As you may know from reading my posts, I’m not a big fan of “girl books” and “boy books”. (As a sample of this, check out this old post, Boys, Girls, Books).
I try to ignore most of the boy book/ girl book posts and commentary.
But this latest one . . .
This is not from the world of children’s/young adult publishing. This is from the world of television.
As explained at i09, “In an interview with Kevin Smith, writer and television producer Paul Dini complained about a worrying trend he sees in television animation and superhero shows in particular: executives spurning female viewers because they believe girls and women don’t buy the shows’ toys.” The i09 article is titled Paul Dini: Superhero cartoon execs don’t want largely female audiences. (Boing Boing also posted about this.)
It’s clear that this is not the opinion of either Dini or Smith.
I’ll confess: I did not listen to the podcast. I’m relying on these quotes. Please click through to read the whole thing.
The basic network argument: boys buy more toys than girls, so the shows must be aimed at boys.
Because of this belief, executives don’t just want boys watching the shows. They don’t want the girls watching the shows. This is Dini’s quote: “I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”
See what happens when we label content boys or girls? It removes “and.” It removes the possibility that boys AND girls can watch. It makes someone, a grown up, believe, that if girls watch something …. boys won’t.
So it’s not even the show isn’t written “for girls.” It’s written to keep the girls out.
And the way to keep girls out? And make boys happy viewers?
Keep girls as “lesser.” Here, again, is Dini — not stating his beliefs but explaining what he has encountered: “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.‘”
You got it: for a girl to exist in a “boy” cartoon, she cannot be as smart as the boy, they cannot be as interesting, she must, literally, be one step behind.
This is what people say boys want in their television: girls who are always not as good as boys. And so this is the world they are given: the girls will never be the smart one, the interesting one, the hero. Always the sidekick, not even the sidekick, because the sidekick is at least next to, not behind, the hero.
So, what do you think?
Is this just marketing? A confirmation that cartoons are “only” a vehicle for selling toys, so it’s not a big deal?
Is the belief about girls and how they spend money (or, more accurately, how their parents spend money) accurate?
Is the way to get boys to enjoy something to keep girls one step behind?