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

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 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

He responds:

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.

Here’s me:

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.

22 thoughts on “Cartoon Network’s history of sexism: cancelling shows for featuring too many girls

  1. This show has been incredibly sexist towards males. Just like most of the new Japanese anime has. I.e. featuring strong female characters defending other females from ridiculously large amounts of MALE sexual predators. If the lewd comments in this show were uttered by male characters they would be crucified while it’s totally okay for female characters to be as insulting and disgusting as they want to be. The dog like white knight personality that is given to Superboy is standard in what women want. Luckily, the Justice League pays for everything and Superboy doesn’t have to run in fear of females stealing all his money. The constantly ignorant Kidflash catcalling when he shouldn’t is really annoying also. And don’t even get me started with Black Canary training and beating Superboy, that shit is straight up “unjust out if his league” feminism.

    This show tries to add value to the female gender where there isn’t any. Women are throwing their money at producers simply because they want to see more females castrating males.

    You can’t include the female target audience into an action series brought up for male viewers to see without this happening……

    Females are always out for more blood than they menstruate. They want special treatment, and false equality. This is a fact they will almost never admit to themselves, and cartoons/animation is burning because of it.

  2. And it’s a damn shame that this is true. What idiocy, supreme ignorance, and narrow mindedness on behalf of CN’s execs. So long as CN is handled with this mindset then the channel will NEVER be like it was during the Powerhouse Era.

    This goes beyond the matter of “boys like blue and girls like pink.” Nick and Disney are kicking CN’s ass because they cater to both genders. CN is focus too much on merchandise and not on ratings.

    Regardless of the fact, CN is stuck in toy mode. They don’t care about video games or t-shirts or anything except toy sales. And the problem is that even little kids don’t really care for toys anymore. Basically, he says the network is deliberately killing or not greenlighting anything that isn’t along the lines of Adventure Time or Regular Show.

    While you really can’t argue with that; the issue is that those no middle ground, per say. Good examples are PPG, Kim Possible, Avatar LAB/LoK, Sailor Moon and arguably Teen Titans, Tiny Toons, and X-Men. Shows that have a number of likeable female characters as major characters and were still very popular with boys.

    Besides, Cartoon Network now sucks ass. I won’t be surprised if the network ceases to exist in a decade or so. Their shows are no way near as good as Edd Edd n Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, or even Samurai Jack (a show that gained an adult following).

    This is the reason I turned to anime after they cancelled Young Justice.

  3. And more guys watch cartoons.. Girls watch more non animated shows but with girls in them. With all their make up and relationships making girls grow up fast while guys stick to cartoons..

    • who says guys watch more cartoons? that’s a stupid assumption. every single girl i have ever met in my entire life (including adult women) watch and enjoy cartoons, not to mention many very successful female animators exist.

      • No you aren’t, I can’t agree with you more. I luv how I look and I don’t need make up. I love Adevnture Time and Nicki Minaj…. Partly because her stage name is my IRL one… I’m a type of girl who loves rock climbing, sword fencing and skiing. I am not a girly-girl nor a tomboy, those terms are outdated and crude. I am female and I love who I am! Take that, lame, insurce, sexist CN and girls! I don’t need u!
        ~Nikki Roseworth 11 yo

  4. “Exaggerating muscles not the same as breasts, ass etc. Muscles signify strength, what you can do”
    So… when it’s a male character being distorted it doesn’t matter, I thought feminism was about equality.

  5. That’s really upsetting… It kind of shocked me, because Adventure Time is on Cartoon Network, and it features a whole range of girls and women with different strengths, flaws, etc. (HUGE Adventure Time fan here 😀 )

    Although I guess it makes sense, because Cartoon Network didn’t allow the creators to show Marceline & Princess Bubblegum to have had a romantic relationship in the past 🙁

  6. ‘“separate but equal” doesn’t work.’: EXACTLY!!!
    What these MRAs douchebaggy executives don’t realize is that girls don’t buy their damn toys because they only see male characters in them and boys playing with them in ads!!! girls buy princesses because they are female characters and they want to be in the big girls club.. they are not yet learned enough to know those girls they see in ads are not playing freely, that misogynistic men are behind everything they see other girls do on tv/internet!

    I am convinced we will never solve this problem by trying to reason with the men in power: there is always an excuse and there always will be, because the oppressor never wants to give power to the oppressed, not even in fiction. They will keep running stuff according to their male supremacist ideology, even in the face of sacrificing economic growth for their sector. They say they are sexist because they care about the bottom line, I say they are sexist because they are sexist.

    I say more female humans in Hollywood is the answer.

    • Agree 100% . “”“Hi I’m a man who sees no problem in canceling shows for featuring too many girls AND totally respect/love women, and you really haven’t convinced me that water is wet. Where are the studies?””

  7. It’s encouraging to hear that from Dini as he’s involved in the upcoming Maleficent film which I have serious doubts about. I agree that you hear so much about women as consumers that this idea that girls won’t buy enough toys and so you can’t create a show (intended to sell toys) that features female protagonists who are as good as or as important as (if not better than) the male characters is baffling.

    How many times do we hear about women making decisions on household spending? How many commercials about cleaning products, yogurt, food, and hygiene products are directed towards women, or more specifically, moms? The fashion and makeup industries are mainly driven by the purchase power of women. And when we have conversations about what drives the dominant culture, all I hear is complaints about preteen and teenage girls who get their parents to buy them things from Justin Bieber or One Direction or whoever the hot act is at the moment. So don’t then turn around and tell me that women and girls don’t have purchase power and “won’t buy toys”. Have you ever thought that women gravitate towards princesses because for all their faults, princesses are protagonists? I may have some issues with programming targeted towards women but I would rather watch those shows and movies than watch programs that repeatedly put women on the sidelines if they are featured at all.

    • Your a girl and girl cartoons should be on Disney.. Cartoon Network started as older cartoons then went to other action cartoons only girl cartoons were power puff girls.. Oh and woman are on the sidelines bc you don’t step up. You don’t say enough in anything rather it’s dates who calls who first who likes who you need to speak up and be more of yourself instead of always trying to be appealing and maybe y’all would make good cartoon characters

      • gawd, shut the fuck up or go cry into fedora in your 4everalone friend-zone cave where none of us can hear the ignorant bullshit you spew, bro. leave the intellectual discussions to the big girls.

      • Maybe it’s because when we’re young girls we watch these cartoons made by men and think, hey this is how I should be, look at that older lady on the cartoon, wanna be like her.

      • People like you sir are the damnation of the human race. In fact, the meet mention of you saying girls includes all girls. Sorry if this touches a subject, but is your mother weak? From what your saying, she doesn’t speak up for herself. She just stays in the shadows. I don’t think she would. Girls can be anywhere they want. Males are important but so are females. We birth this race with males help. Now by saying, “The only girly cartoons were Powerpuff girls.” Your wrong. Teen Titans had strong girl characters that had a form of sisterhood. Although being different they had a bond that also tied in with the males in the show. Some girls don’t try to be appealing to males like you. We don’t waste time doing makeup and surgeries for males. We do it for our confidence. For you to think like that it proves how simple minded you truly are. I can’t believe your able to speak with crap spewing out your mouth. How does it feel to be schooled by a fourteen year old girl.

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