This particular review has been a long time coming. I pre-ordered Monster High's Zomby Gaga back in October (after Dmitry's excellent suggestion). Zomby Gaga is a special edition doll meant to depict Lady Gaga from her Born This Way music video. Zomby Gaga arrived in early January, but I've had a hard time tracking down the other doll I needed for this review--Robert Tonner's Zombie Boy. Zombie Boy is the screen name of Rick Genest, the tattooed model who appears alongside Lady Gaga in her video. I finally found the Zombie Boy doll safely tucked away on a back shelf. He's fragile, and so I don't keep him on display.
The timing actually worked out really well, though, because the real Lady Gaga performed at the epic Super Bowl game last weekend, and so I've had her songs going through my head all week.
|"Zomby Gaga" by Monster High, $23.99.|
The Zomby Gaga doll is the result of a collaboration between Monster High and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation. Perhaps Lady Gaga herself was involved at some level in the design of the doll? I think it was actually Gaga's sister, Natali Germanotta, who officially designed the doll, but I bet Mother Monster herself had some input. Either way, a portion of each doll purchase is donated to the Born This Way Foundation.
The Born This Way charity strives to "make a kinder, more compassionate world." Three cheers for that! The focus seems to be on promoting bravery and empowerment by helping school-aged kids accept who they are and navigate harassment, low self-esteem and depression. I love the goals behind this work and feel like they are timely. I know of too many beautiful, kind, bright young people who are crushed by sadness and self-doubt.
Zomby Gaga cost $23.99 as a pre-order from Amazon in October, and is now only available on the secondary market for $50-75. She comes in a prism-shaped box that's different from the classic Monster High packaging:
Zomby Gaga comes with sunglasses and a bubble of gum in her mouth:
I like how the box is minimally decorated on the front. The tasteful lettering and sparkling backdrop do a great job of showcasing the actual doll.
The back of the box is not quite as simple in its design. There's an oversized Zomby Gaga head blowing a pink bubble:
As a little aside, the spelling of Zomby Gaga confused me at first. I thought Amazon had a typo in their product description. However, this is clearly the correct spelling, and my best guess is that it's designed to force a similarity between the words "zombie" and "lady." Anyone have a better guess?
The bubble has a Zomby Gaga personality synopsis inside:
|Have courage and be kind.|
There's an acknowledgment at the bottom of the bubble citing Zombie Boy's artistry. There's also a disclosure at the very bottom of the box that credits Zombie Boy (Rick Genest) with the tattoo art style (and lists Mr. Genest's website).
The text also mentions that there's an additional outfit and stand stored in a compartment at the bottom of the box:
As I was opening the storage compartment I noticed that one of the flaps is marked "adult collector:"
Why is Zomby Gaga just for adults, I wonder? Doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I feel like she should be targeted at the same age group that collects regular Monster High dolls....and certainly to the full age range of Lady Gaga fans.
Anyway, inside the compartment there was a rhomboid sheet of cardboard holding the extra outfit and the stand:
The stand is just a regular black Monster High stand (mine won't stay connected, though). The outfit is a short red dress with fishnet stockings. I'll take a closer look at the extra outfit towards the end of the review.
The box claims that Zomby Gaga can't stand up on her own. Sometimes this kind of disclaimer is too conservative, but in this case it's 100% true. This doll absolutely cannot stand on her own. In fact, I couldn't even get her to stand up straight at first:
Neither her left leg nor her arms would bend at all, and I was nervous to force them without seeing the joints. I really don't want to break this doll.
Part of the problem turned out to be that Gaga's left sleeve was tied to her pants:
|That doesn't help.|
I managed to straighten the left leg by carefully manipulating the joint through the pants. Turns out it's just a really stiff joint.
I tried to display Gaga using the stand, but this particular stand tips backwards and falls apart way too easily. This was the best I could do:
For most of the review, I avoided using a stand. When it was absolutely necessary, I used another black Monster High stand that I own.
