Young Justice Creator Responds to Criticism — Boys Are Tradition
December 22, 2010

Via 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 episodes to come, but I still find it profoundly problematic to introduce the characters in such an unequal manner. I believe there are too many men in the world as it is who see women as mere supporting players in their stories. Why reinforce this stereotype for a whole new generation of superhero cartoon fans?

To which Weisman responds in a rather self-contradictory manner. He starts out by saying that “There are no female Leaguers with traditional first generation sidekicks.” Um, Wonder Girl? One of the earliest Teen Titans (which is influencing this show as much as the comic called Young Justice)?

The rest of his answer is a mish-mosh, pointing to cost (another voice actress would mean $$) and secrets coming up (“There was NEVER any intent to introduce Artemis this early in the season for story reasons.”) and not wanting too many characters and most important to him, tradition. To which I again say: Wonder Girl? Not to mention that any series with a black Aqualad and a lab-created Superboy can’t be taking tradition too seriously.

Basically, a gender balance wasn’t as important as saving money and making the writing job easier. That doesn’t surprise me, since Hollywood often puts forward the message that including women and girls isn’t as important as reaching teen boys. But saying “well, the pilot doesn’t represent the series in this way” — that’s just stupid. Your pilot is supposed to represent your series. That’s the point. Expecting fans to eagerly return when they’ve been disappointed once strikes me as willfully naive.

This demonstrates to me how sometimes it’s better when creators don’t try to explain themselves. It’s easier to give them the benefit of the doubt when they’re not putting their feet in their mouths in public. Don’t rationalize it — show us what you can do instead. Make a good show that includes female characters in substantial roles.

39 Responses  
Basque writes:  

Yeah, the problem is whenever writers/artist/publishers/producers respond to criticism, they’re pretty much never willing to admit that they goofed up. Rationalizing is all they’re interested in doing, and they don’t seem to understand that it’s just adding insult to injury.

Would it be so hard for them to say: “Hey, you know what, you’re right. There should have been more women in the pilot. There’s no real justification for this and we’re going make sure to avoid making that same mistake again.”

I know. I’m being naive.

Joe writes:  

There’s still more females on the show than there are Latino characters. Just sayin’…

takingitoutside writes:  

It’s things like this that make me wonder whether American comics artists want their industry to die. Seriously. I’m a woman who hits all the geek highlights – Atari to Wii, sci-fi to space opera to fantasy, D&D to KOTOR, manga to anime – and has hit those highlights since I was a kid, lo these many years ago, but I only just picked up my third American comic book this week. The first was Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, the second was a volume of Megatokyo and the new one (which I may not even read) is by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. The first two were an extension of my interest in Japanese popular culture, the third I only picked up out of curiousity.

I would imagine that I and people like me would be a ripe target for the traditional superhero comics and cartoons creators – after all, I saw Batman Begins a good dozen times in the theatres and own a copy of the DVD (ah, scratch that three American comics count; the BB DVD was packaged with a copy of the comic it was based on). A comic/cartoon extension seems natural. Yet the industry’s pathetically outdated treatment of women is holding me back. Every so often someone mentions a problem like this, and the creators basically whine about how something from 60 years ago means that their only option was to hire a voice actress for a single line, which was obviously too expensive. It’s silly. I don’t care about their expenses, I want to see well-done final products. Entirely sidelining women for your prominent and heavily advertised two-part premiere? Not well done. Not well done at all. So why should I bother watching?

Though I empathize, the presence or absence of female characters is not comparable in pure numbers to the representation of Latinos. Women are slightly over half the population, Latinos (and Latinas, whom I imagine you meant to include) are not. Generally speaking, there should be more women in a work than members of any specific race.

Thom writes:  

Come on Johanna…everybody knows girls do not watch cartoons.

Except for Strawberry Shortcake or Muppet Babies. ;)

Wayne writes:  

More than likely it was his way of getting around voicing what the studio direction was, probably ‘It’s a show aimed at boys and that’s what our core audience is going to be looking for.’

