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Having a difficult family dynamic: Monster High’s Cleo de Nile and her influence on young children, by Vitória Rama

Having a difficult family dynamic: Monster High’s Cleo de Nile and her influence on young children, by Vitória Rama

In this analysis we will be discussing Cleo de Nile, one of the protagonists of the first generation of the franchise Monster High introduced in 2010 until 2015 and integrated mainly by toys, books, and films. Cleo is a mummy and a student at the monster school called ‘Monster High’. The De Nile family are the most important mummy family in the Monster High universe, consisting of Cleo de Nile, Nefera de Nile, and their father Ramses de Nile. Cleo is the captain of the Fear Squad, a parody of the real-life sport Cheerleading, alongside her friends: Ghoulia Yelps, Frankie Stein, Draculaura and Clawdeen Wolf. Cleo is the queen of the student body, though few know her confidence is not as solid as she makes it seem to be. She has a difficult relation with both her father, Ramses, who demands the best of and for her, and her older sister, Nefera, who cannot handle Cleo having any successes over her and as such regularly works to sabotage Cleo’s efforts and undermine her self-esteem, which mostly leave Cleo extremely upset. This family dynamic is not at all uncommon in current real life, and as such, its representation is important and needed in media: Cleo represents a ‘fierce’ girl with a difficult family, that can be a role model for young children.

Cleo gains a lot of support from her friends from the Fear Squad, the loyalty of her best friend Ghoulia, and the comfort of her boyfriend Deuce, a gorgon. Cleo can work well with others if they share a common goal, as well as being a highly effective organizer who will deviate between acting selfishly or selflessly, depending on her mood, as she is a tad tempered when fueled, and violent if upset. Additionally, she is stubborn and lacks when it comes to learning from her mistakes, making the same mistakes of dodging responsibility and attempting to control others. This attitude makes her appealing to the audience, showing she can have traits that are considered both negative and positive, and still have friends and support. Again, the series portrays her as an immensely complex character, she acts snobbish because wealth and glamour is all she knows. Her family life is difficult, and it’s not used in the show to expect the audience to have pity for her, but to understand her actions come into a place of hurt. She is not forgiven for many mistakes and is held accountable for them, even when she denies it.

The webseries, especially, make clear that repeated bad attitudes she has towards some characters are not meaningless and have consequences for her character. In episode 23, volume 1 of the Monster High webseries entitled “Idol Threat” (Youtube Link here), the teacher of the class ‘Dead Languages’, Mr. Rotter, hands out the students’ graded papers. Cleo’s paper has a B+ for her work, which she considers too low for all the studying she did for it. Her friend points out that Mr. Rotter just never gives A’s and that there’s nothing anyone can do about that, but Cleo disagrees and pulls out an idol that belonged to “Pharaoh Notalotincommon”. This magical artifact gives the wielder the power of persuasion when rubbed. Her friend questions the wisdom in using the idol, because according to Cleo’s dad, all the artifacts in the De Nile household carry a curse. Cleo uses the idol and Mr. Rotter gives her an A+. Later in the hallway, the girls warn Cleo once more that she is taking a risk using the idol, but Cleo won’t have any of it. Her friend group turns the corner, and the hallway turns out to be too crowded to walk through, so Cleo rubs the idol again, and everyone moves out of the way. From this point on, Cleo begins using the idol for various benefits that, unlike her A+, she doesn’t deserve. Her friends observe this warily, still convinced there is going to be payment. At the end of the day, Cleo returns to her locker, bragging about her flawless day and telling the girls that the idol wasn’t cursed after all. She tosses the idol into her locker and closes the door, unaware that the idol glows red. A red bolt zaps Cleo as she walks away. She feels funny and turns around, asking her friends why they stare at her. One of her friends just hands her a mirror, allowing Cleo to realize for herself that she is completely bald. Cleo screams loud enough to break all the glass in the school. In her locker, the idol laughs.

This episode is a good example of how the Egyptian motives of power are intertwined with Cleo’s character and how that impacts the life of the character. She undoubtedly has an inheritance over this power, but as a “teenager” with a difficult family dynamic she is trying to compensate for a lacking bond in her life and other affective deficiencies. She has friends and a boyfriend as support, but she can be difficult to deal with. But even if her family dynamic being complicated is not completely her fault, her actions towards other people are her full responsibility. Having an immense amount of power at your disposal and a legacy to carry with that, can give anyone, dead or alive, a hard time. These circumstances make her popular not only because of herself, but also the history and power following her. Cleo is a leader, but she simultaneously acts positive and negative within her friend group. It brings viewers closer to the character not only because of her interesting Egyptian background and aesthetics, but also because she has flaws. The main messages of the series are to always be true to yourself and to accept everyone as they are, in that way, Cleo’s duality connects to the series argument along with the usual family conflicts and behaviors that can be found in the real world.

Author: Vitória Rama, CH-ULISBOA.

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