Like Skelita Calaveras, Zomby Gaga's face is painted to look like a skull. She has darkened eyes, a black-tipped nose and lines along her mouth:
I think the lined mouth is supposed to resemble the teeth that would be visible on a skull, but the lines are so short, they look more like sutures.
Gaga also has some grey lines coming down from the top of her head and lines to delineate her jawbone on either side:
And of course all of these creepy zombie features are offset by the perfectly round and cheery bubble of pink gum and some very fashionable-looking glasses:
The bubble gum is removable and attaches with a small peg:
It would be fun if this peg could be inserted into the wrist joint, but alas it's a bit too big.
Under the gum, Gaga has a bright pink mouth with more black vertical lines:
The hole for the bubble gum peg looks fine with the gum removed. It looks like Gaga is pursing her lips--or singing:
|Just let me go, Alejandro!|
Her eyes are light brown and each eye has Lady Gaga's signature heart as one of the reflective dots:
|That's a really clever detail.|
The eye sockets are shaded in black, with the darkest area at the top of the eye. There's a strip of white eyeshadow behind the lashes, and the whole eye is encircled with fine metallic purple glitter:
Up close, the eyes have quite a bit of lint stuck to them, and some areas of smudged paint. These things are not noticeable under regular magnification.
The two defects that are noticeable under regular circumstances are a patch of discoloration on Gaga's chin:
And another dark area on her right jawline:
It's funny to me that the defects I notice in real life are really hard to see in photographs...while my photos bring out other defects that I never would have noticed in real life. All of these things are really minor, though, so it hardly matters.
Zomby Gaga's sunglasses are tied into her hair with black thread:
I (very carefully!) snipped the threads and removed the glasses:
The transparent lenses have a few black scuff marks on them--which you can probably see best on the left side of the picture, above.
The glasses fit nicely over Gaga's eyes:
And tuck in perfectly behind her ears:
Zomby Gaga's hair is awesome. It's soft and smooth and feels great. Her head is solid with glue, but the glue does not appear to be leaking out into the hair at all. The multi-colored hair is worn in a long ponytail with a twisted strand at the top to cover the rubber band:
The twisted strand leaves a short section of hair that hangs down at the top of the ponytail. This section looks a little funny, but it's pretty easy to tuck it in under the longer hair:
The color of this hair is really beautiful. Zomby Gaga has a very cohesive theme of black and pink throughout her body and outfit, but the hair has a section of dusty lavender that really stands out and keeps the hair from being too pinky-pink:
The underside of the hair is mostly pink while the lavender section is at the top:
I'm not going to take this hair down. I like it exactly how it is:
The hair is thick and smooth and has a gentle curl at the ends:
Zomby Gaga comes wearing a wonderful tuxedo outfit:
The jacket is nicely tailored and has flared sleeves that match the bell bottoms of the pants:
The notched lapels have finished edges and lay perfectly flat:
The jacket has an asymmetrical front that opens on the left side with a single plastic snap:
The fit and detail on this jacket remind me of the earlier Monster High clothing. It's an astonishing level of quality for such a tiny, skinny garment.
In order to get the jacket off, Gaga's hands have to be removed:
In the same way that Zombie Boy's hands spell out "Evil" and "Dead," the lettering on these fingers spell out "Lady" and "Gaga." I prefer Zomby Gaga's more cheerful lettering.
The hands also have bone tattoos with spider webs over the thumbs.
The sides and back of the jacket are lined (the sleeves are not).
I was surprised to see "Born This Way" written in white on the lining. What a neat detail!
Under the jacket, Gaga is wearing a sleeveless tuxedo shirt with a bowtie. Another fun surprise was that her pants are held up by suspenders!
The suspenders cross in back and have little plastic heart-shaped buckles:
The bowtie is sewn into place at the collar of the shirt:
I had to put Gaga's hands back on at this point because the tuxedo pants have actual, working pockets!
With Gaga's arm joints exposed, I was able to pose her a little better. It turns out that she'd been packaged with her elbow joints pointing backwards, which explains why I was unable to bend her arms right out of the box.
She poses quite well now, although her joints still seem unusually stiff to me.
The tuxedo pants have a sleek shape with flared legs. They open in the back with velcro:
In order to remove the pants, though, the suspenders have to come off Gaga's shoulders...
...and the stiletto boots have to be removed. Here's one of them:
These boots have very thin, very high heels. They can barely balance on their own, let alone help Zomby Gaga with her balance. They're impressive-looking, though:
Another fun surprise detail is that the back of one boot has Lady Gaga's molded signature:
|The heart is mostly hidden by the heel of the boot.|
While the other boot has "MH" for Monster High and "BTW" for Born This Way:
The tuxedo shirt has a loop of elastic that runs between Gaga's legs (or gets stuck in her hip joint, as the case may be) to keep the shirt from riding up and coming untucked:
The shirt opens all of the way down the back with a long strip of velcro:
I was disappointed to see that there are no tattoos on the back of this body. It's completely bare.
In fact, the only body tattoo is the small section of vertebrae on Zomby Gaga's neck:
So, the zombie part of this doll is confined to her head, neck and hands.
The hands are really fun, though:
This doll's release date had collectors wondering about the style of her body. For those who are not tracking Monster High very closely, Mattel released a new body (the "reboot" body) for the line last summer. This change was accompanied by new faces and cheaper prices.
Zomby Gaga has the old body. Here she is next to a reboot Cleo de Nile:
|Zomby Gaga and reboot Cleo de Nile.|
Cleo is not the best choice for a comparison because of the level of molded detail on her body...but she's who I have.
As you can see, the new dolls have wider limbs and a thicker torso--with a reduced swayback:
I feel like the newer dolls are morphing towards Ever After High. I'm not much of a Monster High collector anymore, so I don't have a strong emotional opinion, but I definitely like the stranger body style of the older dolls better. It's more in keeping with the monster theme. I'm glad Mattel stuck with this body for Lady Gaga's doll.
Anyway, while we're at it, here's a quick look at an older Cleo (School's Out from 2011--thank you Carissa!) with her newest incarnation:
|School's Out (left) and reboot (right) Cleo de Nile.|
Seeing the same character side-by-side makes it a little easier to pick out the differences. The level of molded detail on the newest Cleo is nice. I like the Monster High dolls with body molds specific to their character.
The new dolls are basically just wider in almost all ways. The knees and the lower arms stand out to me as the most different:
|School's Out (left) and reboot (right) Cleo de Nile.|
The new Cleo's body wrappings interfere a little with the comparison of her lower body and legs, so I've added in a picture with her from the other side, too:
The newer bodies have very stiff joints. They're a lot harder to pose than the old dolls. I wonder if the new design will wear better than the old one, though? Perhaps the arms won't fall out quite as easily over time. It's strange because Zomby Gaga seems to have the stiffness of the new joints while having the body shape of the older dolls. Her left arm falls out a lot, too, but that seems normal for a zombie.
The biggest difference with the new dolls is that they have more generic, sweet faces. Here's the new Cleo:
And the old:
And here they are side-by-side:
I really enjoy the severity and personality of the old face. If kids want sweet dolls, Ever After High (and almost every other brand) fills that niche. Monster High should stay strange and edgy. That's their thing.
The new dolls do have a dramatically reduced price, though. I bought Cleo for $12.99 and I also have a Clawdeen who only cost $7. The price reduction comes with a reduction in clothing and accessories, too. Here are the outfits of the older and the new Cleo:
The new Cleo's outfit is very simple, but it does have a fun fabric print:
And incredible shoes:
I actually think these Bastet goddess (thank you, Rune!) shoes are better than the original Cleo's shoes:
|First wave (left) and reboot (right) Cleo de Nile shoes.|
That was a bit of a tangent, but I doubt I'll ever publish anything specifically about the new Monster High dolls. I was already losing interest in the line because of the glut of new dolls on the market. This reboot is pretty much the nail in the coffin of my interest. The dolls just don't seem all that special anymore. That doesn't mean that Mattel won't occasionally come up with a fabulous character or idea that I'll find irresistible, though. They're good at surprising me.
Zomby Gaga is an excellent example of a special doll amidst a deluge of unremarkable releases. Let's get back to her!
