Sexed up Powerpuff Girls point to Cartoon Network’s girl problem

My three daughters, ages 4, 7, and 10, are huge fans of “The Powerpuff Girls.” They dress up and act out stories where they play Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup.

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“Powerpuff Girls” is one of the few shows for little kids where multiple female protagonists work together to save the world, and they don’t wear revealing clothing.That may seem like a ridiculous description of a show, but the sexism in children’s media forced me to come up with my own version of the Bechdel test. The Magowan Test for Gender Bias in Children’s Media goes like this: At least two females who are friends go on an adventure and don’t wear revealing clothing. It’s scary how few shows made for kids manage to pass that simple test.

When it was announced last year that the Powerpuff Girls would be returning for a CGI special, we were thrilled. So, you can imagine my dismay when on The Mary Sue I saw this cover created by Cartoon Network and IDW for Powerpuff Girls #6.

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I feel like crying when I look at this. I think I would cry if my kids saw it. How could CN sex up the “Powerpuff Girls?” It really pisses me off that after I went out of my way to introduce my children to these characters, CN exploits and distorts them.

The Mary Sue reports:

The brouhaha about the cover started when comics retailer Dennis Barger Jr., owner of Detroit’s Wonderworld Comics, called IDW out on Facebook for “taking grade school girls and sexualizing them as way older… they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong… especially on an ALL AGES kids book marketed for children.”

 

Thank you Dennis Barger for not accepting this. If more comic book retailers and parents and teachers and doctors would say no, loudly and publicly, to sexualizing kids, instead of buying into this stuff, it might stop. But sadly, too many people do the opposite and act as if sexualized images of girls are just normal, which, tragically, they’ve become. Kids need to see images of girls that are not sexualized. It’s sad I had to create a blog to communicate this idea, that it’s radical and alternative while sexualizing kids is mainstream. Sexualized “make-overs” of female characters from children’s media include Merida, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, and Queen Frostline. Yeah, this is how Candyland has changed since we were kids:

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The Mary Sue reports that Dirk Woods, IDW’s VP of marketing responded to Barger with this statement:

That was actually a Cartoon Network mandated cover, by an artist of their choosing. I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of “female empowerment” than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. We love making comics for kids, and always want them to be appropriate. For what it’s worth, CN has been a great partner in that regard… I know an 8 year old and 10 year old really well, and always look at these kinds of things through their eyes… Half of the employees have kids here, and we pride ourselves in making comics they’ll enjoy and not give them a warped view of the world (except, you know, in a good way). Anyway, I certainly see your points, and we’ll be sensitive to these things, as I think we mostly have been.

 

First of all, I find it really annoying that Woods writes Cartoon Network was thinking about female empowerment as opposed to “the kind of thing you guys are talking about.” Like we’re the ones with the dirty minds here. Mr. Woods, the problem is not Barger and those who agree with them, but people who look at this sexed up image of the Powerpuff Girls and see nothing wrong with it.

Mr. Woods, you say you have two kids and that those you work with are sensitive to these issues, so let me explain the problem with seeing “female empowerment” in this version of the Powerpuff Girls you created. There’s a difference between sexualization and sexuality. Do you understand that? In her excellent book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, author Peggy Orenstein quotes Stephen Hinshaw:

Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.

Does that make sense to you? Sexualization is about performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. That’s the image your Powerpuff Girls #6 cover projects. Sexuality, on the other hand, is about understanding and connecting to your own desire. Got it? Here’s a specific example that might make sense to you. Breasts are secondary sex characteristics, and, besides feeding babies, they exist to give women sexual pleasure. Implants, while they make breasts look a certain way, are often devoid of feeling for the woman. Do you see the difference?

But why do I even need to talk about sexuality versus sexualization in relation to the Powerpuff Girls, for goodness sake? That, in itself, is the problem.

After the protest, Cartoon Network decided to pull the cover and made this statement:

In conjunction with our licensing partners, Cartoon Network Enterprises from time to time works with the artist community to reimagine and reinterpret our brands using their talents and unique points of view.  This particular variant cover for The Powerpuff Girls #6 from IDW was done in the artist’s signature style and was intended to be released as a collectible item for comic book fans. We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.

Did I miss the apology? Because I don’t see it. It sounds to me like CN is shifting the blame to the artist which is ridiculous. Fault belongs with the network and not just because CN chose and paid for the image. The sexed up “Powerpuff Girls” are indicative of the Cartoon Network’s girl problem. CN is a channel for children and girls make up one half of the kid population, so why have female characters gone missing from CN shows?

In my count, 41 out of 47 shows on Cartoon Network feature male protagonists. I listed the shows and descriptions below. The stats get worse. Of those shows, 19 are titled for the male stars: Steven Universe, The Annoying Orange, Batman, Chowder, Courage, Dexter’s Labratory, Ed Edd and Eddy, Flapjack, Garfield, Generator Rex, Gumball, Gym Partner, Johnny Bravo, Johnny Test,Samurai Jack, Scaredy Squirrel, Sidekick, The Problem Solverz, and Uncle Grandpa. Just 4 shows feature a female character in the title. Of those, “Cow and Chicken” and “Billy and Mandy,” share the title with a male character. “Foster’s” is a show with a male protagonist, titled for the orphanage run by a woman. “Powerpuff Girls” is the only show on the Cartoon Network where girls star and get to be in the title without sharing it.

Instead of this pathetic non-apology, Cartoon Network ought to commit to creating and disseminating shows and games with powerful female protagonists. That’s what all of our kids desperately need to see.

Here’s my list of Cartoon Network’s shows:

Adventure Time Includes powerful female characters, but the protagonists are Finn and Jake. McDonalds sees fit to include no female “Adventure Time” characters in its giveaways.