He could have /gone/ the traditional route: (BTW, lab-created Superboy IS the tradition since ’93) Then YJ wouldn’t have ANY women for the first four episodes, since that’s how many issues YJ went before they had any female characters.

Johanna writes:  

Thom: Self-fulfilling prophecy!

Wayne: I’d hope the cartoon would learn from the mistakes of its inspiration/predecessor, not repeat them. :)

caleb writes:  

Yeah, but the Wonder Girl you mention wasn’t around for the first few Teen Titans get-togethers, which were all-boy affairs, and wasn’t actually a sidekick to Wonder Woman until…God knows how many retcons later–The Wonder Girl in the Wonder Woman title was actually just Wonder Woman from when she was a girl, in stories set in the past or featured time travel so Wonder Woman could team-up with her past self, right? (Ditto Wonder Tot).

(I lack the necessary DCU nerd knowledge to know for sure–who was the earliest, or “first generation,” female sidekick that the producers would have had rights too? Bat-Girl, with the red dress and green purse, maybe? Etta Candy? Did Aquagirl predate Wonder Girl?)

Young Justice was girl-less at first too, and I think it’s telling that so many of the female characters in the series had to be newly created for the series, like Secret and Empress.

I hope this doesn’t sound too argumentative; I’m just saying that it’s easy to see why that attitude would be taken by the creators if they didn’t go into the show thinking about making sure lots of girls had lots to do in the first episodes, you know?

Thad writes:  

Agreed; I still love Weisman but he’s really stepped in it this time, and he would have been better off not saying anything.

I agree with the other commenters, too — it’s clearly a matter of the “sell toys to boys” mentality behind these series and Weisman’s trying to rationalize it instead of simply acknowledging that unfortunate truth. (And, while Caleb’s continuity notes are accurate and mean Weisman’s “sidekick” comment is TECHNICALLY true, Wonder Girl is still a big omission regardless of origin retcons and what-have-you.)

Linguistic tangent, @takingitoutside: “Latinos (and Latinas, whom I imagine you meant to include)”

“-os” is actually the correct Spanish suffix for a group that includes both male and female members. The gender bias is in the language, not the poster.

Tom Zaenger writes:  

When I saw the pilot cartoon, my first thought was, “Oh, they’re starting out with Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin, just like the very first Teen Titans story (in “The Brave & the Bold” No. 54).” I assumed the initial cartoon was a nod to the way the Teen Titans began, soon evolving into a more inclusive team.

Johanna writes:  

Tom: I like your optimism.

Thad: Neat! I am learning language as well as DC history! :)

Caleb: I am familiar with Wonder Tot and the imaginary viewer that used a kind of video splicing to tell the first Wonder Family stories together. But that we have to talk about all that illustrates how flexible “tradition” and history are in comics. And I don’t think you’re arguing at all — we all have our different touchpoints and what really makes a team for us.

Grant writes:  

I don’t buy the whole “that’s how it happened in the comic so that’s how the toon should be” argument. In the comics, Wonder Girl predates Miss Martian and a black aqualad and the inclusion of Capt. Marvel in the Justice League. I agree with Johanna that that’s a red herring. WonderGirl should have been integral in the first episode.

Having said that, I think there’s an opportunity here by having some big reveal, or a big production made of the introduction of Wonder Girl.

Joe writes:  

Don’t mean to hijack the thread, so ignore if this gets to rant-y. Also, I may be missing the point entirely. I do that a lot. Sorry about that…

I am a Latino dude who loves pop culture in general and comics in particular(and women too! not sure how relevant that is though). My point is this: while women are under represented in comics, there are by far fewer Latinos represented ANYwhere in pop culture, but especially in comics. In spite of this, I will continue to buy and enjoy comics and comic-related media. Mostly because of all the cool pictures! I’m hooked and may have a problem. Although I do enjoy a well rounded character regardless of race or gender.

