Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy Phantom: Spectra Vondergeist Character Spotlight

Monster High was originally built around the core six female characters, and two males. (Yes, I'm counting Jackson as a core character since, technically, he's the same person as Holt.) These proved successful and it didn't take long for Mattel to start introducing new characters. Enter: Spectra Vondergeist.

Image: Mattel

Spectra, a ghost girl, was the first non-core character to be released. Looking back, I'm kind of surprised a ghost character wasn't in the initial lineup. After all, ghosts are probably the most prolific, universal monster there is. Some people even substitute the generic word "ghost" for "monster". The idea of ghosts has existed for about as long as humans have, and ghostly lore in some form or another is present in virtually every culture around the world. They take on different meanings and have differing mythologies but when boiled down, they all mean "ghost".

A ghostly specter...

Spectra aligns with the generalized Western views of ghosts. In most Western cultures ghosts are disembodied spirits of the deceased who have not passed on to "the other side". This can be for a variety of reasons -- they have unfinished business here on Earth, their death was so traumatic they are in shock and unaware of their situation, they simply don't want to move on, etc. Ghosts are said to appear as translucent figures, and common lore dictates that they can pass through solid fixtures such as closed doors and walls. Sometimes they are depicted as figures who walk, but more often they are represented as beings that float or hover. In the webisodes Spectra is constantly seen floating through doors and poking her head through walls and lockers. In her diary we learn that she and her family perished under traumatic circumstances; it's possible that Spectra has not dealt with this yet. Curiously, in her diary Spectra is written as an antagonist of sorts to the girls, but in the webisodes she admires the girls and becomes their friend. Spectra's first name is a reference to the word "specter", a synonym to the word "ghost". Vondergeist seems to be a play on the word "poltergeist", an offshoot of the common ghost, who haunts a particular person rather than place. Spectra's primary visual motif is chains. The most obvious reference here is to Jacob Marley, the ghost in Charles Dickens classic novel A Christmas Carol, who must wear chains and locks in the afterlife to atone for his sins against the poor during his human life.

"Why must I be burdened with these heavy metaphors?" -Jacob Marley (Not really.)

This being Monster High, Spectra gives the look a thoroughly postmodern spin by using them as a reference to 80s hair metal, where chains, studs, and grommets combined with flashy colors were the look.

It was a different time then.

In the webseries Spectra writes the gossip column for the school newspaper. Her ability to float through walls and peak into lockers aids her greatly in finding juicy stories to write about. Unfortunately she doesn't always stick around to fully investigate her findings, leading to comical misunderstandings and mishaps. But Spectra is never malicious in what she writes -- as she tells it, her creative side simply fills in the blanks. Spectra is presented as flighty and somewhat distant -- very much the "creative type". She speaks in a soft, hyper-feminized voice, not dissimilar to the breathy coo Marilyn Monroe affected when speaking in films or to the public.

Image: Mattel

Spectra isn't a major character in the show. She's not part of the core group, nor a villain, and unlike some of the other non-core characters she doesn't get much screen time. She's had a couple of webisodes that have focused on her, and occasionally she pops up and says a couple of lines, otherwise she's only seen sometimes in the background. I really enjoy her character when she's featured prominently and am disappointed that she's not utilized more often.

Basic Spectra. Image: Mattel

Spectra is one of the most interesting dolls in the line. To create the look of a ghostly apparition she has a pure white face and body with limbs that fade to clear plastic at the wrists and ankles. The whites of her eyes are colored purple, and her irises are turquoise, with a hint of purple. Her clothes always feature purple to varying degrees. I think it's safe to say purple is her signature color. She has long, straight hair that features streaks in shades of -- what else?-- lavender and purple. It's always in a sidepart. Her basic doll didn't have bangs, but her Dot Dead Gorgeous doll does.

Dot Dead Gorgeous Spectra. Image: Mattel

Spectra has only had two dolls released to date: her Basic doll and her new Dot Dead Gorgeous incarnation. Curiously, it was nearly a year after her Basic release before was saw a second Spectra doll. Abbey Bominable, who's Basic was released a month after Spectra's, had five more dolls released in the time it took to get just a second doll for Spectra. And Operetta, who's Basic came out a full seven months after Spectra's, now has four dolls available. I have no idea why Spectra has seemingly been picked over when it comes to doll releases. Encouragingly, a third Spectra doll has been confirmed for 2013 release. She's from the unique Power Ghoul line, in which the girls are re-imagined as superheroes, and will be called Polterghoul. She looks like she's going to be incredibly unique, and one of the most exciting MH dolls of 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment