Since my post Sexed up Power Puff Girls point to Cartoon Network’s girl problem, I’ve learned more about Cartoon Network’s history of sexism.
Last year, “Tower Prep” was cancelled because it had too many females in the cast.
From Women and Hollywood:
In a fascinating discussion with director Kevin Smith, Dini relates that higher-ups at the cable network urged him to focus his storylines on his male characters and make his female characters “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys.” When Dini proceeded to create fully realized girl characters anyway, the Cartoon Network axed the show.
Here’s the relevant excerpt (emphases added):
DINI: They’re all for boys. “We do not want the girls,” I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] 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 — A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as fucking 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 fucking umbrella with the fucking 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.” And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]’s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘Fuck, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t — and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down — “Yeah, but the — so many — we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.”
SMITH: That’s heart-breaking.
DINI: And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, “We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.” We had a whole merchandise line for Tower Prep that they shitcanned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, “Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.”
I heard about this story because a commenter responded on my “Powerpuff Girls” post that CN said it doesn’t want shows focused on girls because girls don’t buy toys. My response was: WTF? I thought girls were shoppers? This explanation is so typical of how actions get gendered based on power and status, for example: girls are the ones who like to cook, unless we’re talking about great chefs, then, cooking is a guy thing; girls are artsy, unless we’re talking about great artists, top selling paintings, or museum shows, then art, once again, becomes a guy thing; girls are verbal unless we’re talking about great literature in which case female writers are designated chicklit and guys are the masters. Boys buy more stuff?
Wow. So I went to the link, did some research, and some of what I found I pasted above. There was also a petition based on that interview created on Change.org that has about 16,500 signatures.
Since my post about “Powerpuff Girls,” I’ve gotten lots of comments like this one:
The girls wear skin tight clothing in the show as well. They are not sexualizing them just because they wear latex. Everyone has their own style, and the artist portrayed it that way. Couldn’t the male characters being all muscular be considered sexualizing, they wear tight clothing too. you try to teach equality for all yet you claim everything needs fairly regulated so it’s 50/50, screwing over peoples free choices. People come up with their own ideas, and if theyre male heroes so be it, there is nothing wrong with that. The powerpuff girls were my favorite cartoon growing up, it didnt matter to me if they were male or female, all that mattered was that it was fun watching. Girls and guys alike loved it. And now we have this “movement” where all the ‘equal rights’ activists wanna dissect absolutely everything to feel better about themselves and bitch at the world for making women inferior, when the ONLY times I’ve heard of people refering to women as inferior are pages like this.
Pull your heads out of your asses and move on with your lives.
To which I responded:
Exaggerating muscles not the same as breasts, ass etc. Muscles signify strength, what you can do. See Kevin bolks ‘if male avengers posed like the female one’ on Reel Girl or Theamats Wonder Woman– if I don’t get pants no one gets pants. That you don’t notice is the problem. Do you think you might notice if 41 out of 47 shows had female protagonists? I wish I had my head up my ass, that would be a lot less depressing
Here is a link to my post: What if male Avengers posed like the female one? Please take a look at the art.
The same commenter wrote this:
I wouldnt care if 47 out if 47 had female protagonists, its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea. God you people are fucking annoying.
To which I wrote:
That’s great that you wouldn’t care if the shows featured female protags, would you feel the same way about the movies for adults and the male/ female ratios? As far as ‘its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea’ That’s not how kids experience it. They buy the toys, wear the clothes, act out the stories, dress up as the characters on Halloween
And whos to say a girl cant dress like a male superhero? Or a male as a femal superhero? It’s the same thing. Yes, i would feel the same EXACT way of the adult movie industry.
You’re claiming that males should be different than females, are you not? By saying that characters are male/female for a reason? Instead if them just being characters? As part of a show to entertain kids and feed their imagination?
Now what about BET. black entertainment television? That must be some bad stuff, all those poor white kids wanting to be black because tv told them too hmm? That’s just outrageous, is it not??? I can only imagone how pissed activists would be if there was a mens television channel.
OWN, oprah winfreys channel, is pretty much about her and things she believes in and likes, so why isn’t everyone complaining about that!!
Or Christian channels that show services. That is horrendous to those whom aren’t christian! Imagine all the other kids who aren’t, those poor souls must be so deprived.
I guess it’s a blessing that my neice, whom I love dearly is raised by parents who dont shelter her and fill her mind with radical myths and dramatic stories of all this inequality. She can watch Dora, and she can watch Spongebob, and she loves sesame street. She loves playing with cars and barbies. She is gonna grow up to be a wonderful successful and proud individual. No thanks to you so called “equalists” making everything so equal and wonderful.
I am all for equality and I will stand up for anything and anyone who against my bias deserves it. But this is too much. You have taken someones art and therapy, in regards to the artists rendition of PPG, and absolutely blew it out of proportion.
THAT is the problem with this world.
Cartoon Network is a channel FOR KIDS. The channels you list are for adults. Kids deserve and need a protected space where girls don’t get marginalized and sexualized.Do you get it would be messed up if there were channels with shows just for African- American kids, Christians kids etc? Yet, it’s perfectly acceptable in 2014 to segregate girls and boys and create narratives based on gender stereotypes
I reposted all of this because its typical of comments I always get. It confuses me because I thought we all understood that “separate but equal” doesn’t work. I don’t know why when it comes to gender and kids, we throw everything we’ve supposedly learned out the window. These stereotypes are ridiculous. They are not “natural” but based on power.
When kids are radically and repeatedly separated, based on gender, all kinds of stereotypes must result.
All kids to see stories where girls are powerful.