Almost Naked Animals is described on Wikipedia:

A dog named Howie is the manager and leader of the cabana. Each episode follows Howie and his “misfit” crew having unusual adventures in the Banana Cabana.

 

Steven Universe is the first show created by a female. From Wiki:

It is produced by Cartoon Network Studios, and is the first show by the studio to be created by a woman.

While it features the Crystal Gems, intergalactic female warriors, the protagonist of his eponymous show is male.

The Annoying Orange stars the male orange and his BFF, a male pear (voiced by the same guy who created the show.)

Batman Need I say more?

Ben 10 Omniverse Even Wikipedia’s description seems hopped up on testosterone:

 

The series is the fourth installment in the Ben 10 franchise.[2] Man of Action (group consisting of Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle) created the franchise.

 

Beware the Batman Oh, look at that, just like the movies, we get multiple Batman shows.

Beyblade Shotgun Steel The protagonist is a male champion named Zero

Billy and Mandy This show looks promising, but how about calling it “Mandy and Billy” and not making Mandy wear pink?

Boomerang is cartoons from yesteryear now owned by the Turner Broadcasting System, and we all know how feminist those are. Actually, “Scooby-Doo,” “Pop-Eye,” and “Tom and Jerry” are pretty tame compared to “Bratz.” I have wondered since I was a kid, if Road Runner could be a female.

Camp Laszlo From Wikpedia: “The show features a Boy Scout-like summer camp”

Chowder From Wikipedia:  “The series follows an aspiring young chef named Chowder and his day-to-day adventures as an apprentice in Mung Daal’s catering company.”

Courage  Courage is a male dog. At least he’s a pink male dog.

Cow and Chicken CN’s second show with a female protag who is also in the title, and her name comes first, and that’s a first.

DC Nation based on DC Comics, no Wonder Woman included. Need I say more?

Dexter’s Labratory Dexter is the evil genius protag of his eponymous series

Dreamworks Dragons Based on the movie “How to Train Your Dragon” the protagonist is the male Hiccup.

Ed, Edd, N Eddy No, I did not make up this show and title to parody the male domination of Cartoon Network. It’s really a show, and yes, it really stars three males with the same name.

Flapjack Stars Flapjack and Cap’n K’nuckles, both male

Foster’s From Wikipedia:

The home is run by the elderly Madame Foster, its lovable, elderly founder; her imaginary friend Mr. Herriman, the strict rule-abider and business manager; and her 22-year old granddaughter Frankie, who handles day-to-day operations.

So that’s good, right? 2 females, their name in the title. But then, there’s this:

The series focuses on the escapades experienced by the mischievous Bloo, Mac, and the array of eccentric, colorful characters inhabiting Foster’s Home, or the obstacles with which they may be challenged.

 

Bloo is male. Mac is male. Oh, well.

The Garfield Show Cynical male cat stars in his eponymous show, don’t even need Wikipedia to write that.

Generator Rex Yet another Man of Action studios creation. Surprise, surprise, Rex is male.

Grojband Includes marginalized females and gender stereotyping, I would not let my kids near this show.

Grojband follows Corey and his three best friends, Laney and twin brothers Kin and Kon, as they work to propel their garage band to international stardom. When they don’t have the lyrics, Corey and his friends get Trina into an emotional diary mode to write lyrics in her diary, so that Corey and his friends can perform a perfect song.

 

Gumball The protagonist is gumball, a male cat

Gym Partner From Wikipedia:

A boy named Adam is expelled to a middle school established for anthropomorphic zoo animals due to a spelling error making his surname “Lion”. There, he is befriended by a mischievous, eccentric spider monkey named Jake

 

Hero 108 Looks like Commander ApeTrully is the protag, from Wikipedia:

The storyline in a typical episode follows a formula, although the formula varies and several episodes depart from it: Commander ApeTrully goes on a mission to the castle of an animal kingdom to make peace and ask its inhabitants to join Big Green, bringing a gift of gold as a token of goodwill.

 

Johnny Bravo Self explanatory right?

Johnny Test Wow, this is just like the Eddies…

Kids next Door Stars 5 kids, 3 boys, 2 girls

Legends of Chima There are several tribes, each has many more male characters than females and some have no females at all

Ninjago I count one female to multiple males. Maybe I missed one, but come on, this is ridiculous.

Pokemon Again, I count mostly male characters but I actually like Pokemon because the females I’ve seen are pretty strong. What about calling it “Pokewomon?” (Update: That was a joke, apparently some of you think I’m not up on my Japanese)

Powerpuff Girls YAY See what I mean?????

Redakai The protag is Ky, this show is all a father-son quest story about power and destiny

Regular Show Protags are a BFF blue jay and raccoon, both male

Samurai Jack No explanation needed

Scaredy Squirell BFF squirrel and skunk, both male

Secret Mountain Fort Awesome About 5 monsters, all 5 are male, I kid you not.

Secret Saturdays stars Zak Saturday

Sidekick You’d think at least this could be about a female, right? But, no.

Teen Titans 3 males, 2 females. Hey CN, what about having females outnumber males in an ensemble cast?

Teen Titans Go See above

Tenkai Knights Multiple knights and unless I’m missing something, all male.

The Problem Solverz They are Alfe, Roba, and Horace, all male

Time Squad Stars Otto and features practically all male cast

Uncle Grandpa Self-explanatory, right?

Young Justice Invasion An adaptation of the DC universe with a focus on young superheroes and just as sexist in the character make up (Update: Commenters tell me YJ has adapted to have an equal number of female and male characters)

Follow up post: Cartoon Network’s history of sexism: cancelling shows for featuring too many girls

96 thoughts on “Sexed up Powerpuff Girls point to Cartoon Network’s girl problem

  1. This frustrates me immensely. You underestimate yourself, me and every other woman and girl in the world: the fact that a child’s cartoon show features a large number of male characters does not mean our poor, impressionable minds will begin to think that men are better than us.

