Cartoon Network doesn’t want girls watching their shows
I, like many 20 something adult men, love cartoons. I grew up watching a lot of them, and then I became an adult that watched a lot of cartoons. I will say that the amount of cartoons I now watch has dramatically tapered off, because I don’t watch TV any more.
That decline aside, when I hear news regarding cartoons, I perk up and listen. So when this petition on change.org came into my inbox this morning I checked it out. Basically, the Network (doesn’t it sound more villainous to call then The Network) decided that too many girls were watching their shows. The petition has this to say about Cartoon Network’s actions,
“Young Justice, Green Lantern: the Animated Series, and Tower Prep among others, were given the ax because Cartoon Network saw that the fans were mostly girls, without giving a proper reason to the creators of the shows, citing vague reasons such as ‘lack of toy sales’ ”
Toys are hurting people’s feelings? This is the worst day of my teddy bear life.
Now you might wonder where this little bit of info is coming from. The originators of the Petition are helpsaveourheroes.tumblr.com/ and they are citing the creator of Tower Prep in a recent interview with Kevin Smith. You can listen to the original recording here, but skip to about half way through the podcast (min 21 or so) hear them talk about the stuff relevant to us.
In case you don’t want to listen to this whole podcast I am going to give some transcriptions from agelfeygelach.tumblr.com/ (Thanks for the transcripts! You are SO helpful!)
This is Kevin Smith interviewing Paul Dini of Cartoon Network, on Smith’s podcast Fatman on Batman.
That’s right, I created Starwars Ewoks the Cartoon… It’s OK to kiss the ground in front of me…
DINI: “They’re all for boys ’we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) 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—”
After this, Smith goes on to completely call out the extremely flawed arguments of this point of view. It’s worth the read. Now this snippet really makes Dini sound like the bad guy. He is not. Later in the same interview, he talks about his show Tower Prep that got canceled because they were including too many girl focused plot lines:
“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… we had a whole, a 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 spiny tops, they but[sic] the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.’ ”
The Arbiter of Children’s Shows
Dini’s comments are betraying the corporate culture that exists at Cartoon Network. A network which happens to be one of the largest generators of children’s media. The actions of Cartoon Network matters in a big way. They are significantly impacting what media children are seeing, and the opinions and images that they are internalizing.
Cartoon Network is the arbiter of children’s cartoons.
I am here to teach your children!
This sort of boys club elitism reminds me of another industry that also caters to boys exclusively; video games. If you want to read more about that check out this post I wrote about that.
Looking at Cartoon Network, let us check out some of their history. A study in 2009 looked at the differences between Johnny Bravo and the Powerpuff Girls. These were two of my favorite shows growing up.
I would totally take Chemical X, imagine what the trip would be like!
The study examined the rates of aggression on the two shows, and it looked at how many children were watching the show. They found that at least 3/4 of all children in the study were watching both of these shows. Which is a lot. Name one other thing that 3/4 of all children do… aside from being wickedly gross. It went on to say this about aggression:
“Two, trained, independent raters scored [Johnny Bravo] (compared to [Powerpuff Girls]) as more likely to make appearance‐enhancing actions and more likely to use “come‐ons.” The [Powerpuff Girls] were more aggressive and more likely to giggle/laugh. Johnny was more likely to be the recipient of aggressive behaviors, rather than be aggressive himself.”
This is not teaching anything good is it? You could summerize the morals from these shows as follows. Boys should constantly be coming on to women, and women should react with violence to this normalized behavior. This is a pretty screwed up lesson. The study also suggests that the Powerpuff girls are slightly psychotic. Giggling and laughing at Violence. That’s this guy does:
Try going to sleep after watching that!
Another interesting comparison can be drawn between The Powerpuff Girls and Cartoon Network’s longest running show: Ed, Edd, and Eddy. Three boys doing boy stuff, presumably selling crap loads of toys for the Network.
Isn’t it funny that Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy has three male protagonists, and Powerpuff Girls also has three female protagonists. Its kind of an odd coincidence. Especially because BOTH the Powerpuff Girls and Ed,Edd, ‘n’ Eddy ran for 6 seasons, but for some reason Ed, Edd, and Eddy got almost TWICE the amount of shows per season.
Powerpuff Girls = 6 seasons, 76 episodes
Ed, Edd, and Eddy = 6 seasons, 130 episodes and 1 movie
1 : 1.71 +a Movie
For every Powerpuff Girl episode produced there was 1.71 Ed, Edd, and Eddy episodes produced. Why the disparity? There is most likely a rational explanation that someone could dig up, citing specific reasons for the disparity. In light of the track record that Cartoon Network is developing, I am becoming less inclined to err on the side giving them the benefit of the doubt. At this point, I would be willing to wager that sexism may have more to do with the disparity than anything else.
I want to wrap this article up with two major points.
First, I loved cartoons growing up. They made me who I am in a lot of ways. My favorite show in the world is still Trigun. In a lot of ways I try to live my life by the values I learned in that show. Is it perfect? No. Are there problematic representations in it? Of course there are. But that does not mean that I have to reject the show entirely; I can learn from those problems, and learn to recognize them as problems. Even in its faults, I can learn from Trigun by not repeating the mistakes that it made.
I think that the same can be said of Cartoon Network, and their shows. But the problem is that Cartoon Network is NOT trying to learn from their mistakes. They are trying to sell toys based on gendered stereotypes, and outdated assumptions.
Secondly, go sign this this petition on change.org. Just go do it. Do it right now. If you did it, I like you. If you didn’t, let me tell you why you should.
If you love cartoons and want others to share in your love, go sign it. If you want children of the future to have quality programming, go sign it. If you are tired of women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA*, and anyone else getting slighted by mass media looking to profit, go sign this petition.
It is time to send Cartoon Network a message. Be apart of that message.