Thanks for your time.

James Schee writes:  

I agree with it rarely behooving creators to respond to criticism.

Oddly if the intention was to stick close to the comics, the precursors to YJ were a Superboy & Robin Prestige Format (I miss that format, but lord knows what the price would be now) miniseries that had the two meeting for the first time. Which eventually led to them wanting to hang out, bringing Impulse in and boom YJ was born.

Of course an even earlier precursor to YJ was Superboy & The Ravers which had a ton of female characters.:)

takingitoutside writes:  

French is the same; that’s why I added the parenthetical comment. However, “Latinos” can also refer only to men, and in the context of his overall post it wasn’t clear that he was including women.

MY point was that you compared apples and oranges, and you did it in a way that suggested we should pay less attention to the issue the posting is actually about. That’s a classic example of substituting X with Y.

Basque writes:  

Joe, I must confess I don’t really understand the point you’re trying to make. Are you saying that, since there are few Latinos in comics (and media in general) that it’s unreasonable to ask for fair representation of women? Do you mean that it’s more important to focus on race than on gender? Or do you mean that all of these concerns are irrelevant and people should just stop complaining?

I mean no offence. I’m just not sure what you are driving at. Personally, even though I am a white male and I realize that I’m not in a position to be preaching to women and persons of colour about what they should or shouldn’t care about, I think that these are valid concerns in both cases. And just because I’m a member of another underrepresented minority (queers), I would never feel compelled to tell a woman to “quit complaining because there are even fewer gays and lesbians in the show.”

Johanna writes:  

Basque, it’s possible that he was just bringing it up as another example of an omission in the cartoon. I didn’t get the sense that he was saying “so be quiet” or anything of that sort.

Basque writes:  

Yeah, maybe. But that’s why I’m asking. Because I don’t really understand what he’s getting at. Like I said, no offence meant.

Joe writes:  

I suspect we have more in common as far as wanting to see a better balance of characters represented in our entertainment. I apologize if I was dismissive. I was sincerely trying to add to the conversation in my own obtuse and awkward way. And again… sometimes I tend to miss points.

I will respectfully add this though. With regards to substituting X with Y…I think it is relevant here, especially as a member of group X. Regardless of our number (which by all accounts is continuing to grow), it would be great to see some of us get some face time.

What Johanna said. Didn’t intend to tell anyone to “stop complaining”. Sorry if that’s how it came across. As noted above, I was just trying to add to the conversation. No offense taken!

I think I was also trying to make the point (4 days, 2 kids and a major holiday wreaks havoc with the memory!) that generally speaking, I would much rather read a well written story about a “non-ethnic” character than a poorly executed story about a ____________ [insert race, age, or gender here] character. For whatever that’s worth…

takingitoutside writes:  

I appreciate the apology, and I’m glad that you don’t feel as dismissive of women’s representation in comics as your comments suggest. Like Basque, I read your first comment as saying that Johanna should pay attention to the representation of Latinos instead of women, and you did equate half of the population to ~15% of it (U.S. numbers) in doing so. Relevant or not, it was dismissive. Likewise, the second comment, repeating that Latinos, who constitute a far smaller portion of the population, are less represented in popular culture than women.

If it wasn’t apparent (it’s not easy to see on my screen), I included a link about substitution in my last comment. That website does a great job of explaining how problematic it is and the forms it takes. Here is the link again.

Part of the article:
“A common argument that is used on people who are talking about special interests — such as feminism — is to say that, instead of talking about Special Interest X the person should instead talk about Important Issue™ Y. This proposed correlation between X and Y is problematic on a few levels:

1. It assumes that X and Y are mutually exclusive
2. It assumes that there is an objective determinant for what is “important” and what is not
3. It creates a hierarchy of issues, which in turn creates a supposed “correct” order/path that must be followed”

We can push for more representation of both women and Latinos at the same time without harming either cause. Likewise people with non-heterosexual leanings of all sorts, people of other races, older people, et cetera. Pitting one group against another is just counterproductive.