    No, it’s not good there aren’t that many female characters in cartoons. But how about we just all teach our kids the lessons we want them to learn than rely on the TV to give them politically correct cartoons that teach them what’s right.

    I grew up watching these shows and, while you’ll most likely disagree, I am not all that fucked up. I have respect for both genders. AMAZINGLY, these shows have not made me wear miniskirts and flaunt my boobs and think that men are better than women. Let me make this clear: I do not know a single person who was negatively affected by a few cartoons they watched when they were younger.

    Thank you for writing this nonetheless, and I honestly admire you for having such a strong opinion about something. I think your daughters are lucky to have such a strong mother. 🙂

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  3. Hi there I just wanted to say that if u thought they were sexed up ur wrong I’m sorry I’m weighting like a kid I have to hurry but they are now cgi graphics mire realistic not sexed up

    • They are sexed up. Have you seen graphics on other Cartoon Network shows? Huge breast, skin-tight outfits, to much makeup, mini skirts… Look at the originals. Huddles is even wearing the old heads of the PPGs as clips. It amount made me vomit!
      Ghcjjhbh, you are sadly mistaken.
      R.I.P
      PowerPuff Girls, fell victim to gender stereotypes
      We will remember the old ones
      ~Nikki Roseworth
      11 years old, currently in London

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  6. You might find this quite interesting – it’s about whether BMO from Adventure Time is agender. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqtNSdDFGBM

    Honestly, I know you’re looking for female protagonists, but I would much rather have lots of complex female characters. If you want to find problems with Adventure Time, you could start with the ableist slurs that are used too often.

    You may say that you were only aiming to talk about gender issues, but feminism is best when it’s intersectional, and going in depth is always more useful than a brief list of half-arsed research.

    Sorry if this sounds really rude btw, it’s 00:24 and I need to go to sleep 🙂 xx

  7. You really have the wrong opinion about Steven Universe. While the protagonist is male, he is dorky, clumsy, and almost always needs help from the Crystal Gems. Although the protagonist is in fact male, it deviates from the strong male protagonist shtick that has been used countless times.

    • Hi Meenah,

      Once again: I am no looking for perfect female characters. I am looking for female protagonists– that is main characters who make choices. Why not have this show be all about the Crytal Gems? Why is framed through Steven?

      Margot

      • The story is framed through Steven because it’s a coming-of-age story, and there are many mysteries behind the Crystal Gems that they try to hide from him – allowing us to only know what he knows (if that makes sense). Because of this, we feel what he’s going though, and there’s never a “oh, you FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT!” moment.

        Rebecca Sugar herself said that a major theme of the series is “fantasy and reality’s lovechild” – which Steven is, almost literally. A series focusing soley on the Crystal gems sounds exciting at first, but it would likely be uninteresting without Steven to take them out of their comfort zone (the three of them have less-than-stellar opinions of humanity). There is some great comedy deriving from this, too, but also some very heartwarming moments. The Crystal Gems are a broken family of sorts, and Steven is the glue that keeps them together.

        There are other shows that aired on Cartoon Network with female protagonists – like Atomic Betty and Totally Spies (many dislike the valley girl aspect, but growing up I never took it seriously and found it quite a fun show).

        It’s a shame that you’ve swept the series under the rug, because not only is Steven what the earlier replier said, he’s also in touch with his feminine side and is never mocked for it. Steven’s gem is even pink and his powers are defense/protection-based (also with a rose theme, since his gem is rose quartz).

        I also don’t understand your issue with pink. The issue is maybe more with cartoons and games sometimes having a sole female character and having stereotypes instead of personality (fortunately there are many examples who AREN’T that), but there’s nothing wrong with being “girly” and powerful. I mean, look at Sailor Moon, and many other magical girl series.

        In fact, a series running right now, Go! Princess Precure, stars a 13-year-old who still dreams of being a princess despite the teasing she recieves for it. Even her friends say that she’s the least princess-like, but even though she needs practice in many things my gosh, she’ll try them all and she’ll do her best. I went on a bit there but my point is is that while this is a series with princesses as a theme, and the heroine is pink-clad …. they fight with punches, kicks, and super strength. Sure, the finishing move is always magic, but overall the battles feel more like Power Rangers than what you’d assume.

        Sure the “pink princess” archetype may be unattainable, not to mention completely unlike what a real princess has to do … but is it so bad to want to be like one? Things aren’t as gendered as we think – I’ve seen many cases where people have complained about different-coloured “Boy” and “Girl” products … only for there to be no actual sign of the words “Boy” or “Girl” on them at all.

        Anyway, this turned into something that sounds like an advertisement, but you are cherrypicking, and from one channel at that.

        I thorougly reccomend Steven Universe to your kids. And also, while it’s not a CN show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is also great at showing “there’s many different ways to be a girl.”
        Both are created by women (the latter being headed by a writer/director/storyboard artist for the Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s). I honestly wish I had these cartoons when I was a little girl, because I legitimately thought I had to be a tomboy in order to be taken seriously (I’m only finally embracing my love of pink in my 20’s).

        But I do also suggest you watch more cartoons/comics/fiction before brushing them aside solely due to the protagonist’s gender. It’s … pretty hypocritical.

