Don’t Cartoon Makers Have Daughters? Thoughts on Young Justice

Young Justice promo art

I watched the Young Justice cartoon pilot over Thanksgiving weekend. My reaction was very similar to Anika’s daughter’s, written about in depth here: “Where are the girls?”

Well, with about five minutes to go [in the hour-long show], three female characters finally did show up: Wonder Woman, silently speaking in a background shot; Black Canary, who was introduced as the team’s main trainer — but also stood silently for it; and Miss Martian, the fifth member of the team, who said I think 4 words. Flirtatiously directed at Superboy. But Kiki had already tuned the whole thing out anyway. She’d decided watching Teen Titans (two of five main characters and most of the recurring characters are girls), Sailor Moon (pretty much everyone but Tuxedo Mask is a girl), and Macross Frontier (most of the Macross saga are well-balanced casts) videos on YouTube was a better use of her time and attention.

Why don’t any animation decision-makers know that girls would watch action cartoons if they reflected their lives? Or mere existence? I enjoyed the humor and history, but if they can insert a new character from scratch for racial diversity (Aquaboy, whose background and origin aren’t explained; neither are his powers, really), why can’t they get some females on the show at the beginning? Cassie (Wonder Girl), maybe? A Batgirl? (There are at four of those to choose from, especially since they’re picking from all over DC history.)

Young Justice promo art

When the show debuts next January, the Young Justice team will have two female members (Miss Martian and Arrowette, although named Artemis), based on the promo art. I’m going to give it another chance then — I just wish I could have loved it from the beginning. Anika points out that Justice League had a Hawkgirl at the start to address the problem on that show. I hope we’re not going backwards here. I’ll let her have the last word:

… this premiere was hyped up and scheduled for the Thanksgiving weekend to get us super excited (new episodes don’t air regularly until the new year) and I am not super excited. I am annoyed that I have to wait over a month to meet the girls. I am annoyed that I have to wait over a month to prove to my daughter who doesn’t read the internet hype that there are any girls. I am annoyed that I am stuck apologizing for this show that I did enjoy and want to be super excited for but I am not because instead of talking about how cool it is my peers and kids are asking “Are there any girls in this show?”

Supergirl biketard

Update: (12/4/10) At the DC Women Kicking Ass tumblr, the poster talks about the difference in superhero marketing to girls then and now by hunting up some old Underoos commercials, which feature a Wonder Woman girl in the underwear dance number (?!) along with the Superman and Spider-Man boys. The “you can choose from more than one” line doesn’t really apply to girls, though, and I found myself wondering why hers were the only with a plain white back. Later, both boys and girls split out, with girls’ marketing becoming more traditional, with Barbie and cheerleading motifs.

I’m kind of glad they quit running these commercials, as watching young kids dancing around in their underwear doesn’t leave quite the same impression these days. Instead, we get a Supergirl exercise line with pink leotards and dance overskirts and a “biketard” covered with peace signs. The brand now is co-marketed with “five-time Olympic Medalist and World Champion Nastia Liukin” in a line of “affordable apparel that encourages a message of empowerment, creativity, strength, intelligence, and independence”. Nice message, but why does Supergirl always have to be pink? I miss the bright blues and reds and both her and Wonder Woman’s traditional costumes.

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