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Here's Why There Are No Good Female Superheroes in Children's Shows

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | December 17, 2013 | Comments ()


wonder-woman.jpg

My kids haven’t really gotten to the stage where they’re watching a lot of superhero shows yet, so I’m not that familiar with most of the current slate of animated series. My eldest’s viewing choices, so far, has been limited to Ninjago, Adventure Time (much to my delight, and my wife’s dismay) and, God bless him, Wordgirl (which features a fantastic voice cast that includes Patton Oswalt, Chris Parnell, Jeffrey Tambor, John C. McGinley, and Maria Bamford). The latter two shows feature either a lead female superhero (Wordgirl) or a female co-lead (Adventure Time, though I believe there are no significant females in the more traditional animated show, Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu.

There’s a reason for that, too, as Comics creator Paul Dini explained to Kevin Smith on his “Fatman and Batman” podcast: It’s because girls don’t buy toys.

From Boing Boing:

DINI: “They’re all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”

DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show — “

SMITH: “So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t— I disagree, A, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as f***ing boys do, but, B, sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them f***ing umbrella with the f***ing character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi — that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

DINI: “That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’ — this is the network talking — ‘one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’

Dini then went on to explain that the reason why his show Tower Prep was cancelled was because it had developed strong backstories for a couple of female character, and it had begun to attract a significant female audience, which was bad because those girls apparently didn’t buy toys, which is where much of a show’s revenue derives.

The lesson here, I guess, is that if girls want more reflective characters in their superhero shows, they need to buy more cheap crap that will probably fall apart in a week. Therein lies your female problem: They’re too goddamn practical. It’s your own fault, ladies. If only you were more wasteful with your discretionary income!

In related news, Powerpuff Girls is returning to the Cartoon Network in January.

(Source: Boing Boing)




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • So, they're telling me that they can't sell toys to children? AYFKMWTS?

  • loo shag brolley

    Girls don't buy toys? What the hell was all that crap my mother was after me to clean off my bedroom floor all those years?

  • Ben

    While I don't doubt that their are executive decisions full of fucking moronic blundering, I think there is a lot of stuff missing from this discussion.

    There have been a lot of shows brought up in the discussion as shows that people rekon got axed because of large female demographics fucking things up, shows like Young Justice, Motorcity, Sym-Bionic Titan etc. And one thing they all have in common wich I'm not seeing brought up is that they are all spectacularly expensive well animated shows being made at budgets that dwarf most TV animation.

    Like young justice got canned and Teen Titans Go is it's replacement cause it's more boy friendly? It's also far far cheaper to produce though. Young Justice was these detailed semi realistic characters with this elaborate smoothe animation featuring a top tallent voice cast etc, versus Teen Titans go wich is these super simplified characters with lots of stock poses and shit.

    I'm sure that kind of shit probably plays a big roll in it too.

  • JK

    "There’s a reason for that, too, as Comics creator Paul Dini explained to Kevin Smith on his “Fatman and Batman” podcast: It’s because girls don’t buy toys."

    He was explaining what execs think, not giving his own opinion.

    Also, does Adventure Time really have a female co-lead? Genuine question. I've only seen a few episodes and my impression was that they had a few recurring female characters but Jake and Finn were very much the leads.

  • Ben

    They're not really co-leads but it has a fairly significant amount of female characters. In fact other then Finn and Jake, most of the other significant characters like Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, Tree Trunks, Lumpy Space Princess, etc etc are all female.

  • Bodhi

    Wait, wait, wait. Maria Bamford does a voice on WordGirl?!? How did I not know this? That plus Captain Huggy Face's dance have rocketed the show to the top of my list.

  • Matt Staten

    Did Pajiba just straight up become a feminist site and I was not paying any attention?

  • RipCity

    maybe you weren't ever paying attention?

  • Matt Staten

    I suppose I wasn't then. I don't recall when I first started visiting that there was a feminist post every other day put in front of my face. You don't have to bother calling me a misogynist or anything. I know how to show myself the door.

  • loo shag brolley

    I'm confused. Are you feeling left out because everyone's included? Because that makes no sense.

  • logan

    I dont think anything has changed. Mrs. J could say for sure.

  • Drake

    Oh, my step-daughter is going to be so excited about the Powerpuff Girls. She's run thru all the older ones on Netflix and stolen all my collectable toys.