  8. So are you just going to stereotype ben 10 to your own opinion? I thought you said that you wanted female characters in a “male” type of show. Ben 10 despite the name isnt even focused completely on the male lead ben after first season. Ben acts in a team with his cousin gwen (who could arguably be considered strongest in the team and able to do more specialised things such as shields and teleporting) and various other female characters. There are several episodes throughout the series focusing only on females. The villains do have intelligent powerful females who beat ben. I dont know why you would consider ben 10 jacked on testosterone but the males in the protag team are usually more stereotyped, they are less intelligent and kevin is obsessed with mechanics such as fixing his car. The females are unique and diverse. If you are going to complain i would like you to be unbiased and know about these shows

    • I’ve watched Ben 10 a number of times and I never really thought of it as a “girl power” show.Yes there is a number of cool (mainly secondary) female characters and Gwen is great but she seems to be the only really main female character while males are Kevin,Ben and Max.Also in the new Ben 10: Omniverse series Gwen is now replaced by a male character (Rook Blonko) .Ben 10:Omniverse has 2 male heroes (Ben and Blonko) 3 male villains.(Khyber,Malware,DrPsychobos) and one female villain (Attea) .

    • Hi Ellen,

      “Ben 10 despite the name isnt even focused completely on the male lead ben after first season.”

      Whoo-hoo! I’m supposed to be grateful that the show isn’t completely focused on the male lead? Give me a break. Gwen sounds like a typical Minority Feisty

      http://reelgirl.com/2012/02/the-curse-of-the-minority-feisty-female-in-kids-movies/

      “There are several episodes throughout the series focusing only on females”

      That sounds like ‘Adventure Time’ or ‘Arthur’– a show with a male protag gives a few shows to a female. Again, that is sidelining and marginalizing the females. They get time, just not as much as the male.

      Margot

      • Margot
        Actually Gwen WAS a strong Minority Feisty (in Ben 10, Ben 10 Alien Force & Ben 10 Ultimate Alien) But now in Ben 10:Omniverse-currently airing on Cartoon Network- Gwen is only a minor character.
        There is no MF in the show now.Its obvious the creators wanted to concentrate more on Ben and they replaced Gwen b/c she’s too strong (almost as Ben). We now have,instead of her, a weaker male sidekick for Ben (Rook).

          • MFs are really tricky… Do all female characters that are not protagonists mean they are Minoritu Feisty? And I have one question. Just because the main characters are male and the storyline is epic, does that make it sexist? See, my favorite movie The Giver. (Based off of a great book). One of the females played by Meryl Steep, is very blood-chillingly evil. Fiona and Rosemary are cool Rosemary only being a memory and plot-changing one, at that. Fiona is a love interest, but brave. She nearly dies from rebelling like the main character Jonas. The movie isn’t sexist because two reasons 1: no one wears reavling clothing 2: Fiona and Jonas’s mother go on a slight “adventure”.
            The only thing is, Jonas’s mom is referred to as “Mother” in the Creds. Could u review The Giver?
            (P.S It was written by a women, Lois Lowery)

  9. First off, the lack of female roles in cartoons is sad but it never once bothered me. To let a title offend you because the male was mentioned first wasn’t because they are favouring the male, the males name happens to alphabetically come first. The pokemon genders, seriously? How do you think they repopulate? You need a woman but historically, males were more dominant in war because women had domestic roles, the 19th wouldn’t have been needed if we were always seen as equal. It’s a gender stereotype, I mean, most girls wear skirts or dresses, act like ditzy morons and twill their hair. Of not that, then they’re “sexy” nerds who get mad at the ignorance of the other, prettier, females. It’s them shown as either your 1930’s with a combination of now and 70’s or your upright 70’s/now feminist. I’m not a feminist, I am bummer about their not being equal opportunity in cartoon shows for female characters, BUT I Know the logic around the “why it is the way it is.”

    • Hi Nat,

      Wow, the male name just happens to alphabetically come first, just like another commenter said the male name just happens to have a hard sound and that’s why its first. So give the female an A name with a hard sound. You think billing doesn’t matter? Do you know how hard actors fight to get their names first? It’s a huge deal. It means a lot. Its the difference between Number #1 and Number #2, not to mention millions of dollars.

      So what if historically males were more dominant? Are we talking reality in shows where kids have superpowers and animals can talk? It’s the imaginary world, anything is possible. Except, apparently, gender equality.

      Margot

  10. I do have to say. that some of your information is a little bit scuded towards your initiative. Otherwise a great article, but Fosters home for imaginary friends is actually ran by a male rabbit. The girl is simply the house keeper.

    • Hi Justin,

      After you comment, I looked at 5 different sites. They all report Madam Foster is the founder. Here is one:

      “The ecentric old lady who founded Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Madame Foster has the boundless energy of a child and is noted for never giving up her imagianry friend Mr. Herriman.”

      It’s interesting how many commenters are trying to discredit the information I’m giving, either by saying I haven’t watched all the shows (so what? I never said I had) or quibbling about shows with huge ensemble casts, continually coming up with different stats for males and females.

      Does anyone want to tell me that I missed a show on Cartoon Network with a female protagonist?

      Margot

      • If you havent watched the shows, you are just basing your accusations on the summary. I have watched most of these shows with my kids and most of them are fine. So what about kim possible? The main character is kim, having a male sidekick. Even the villains consist of females. I honestly think that you are being biased and just complaining because boys cartoons have male leads or because there arent more girls than boys. How does that affect the children?

        • Hi Joanne,

          Kim Possible is on the Disney Channel, not CN. I like that show, its one of the few with female protag who is strong, and titled for the protag, but it would not pass the Magowan Test for Gender Bias because of Kim’s look. She is also baring her midriff. My kids, when I showed it to them, asked me why they could see her belly button. Its an example of sexualizing a female character. Such a bummer they do that to her.

          Margot

  11. I never watched the Powerpuff Girls because it was too young for me, but EW! This is disgusting. Aren’t they supposed to be LITTLE girls? Can we not put them in latex and thigh-highs (with boobs?!) please?