Johanna writes:  

Joe, I certainly hope that those aren’t the options: good writing or diversity. I think we can have both, although it may take a little more effort on the part of the writers, to stretch a bit.

Joe writes:  

I’m going to go ahead and use my “Do Over” card.

Rather than substituting X for Y (which is not what i was trying to communicate), how about this? Y is under represented. Is it not true that X is ALSO under represented? As a member of X, I often wish there were more positive examples of X for us to aspire to. While it looks like the YJ cartoon will gradually include more heroines, the chances of them including a Latin hero or heroine seems pretty slim (since the new Blue Beetle is hanging w Batman in Brave and The Bold). And for that I am genuinely disheartened. Although, I’d be totally jazzed if somehow they introduced Vibe to the show!

Totally agree. Here’s hoping to more of both sooner rather than later. Thanks for outlet. Again, I apologize if i have hijacked this post.

Quick question: as a consumer, what do you feel is the most effective way to see diversity in your product?

Johanna writes:  

Oh, I think you probably need to wait a great while for a serious reappearance of Vibe — he’s such a period joke to so many people. I really liked Blue Beetle for his strong sense of family and cultural background, and it’s a shame that the company seems to feel that one is enough.

I’m not sure I’m completely understanding your question, so let me know if I’m going in the wrong direction, but I think the best way to get more accurate portrayals of various groups is to hire creators who understand those backgrounds. Often, that means that they’re members of those groups themselves. If all of your writers and artists are white males of a certain age, than that’s going to be the viewpoint you see expressed.

Dwight Williams writes:  

Since Vibe and Blue Beetle II have come up for discussion, El Diablo – the second one, Rafael Sandoval? – is another character that I miss reading about. Granted, he’s outside the target age-range ambit of Young Justice, but as a potential mentor-figure, he could still be an asset to the series.

James Schee writes:  

I think Batman B&B is nearing the end of its run, so I guess BB could come over at some point. I see the next YJ episode airs this weekend, so maybe we’ll get to see some more of the girls this time.

Farheen writes:  

Taking this thread in to a slightly different direction….As a young woman slightly outside the YJ target age range (am 22 and hide my DC verse addiction from friends, family and work colleagues) I am fearful that the omission of a strong female mentor like Wonder Woman will be giving the newer generation of girls the wrong idea about female relationships. Both Ms. Martian and Artemis are technically the men-tees of male superheros–J’ohn and Green Arrow! Girls also look for role models outside the Mattel Barbie movies and Strawberry Shortcake (I take such offense to that shit!) worlds, and a lack of them in a hip new cartoon targeted at this age group makes me very upset. The fact that Wonder Woman in all 6 episodes has not had a SINGLE line makes me sad :(

And currently I have no qualms about thinking the creator is a douche from his comments. A very smart, very talented, very creative douche. He should have just kept his mouth shut and worked out the kinks for a sizable market audience. After all demographically speaking, girls make up the larger audience pool in THAT age group.

Young Justice Comes to DVD in Very Limited Form » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] From my perspective, 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 responded. […]

Smith writes:  

Here we go again. Another modern day feminist complaining about something that doesn’t apply. The future is a very dark one. Facts are, the only things that are equal between men and women are the death and taxes. And even that’s shadys. You gender confused people are complaining about a boy show. It’s about fighting crime and doing all things boyish. Why can’t boys be boys anymore without having to share everything with girls?

You’re all contradictory. When a boy does something that looks violent you say it’s too violent. But let a chick do the same thing and you say she’s empowered. There are so many other things to fight for. Instead you’re wasting time complaining about how much play time fictional characters are getting on a show that-lets face it, mostly boys watch.