Here she is wearing her bonus outfit:
This outfit includes a red shirt dress with a Born This Way print and a pair of fishnet stockings:
The shirt dress is simple, but very cute.
It's like a men's plaid flannel shirt...turned into a mini dress.
I like how Zomby Gaga's clothing has many elements that are traditionally confined to menswear. This is in keeping with recent gender-neutralizing fashion trends and a (toned-down) reference to Lady Gaga's fashion-forward style.
The dress has a nicely-made collared neckline, the only problem is that the collar almost completely hides the cool tattoo:
The hemline in the front of the dress has a little slit, which mimics the flaps at the bottom of a men's button-down shirt. I think this looks great:
The dress is really, really short:
But the stockings strike a nice balance between being risqué and adequately covering the lower half of the doll:
The back seams of the stockings are thick, but the overall look is good:
Zomby Gaga's boots do not fit over the stockings, which is a shame. But since she can't balance in those shoes, anyway, I don't mind too much.
Gaga's thick ponytail is actually better at helping her balance than her boots are!
It's easier to pose Gaga in this simple outfit than it is in her multi-piece tuxedo. I can see all of her joints and make sure I'm positioning them correctly.
I also like the splash of red in an otherwise completely black and white wardrobe.
But Zomby Gaga's tuxedo is by far my favorite of her two outfits. I especially like how she looks with just the pants and the sleeveless shirt. This suspenders and pockets are awesome...and I can see her elbows for easier posing.
|Those suspender straps don't stay up, though.|
This doll is really fun to photograph. I love how her face and hands interact with one another:
Her hair is also wonderfully dramatic and fun to play with:
And the color choices are great. The stark black of the outfit and the darkness of the zombie features juxtapose brilliantly with the pink hair and bubblegum.
Before I introduced Zomby Gaga to Zombie Boy, though, I wanted to put her back into her full tuxedo:
Unfortunately Tonner's Zombie Boy is about 6 inches taller than Zomby Gaga...and in a completely different scale:
|Tonner's Zombie Boy meets Mattel's Zomby Gaga.|
He also has tattoos covering his entire upper body...and no fun-loving pink accents to balance the ferocious creepiness of his face:
|Zombie Boy by Robert Tonner.|
But, with Gaga's magnetic personality, it didn't take long for these two to form a bond:
Zomby Gaga noticed the similarity in their hand tattoos right away:
And found herself admiring Zombie Boy's
impressive biceps other body tattoos as well:
Apparently she's very good at Find the Maggot:
I think it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship...
...or maybe a Bad Romance.
Since the Zomby Gaga doll is based on how Lady Gaga looks in the Born This Way video, I took another look at that video. Here are some screenshots
Lady Gaga looks really intense in this video. Her face makeup is a lot darker and more skeletal than the doll's. Her mouth and eyebrow design is especially different. Her hair is the same color the doll's hair, but it's a lot grungier. There's also no pink bubble gum...which is a good thing because it'd get horribly tangled up in all of that hair.
In the scenes where Zombie Boy is present, basically Lady Gaga gyrates and dances around him, while he stands still and looks spooky and undead.
After seeing this video, I wanted to make my Zomby Gaga doll look more edgy. I didn't want to add any paint to her face, so I messed up her hair instead:
As much fun as that sleek, pastel ponytail was...this is more fun:
Zomby Gaga was eager to show off this hairstyle to her new BFF:
I think he likes it.
Emboldened by her fabulous hair, Zomby Gaga wanted to recreate the Born This Way music video by dancing around Zombie Boy while he tried to stay still...
I might have to keep Zombie Boy out on display now. Despite all of their differences in scale and styling...these two ghouls are a fabulous match:
Bottom line? I've reviewed many Monster High dolls in the past, so I'll try to focus on the things that are different about Zomby Gaga.
