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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ari Hauntington vs. Spectra Vondergeist

Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly, lavender's green...LOL, this post is going to deal heavily with the color purple, and I don't mean that infernal book, either!  It's also going to be a long one, so put in some eye drops or your eyes will explode from staring at the screen.  Apparently Mattel has decided that ghosts go fairly heavily on the purple.  No biggie; I like purple.  Anywho, since Spectra had a fairly recent movie and doll line centered around her, I'm taken just a little aback by her apparent disappearance from the main Monster High line.  I guess I shouldn't be too surprised since ghosts do appear and disappear, but I am just the same.  My conclusions may be just a bit hasty, but lately I've seen less and less of Spectra and more and more of this new character named Ari Hauntington, who appears to be some sort of pop goddess.  Excuse me, but isn't that the THIRD pop musician that Monster High has had???  Catty Noir is a musician, as is Casta Fierce.  Whatever, my desire is to first compare Ari to Spectra, and THEN harp about the lack of originality.  So here they are.  Ari versus Spectra.  Draculaura's idol versus the gossipy pain in the posterior.

Before getting into the meat and potatoes of this post, I should probably point out that this is strictly a comparison of appearance and construction.  Ari is the budget version and my particular Spectra is a first wave doll so there's quite a difference in what the two came with.  Unfortunately that difference is symptomatic of a direction Mattel has chosen to go with their products...one that may do Mattel more harm than good.  Here's our first glance of these two together.
They're VERY different!  It's fairly obvious from the color scheme that they're both supposed to be ghosts, but these two have a lot of differentiating features.  Let's start at the top.

Both dolls have two-toned purple hair, and it's about the same length.
The fiber and styles are different though, as are the shades.  Spectra's is hanging loose and parted on the left.
According to online sources, Spectra's hair is made out of kanekalon.  It certainly feels like it is.  It's soft and manageable, and it has a bit of weight to it.  It's nice fiber.  Some other Spectra dolls have waves or curls, pigtails or ponytails, but my doll's hair has been minimally styled.  It does have a bit of coloring work done to it in the form of a peekaboo, but that's all.  This color difference is best seen from the back, but it can be seen from the front as well.
On top Spectra's hair is an indigo shade, while the lower layer is more of a lilac tone.  The lilac peeps out a bit on the right side of Spectra's head.  So this is nice hair, one of the nicer heads of Monster High hair that I've encountered.  I only have two other MH dolls with hair like this, so it's not something that was done often.  I love the way it looks and handles, but I'd hate trying to do any advanced styling to this hair.  Look what happened to this poor chick's Spectra!

There's a little more to talk about with Ari's hair, because it has an actual style.  Most of it is worn loose, but two bits of Ari's hair are pulled back into a braided crown of sorts, like so.  The rest of Ari's hair is parted in the center and hangs down in loose waves.
This is a style that I love because of its simplicity.  I've already had to redo the style once, and due to the simple style resetting it was a snap.  Ari's hair feels like saran.  It's not as stiff as Spectra's hair and it takes to a style easily, but it also tangles easily.  I ran a brush through Ari's hair as soon as I got her home and she already had dozens of tiny little knots that I had to ease the brush through.  The good news is that these knots haven't returned; sometimes doll hair likes to spontaneously kink up and be spiteful like that, but not this time!

Regarding color, Ari has apparently gone for a more subtle color job.  I ended up requiring the assistance of Google images for these colors.  In the very front of her head Ari has these silvery lilac highlights.
The rest of her hair is made up of magenta and mauve.
Ari has a nice mane of hair.  The colors are great and the style is timeless.  You can't go wrong with a simple set of pinned-back braids.  However, this fiber is the type that likes to tangle if not cared for properly.  Ari's head is not hard, so I don't think any hair woes will be exacerbated by the leaking glue that has plagued many a doll in the not-to-distant past, but I'll keep my eyes peeled just the same.

All of Monster High's ghosts are rendered in soft, muted pastel shades, and these two are no exception.  Spectra's head is made of opaque white vinyl.
My doll is one of the ones created before parents started complaining about body image (again), thus her cheeks are hollow and her cheekbones high.  I always liked this style of face, because it shows a fair amount of bone structure.  It also adds a lot of originality to the old character; before Spectra was released all MH dolls had full faces.  I'd go as far as to say they were a little chipmunk-cheeked!  It was nice to see a new head put into play, particularly one that added an extra little touch of "ghost" to my old Spectra.