If I can’t share a public restroom with another woman, why can’t I enjoy other simple things without your constant complaining? Like watching a show that doesn’t have another 90 lb chick punching men in the face. Or seeing a hero who resues the Damsels in distress. And yes most are you are still just damsels in distress. I wish I had a dime for every time i pulled over to help a lady get her car started, or fought for a girls honor-who probably didn’t even deserve it. That was considered admirable once.

I could argue facts all day. But because I know I live in a completely irrational country where common sense is no longer common, I’ll just say this. Two chicks are enough. Don’t like it, Charlie’s Angels is still on air.

Smith writes:  

Oh and p.s. The new Black Aqua Lad is the best Character on the show. :P

Johanna writes:  

Smith, you’re obviously working out some personal issues in your rant, so I’ll leave you to it (because you considering sharing a public restroom with a woman as a “simple enjoyment” is creeping me out), except to correct one thing: the *fact* is that men and women are not equal in death — women on average live longer than men, which is why they get different social security payouts, thus making their tax burden different as well. See http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/women.htm .

Young Justice Season 1 Volume 1 » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] that can be said about the show, from its new characters (Aqualad, to add welcome diversity) to its comic forebears and place in continuity (connections to Teen Titans and the previous Young Justice comic) to its […]

Michael writes:  

The reason Wnoder Girl hasn’t appeared yet was because of legal issues, they are going to put both her and zatanna in the show at a later date.

antonio writes:  

Please wonder woman is nothing for DC, her enemies are nothing
never play some important.
the trinity : wonder = batman and wonder = superman is liar
she only a comic by month no more, and only a movie ( sure other movie in a 10 o 20 years )

Liz writes:  

Young justice is really the best. Please don’t just say “girls don’t read comics” because I do.
Just saying.

Duperman writes:  

A little late to the discussion, but in regards to Joe’s note that latinos are under-represented – wouldn’t creating a latina heroine solve an issue like that in terms of both race and gender? flesh it out with even more minorities and women and men too! When I was a kid my to fav superheroes were Storm and Superman – I don’t buy in to the whole “boys won’t watch if there are girls in the mix”. Boys and girls are incredibly good at looking at what a character represents and what the character can do, they don’t care about gender nearly as much as we think – I think it’s time to give kids some credit.

Also, isn’t it about time the comics industry take the time to create female heroes who both act and look like actual heroes and role models? the “biz” might think they’ll lose money (and perhaps they will) in the short term, but won’t they increase their readership a thousandfold if they get girls onboard?

Duperman writes:  

While I’m on a roll – please put pants on WW. Unless she’s going swimming, I have no idea why she’s dressed that way. That goes for you too, Power Girl. Also, your a grown woman, why do you call yourself Power GIRL? I would never let anyone call me Power BOY if I had powers – I’m all grown up, and I’m proud of that fact.

Johanna writes:  

Well, plenty of women are still called girls, and sometimes pointing that out just makes things worse for you. Yeah, Power Girl is a terrible name, but so are so many of them.

I do wish the corporations were more willing to think long-term, but their decision-makers clearly aren’t. I mean, Minx was DC’s big girl-focused line, and there, long-term was like a year, which wasn’t enough time, and the effort was damaged from the beginning. You can’t have the same people who think there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing now try to run the outreach, because they don’t understand the problems to begin with.

niya writes:  

If Greg Weisman is reading, please bring back the show, Wally can be released from the speed force. Things can go on, tons of people make stories for the show, tons are signing and making petitions. It’s obvious we love the show. People care enough to argue and post criticism about it, let it continue.

niya writes:  

also Greg, even though boys are tradition, I really don’t see why not. You could have had super girl, and to add on, I know 15 girls in my school who has tons of comics. Plus, hundreds of fan-fiction writers, not only that super fan girls like myself. So whoever has a problem with female heroes, FUCK YOU and have a nice day.

Young Justice on Blu-ray From Warner Archive » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] 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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