Ink & Paint: Action Animation - No Gurlz Allowed!

Note: This was originally written on 5/6/10 under "kakapotrainer" for my That Guy with the Glasses blog; since it was the exact moment when I realized I was in love with another "boy's club" field, it is worth reposting here.  Sad to say, with the loss of Dwayne McDuffie (the last great champion of quality action-animation writing over toy sales), the apparent dumbification of Greg Weisman on the unwatchable jerk fest that is Young Justice, and nearly all of the current slate of Cartoon Network's programming (only exceptions being Batman: Brave & the Bold and the new Thundercats, I would argue things are worse.  Nick and the Hub are making some strides towards appealing to girls again & both are succeeding, but CN has more or less owned the action-animation field & continues to make it more insuffrably fratboy than even gaming.  So, yes - still angry.

Since I'm a fan of comics and said I was an animation fan in my profile, it should be no surprise that I like action-animation shows. Unfortunately, except for Batman: Brave and the Bold, even the better-than-average series have made it pretty clear that my viewership is not welcome. No, not because I'm in a peripheral age demographic - because I'm not male. Apparently, girls aren't supposed to like excitement or suspense, and if they do, then something's up.

The last show to really bother to appeal to female viewers in this genre was Avatar: The Last Airbender, with an awesome villainess and several equally awesome heroines - they had unique personalities. But outside of tie-in series, Nick seems to have scrapped all action-animation series, so that leaves us with Cartoon Network.  (NEW NOTE: Why, yes, this was written before the Korra announcement; needless to say, I am VERY excited for that show to finally premiere in 2013.  And while there are many people who hate it sight unseen, I am also happy they brought back Winx Club and thus kept the magical girl genre kicking in the US a little longer.)  And there's two shows in particular I want to discuss.

I watched previews of their newest series, Generator Rex, through means that I shouldn't disclose, and I want those 90 minutes back, dammit. Not only is the series written as all flash and no substance, not only are the characters largely unlikable (they even made a talking chimp unpleasant), no only is the overarching plot allergic to non-predictable twists, but it's also largely a sausagefest. The only regular female is a scientist who acts like a fretful mother; when they introduce a villain-who-will-be-a-love-interest, we have two candidates - Supermodel McPoutypants and a girl who looks like Samara, Popeye, & Tars Tarkus were thrown in a blender. Guess who will be the love interest? Remember, the writers don't want you to, y'know, think or be surprised or anything. The only value in this show is to create a drinking game based around Rex's predictably toyetic transformations - Manimal had more variety. (NEW NOTE: My father came up with a Generator Rex drinking game - every time his transformation looks like he's compensating for something, take a drink.  You will be sloshed every episode, which is the only way a sane person can stand to watch it.)

But the real heartbreaker is Dwayne McDuffie's continuation of the previously-unwatchable Ben 10 franchise. I'm one of the few people who got into this series after it was taken from the morons behind the original (coincidentally also behind the aforementioned cliche-fest), and frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if he quit in disgust. CN seems to treat him well enough (when I asked him if they were particularly picky about content, he said they give him a lot of creative freedom), but here's a comment typical of the target market, C&P'd from a post about adding more female characters:

"The "thoughen up" comment, meant that the world is unfair, so get used to it.
"Honestly, I'm sure that "sexism" doesn't even exist, the only reason it's kept alive is because a small amount of winy, complaining women, who have no career, no goals, no relationship, and no family, blame others by calling them sexist when they mess up and make stupid mistakes in their own miserable lives. And I can't tell you how many times a girl in my school calls someone "sexist" because she didn't make a team or club, then the School Board gets involved, and bratty little girly gets everything her winy heart desires just because no one wants to tell her the reason she didn't get picked is because she (pardon my primitive and slang-like vocabulary) SUCKS.
"And how come boys can't use the "sexist excuse", because if a boy complains of something being unfair to them, no one cares about it. How about any war in the past one hundred years , men had to go risking their lives for years, while women stayed home relaxing and chatting with friends. And if a girl or woman wants to go to war, it's all "Viva la Guerrières de femme! , but if a boy or man doesn't want to go to war, he is portrayed as coward and traitor by the people, government, and media ."
Wow. Just... wow. Nothing I can say can add to this. This poster probably isn't older than 14, and already he's making comic fandom look sensitive and overly liberal. Is it any wonder CN's action-animation shows are sausage-fests, then, if this is the market they're targetting? To be fair, Mr. McDuffie pretty much called this kid "stupid", which he is, but even then, I'm afraid he'll give up if this is the attitude he's greeted with from his fans.

Sigh. It wasn't always like this. Remember the animated X-Men series? Two-thirds of my junior high class, both genders, watched it religiously. None of the guys acted like there was something wrong with us girls who enjoyed it or treated us like we were abhorrations. The marketing jockeys behind everything didn't encourage the creators to actively avoid giving, say, Storm too much screen time so the guys wouldn't leave; they enjoyed the expanded market for their merchandise. What was that, fifteen years ago? What the hell happened that made creators ignorant of girls wanting to watch their shows and fans being actively hostile to the idea?  (NEW NOTE: It is worth noting that I forgot to mention what was once the shining jewel in CN's crown by commenters to my original essay, Powerpuff Girls.  Maybe because I thought of it more as a comedy I missed it, but there is no denying that it started the trend of girl-centric action shows that everyone loved.  For missing it, I am truly sorry.)

I shouldn't write when I'm mad. Crap like this makes me glad my dreams of writing professionally in this field have more or less died. I get the feeling that, even if I had the talent, I wouldn't be welcomed in the He-Man Woman Haters Club that another medium I like has become.

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