  • L.O.V.E.

    TEEN TITANS!
    It has Raven and Starfire as teen female superheroes and new episodes have been ordered.

    (Also, power puff reruns are played in our house on the regular so glad more episodes are coming)

  • AlexaCastro

    DAMNIT DUSTIN. Please look up Nickelodeon's "The Legend of Korra". It's so far for the network been a ratings goldmine (just wrapped season 2), and a worthy sequel for the absolutely incredible animated series "Avatar: The Last Airbender". We don't speak of the movie.

    "The Legend of Korra" stars a female teenage lead that learns and grows and kicks ass doing it.

  • Sarah Weissman

    Maybe if girls saw themselves as heroes THEN they'd buy the toys. Ridiculous.

  • Carey Farley

    They are most definitely wrong about not wanting the girl viewers. I instruct part-time at a local dojo and we survive mostly due to kids, and while traditionally that's a very male dominated field, we have a pretty even split of boys and girls. With age ranges from 5 to 13, they would be very surprised at the number of young ladies who buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and clothes, not to mention Batman, Superman, Bey Blades, Ninjago. Now you might think since it's martial arts, we only get the "tomboy" types. You'd be wrong. Some of these girls do play football and soccer, but a lot of them are cheerleaders, tumblers, wear glitter and pink clothes. I think the marketing types might also be surprised at the boys who would watch a female led show. My 12 year-old son would die before admitting it, but he watches shows and Disney and Nickelodeon that would be traditionally gear toward tween girls. I suspect because they have cute girls in them.

  • kdm

    The complete collection of original TMNT action figures that I played with non-stop as a kid calls bullshit on your theory Mr. Dini.

  • Pippa_Laughingstock

    I don't think it's Mr. Dini's theory, but the clueless execs'.

  • kdm

    My bad, thanks!

  • seth

    In related news, Gem is truly outrageous.

  • Monica

    No one else is the same, Jem is her name.

  • JenVegas

    OK, Dustin I NEED you to explain Adventure Time to me. WTF is that? We see the commercials and my 3yo son is drawn to it because it looks like an animated acid trip, but I don't get it.

  • noah

    It's amazing is what it is. It touches upon themes like growing up, relationships, death, and friendship without being too serious or preachy.

    There are all these things about the show that sounds like it shouldn't work or find an audience: it's set thousands of years into a post-apocalyptic future, but is super cheerful and bright; there's tons of princesses running all over the place, but they're all super nontraditional princesses, like Turtle Princess, Slime Princess, or everyone's favorite, Lumpy Space Princess (my lumps!); hell, even the most 'traditional' looking princess, Princess Bubblegum, is a badass scientist who saves her candy kingdom and the nominal protagonists just as often as they do.

    And it's an animated acid trip.

  • Lumpy Space Princess is a national treasure.

  • It's an animated acid trip.

  • Pippa_Laughingstock

    I don't actually agree that girls don't buy crap. On the io9 discussion of this some commenters brought up some numbers showing that girls spend more than boys overall. There was a lot of anecdotal evidence that girls DO like action figures. Another commenter pointed out that if you just made t-shirts or jewelry (and I have so much homemade comic book jewelry it's not funny) instead of focusing on action figures you'd solve the problem. Yet another commenter brought up the fact that all of the male Airbender characters have been made into action figures and none of the girls have. So you can't argue girls don't buy things if you don't give them things to buy.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    My youngest daughter's admirable collection of Power Rangers crap would seem to belie The Networks theory.

  • Rob

    All hail Wordgirl! Love that show just for existing. Love it more because it got my 6-year-old girl to love words.

  • MarTeaNi

    Ok, maybe the girls weren't going to buy the same toys as the boys. I will grudgingly allow this supposition. But why does that mean they don't want the female viewers they're getting? It's not a zero sum game! For every new girl you get watching the show, two boys don't leave.

    I think it's as much about fear of "brand dilution" as toy sales. Not only do they not want to market to girls, but they don't want to be seen as the kind of show girls would want to watch in the first place. Then they'd get their cooties all over it and the boys will leave.

  • Robot Devi

    Sad to say but that's what would actually happen. Young boys are taught to develop an aversion to anything even remotely feminine, It's internalized around the same age age as the cartoon demographic and ingrained in the executives making the decisions.

