New gender roles in cartoons
Some may say it’s the sign of the times, but there seems to be a conscience effort to create truly original characters in the animated universe. The new trend of breaking cookie cutter character stereotypes seems to be getting a positive response with their audience and fans.
One Saturday I had the Hub Network, a children’s animated channel, on and a SheZow promo came on the tube. I was only half paying attention but the audio caught my attention. A show about a boy who’s a crime-fighting action hero dressed as a girl? I had to rewind the promo and watch it a second time to confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating.
Shezow is a playful show that centers around the life of Guy, a boy who inherits super-hero abilities from his dead aunt. With a wave of his power ring and the words “You go girl,” Guy turns into the powerful pink- and purple-clad SheZow. Guy does not identify as gay or transgender. He’s just a boy that suits up in a wig and a skirt to fight crime. What’s refreshing about the show is that no one who knows Guy’s super-powered secret bat an eye at his gender bending.
Creator Obie Wade Scott told The Advocate, “I set out to create a comedy in SheZow, not a political statement,” says creator Obie Scott Wade. “While the character of Guy does learn many things about himself by becoming SheZow, the main focus is on responsibility and less on gender.”
SheZow airs on the Hub Network, a children cable network jointly owned by Hasbro and Discovery. When the network originally began in 2010, it faced major scrutiny from parenting associations worrying about a network owned by a toy company. Shows slated like Transformers and My Little Pony made the network look more like half-hour commercials pushing merchandise than creating children’s content. Today, many of the shows on the Hub Network have strong merchandising/brand components.
It’s a bold and unexpected move for a company like Hasbro to embrace a character like SheZow. Clearly, Guy/SheZow wouldn’t fit in either the pink and blue aisles at Toys ‘R Us. This might keep SheZow out of the toystores, but she/he’s already in our living rooms.
Female characters level up!
Recently the people who bring us Adventure Time, Cartoon Hangover, spearheaded a Kickstarter to fund Natasha Allegri’s Bee and Puppycat. Bee and Puppycat is Natasha’s vision of a young woman living in the city with her cohort in adventure, a puppycat. From the animated shorts, the animated show looks surrealistic and choked full of kick-ass action. The short illustrates Bee as a young woman that has vulnerabilities and strengths and doesn’t drown her identity in the trappings of vanity.
Fresh steps to the future
This is the beginning of a new visual era where shows won’t be exclusive for just one gender. These new ideas show promise and eventually have the potential of capturing a broader and larger audience.