  12. This is a great post. I run a blog with a similar focus, gender equality in women’s sports, specifically focusing on the media’s presentation of the female athlete. You can check it out at http://millymaker.com. It’s hard to believe that children’s cartoons can be depicted the same way that the majority of females (real or cartoon) in the public eye are over sexualized and overly feminized.

  13. I can tell you one thing for sure. Whoever designed these Powerpuff Girls is a fan of modern porn.I mean come on…The PG suppose to be around 5 y/o.FIVE. YEARS OLD.Its for kids age around 4-10 to watch.Only someone who thinks all females are empty sex objects can find this OK.

  14. I can understand the feeling on the way the Powerpuff girls were represented in that one non-cannon drawing, but honestly it’s not that bad. Yes, Townsville’s mightiest little heroes have been a staple for a long time.. In preschool… All that time… Nevermind the fact that there seems to already be an imbalance when it comes to the view point that the show seems to portray about these three girls. What with Bubbles’ personality pushing the boundaries into “dumb blonde”, Buttercup tomboying her way through everything and Blossom being overly bossy and nearly micro managing everything. And then there is the ever-wise Miss Bellum who seems to be the main brain and true caretaker of Townsville, outside of the Powerpuffs. The mothering character. If a girl is not a tomboy, an airhead or an overly bossy pain… Then she has to be a mother, right? Or maybe we can look at Seducea or however it’s spelled. Nothing wrong with that? The main female baddy has to win through with seduction. It’s incorporated into her name. Nothing is wrong with that at all? So, we have learned that we, as females, are viewed as airheads, tomboys, irritatingly bossy, caretakers or dangerous sirens.. In a world where the main focus of femme power is not allowed to grow up.. And if they are shown to be grown up, such is apparently bad. Fine, I get that the look that was presented by CN is not exactly the viewers’ parents’ cuff of tea.. But do consider what you are saying in your complaint. I get the notion that these characters are not allowed to age.

  15. Teen Titans by half way through the show got a 3rd female lead so there’s 3 and 3 now. You also forgot The Clone Wars, where Ashoka is a main character with Anakin; as well as Padme as a secondary character

  16. After reading through everything, I would like to see your pitch for a new CN line of shows for children. Throw away all of these shows and give us new ones; I’m curious to see what you come up with.

  17. While I agree largly with this (I thought Powerpuff girls were about eight years old, I’m surprised they even HAVE boobs) I never had a problem with male dominated shows. It is a stereotype and it is a problem, we do need more shows with girl characters. However I also grew up with most of these shows and enjoyed them: I also enjoyed shows with girl characters when they were extremely girly, but as I grew I liked them less because they were overtly girly. I can only speak for when I was little and unaware of any stereotypes, at my most impressionable, say – but I wanted to see girls in pink, sparkles and girly things. I also never noticed the shows had male leads. Ever. I only noticed when shows like ‘bratz’ came out and made out fashion was the biggest thing in life, trying too hard to be available to a girl audience: that annoyed me more than wether or not the lead was male or female. Also, ben 10 is a show that teaches good values of friendship. It is also made to sell toys, to boys, in the same way Bratz sells toys to girls. The shows give kids what they want to see, and it is probably a vicious cycle.

  18. The powerpuff girls has always been a fun show. It doesn’t matter if there’s an episode where the dream of being older with boobs or not.. It was a dream in an episode. That poster makes them look like little hookers. Unfortunately I think people in the comic/ superhero type world often believe that the woman should be overly sexed up. It’s disturbing.

  19. I am SO sad to see the gross Powerpuff Girls! I grew up on that show, it was one of my favorites in the early 2000s.

    I do have to wonder, based on the list, how many of the other shows the writer actually watched. Not that the comments in the article aren’t valid. They are absolutely valid and it’s clear to me that Cartoon Network seriously needs to make some changes and address this issue! Still, some of the shows (Teen Titans, for example) are actually really excellent. And when the characters and story are good, I guess I don’t think every single show has to have more females than males to solve this problem. I understand that the article isn’t suggesting that, either, and that the list effectively serves to prove an important point. I just wanted to point out that in most cases, the individual show is not the problem, but rather the sum total message they send. Which is, to be clear, most definitely a problem!

    I mean, Man of Action studios? Are they for real? Pathetic!

    • Hi Richele,

      I haven’t watched several of the shows. I got my info from the CN site and Wikipedia. I am always looking for TV, movies, books, games, toys with string female protags, that is protags with power and agency. Many shows today include a few strong female characters. THis is why I cam up wit the term Minority Feisty. The females are usually not allowed to star, have their names in the title, or exist as a majority of characters– outside of the Pink Ghetto which is “special interest” shows, just for girls, like “Bratz” that fall into all kinds of gender stereotypes) I am not saying these shows are not good, I am saying they lack strong female protagonists and that this is a repetitive pattern throughout children’s media.

      Margot

      • The male characters in shows such as “Johnny Bravo,” “Ed, Edd, N Eddy,” and “Billy & Mandy” are often characterized almost entirely by their implausible levels of idiocy — I feel that if these characters were to be replaced by female equivalents, they’d still receive criticism from bloggers such as this one, albeit for different reasons. Ultimately, characteristically stupid characters tend overwhelmingly to be white males (even more so than characters in general), and it seems that this is because the network would receive criticism for featuring flagrantly idiotic women or people of color, especially in a realm where artists’ depictions of those groups are always a part of the equation.

        Also, as a side note, Johnny Test is a show about a lazy, unexceptional young boy, and it draws most of its excitement from projects undertaken by his genius twin sisters.

