On animator Dave Pressler’s blog, he writes about his biggest pet peeve: being asked by male and female execs to put a bow or long eyelashes on his female characters.
Any boy / man character can be a lump, a ball, or a bucket. The second it’s a girl we must feminize and give sexuality to the character…That’s how we know she’s a female. Even when we were making Robot and Monster an executive wanted me to make J.D. more slim and “Sexy”.
This is Hank, he is outgoing and a real story teller. Phil is Hanks other friend. Phil is a glass half empty kind of guy, but always there when you need him. Then there’s Julie, the cutest girl in town. She sees the good in everyone. These would be my initial rough ideas for the characters.
While urging artists to “Make Interesting Choices when you are designing, Illustrating etc. And don’t fall into this unimaginative trap” why is Julie described as the hot girl? And how much hope do we have of not defining her physically as “sexy” when she doesn’t get to be a described as something interesting or funny like a “storyteller” or “a glass half empty gal”?
Defending his female monster, Pressler writes. “She already is the sexiest monster in the show, exactly how she is.” While I appreciate this monster is beautiful as she is, without a bow or eyelashes, why must we be concerned with her beauty? Isn’t that the larger issue? I’m not familiar enough with Pressler’s work, but from this blog, it seems as if he is focused on changing the stereotypical look without changing the stereotypical narrative. Altering the look is no small feat, especially for our kids who are subjected to this kind of sexism constantly. In animation, female characters from Anna in Frozen to Kim Possible would be so much cooler if they weren’t shown super skinny with giant eyes or bare midriffs. But the goal has to be much bigger than changing the character’s appearance. The narrative for a female characters has to involve them being funny or cynical, encompassing a whole range of characteristics not typically understood as feminine, and also playing at least half the characters or getting to exist in the majority as well, or getting to be the protagonist way more often, like half the time.
What about making two female best friends, one an “outgoing storyteller,” the other a “glass half empty gal,” and then a male who is the cutest guy in town and always sees the good in everyone? If the narrative changes, it could unlock physical stereotypes as well. Otherwise, kidworld will be stuck with toys and media that look like this.