(because this was the first scene on the first webisode and yeah)

Why I Love Monster High

I love Monster High. I’m a total ghoul and i go crazy fangirly for Monster High, but there are some reasons for this. (Reasons apart from the fact that all the characters’ appearances and dolls look beyond cute!)

  1. Everyone is unique. Each character is different, and each character has their flaws. Everyone has their own story, no one is a side character just to look at. Everyone is important and their stories are worth hearing, even if just for once or twice.
  2. Different body types. There are short monsters (Draculaura is the best example for this. Some monsters are shorter due to their age but Draculaura, despite being 1600 years old, is shorter than everyone in her grade.) and tall monsters and muscular monsters and skinny monsters and even a few chubby monsters. It is a really hard thing to create chubby/fat characters if you’re a doll company; there is a pre-set standard about how girl dolls always have to be thin and all.. Creating a character that is not thin is a big challenge and even though most ghouls and guys are thin in the webisodes or the movies, there are a few (The first example I can think of is Emily from the anti-bullying webisode. Oh and yeah, they made an anti-bullying episode.) who are not and that makes me happy because this is just the start:)
  3. Diversity is celebrated. Monster High’s principal Ms Bloodgood has said this exact sentence many times, that “Diversity is celebrated and encouraged in Monster High.”. Werewolves and vampires are mortal enemies so they all have separate schools, but Monster High is the first school that allows both werewolves and vampires to attend it. Apart from many schools that are only appropriate for specific species, like Vampire Academy or Werewolf Academy or Gargoyle Academy; Monster High accepts all kinds of monsters. Even normies are accepted. Which will bring me to number 4,
  4. Racism is always overcome. Let me tell you something there is A LOT of racism in monster high. Vampires vs Werewolves being the most cliche one, there’s also lots of racism towards zombies because they are slow and idiotic, racism between freshwater creatures and saltwater creatures, MAJOR racism between monsters and non-monsters, or aka ‘normies’. Vampires vs Werewolves racism is overcome with the Vampire Academy and Werewolf Academy merging under Monster High and the three schools becoming one. There is a whole movie that is dedicated to how different they are in the beginning and how they grow to accept and respect each other with time. Also the fact that Draculaura (who is a vampire) and Clawdeen (who is a werewolf) are best friends and the fact that Draculaura and Clawd (Clawdeen’s brother, who is also a werewolf) are dating and are one of the strongest couples of Monster High. Gil and Lagoona’s relationship is another example of defeating racism; Gil is a freshwater monster and Lagoona is a saltwater monster. Gil’s parents don’t approve of this relationship because saltwater monsters are looked upon as “inferior” to freshwater monsters in society. And Gil, who has been raised up on false stories about how terrible saltwater monsters are, learns to see beyond those stories and see Lagoona, his girlfriend, beyond his parents’ prejudices. Together they defy his parents and any remark from society. The zombies are another case. They are often thought of as slow and stupid, as I said. So what does Monster High do? Create a zombie who is the smartest ghoul of the school (Ghoulia, I’m looking at you.). Turn her into a superhero in a webisode that secretly saves everyone’s days. And she doesn’t have super strength or super speed or any power like that, she is just smart enough to sense that someone is having a hard time and solve all the problems with her wits.
  5. Issues like anxiety are talked about and not looked down upon. I am loving Jane Boolittle, the new girl at Monster High. Being a new student at a school is already a hard job, but Jane has been raised in the jungle for all her life. She has always been an observer, never someone who is actually in the scene. When she first comes to Monster High she is so scared to talk to students that she hides in the catacombs. And not just for a few hours or days. For weeks. She overcomes her fear with the help of the ghouls’ pets who become her friend. Who support her no matter what, and who urge her to go out and meet the ghouls. She finally overcomes her anxiety and goes out and talks to the girls, and she even gets crowned the queen of a dance at another webisode. There is a new character called “Bonita Femur” who is from the Freaky Fusion series; and I read her biography and it says that she chews on her clothes whenever she’s nervous. Of course it’s also a bit of a pun about the fact that she’s half a moth, but i like that issues like these are at least shown and they’re shown to be overcomable and not disgusting or ugly in any way. Twyla is another character i think, who is important when it comes to this subject. She doesn’t like talking to many people, she likes lurking in the shadows, she sometimes looks really sad and she has known what it’s like to be not loved and ignored and bullied for a long time. And it’s never mocked by the main characters or the good hearted students, the fact that she prefers solitude and usually hangs out alone. But despite these, she is shown to be happy with Howleen, she is shown to be hanging out with the ghouls after the movie 13 Wishes. It might be depression, it might be something else; but nevertheless, she has a problem but despite this problem she can still be happy and still socialise. That’s what is highlighted with her character, that’s what I love so much about her.