  • luthien26

    Wow, that is such BS. Do they not recall that back in the 80s there was a little action-adventure show called "She-Ra" that sold SHITLOADS of toys to girls (I should know, I had damn near every one of them!)? And although the show wasn't exactly high art, it had a female protagonist who actually wound up saving the main male character half the time!

    This is one of those "if you build it, they will come situations." Yes, girls buy toys. Barbie hasn't been around for all these years because girls don't buy toys. Monster High isn't making money hand over fist because girls don't buy toys. And girls will buy female action figures, too (I still have my beloved original Cheetarah after all these years!). These marketing executives are just crappy at their jobs.

  • dizzylucy

    I know - the box of Wonder Woman toys and things (along with a lot of Batman and Superman) in my parents' attic begs to differ.

  • gogotiff

    Yeah! I had She-Ra, Rainbow Brite, various Barbies, and even Strawberry Shortcake dolls/figures. Along with alllllll their accessories, houses, sidekicks, and horses. Oh, the horses. And my toy collection was on the smaller end compared to other girls my age.

  • Even Stevens

    Also, I remember i had La La Orange (from Rainbow Brite) lipstick. I was a six-year-old fashion guru

  • Even Stevens

    Let us also not forget My Little Ponies and Jem

  • JJ

    You hear that Mattel, Lego, Fisher Price, Melissa & Doug, et al? Shut it down. Girls don't buy toys.

    Also, I'll try to remember that the next time I break myself stepping on my daughter's non-existent toys that are imaginarily strewn about her room.

  • MarTeaNi

    Craziest: Mattel makes DC's action figures. They hired a company that is wildly successful at "girl toys" to make their "boy toys." Mattel made a billion dollars last year on Monster High alone. Like hell girls don't buy toys.

  • kdm

    Toys 'R Us has an entire section solely for Monster High stuff. And just like Kevin Smith said, it's not *just* the toys/dolls. I got my niece a Monster High secret journal or something, and was the coolest auntie around.

  • meadowdancer

    Bought a backpack for Christmas plus two dolls. I think I am winning fav auntie this year ;-)

  • MarTeaNi

    My friend's niece had a Draculaura birthday party and what was the one thing she wanted (besides the birthday doll)? The headphones. They have skulls on them. Can't find Batgirl headphones, but MH has anything you could ever want. Including umbrellas.

  • This article wrote itself! BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!

  • Joe Grunenwald

    Pajiba's collapsing!

    EDIT: Aw man, he fixed it.

  • Theunis Stofberg

    Shees. There is also a distinct lack of any good kick-ass female role models in tv animation at the moment. I had to find Kim Possible and Totally Spies, both series from 10 years ago, to show my two young daughters. The only other female they can watch that doesnt have fairy wings (I am looking at you Winx-club) is Mabel from Gravity Falls. Will have to check some of the others out mentioned at the start but still. It is a sad day.

  • Ben

    To add to the Legend of Korra, look up a show called Steven Universe. Done by one of the ladies from Adenture Time, has a trio of kick arse ladies and is just serious quality all around.

  • AlexaCastro

    Ooh! I'll have to check that one out, thanks!

  • Ben

    fair warning though, the theme song is ridiculous catchy and you will start singing it constantly.

  • AlexaCastro

    That's ok. I got into "Attack on Titan" and the opening to that was just ridiculous. That's a straight up Japanese anime though.

  • MarTeaNi

    DC makes lots of shorts that never end up turning into anything, which is fair, they're done as creative experiments. Super Best Friends Forever was done by Lauren Faust and very popular. In an interview she expressed interest in making it an ongoing series. That was almost two years ago.

  • Green Lantern

    SBBF was *hilarious*, quick-witted, and will sadly probably end up as nothing whatsoever since DC killed it's "DC Nation" block by pulling the plug on "Beware The Batman".

    Shame, really...Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Girl had more character development in 120 second bursts than most characters get in an entire season.

  • AlexaCastro

    It's called "The Legend of Korra". Look it up. It's on Nickelodeon, just wrapped up it's second season, absolutely beautiful animation, and the sequel to the best animated series ever, "Avatar: The Last Airbender".

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