December 17, 2013

Cartoon Network: no girls allowed?

It isn’t very often that I find a blog topic that manages to ping all three parts of my blog title, but when it does happen, it gets me all riled up. Or maybe it’s just the subject at hand that has me in a mood.

Recently, Paul Dini spoke with Kevin Smith about why Cartoon Network canceled his show, Tower Prep. The long and the short of it was that too much of its audience were girls. No, really. Cartoon Network wanted an audience of boys. And because the show couldn’t deliver, they cancelled it to replace it with something less likely to appeal to girls.

Why? Because boys buy toys. That was their logic.

To Smith’s credit, he says that it’s bull that girls don’t buy merchandise, but you probably have to approach it differently.

And he’s right. Barbie has built an entire industry on girls buying merchandise. Same with My Little Pony – and MLP has done so through cartoons. Barbie sells movies based off the dolls, but it’s sort of the same thing.

I once was a little girl. A little girl who watched a ton of Saturday Morning cartoons. And you know what? I bought She-Ra toys. My Little Ponies. I asked people to buy them for me for birthday and Christmas. I bought GI Joes, too. And pretty much all sorts of associated merchandise. Lunchboxes, pencil boxes, notebooks, t-shirts… All the girls I knew growing up? The girls I babysat in high school? Same.

Girls today aren’t any different. Because frankly, Disney’s merchandising machine is proof that if you show it and offer merchandise, girls will buy it. Ignore the dig in the article about how it’s because girls want princesses – the fact of the matter is that girls watch the Disney movies growing up and want merchandise related to it. If anything, girls today have much more diverse interests. I know a lot of little girls who own Avengers action figures because they watched the movies with their families. Star Wars figures, too. They ask for video games for the systems the family owns, and apps for tablets and phones.

However, these studio execs are so invested in a financial model and the idea that there are only girl shows and boy shows (when let’s be honest, most children’s programming as of late has been tearing down gender lines when it comes to appeal) that they’d cancel a show with an audience because it wasn’t the audience they wanted.

Frankly, when I put it that way, it just makes the execs seem like toddlers who aren’t getting their way. Honestly, it reminds me of when the Oldest Kidlet (then age three) threw this hilarious fit: “But I didn’t want ice cream, I wanted CAKE.”

Ridiculous, right? At the time we laughed, and OK clenched his little fists and got even more worked up.

(Edit: I can’t believe I didn’t even mention the double standard here – My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic appeals to just about everyone, exceeding it’s intended target of girls to include, amongst other demos, grown men. But nobody cares. Why? The merchandise sells. So why the double standard?)

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