Welcome, readers, to the inauguration of a small new series on the FictoNeo blog: Fictos in Fiction, where we analyze, critique, and celebrate depictions of 2D love and fictional attraction within fictional media. The main goal of this series is to understand how cultural perceptions of fictional attraction may affect the way we write about it, and to encourage more complete representation of us and our experiences in media.
Today, we’re spotlighting Ghoulia Yelps, the teenage zombie genius from Gen-Z-nostalgic toy and media franchise Monster High.
As you may have surmised from its name, Monster High’s eponymous Monster High is…well, a high school for monsters. To be specific, it’s attended mostly by the children of famous pop culture monsters, from Dracula to Frankenstein and beyond. Ghoulia’s roots are, however, not so recognizable — she’s described simply as the ‘daughter of a zombie.’
In a subversion of the popular tropes surrounding zombies, she’s extremely intelligent, excelling in a wide variety of academic subjects; although she cannot speak English, but ‘Zombie,’ a language of ghoulish moans and groans, her friends have learned to speak it as well.
Her default outfit (pictured) is a sort of miracle concoction of 2010s alternative fashion: ‘nerdy’ elements like her thick glasses, slicked-back headband ‘do, and high-top Converse are contrasted with more emo/pop-punky sensibilities, visible in her long fishnet gloves and layered camisole look.
In children’s media, academic excellence and ‘nerdy’ interests such as comics and sci-fi tend to go hand in hand, a rule to which Ghoulia is no exception. She is shown frequently to be a huge fan of comic books — in particular, the Flash-like zombie hero Dead Fast.
While her interest in comics is never implied to be anything but genuine, her feelings for Dead Fast, the character, are overtly romantic in nature. Her fan character, named ‘Ms. Dead Fast,’ is a self-insert and Dead Fast’s partner. In short, she draws what us humans would consider selfship!
While it is established that Ghoulia is not exclusively 2DL, with her crush on and eventual romance with Slo Mo, another zombie character, her love for Dead Fast isn’t brushed off or rendered unimportant by this fact.
Her friends don’t poke fun at her for it, either — in the online ‘webisode’ “Daydream of the Dead,” after Ghoulia is rendered unable to attend a comic convention, her more popular friend Cleo rigs the convention raffle in order to win her a rare Dead Fast issue.
Representations of fictional attraction in children’s media aren’t actually that uncommon, but the topic is rarely handled with this level of tact and complexity. It wouldn’t have been surprising for a kids’ franchise with messages of love and tolerance for those different from yourself to completely drop the ball when representing a 2DL-aligned character — especially in the early 2010s. But Ghoulia’s fictional attraction is consistently not portrayed as a character flaw, nor is it something that she must ultimately overcome for the sake of character development; it’s an extension of her existing passions, and a source of creative inspiration.
As 2022 leads the way to new developments in the Monster High universe, with a new doll line and multimedia project currently in the works, it’s unclear what the future will hold. In an age where the cultural dialogue surrounding 2D love is at its most visible — and most divisive — we may need a character like Ghoulia now more than ever.
Regardless, I’m certainly hoping to see more of her in the coming years, and if Mattel does decide to bring her back from the dead, I hope that this often-overlooked part of her character will remain intact.