DC Super Hero Girls Launches

Warner Bros. Consumer Products is now pushing a “new Super Hero universe created for girls featuring iconic DC Comics female characters including Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn.” Other characters included in the diverse line are Katana, Bumblebee (who’s also a “tech genius” in addition to shrinking), Poison Ivy, Cheetah, Catwoman, Hawkgirl, and as the token boys, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Beast Boy. They all attend Super Hero High in a line targeted at girls aged 6-12. In other words, Warner is targeting the Disney princess audience with girl heroes.

On the one hand, yay for acknowledging that superheroes aren’t just for boys. (Although calling Harley Quinn a superhero is a pretty big stretch.) On the other hand, this new branding initiative is 1) so nakedly commercial that it’s disturbing and 2) pretty much ghettoized.

DC Super Hero Girls characters

There will be a graphic novel to go with the planned “animated content, books, toys, [and] apparel”, written by Shea Fontana. The comic is due out July 2016 and is about the girls being kidnapped by teenage Lex Luthor. However, DC doesn’t seem to be doing anything about welcoming women into its main universe. It’s clear to everyone, in these kinds of efforts, that separate is not equal. Of course, you couldn’t welcome six-year-old girls into the main DCU, because their parents would freak at what’s considered typical comic content in terms of violence and sexualization. And you couldn’t use the “girls” name with much older characters or audience.

The promo language even acknowledges the distinction. “[G]irls now have their very own Super Hero world… in this all-new universe that was created just for them.” (Forget fixing the established products, we’ll just start over in this little corner of the internet.) There are three cartoons online now, and a game to determine “which DC super hero girl is most like you”. (I’m Supergirl, apparently.) This trailer shows a bunch more cameos than the characters mentioned so far, including Vixen, Star Sapphire, and Starfire, the female hero best known to an entire generation.

At a panel at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, the vendors elaborated, showing off one of the cartoons, “a lyric video set to the DCSHG theme song ‘Get Your Cape On’, “Mattel’s new action dolls”, and a Supergirl action figure. The difference between a doll and an action figure is that dolls are 12 inches and come with accessories (lasso or cape or “phone gadget”), while action figures are 6 inches and have more joints. The first wave of dolls are shown here. I love their shoes!

DC Super Hero Girls dolls

Mattel is bragging about their “first-ever 6” action figures designed for girls”, but wouldn’t it be better to improve toys aimed at all kids? Doesn’t this kind of targeting emphasize that all the other action figures are for boys?

Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment and President and Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, said, “Girls want to experience the strength, action, and optimism of Super Heroes, too, and DC Super Hero Girls is part of our long-term strategy to offer a diverse array of strong female characters in a fun and action-packed universe, and through a world of epic storytelling on a variety of entertainment platforms. We could not be more excited and proud to debut today’s first phase of the important new universe for girls.” I hope this means more women-led movies will be announced soon. But the movies and comics are run by those who haven’t bothered to become diverse on their own for decades, and now they don’t need to — they can just point to this initiative as taking care of things.

Instead of plots about saving the world or rescuing others as heroes, we’re promised “storylines that explore being a unique teen, including discovering their super powers, nurturing friendships, and mastering the fundamentals of being their own hero.” Because girls care about themselves and popularity, right?

I know, I’m being very cynical. The designs are cute, and heck, I’d like to buy some female superhero toys. I just wish, given how many decades we’ve been discussing the sexism of superhero comics, we weren’t getting such a commercial, limited message. I also can’t get used to “superhero” as two words, but I think that’s a trademark legality.

After additional reflection, I have one great hope. Girls raised on these characters will begin demanding more books for themselves as they age, which means more diversity still to come.



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