        • Hi 4Sura,

          The problem is stereotyping, the more female characters you have, the harder it is to stereotype them. Male characters get to be heroes and villains, genius and idiot, leaders and followers etc. By the sheer volume of male characters, there is diversity. Female characters are stereotyped based on their gender. Thta is the issue. I am not advocating for “perfect” female characters. I am advocating for diverse female characters and female protagonists. As far as the twin sisters on Johnny Test, once again, I am not talking about Minority Feisty characters. I am talking about female protagonists.

          Margot

          • I think that the sparsity of female protagonists in today’s cartoons is but a single symptom of male domination of the industry itself — if systemic prejudices in the creative industry were done away with (this would take time), then I strongly believe that the problems you identify would seem to solve themselves; people project themselves onto all they create, intentionally or not. When the industry is no longer male-dominated, its products will follow suit.

            -4sura

          • In johnnny test the twin sisters basically are main charcters. What is your problem, trying to make these all of these cartoons seem biased? These are mostly shows for boys and even then, your information isnt very accurate considering that a lot of these shows have overpowered female characters. Also a lot of these shows dont have just one main character and consist of a team of females and males. Even as a female watching these shows with my kids i can see this. It is terrible what they did to powerpuff girls though. Kimpossible is a cartoon with a female lead.

    • I agree. Teen Titans does not specifically focus on males or females, it focuses on the characters equally. It even has episodes about equality between girls and boys, and evenly has girls that are ‘girly’ and more masculine.

  20. I once worked on a UK tv series called Caribou Kitchen. Terrible low budget limiting the animation but awesome script and voices. Main protagonist was Claudia the Caribou, who ran a cafe. Characters were 50/50 male female. Favourite character – Helen the hamster… who was the local truck driver. Sadly vanished from broadcast and view generally.

  21. Thee is already an original PPG episode where the girls fantasize about being older. They have big ole boobs and booties. Why aren’t you crying foul about that? The IDW comic doesn’t look “sexed up” to me. It looks like they are young teens with some weird shiny dresses (don’t look latex to me).

  22. There’s WordGirl. And Olivia (based on the book series). And Pippi Longstocking (also based on the book). That’s all that’s coming to mind at the moment. Young Justice does indeed have female characters on equal footing with the males.

  23. You’re overreacting and expect kids to know too much about sexualization or “female oppression”, or whatever you like to rant about to keep your self esteem at a manageable level.

    Simmer down.

  24. Young Justice is awesome.

    Yes, they are very classic comic but there is A TON of female involvement!

    The females ob the show are smart, strong and capable.

    If you WATCH the show, you’d see.
    There is Artimis, Ms. Martian, bumblebee, batgirl, wondergirl, and Zatanna.
    Not a bad line up really.

    • Hi Heather,

      I am looking for shows with a female protagonist, NOT shows where there is a strong female or two or three in the cast i.e. Harry Potter has Hermione, Ginny, Professor McGonagal, Luna, but the its is Harry’s series, Harry’s quest, the strong females are there to support the protag. Everyone is the hero in their own life. I want to see- and I want my kids to see, and all kids, boys and girls to see– girls be the hero, the center, the star.

      That said, I will do more research on “Young Justice” about the cast. It looks like the comments I’m getting are saying not that there is a female protagonist, but that there is an ensemble cast with equal males and females.

      Margot

      • Yeah young justice,teen titans, secret saturdays actually dont have one main character and feature a team of both females and males. I think you are being a bit biased without detailed information

  25. Also your “Count” of pokemon protagonists is off (substantially).

    Males: Ash, Brock, Cyclan, and some new one. 4 in total

    Females: Misty, May, Dawn, Iris, and the new one for X and Y. 5 in total

  26. Young Justice invastion main characters: Aqua lad, Robin, Super boy, Kid flash, (Males), Ms.Martian, Artemis, (A female magiation with a weird name i can’t remember), Bumble Bee. An even number right, but then Kid flash dies. Now it’s 4 females to 3 males.

    • Hi Box,

      Young Justice females: Ms. Martian, Artemis, a female you can’t remember, and Bumble Bee? Is that what you are saying? And that these 4 females have equal screen time to the males and that they are all protags? And finally, that one male died, so now episodes have a majority of females?

      Margot

      • Yup, also it centers around multiple other groups of hero, like the “Renegades” Super Girl, Bat girl, Impulse (a boy), Beast boy, and Jynx (girl).

    • Hi Box,

      The description implies Commander is the protag, but if the 2 male sand 2 females are in fact, the equal stars, that would put this show in the ensemble category. Are they really equal? It doesnt matter to me that one female is a rabbit.

      Margot

        • Well one main male character is “Lyn Chun” who is pretty much a detective, while the other Male is the Mighty ray who can’t do anything without bananas (They power his lazer…or something). The female rabbit wears her ears like a Ninja mask and uses exploding carrots, and the other Female can use her tongue to do stuff, but also has a magic Scarf. The whole show is really weird, but again commander ape truly does nothing but attempt diplomacy at the start of the episode. Also (from what I remember), the female is forced to enter a pageant, but in the end doesn’t wear her dress and delivers a feminist speech about gender roles.

  27. The top part about the power puff girls, gross. Just nasty ew. The bottom, it’s called a target demographic, and I’m pretty sure “Billy and Mandy This show looks promising, but how about calling it “Mandy and Billy” and not making Mandy wear pink?” Is the most absurd complaint I’ve ever heard. Despite the fact that Steven universe has a male protagonist the main character is a bumbling buffoon that can’t do anything, while the 3 female parts of the team are all the active super heroes of sorts. (Not to mention Billy and Mandy has been gone for years.)

    • Also it’s a practice in title companies to have the name with the hardest opening letter to come first, hence forth Billy and Mandy, Tom and Jerry, Ect.