Of course there are other very important lessons given in the series such as “Be yourself.”, “Fight for what you believe in.”, “Staying true to yourself is more important than the expectations of others.”, “Caring about the environment is really important.”, and “Helping others and random acts of kindnesses are what make people beautiful.”. But I wanted to write about the ones that I am reminded of in almost every webisode, and the ones that put a smile on my face :) It makes me happy because Monster High could really be marking a change in the cartoon and the doll industry. More relatable characters/dolls. Different appearances, different races, different beliefs. It’s the diversity that the cartoon and the doll industry has needed for so long and Monster High is finally bringing it, one step at a time so I really love it for that.

 We are monsters, we are proud.

The Struggle for Poison Ivy’s Soul

[Poison Ivy fighting Grimm from Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #6]

Who is she?

Oh, most people can put a name to her. She’s been around for 50 years now, and she had prominent roles in most of Batman’s animated series–BTAS especially. Uma Thurman famously camped it up in the absolutely terrible Batman and Robin so she has surprising mainstream name recognition for a character who, let’s face it, is considered by many Batfans to be in the same tier as other themed/gimmick rogues like Maxi Zeus or Mr. Freeze.

She’s been DC’s goto character for decades when they need a female villain– one who uses her femininity and sexuality as a weapon but cringes and goes down with a single punch when Wonder Woman or Batgirl gets hold of her (seriously this trope was used as recently as Lego Justice League: Gotham City Breakout–”you wouldn’t hit a woman would you?” it’s 2016!) There is a Little Golden Book where Wonder Woman and Batgirl foil her dastardly schemes.

[Cover of Flower Power]

She’s insanely popular with cosplayers, often nearing the Deadpool, Harley, Joker trifecta. She sells a ton of statues and is often a cornerstone of the lines. She was one of the first four Bombshells statues, for instance. She was selected to be one of DC Superhero Girls initial 7, wave one of the action figures and dolls, and has featured prominently in the webisodes and promotional material, and it’s worth pointing out she was chosen ahead of several more traditional heroes, like Black Canary or Catwoman. It’s very clear she has fans and a fanbase.

[Ivy as Hero of the Month from DC Superhero Girls]

But who is she really? Who was she? Who is she now? Where is she going?

These are the questions DC is desperately trying to answer. It’s becoming more and more apparent there are disputing views among the company, and right now is ground zero. This is the hill where the battle for Poison Ivy’s identity–the soul of the character–will take place. She’s teetering and could fall any one of several directions. All it will take is a little push, and this is why it’s so important for her fans to double down and not surrender.

I’ve recapped her history before so I’ll skip that phase but i will say this. Up til the early 90s ivy was pretty much a gimmick Bat villain–a strawman feminist that gave Bruce an easy way to punch feminism and activism in the face. She was a man-hater, a whackjob who thought the environment was more important than human progress, a woman getting between Batman and his totally non-homoerotic relationship with his young ward and getting her gross girl cooties all over their manly adventures. she was crazy and she belonged in Arkham. 

Except she didn’t.

Greg Rucka saw something more in her, and while the dust was settling over the No Man’s Land arc, he snuck in a story where the crazy woman took in the orphans of Gotham and cared for them and was willing to die for them. Woah.

[ivy speaking to the park orphans after Batman reasoned with her to not martyr herself]

Change? Character development? Sympathetic motivations? What’s this doing in my funny book?

It wasn’t consistent. She was still the crazy sex bomb in the Animated Series and Hush…but the idea was there. The seeds were planted (of course there would be plant puns somewhere in this.)

Then along came Gail Simone. Yeah, THAT Gail. She wrote an Ivy that showed a side of her we’d never seen–one that was afraid, that was trying to reach out and didn’t know how. A vulnerable one. 

[pages from Batgirl Annual 2]

That single book is probably the beginning of #PoisonIvyLeague. It’s a perfect encapsulation of one of the possible fates Poison ivy is facing. The recent miniseries by Amy Chu continued this more complex, nuanced Ivy. Featuring an Ivy who had difficulty relating to other people, the narrative is driven by her decision to try and make others like herself. This Ivy is brilliant but lonely and she steps into a mess doing something she can but probably shouldn’t. 

So now that we’re caught up, let’s ask the question–ultimately what this post is about. Where do we go from here? What is Poison Ivy’s ultimate fate?

