17 Apr

2016: Another Year of Boy-Centric Cartoons

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.22.30 PM

Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have officially rejoined the male-dominated lineup of cartoon protagonists, adding a more explicit feminine presence to cartoons geared towards youth ages 7 to 16.

Ideally, the reintroduction of The Powerpuff Girls should pave the way for more cartoons like the female-driven programs of decades past, such as Kim Possible or As Told By Ginger. Unfortunately, the upcoming programs of 2016 seem to be more of the same: awesome, creative, yet still boy-centric.

For instance, Justice League Action is coming soon to Cartoon Network, and while Wonder Woman is one of the central characters to the series, Batman and Superman will likely be stealing the show.

Nevertheless, with the incredible popularity of both Batman and Superman, this is understandable and hardly surprising, and the inclusion of Wonder Woman as a top-billed character is certainly encouraging.

So, what about the rest of the upcoming shows?

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.20.39 PM
Lincoln getting a hand-me-down shirt from one of his sisters.

One of the better-known upcoming shows of 2016 is The Loud House, which airs on May 2 on Nickelodeon. The Loud House is inspired by creator Chris Savino’s childhood in a large family and follows Lincoln Loud through his life with ten sisters as he survives the chaos of a huge family. Interestingly enough, Lincoln, as the only boy, is the deviation from the female norm of his siblings. Very cute idea! However, unlike deviant female characters in traditional cartoons, Lincoln is the focus of this show, whereas female deviations would typically adopt supporting roles.

Another new show entitled Milo Murphy’s Law is coming to Disney XD sometime this year, featuring “Weird Al” Yankovic as eponymous hero, Milo Murphy. The series follows Milo, a descendant of the very Murphy who gives his name to Murphy’s Law, and his best friends Melissa and Zack. Yep, one of Milo’s best friends is a girl, and the show also features some killer voice actresses such as Sabrina Carpenter, Vanessa Williams, and Sarah Chalke—but the male-protagonist trend continues.

In addition to The Loud House, Nickelodeon has also taken on Welcome to the Wayne and Pinky Malinky to premiere in 2016. Welcome to the Wayne follows Olly Timbers and Ansi Molina, two boys living in an NYC apartment building called the Wayne, and Pinky Malinky follows an anthropomorphic hotdog and his friends as they navigate the realities of school life. While these sound like awesome shows, a feminine touch seems to, again, be missing.

Chester and Bunnicula.
Chester and Bunnicula.

Cartoon Network just recently began airing Bunnicula, an animated series based on the books of the same name, and while the story follows Mina, a young girl, and her pets; however, each of these pets (cat Chester, dog Harold, and bunny Bunnicula) are male, and viewers can rest assured that the pets are the focus and, really, the main characters.

All of these sound like great shows, but, again, where are the girls?

We do have some hope with Regal Academy, a show produced by Rainbow and which will air on Nickelodeon beginning this spring, and the show’s protagonist, Rose Cinderella. However, this fairytale-powered school-girl adventure occupies a different position from other cartoons—it is not a network-developed original, and it feels more like a product than a work of art. Cartoons such as Steven Universe, Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Regular Show, and presumably shows like The Loud House and Welcome to the Wayne possess an incredible, unparalleled degree of originality and creativity that one does not feel through distributed animated products such as Regal Academy. Such shows may be entertaining, yes, but the depth often feels missing.

It is important to reiterate (as we discussed in Toon In’s very first post) that none of these cartoons are “wrong” or a problem individually—a lot of them are extremely creative, cute, and exceptionally fun, and no creation can be faulted for that. Again, however, the pattern is troublesome, and it begs us to question what exactly is wrong with female protagonists. Why must women, who make up 51% of the world’s population, be represented as an extreme deviation in the realm of cartoon protagonists?

Why do no creators of original cartoons want to create female stars?

Perhaps the success of the new Powerpuff Girls will help provide a path for new female-driven cartoons. But, as it stands, 2016 does not seem to be the year for that.

[Images from Cartoon Network’s Bunnicula via
CartoonNetwork.com and Nickelodeon‘s The Loud House via Nick.com. Feature: The Loud House “Slice of Life.” Inline: 1) The Loud House “Hand-Me-Downer.” 2) Bunnicula Episode 8, Season 1. “Squeaky Doom.”]