        • 1. The opening letter is still a soft m, as opposed to a hard B like in Billy.

          2. You’re now suggesting that people change a show in order to make it more appealing to one demographic as opposed to another (Like they’re doing now with boys). Not to mention that again, Billy is a blathering idiot, while Mandy is the intelligent one with a George and Lenny type relationship. There’s even a Cask of Amantiatto allusion episode where Mandy bricks billy into a wall (Enough girl power for ya?)

          • Hi Box,

            I dont understand Number One? I’m saying if you are blaming the top billing on the name picked for a girl, pick a name for a girl that works for top billing. Yes, I am suggesting shows get changed to include females in hero/ star/ protag roles so male dominance is not a repetitive pattern of children’s media.

            Margot

          • 1. I thought you were suggesting Margret as a name.

            2.I agree that more shows should have a female protagonist, it currently isn’t that was because the target demographic is boys (Which is a viscous cycle) but changing current shows is nothing but hypocritical. The target demographic for Cartoon network is boys, the target demographic for The Hub (a popular cartoon channel) is girls, therefore more shows are produced for it.

          • Hi Box,

            Margot is my name.

            “changing current shows is nothing but hypocritical”

            Disagree. There are always spin offs and sequels, take Shrek 1, 2, and 3 instead of giving Fiona her own movie. And then they do another spin off starring the male Puss in Boots. How long is this going to go in? It’s 2014 and we’re still recycling sexist stories.

            “The Hub (a popular cartoon channel) is girls, therefore more shows are produced for it.”

            First of all, I’ve never heard of the Hub, so how “popular” can it be. Secondly, the whole point is NOT to split boys and girls, shows are for kids. Gendering narratives as if boys like one kind and girls like another promotes stereotypes and trains a whole new generation in antiquated beliefs about boys and girls.

            Margot

  28. Hey as someone who took your message in hope of there being a true substantive critique on today’s generation, I am sad to say that the perspective you tried could be more enlightening but the obsession of femininity, did not allow a more holistic review of what is going on and created too much bias that made your support less substantive. To conclude also the reboot of PPG does not look as “sexualized” as what you depicted it is a more innocent animation like its earlier counter-part and I would advocated you to do deeper research before analysis is done.

    • Hi Julian,
      “I am sad to say that the perspective you tried could be more enlightening but the obsession of femininity, did not allow a more holistic review of what is going on and created too much bias that made your support less substantive.”

      The first part of your comment makes no sense to me.

      I dont know what you mean about the reboot, did you read the blog? It’s about a comic cover distorting the Powerpuff Girls characters.

      Margot

      • Julian said you offered an interesting perspective, the impact of which was lessened by the feminist bias you applied to it.

  29. I hate uncle grandpa. thay is one of the worst shows r kids ever. the guy is stupid and teaches the kids to act in that same manner. I practically banned my daughter from watching that channel.

  30. This is frankly disgusting. When girls have virtually no female superheroes, the PPG were refreshing and great role models. This sexed up version is a disgrace.
    I can only disagree on the Billy and Mandy part. Being a huge fan of that show, the very “girly” attire marks a huge contradiction with her take no prisioners attitude, which is why I love her. Mandy is on the same page with Buttercup and Daria.

  31. While I wholeheartedly agree, the featured comic cover is inappropriate for anything geared towards children, I find your research lacking, biased, and somewhat naive. Wikipedia may be a reliable source for a general overview of a given shows subject matter, you’ve clearly made no real effort to dig deeper into many shows actual content. You point out innocuous details such as who wears or is pink, and ignore important things, even claiming cow and chicken as some sort of victory. Her name may come first, but she’s certainly not a character I’d want my daughter to idolize. Mandy may be listed second and wear pink, but she is by far the strongest character in the show. Teen Titans may be 3 to 2 in the guys favor, but the females are generally portrayed as more intelligent, and the cast is predetermined due to its previous existence in another form of media. Steven may be the main character, but he’d be utterly lost and alone without the women who guide him. And to make a comment like you did, “what about calling it “pokewomon?”” just shows outright ignorance. The name pokemon has nothing to do with gender, it’s a shortened version of the original Japanese title, Pocket Monsters. And if you’ve ever watched Regular Show, or Uncle Grandpa, I get the sense you’d cry out in anger were a female character involved in the idiotic hijinks that take place. My point in all of this, you have a public platform where your thoughts and ideas are heard by however many you can catch the attention of. Please use it more responsibly.

    • Hi Richard,

      I was JOKING about Pokemon! The point is not that female characters are “perfect” but that they are mostly invisible. They exist in a tiny minority. The protagonists are mostly male. Everyone is the protagonist of her own life and females are constantly put on the margins, in the sidelines, and sexualized.

      Margot

      • I can forgive the pokemon bit ( I’m not a fan anyhow) but you seem to miss the fact that the overwhelming majority of the female characters that DO appear, are portrayed in a positive way, especially in contrast to their male counterparts. I think the important thing is that these characters, male or female, be a positive influence. And while I find you to be on the far more reasonable end of the spectrum, I really think the focus on gender has gotten far out of hand. Would any child assess the way you have, the entire cartoon network lineup to see how many have female leads and so on? I think not. The children watch these shows for entertainment value. So long as they aren’t teaching negative values, I truly don’t see the issue. And please try to keep in mind, I grew up on ninja turtles and power rangers, johnny bravo and dexters lab, batman, superman and the like. To this day, I still regularly watch at least a 3rd of the shows on your list, and not a person who knows me would describe me as sexist or chauvinist. I see your point that the ratio is inequal, but these shows aren’t meant to reflect reality. If they were, I’d be having this discussion with a man, angry because the female characters outweigh the male characters. If it so upsets you that there exist so few shows with a female lead, your time might be better spent creating your own show, as opposed to simply complaining about it.