Spectra's features are boldly painted and provide a good contrast to her white vinyl.  Her eyebrows are done in a shade of paint that matches her hair nicely, and her eyes are some of my favorite Monster High eyes.  As usual there's a lot going on.
Spectra's sclera are painted in an unusual blue-gray shade, done (I assume) to emphasize her ghostly transparency.  Her irises are pale blue, which adds a further touch of faux transparency.  For makeup Spectra wears a pale shade of teal for eye shadow, plus what I suspect is a fair amount of mascara.  One doesn't usually get eyelashes that thick naturally...though it DOES happen.

At a slight disjunction with Spectra's bony face are these lips.  They're quite full.
These are Bratz-caliber lips, y'all!  They're a deep, opaque shade of royal purple with a slight iridescent sheen.  They're great lips.  I find their placement interesting too; when viewed head-on Spectra's lips line up with the shadows created by her cheekbones.  This gives her a bit of a Glasgow smile, something not often seen on dolls for reasons that become obvious when one researches the Glasgow smile a bit.

Now let's take a look at Ari.  Her head is rendered in this gorgeous translucent vinyl.  I don't know how Mattel achieved this look, but Ari's face has a purplish mother-of-pearl tinge to it.
This vinyl plays a lot of tricks with the lighting, so I imagine painting Ari and finding a good makeup scheme must've been tricky.  Unfortunately that's where this doll starts falling flat.  Her eyebrows are extremely problematic.  The paint is translucent and tends to wash out under my camera's flash.
Y'all may have noticed in the post's first picture that Ari looks eyebrowless.  Shame too, because like Spectra, Ari has eyebrows that match her hair well. 

As for eyes...oh Lordy, Ari has those after-the-reboot eyes.
I guess technically there is no after-the-reboot look for Ari since she was released WITH the reboot.  Nevertheless Ari does have the same aesthetic as the new Frankie and Draculaura, with rounded eyes and light, fluffy lashes.  Notice also that the lower edges of Ari's eyes are painted in a faded blue shade, rather than black like the upper edges.  I think that's a cute touch, though not as ghostly as Spectra's eyes.  So Ari's eyes get the job done, but nothing to write home about.  The lips are painted with a rather thin layer of paint, which the flash goes right through.
I'd call this shade of purple "orchid."  It goes well with her makeup and it's nice and shiny, but it's also semi-translucent.  When Ari's head is backlit you can see right through the paint.  It's a sight!  The edges are also rough; my picture isn't the greatest quality, but the edges aren't as crisp as they could've been.  In short Ari's paint job is adequate, but it's not on the same level of quality as Spectra's.  The paint is thin and makes Ari hard to photograph, and it's less dramatic than Spectra's.

The two dolls have the same body shape...or so I thought.
In truth Ari has a torso that is slightly wider and shorter than Spectra's.  I think her thighs may be wider too.  The type of plastic used is different as well.  Spectra is solid white all over, except for her legs from toe to mid-calf...
...and her arms from fingertip to mid-forearm.
This was what I loved the most about Spectra; her lower limbs are clear, and the top part of each lower limb is painted in a white gradient to simulate the effect of her being semi-transparent like ghosts are commonly depicted.  Spectra has been this way from her first-wave incarnation (seen here) all the way up to her apparent last appearance in Ghouls Getaway.  BUT...I did find one exception in the Getting Ghostly line, which has an opaque Spectra.  I find that surprising since several of the other dolls in the Haunted Student Spirits and Getting Ghostly lines had translucent or transparent limbs.  Look at River Styxx from the Haunted Student Spirits line for an example of this.
River's arms and legs are both see-through, revealing...holy crap, she's got visible bones in there!!!
Have I mentioned that I adore River Styxx?  She's just as creative as Spectra once was, AND she's the daughter of the Grim Reaper.  My dream of being a mortician has sadly become unreachable, but my fascination with death will never leave me so River is a very special one.  However, it surprises me that a Monster High line that was focused on Spectra would make such a change to her body.  There's not even anything that suggests translucency or transparency on Getting Ghostly Spectra.  The other Getting Ghostly dolls have shading on their faces, hands, and feet that imply this attribute.  My example is Getting Ghostly Twyla.
I bring all this up because Getting Ghostly Spectra looks a lot like...well, a lot like Ari!  Ari is not even semi-transparent anywhere, and to my surprise she has no shading like Twyla either.  Her head (and makeup) have translucent qualities, but her body is 100% opaque.  It has a purplish opalescent sheen to it that's quite pretty, not unlike Malie Tasker's body.
It doesn't show up too well in that picture above but trust me on this one!  Ari is colored like the interior of a shell.  I like Ari's pearly skin, but I like Spectra's clear hands and feet better.  They add a final extra pinch of "ghost" to Spectra's overall appearance.  To me Ari looks more like Mattel's interpretation of a moon creature than she does a ghost.