Zomby Gaga has a few typical Monster High flaws--like an arm that falls off too easily, a floppy head, some discoloration on the face, and a stand that won't stay together. However, this doll also has stiff joints, which is something I'm not accustomed to seeing on Monster High dolls. I think of these dolls as being very fluid in their movement--and incredibly posable. I had a hard time getting Zomby Gaga to pose right out of the box. Part of the problem was her constricting outfit, but even when all of her joints were uncovered, they did not always move easily. It's odd that Zomby Gaga has this quality, especially since I associate stiffness with the reboot dolls...and Zomby Gaga has the older style body.
I can summarize what's great about Zomby Gaga poetically: I love the concept, the costume, the coiffure and the cause behind this doll. I had to reach a little bit there with coiffure. That just means I love her hair.
Concept: in general, the merger between Lady Gaga and Monster High is great because of the shared emphasis on originality and being true to oneself--not to mention the fact that Lady Gaga is often called Mother Monster (and her fans referred to as Little Monsters). I also think that Lady Gaga's pink-haired zombie persona from the Born This Way video was the perfect inspiration for a Monster High doll. In fact, the concept behind this project is so good, the danger of the actual doll falling short of expectations was high. I think Mattel pulled it off.
Costume: Zomby Gaga's clothing is exceptional for the $24 price. Her tuxedo outfit is particularly impressive. It's the one thing that really sets this doll apart from regular release Monster High dolls. The tuxedo is beautifully tailored. It fits Gaga amazingly well, there are no parts of the suit that stick up or lay crooked. Even the shirt's tiny collar and the jacket's notched lapels are flat, smooth and even. The jacket is lined (but not bulky), and none of the black parts of the suit have stained the doll in any way. There are several fun surprises in this outfit, too, including "Born This Way" text on the lining of the jacket, some satin ribbon suspenders, functional pockets, and hidden inscriptions on the shoes. Zombie Gaga's bonus outfit--the red dress and fishnet stockings--is a nice extra that offers a more relaxed fit for easier posing and play. One flaw is that the stiletto boots do not fit over the fishnet stockings. As I whole, I like that Zomby Gaga's clothing has a strong masculine influence, blurring the lines between what might be considered acceptable apparel for any given gender.
Coiffure: there's nothing particularly special about the style of Zomby Gaga's hair--it's just a long ponytail with a twisted detail at the top. The hair has a very nice texture, though, and the color is wonderful. The majority of the hair is bright pink, but there are lavender strands interwoven in the upper layers, giving the hair some depth and nuance. The hair is a good match for Lady Gaga's hair in Born This Way, too...a match that's made even better after the hair is teased and fluffed up a bit. I love the contrast between Gaga's feminine pastel hair color and the dark masculinity of her wardrobe.
Cause: it's encouraging to see Mattel and the Born This Way Foundation come together to promote kindness and tolerance in kids. From what I've seen through the lives of my own children, the millennial generation is vastly more accepting and open-minded than people my age...and that fills me with hope. The other issue that the Born This Way Foundation tackles is mental illness. Their focus seems to be on validating the severity of mental illness and encouraging kids to speak out and seek help. This specter has cropped up too many times in my own sphere recently, and I've become acutely aware of the devastating impact that mental illness can have on a young life. The honesty and effort that Lady Gaga puts into her crusade is admirable. I have a huge amount of respect for people who use their hard-earned fame and fortune to try and make the world a better place. I hope that the income from Zomby Gaga sales will help the Foundation expand its good work.
Mattel appears to be shifting gears and sending the Monster High brand off towards a sweeter, more generic future. A move that, incidentally, seems ironic in light of the company's non-conformity message. Because of this change, Zomby Gaga's release symbolizes the end of an era to me. Not only is she one of the last dolls to be produced with the original body shape, but she encapsulates many of the best things about this brand. While Robert Tonner's Zombie Boy is a literal reproduction of Rick Genest's creatively macabre appearance, Zomby Gaga is a more playful interpretation of Lady Gaga's gritty video persona. In fact, Monster High's success has centered around this very idea: taking an unsettling monster character and using ingenuity and whimsy to make that character appealing and accessible. Monster High also does best when it has a strong, fascinating inspiration for a new character...and the incomparable Lady Gaga certainly fits that bill.