goal of this research is to formulate a more complex understanding of the social and cultural contexts, relationships, interactions and meanings within production, circulation, and distribution of Monster High media.

The preferred reading of the Monster Highseries is postmodernism. Monster Highdisplays a multitude of postmodern elements, such as de-centering the subject, intertextuality, pastiche, transmedia storytelling, hyperreality, fragmentation, self-reflectivity, irony, and postmodern identity. Magical elements, fictional places, and colorful and talking creatures allow for young children to separate realism and make-believe.

A negotiated reading of the series allows for a closer examination into the gendered and racialized identities of the monsters as well as gender roles and racial tensions within the series. Monster Highpresents the characters from a heteronormative perspective allowing the actions and storylines of the ghoulfriends to perpetuate stereotypes about binary gender roles.Incorporating monstrous versions of celebrities adds to not only the parodied function of the series, but the series functioning as a hyper-reality that references and reinforces certain aspects of popular culture that relate to young viewers.

Monster High’s media content includes stereotypical elements of gender, race, and other intersecting identities, neglects contemporary depictions of Eastern cultures, veers away from societal issues, and sanitizes adult content for childhood consumption. From a postmodern perspective, young viewers can dismiss the physical attributes of the characters as exaggerated, fictional, and fanciful. However, it is harder to ignore elements of discrimination, prejudice, and gender performance within the storylines. While young audiences may not identify with the physical and nonsensical appearance of the monsters, they can relate to the behaviors, interactions, emotions, and values of the animated characters.

Available for download on Sunday, May 10, 2020

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