First-wave Spectra came with a complete, multilayered outfit that matches her personality and her fashion choices.
In her bio Spectra claimed to be fond of silk and metal, and her outfit sticks to that aesthetic fairly well.  Her top is a tight corset-style top.  It's made of pleather with a "silk" panel and two "metal" chains draping the panel.  The sleeves are two satin ribbons, one black and the other purple.
It closes in back with Velcro like so many doll clothing items do nowadays.  The skirt is elasticized, and I assume it's supposed to simulate silk.  It's not silk, however; the bottom layer LOOKS like silk, but it's purple stretch knit.
The top layer is black tulle.
The two layers are cut in a jagged manner to suggest...a tattered hem, maybe?  Tattered clothes are a thing I associate more with zombies, but I guess it's appropriate for ghosts too.  Alternatively, this skirt may be attempting to simulate one of my favorite looks, the handkerchief hem skirt.  Tattered hems do have their place in the doll world, but in Spectra's case a handkerchief hem makes more sense, as tatters are something I associate more with zombie dolls than ghost dolls.

Spectra's shoes are cute, very typical of Monster High shoes.
They are translucent fuchsia plastic with high tops and high laces.  The heels, however...the heels are shaped like the stereotypical ball and chain that prisoners once wore, and they're painted as such.
That's a cute touch.  Spectra admits in her journal that she's a lightweight being, so she'd definitely need footwear like this to keep her from being blown about.  Even cuter are the earrings; they're balls and chains as well.  Very simple, but very clever. 
These are the Monster High earrings that I tried on Maxie, by the way.  They looked cute on her too.

Buried in my storage box was Spectra's belt, which she apparently has not worn for some years.  It's made out of silver vinyl and has eye bolts molded on...but no chains.
Spectra also came with a purse an a pet, but God knows where they went.  Probably under my bed, where brown recluses sometimes hide.  No way am I sticking my hands under there, not without gloves!

I've also got the brush, the stand, and the diary in storage somewhere.  I never use the brush, but it's still nice to have all those extra bits and bobs along.  Such items added to the completeness of the whole set.  Someone cared enough to match all of Spectra's accessories to her, and to write out a journal that revealed part of her personality.
Now let's look at what Ari's got.
Ari has a one-piece dress that's done up in shades of pink and purple, with some black accents thrown in.  The top part of her dress is ringed with a bluish-purple strip of material that's gathered into a ruffle.  Parts of this ruffle are sewn into off-the-shoulder sleeves.  Notice that the fabric is printed with piano keys.
The rest of the dress is done up in this geometric print in shades of purple and black.  Or rather, I thought it was a simple geometric print.  It turns out that there's a lot more going on here than I originally thought.
What I thought was a muted print of nondescript black and gray is actually a subtle reference to Ari's profession and...well, her "race," if monsters have races.  The gray bars are chains (remember how these ghost dolls are always depicted with chains), looped and twined around diamonds that are made of black lines of music.  Each corner of the diamond has a treble clef, and their are a few music notes between each clef.  The centers of these diamonds are purple, some hollow and some solid.  And to think I was about to write this dress off as a generic print that had no references at all to either her career or her identity as a ghost.  The dress's hem is cut at a stylish angle and is trimmed with black tulle.
The dress as a whole is very fitted, and it's a little humdrum when compared to Spectra's more elaborate outfit, but not as humdrum as I originally thought.  The slightly-dizzying print is broken up by this belt, made of silver vinyl.
The belt has two dangles made of chains and tassels, and the main part of the belt has more music notes molded on.
I can remember a time when these music notes would've been painted.  Let's look briefly at Ghoulia Yelps's stock belt, which follows a similar music motif.
Ghoulia was my second Monster High doll, purchased shortly after I moved home from college back in...2011???  Has it been that long already?  A lot has changed since then!

Gee whiz, me and my tangents!  On her feet Ari wears dark pink high-top boots.
The tassels on the ends of the belt are echoed by tassels on the sides of the shoes...and also by small balls and chains, faintly visible next to the tassels.
They're a nice color and they've got cute details on them, but they're pretty plain for Monster High shoes.  The details are not painted and are thus hard to see.

