The Wall Street Journal reports that Disney is about to launch a major new line up of boy based animated programming. And all this time, I thought kids needed to see more animated female characters. Wow, I was totally wrong.
The WSJ reports:
This summer, kids TV programmers are a little boy crazy. That’s because boys watch more animated series than girls and represent a lucrative sales opportunity for videogames, toys and sports merchandise.
OK, lets stop there. I have a question not addressed here or in any depth anywhere in this article. Why do “boys watch more animated series than girls”?
I’m going to go out a limb here and suggest the reason is because animated series, and the movies derived from them, continually and relentlessly leave girl characters out. When “The Smurfs” (adapted from the TV series) hits movie theaters at the end of the month, kids will see one girl Smurf (Smurfette) among nine boy Smurfs (Brainy, Jokey, Chef, Handy etc.) This boy/girl ratio is so ubiquitous in kids’ cartoons that twenty years ago, Katha Pollitt coined the term “the Smurfette principle” to describe it. Did you get that part about twenty years ago? That’s right, no advances for gender equality in Smurfville for two decades.
So here’s a marketing proposal for Disney: instead of putting out the message that girls somehow “age out” of animation, why not, instead, create some cooler cartoon characters that represent half of the kid population besides princesses or long-eyelashed sidekicks? Girls don’t need less programming, they need more. Concluding that girls lose interest in cartoons after the slim pickings offered to them is a like serving a vegetarian a bacon cheeseburger and then deciding she doesn’t like food.
Later in the article, the idea that girls just grow out of animation is repeated when Ron Geraci, head of research at Viacom, is quoted saying: “Girls migrate out of animation more quickly than boys.”
But again, there are no statistics or mention at all about the lack of female leads in animation. There are only references to the non-animated Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato. EW.com recently reported that when Pixar releases Brave in 2012 audiences will see the studio’s first animated film featuring a female lead in its 25 year history. Twenty-five years! Yet Disney somehow sees the need to create more animated programming for boys. And what about “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” “South Park”– all popular cartoons for grown-ups. Note to Disney: No one “ages out” of cartoons.
Starting Sept. 1, Perry will make a guest appearance on some four million packages of Nesquik, replacing Nestle/ Nesquik bunny. And he is the focal point of a promotional tour of a 4,000-pound Airstream trailer converted into a “platy-bus”; fans can climb aboard and play 3-D videogames set for release with the Aug. 5 premiere of Disney’s TV movie “Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension.
Thank you to the WSJ for laying out here how the Disney marketing machine works. (1) Create programs for boys about boys (2) Put images of boys on every space available on products marketed to kids– cereal boxes, diapers, chocolate milk (3) Create video games based on the boy cartoons (4) Conclude only boys like video games
Here’s the unreported side effect: When girls go missing from kids programming, kids of both genders learn that girls are less important than boys.
Now a quote from Disney’s Senior VP:
“We definitely set out to create a boy’s franchise. That was our goal. That group was underserved,” says Adam Sanderson, senior vice president, franchise management, at Disney-ABC Television Group.
But here’s my favorite part of the article:
Some time after viewers hit age 6, story lines that appeal to girls-about friendship, romance, gossiping-start to make boys cringe. Boys like TV shows about robots and action. They prefer shows with male leads.
Ok, we are talking about 6 – 11 year old girls here. Romance? Gossip? I guess the boy version of ‘friendship’ would be a ‘buddy movie, kind of like how dolls for boys are called ‘action figures.’ But instead of ignoring these inane gender stereotypes, Disney perpetuates them, working hard to segregate the sexes. For those choices made by high up Disney Execs, girls suffer.
Animation is better than live action when it comes to boy-friendly story lines, says Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer of the Time Warner unit that includes Cartoon Network. “You can’t always do the most adventurous things in real life,” he says.
Tragically, if you happen to be a girl, you can’t do the most adventurous things in the animated world either. Hopefully, you’re into gossip and romance.