Monday, September 10, 2012

More Human Than Human: Ghoulia Yelps Character Spotlight

Okay, so the idea was to have each of these character spotlights use the name of an 80s song as it's title. But I'm at a loss for a good 80s song featuring zombies as a running theme or as part of the title. So I just went with the name of a White Zombie song I loved back in high school. ...It's a bit of a stretch, but it'll do I suppose.

So today I'm going to be covering Ghoulia! Hooray! There's a lot about this character I like; for a girl who speaks only in grunts and groans she's surprisingly multifaceted.

Image: Mattel

Ghoulia is based on zombies. The idea of the zombie was first introduced to audiences in it's original incarnation: as a corpse reanimated by means of witchcraft, derived from African practices. But our Ghoulia isn't influenced by those zombies. Her biggest influence is the more modern idea of the zombie, first seen in George A. Romero's 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead. 

Images: Image Ten

This film set the template for the zombie seen in modern popular culture (despite the zombies in the film actually being referred to as ghouls, never zombies). Romero's cult film has been hugely influential on subsequent horror films (including his own slew of follow-up zombie flicks). With Night of the Living Dead he established the modern zombie tropes we see today: the dead becoming reanimated, a gun shot to the head being the only way to take them down (well, fire too). And these reanimated corpses have only one desire: to eat human flesh. Brains later became they're more specific, uh, "food of choice". Being reanimated corpses, they move very slowly; despite this, they're hard to defeat. They're virtually unstoppable. And as more people are bitten (a zombie bite kills you, then reanimates you) the more dangerous they become -- a strength in numbers kind of thing.

On a personal note, while I can admire and appreciate the earlier horror films Frankenstein and The Mummy, Night of the Living Dead is simply one of my all-time favorite films. The steadily rising sense of dread, the subtle social commentary, the claustrophobia you feel as you watch these characters try to survive the zombie onslaught while trapped in a rural farmhouse, and that gut wrenching ending -- it all adds up to an amazing movie. It's well-acted, with superb direction, and, most impressively, was made independent of the Hollywood studios, and on a shoestring budget. The original is in black and white but later releases were colorized. My advice -- go for the original black and white. And if you haven't seen it, get thee to the video store (well, or Netflix streaming) immediately!

Another influence on Ghoulia, or rather Ghoulia's clothes, is Michael Jackson's outfit in his iconic 1983 music video Thriller. Her red capri pants with black detailing is a direct nod to MJ's outfit in the video. And of course his backup dancers in the video are zombies. It all comes full circle.

MJ and his zombie dance crew. Image: Epic Records

In the webseries Ghoulia is one of the most interesting characters. No small feat considering she only speaks in those aforementioned grunts and groans. With Ghoulia we see some of the irony that makes the webseries so fun: despite being a slow-moving zombie she is the smartest girl in school (must be all that "brain food"). Ghoulia often seems annoyed by the insignificant dramas the other girls get caught up in; it's quite often that she rolls her eyes at them. At times she plays lackey to Cleo's demanding diva but she's not afraid to put her foot down when she's feeling a bit too taken advantage of.

Image: Mattel

She is also one of the most respected students at Monster High. Everyone looks up to her and comes to her for advice (or help with their homework). Although Ghoulia is always around, she enjoys time to herself, especially when she's reading her favorite comic book, Dead Fast. I really love how they've incorporated fangirl-ism into Ghoulia's character. Their approach to this is very clever, and has been incorporated into Ghoulia's character dolls (more on that in a bit). It's also refreshing to see a female character presented as a rabid comic book nerd. Usually those types of characters are male.

Although Ghoulia doesn't get as much screen time in the series as the other core characters (except Lagoona), the episodes that feature her among the series' best. We've seen Ghoulia have an elaborate daydream in which she takes on the role of Dead Fast, defeating the Dead Fast villain thanks to heroic derring-do. And when others aren't looking, Ghoulia can move much faster than she lets on, saving Monster High from destruction, all in the span of a couple of minutes. Far from being the nerd others think she is, Ghoulia is actually one of the coolest characters in the MH universe.

Basic Ghoulia

Dawn of the Dance Ghoulia

San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Ghoulia

Basic Ghoulia's outfit is very 80s influenced, but her subsequent dolls' outfits reference a wide range of eras, everything from 1950's bombshell to 1960s biker babe, and more. Her clothes use a visual motif of "brain matter" and stylized gore. Her signifying colors are red, black, and white, although there's been a wider variety of additional colors used on her compared to the other dolls. She always wears a pair of glasses.

Fearleading Ghoulia

Skull Shores Ghoulia

Dead Tired Ghoulia

Ghoulia always has pure blue and light blue streaked hair. There's been a lot of variety in Ghoulia's hairstyles -- short, long, straight, curly, bangs, no bangs. We've seen it all on Ghoulia. Although there aren't as many Ghoulia dolls as there are Frankie and Draculaura ones, she's nonetheless seen a lot of releases. To date there are 11 different Ghoulia dolls.

Skultimate Roller Maze Ghoulia

Gloom Beach Ghoulia

TRU Exclusive Ghoulia. All doll images:Mattel

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