Rounding out Ari's accessories are this slimy-looking bracelet, made out of the same plastic as the boots...
...and this heavy purse, also made out of the same plastic as the boots.
The purse is depicted as being transparent in stock photos but don't let those pics fool you.  This purse is slightly translucent at best.  It's got a great design though; the bottom part is fringed, and the body of the purse is decorated with more molded-but-unpainted chains and tassels.  The handle is a chain too.  Ari's purse is heavier than Spectra's and not as well-painted (it's not painted at all, in fact), but I love the design.  It's very like something I carried myself once, in fact!  The bracelet and the purse are all that Ari came with, though.  No brush, no pet, no diary, no earrings, no stand.

When I had this post cobbled together in draft form I'd intended to end it here and go into the next segment...but I've got another Ari that complicates matters somewhat.  Meet Electrified Hair-Raising Ari.
This doll has the same body and the same head as the budget Ari, but she has a few things that are (in my eye, anyway) done a little better.  Her hair is great, for one thing.
It's thick, it's shiny, it feels interesting to the touch...these fibers remind me a lot of Butterfly Art Barbie's hair, in fact.  The colors are fantastic:  deep purple with electric blue streaks.
The style is a bit more elaborate than the first Ari's hairstyle is, being pulled back on both sides.  The right side of the doll's hair is secured with a rubber band, and the left is secured with this headband.  One side is done up in a treble clef, and the other side has...more tassels!  Does Ari like dangly things???  I need to look up her bio and find out.
There's a lot of chains in this ensemble, y'all!  The belt has them too...
...as does the dress.  This dress is more of what I've grown to expect from Monster High dolls.  It has music notes and chains printed on it like Budget Ari does, but this print is loud and proud and in your face rather than the subtle geometric print of the budget doll's dress.  I like this color scheme too; the dress is black, and most of the accent colors are pastel shades, but there are a few mustard-colored touches in there that make the whole thing pop.
There are also some electric blue bits that tie outfit to doll; these can be found at the neckline and in the very conspicuous ruffle on the skirt.
Shoes are meh like the first Ari doll's; same plastic and everything.
Face paint however...Electrified Ari is a little ahead of budget Ari there. 
Key words:  a little.  Electrified Ari's paint is translucent like Budget Ari's is, and she subsequently looks washed out.  That makes me wonder if this vinyl isn't difficult to paint, being partially see-through itself.

I thought that this post would end with me picking Spectra over Ari and leaving it at that, but during the course of this post I discovered that Ari's budget self can hold her own pretty well.  No, her hair's not as nice as Spectra's is, and her face isn't as striking, and in my opinion she doesn't look as ghostly as other dolls do.  But her outfit, simple as it is, is covered in the little details that Monster High dolls are known for.  These details are deceptively subtle, but they're there, hiding in the print of the dress and waiting for a closer look.   Discovering the detailed print in Budget Ari's dress gives me some encouragement, as that suggests that Mattel still gives a little bit of a crap, but I still had to look closely at that dress to see such detail.  The subtlety is a surprisingly nice change, by the way.  Most of the Monster High dolls that I own are very up front with their outfits and their hairstyles, and there's usually something that screams the doll's identity.  I like that nonverbal outspokenness, but I also like Budget Ari's toned-down approach.  Her dress reveals who and what she is without screaming it.  However, I'll have to admit that of these three ghost dolls, Spectra is still the strongest, with Electrified Ari coming in second, and the budget Ari coming in third.  Electrified Ari has nicer hair, her face is ever so slightly better painted, and her outfit is more eye-catching.  And neither of Ari's incarnations are as well-executed as Spectra.  Back in the days when Spectra was a first-wave character, these dolls came with pets, stands, diaries, the whole nine yards.  Though the Ari Sisters are perfectly acceptable little playthings, their lack of accessories, thin face paint, and simple outfits show how far Mattel appears to be letting things slide.  So overall I feel a little bit ambivalent about Ari.  As cute as she is I just don't think she cuts the mustard in the ghost category like Spectra does.

They're still cute dolls, though!


  1. I am so amazed by your review! I like ari's pearl-like skin tone, but i love spectra's translucent arms and legs. ;) and my vote goes to spectra! <3

  2. I have been reading your blog from the beginning and am enjoying reading it. Monster high is awesome! After reading your review,I can imagine a doll that was a best of Spectra and Ari. A doll that is clear on the forearms,hands,mid-calf and feet like Spectra and translucent vinyl like Ari. I like Monster High and I hope Mattel continues or goes back to make them they way they did in the beginning.

    1. I really am beginning to wonder about the future of the Monster High dolls, as I've only seen one new line and it's nowhere near as imaginative as past lines were. No joints anywhere, clothing is simplistic...it really is a shame.

  3. I agree with you. I appreciate all those extra details and bits. They made the doll great!