Don’t Cartoon Makers Have Daughters? Thoughts on Young Justice
December 2, 2010

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.

Young Justice promo art

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.)

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?”

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.

15 Responses  
Caroline writes:  

Great post! I missed seeing this but I’ve heard similar reactions from many viewers. How did this issue not even cross anyone’s mind?

Julia L writes:  

In my reactions on my tumblr, I observed the difference between the “Secret Origins” two parter that started off Justice League versus “Young Justice” pilot — both women were introed in “Secret Origins” and used prominently in the story and fight scenes. Wonder Woman’s coming to Man’s World was a major part of those episodes too, much as I dislike turning Diana into a rebellious princess stealing the costume and running away from home, at least she was there and part of the team. I do think JL had the added bonus of not being based on a particular initial story, so they could create the way for everyone to come together, whereas I hear as counterpoint “The comic started with boys only, too and then they brought girls in.” While it’s valid, I don’t think it’s doing them any favors, especially since they’re willing to change the other players involved (i.e. Dick and Wally vs Tim and Bart) or substitute Aqualad (who I liked *a lot*). I understand marketing and that it’s for ostensibly a boys oriented channel, but when did the trend start to “hide the girl” completely? I never remember it being like this in any of stuff I watched when *I* was a kid and not being marketed to either. At least Wonder Woman, Jayna, and Wendy were around in the Super Friends for me to notice and appreciate.

Johanna writes:  

Good question, Caroline, especially after the same thing happened with the Young Justice comic (started out all boys, as Julia points out, and I think it was Peter David who said “this is ridiculous” and put some girl heroes in). This is the problem with specialization of entertainment — people no longer feel like they have to apologize for exclusion.

Thad writes:  

Wonder how much is Warner and how much is Weisman. I love Weisman but when Gargoyles started out it only had two female characters, only one of which was a gargoyle and the same one of which was evil.

In his defense, the show developed a strong and nuanced female supporting cast. Hoping we’ll get the same here.

Caroline writes:  

Johanna & Thad — It does make you wonder why they have to keep learning the same lesson! Good point about fragmented markets, too.

Sarah writes:  

But, Johanna, cartoons with girls in them are only for GIRLS! They didn’t want to make it “special interest.”

Grant writes:  

What’s strange is that the JL and JLU toons had female heroes with big roles. It seemed like Hawkwoman, WonderWoman Black Canary, Supergirl and Huntress were pretty big parts of those two shows respectively. Amanda Waller also played a pretty big role in JLU. So there isn’t just a mildly conspicuous lack of female characters, it’s more like a huge leap backwards from where they were.

I’ve never heard of “Arrowette”. I assumed that was supposed to be Mia, the second Speedy. And I was also disappointed not to see one of the “wonder girls”. Although I prefer Donna Troy, my favorite DC heroine.

I did like the animation though.

James Schee writes:  

What’s kind of sad is that it wouldn’t have changed the story at all if they’d had an invisible helper causing things to fall over or opening doors, etc. Then at the end of the episode Miss Martian could have whispered to them when she was introduced by J’onn, “good to see you guys AGAIN” making herself invisible and visible again.

Airawyn writes:  

“JL had the added bonus of not being based on a particular initial story”

The Young Justice pilot wasn’t based on a particular story. They pulled elements from Secret’s origin, the Death of Superman and from the ’90s Superboy series.

It does make a good introduction to Superboy. However, I’m tired of hearing people say they couldn’t do it differently because of how the comic book series began. Even if they hadn’t changed a number of elements (NONE of the original three in the series were in Young Justice) then that would still mean that they’d erased a female character from the story and replaced her with a male.

Justin writes:  

Wow, interesting. I heard about the premier, but not about the female issue. I agree in that I hope the cartoon does justice to females when it debuts. I think Wolverine and the X-Men did a solid job of female representation.

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[…] Young Justice pilot aired over Thanksgiving, but the series begins running Fridays in January on the Cartoon Network. […]

Young Justice Creator Responds to Criticism — Boys Are Tradition » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] DC Women Kicking Ass comes a link to Greg Weisman’s response to fans who criticized Young Justice’s premiere for being so boy-heavy. A fan wrote in: I expect that the women will have a lot more to do in the […]

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[…] the poor Young Justice cartoon can’t do anything right. I wasn’t impressed at the “all boys together” approach, and I gave up after being put off by the way the creator […]

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[…] and place in continuity (connections to Teen Titans and the previous Young Justice comic) to its male-heavy bias. Perhaps those discussions/historical acknowledgements will appear on an eventual season set […]

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[…] about the first three: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3.) I wasn’t a fan because I wanted to see more female heroes sooner, and I wasn’t thrilled with co-creator/writer Greg Weisman’s response on the […]


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