        • Hi Richard,

          YES kids absolutely notice that males are front and center while girls are stuck on the sidelines. Show that stars boys are for everyone, shows that star girls are “just for girls” as if half of the population is some sort of special interest group. Even an “On Demand” there is a special category called girl power for shoes with female protagonists. Those girls, by the way, are mostly sexualized and stereotyped, like “Bratz.”

          The focus on gender has gotten out of hand? Are you kidding me? Today, my I’m taking my kids to “Nut Job” and once again, I can bet it will star males, have mostly males in the cast, and the female will be the love interest. Kids act out and do imaginary play based on what they see and read. I see this all the time with my kids. Limiting females in the imaginary world limits them in the real one. At my 4 year olds kindergarten, the kids were playing pilot and the girl in the group said she couldn’t be a pilot, she could be a pilot’s wife. This kind of stuff happens all the time. People– parents, teachers, need to care more, not less.

          Margot

          • And Richard, I am writing a Middle Grade book, its a fantasy story with lots of female characters with power and agency.

            Margot

          • You go, Margot. I love it when blog posts like these strike a nerve with some folks. And the arguments against are always the same: blame your research capabilities OR pull out the old “What’s the big deal? You feminists think too much!” comment.

            As you know from my own recent blog post, I feel the same way about the representation (or lack thereof) of girls in kids’ films. And it’s disturbing but refreshing to see you offering real world evidence of how this affects children.

          • Hi Bridget,

            Yes, I get this all the time, and people correcting my punctutation etc. I was so bummed when I looked into the CN lineup. I had no time to do that post, and I kept looking and looking down the list, freaking out, and I had to finish it.

            Margot

          • Just here to say thank you. I never realised how much the ‘sideline’ thing has been going on, until you look at the sheer volume of them. I think you make an excellent point in the article and in your comments, and I find it upsetting that, instead of looking at the numbers and the overall impression, the controversy tends to be directed at small inconsistencies or even misunderstandings.
            So thanks for continuing to raise awareness, and to pursue the goal of better representation and acceptance of girls and women as an integral part of society and culture, not just a supporting role.

          • Excuse me? Are you just ignoring the fact that pokemon has more females than males? What about kim possible and spy girls they have female leads while being a “boys” type of action cartoon. And they are both more popular than the majority of cartoons on this list. It would help if you werent so biased in your opinion without digging into the actual shows, a lot of these dont have a single protag and have teams focusing both females and males.

  32. Bravo! What a tour de force. My only note: Pokémon is Japanese for “Pocket Monsters.” The “mon” is not meant to be read as “man.” I’m not even sure what “Pokéwomon” would mean in Japanese, if anything.

  33. I’ve never even watched the Powerpuff Girls, but seeing this still makes me bang my head against the wall. I’m so sick and tired of them “sexing up” female characters, even more so young characters. It’s disgusting and revolting, it baffles me how so many people are just OK with it and even like it. As a person coming from the gaming and anime community I’m pretty sick and tired of seeing this stuff over and over again. I mean seriously, they are wearing pants and tunics in the original cartoon and now they’re wearing high tights and spandex mini dresses? REALLY!?

    Bah! Anyway, once again a great post. Since reading this blog I’ve had some ideas in making a blog or a video blog of my own focusing on things like this in the anime, games, TV-shows, and anything else I happen to come across.

    Keep blogging on! I can’t wait to see what you post next!

  34. When you said, “I would not let my kids near this show,” for Grojband, wouldn’t that have the unintended consequence of making the show a forbidden fruit? Wouldn’t that make it harder for them to become media literate to it. In other words, aren’t we supposed to enjoy a show, story, movie, cartoon, or video game and at the same time be aware of the more pernicious aspects of a given show, story, movie, cartoon, or video game that is being enjoyed? If there are marginalized female characters and gender stereotyping, shouldn’t they be aware of that?

    For example, if one likes Disney’s Pinocchio, they can enjoy it, but they should also be aware that there are only two female characters (Cleo the goldfish and the Blue Fairy) and that every other character, including the protagonist, is male. When there very few female characters to a bunch of male characters, it is sometimes called a sausage fest.

    Could you do a list for the shows on Boomerang?

    • Hi Nebbie916,

      My tactic is usually not to go out of my way to forbid something b/c that gives it more attention. I will ignore the show and its likely my kids will too. I am pretty in control with putting stuff in front of them and getting really excited about what I show. That ususally works.

      Margot

    • My girls would be as happy to buy merchandise as their brother, if there were more characters they could identify with available.

      I don’t think the makers of My Little Pony are doing too badly on the merchandise front.

  35. Ugh! This drives me mad. We don’t watch CN b/c we don’t have a TV – just stream Netflix and amazon, and buy DVDs. But I HATE how more and more kids’ characters are getting new and “improved” (not!) sexualized makeovers. SIGH.

    I wanted to know whether you’ve seen “Miffy,” a claymation cartoon (Dutch) that stars Miffy, a bunny, along with her friends Grunty (female pig), Barbara (female bear), Boris (male bear), and various parents of the young characters. We all like the show. The characters do things like go to the zoo, throw a New Year’s party, etc., and it does not seem gender stereotyped. Miffy kicks balls, goes on adventures, etc. I recommend it!

    Oh, and I have another suggestion to add to your list of Christmas movies – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. (was that in your list? I can’t remember seeing it there) The narrator is female, and her closest friends are female, too. Her mother is running the church’s Christmas pageant. The antagonists are a group of kids all from the same family, male and female (though the most memorable ones are female). Great show!

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