For the past 20 years, Ivy has been linked to Harley Quinn–at first platonically (with a lot of nudges and winks they were something more) and then more romantically. It’s nearly impossible to be an Ivy fan and not deal with Harley in some capacity. They were teammates during the run of Gotham City Sirens and the only consistent place Ivy has appeared in the last several years is the Harley Quinn solo book–though her appearance there is a shadow of herself, like someone has a cardboard cutout of her to move into the scene when Harley needs a plot point explained or triggered. Harley is mentioned as Ivy’s only friend in the aforementioned book Gail wrote and she appears in the miniseries in the first issue where she picks a fight and storms off in a huff.

Like any couple, when people get invested in it, the individual members of the couple become consumed by the pairing. For Harley, this is no big deal. She appears without Ivy in Suicide Squad and in her solo book the focus is always about her, as it should be. Let’s face it, DC is desperately slapping her on everything they can to sell her as much as possible, so she has a multitude of appearances, constantly. Ivy doesn’t enjoy this kind of popularity, so many of her appearances involve Harley and it’s growing harder and harder to enjoy the character of Poison Ivy on her own.

Many fans are ok with this.

To them, Ivy is ½ of a couple and nothing more. They are content with her appearances in Harley and many loudly try to shout down requests to see Ivy as a fully realized individual in a solo outing. This is one of the fates Poison Ivy is facing–to forever be the girlfriend and have little to no personality or narrative of her own.

Then, of course, there are those who dislike seeing her change. For decades Ivy was the poster child for the femme fatale archetype–the wicked woman who used her beauty to seduce, manipulate, control, and destroy and Batman–the most blatant audience insertion character ever created–got to enjoy the attentions of this gorgeous villain, but being too iron willed to succumb to her charms, always resists and captures her, putting her in her place. There is no place for a woman who is not submissive in Batman’s (the white male adolescent audience’s) world. Of course Ivy, like Catwoman, was thoroughly in love with him, because all women in Gotham want Batman (the audience.)

Trying to change this paradigm is like trying to swim upstream. The alt-right types in the audience staunchly combat any suggestion that she is more than a piece of ass for Batman (them) to lust over but ultimately control and defeat. For them, Ivy needs to return to her crazy, sexy self. Ivy needs to be a dastardly gimmick villain–the only difference between ivy and Calendar Man is that she’s got a nice rack for cheesecake artists to depict in all their spine twisting glory.

Trust me, it’s no accident that in the recent Miller The Last Crusade book, Ivy defies Batman’s authority so he makes a funny quip while choking her unconscious.

Many DC writers only think of Ivy as a villain, and any attempt to redeem her is countered. She suffers from wildly inconsistent writing. The less said about the way Dini writes her, the better.

So this is another fate Ivy faces. Cliche sexy villain. 

Of course there is a fine line one walks with Ivy. There are certain people who want to see her desexualized completely. All female sexuality is BAD in their eyes, and Ivy, in her barely there plant outfits, is certainly vulnerable to oversexualization, but sex is in Ivy’s DNA. Modeled after Bettie Page, she is a fetish character, that can’t be denied. Is it so wrong for a woman to be a sexual being? Is it a terrible thing for a woman to own and revel in her sexual power?

As a practicing Domme, a fetishist, and an alt lifestyler, Poison Ivy represents me in a way literally no other character in comics does. I know several sex workers–fetish models, Dommes, etc–who name Ivy as an inspiration. They’re out here, and they need heroes too. Representation matters. Always.

How will this battle for Ivy’s soul go? Can we win?

We want to see an Ivy that we’ve only gotten glimpses of–an Ivy who is a complex mix of brilliance, power, sexuality, anxiety, narcissism, passion, apathy, and rage–In short, a fully realized person. We want an Ivy who means well but makes mistakes–an Ivy that gets in her own way. We want an Ivy who is intelligent and disciplined but sometimes loses her temper. We want an Ivy who is unashamed and unapologetic about her femininity, her sexuality, and her Dominance. We want an Ivy who refuses to play by other’s rules but defies the simple label of villain. We want an Ivy that is as brilliant a scientist as Lex Luthor but occasionally wears heels and garters and corsets and makes it all work.

We want an Ivy that we can disagree with each other about details but that we’re proud and humbled to be a fan of.

I believe this is the real soul of Ivy, and I am prepared to fight this battle. She’s too fantastic a character to give up on. She’s too important to allow others to reduce her to a pale imitation of what she should be. I invite you–implore you–to fight with us and help us make DC understand that we aren’t just fans of Poison Ivy,

We are all Poison Ivy.

[badass panel of Ivy from Cycle of Life and Death]

It’s showtime.