Toon In has been silent for the past couple of weeks, and perhaps for good reason. Finals of my last year of college are coming to an end, and I have been busy preparing for graduation, a new job, and a new home.
While being in university has afforded me the time to experience and analyze new cartoons every week, the task no longer feels feasible as I prepare to move on with my degree. As such, Toon In is entering a hiatus; whether this pause is temporary, long term, or indefinite, I cannot, at this moment, be certain.
Nevertheless, the website will remain for years to come, and should you be inspired to write your own analysis of a cartoon (past, present, or future), please do not hesitate to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org so that I may publish it here. I will still monitor that address, and I will always, always encourage your critical thinking and media analysis.
Until further notice, this blog will not be updated regularly, but you may continue to read the content that has already been posted.
Thank you so much for reading Toon In. Ta-ta for now.
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.
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?
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.
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.
As a 90s kid, I’m rather partial to the brilliant cartoons of my childhood—Ed, Edd, ’N Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, the Powerpuff Girls, Catdog, Rugrats. . . I am in love with every single one of them.
Yet, admittedly, today’s youth have some equally great programs, many of which are similarly treasured by twenty-somethings. Adventure Time and Steven Universe have received incredible attention for their dynamic depictions of gender and relationships, Spongebob has been a longtime favorite, Regular Show attracts viewers with its wit, and even the once-a-year series Over the Garden Wall has captured the hearts of its audience with its magical story and unyielding artistry.
But, let’s look at the point of view through which we experience all of these crazy cartoon adventures. . .
Finn and Jake, Steven, Spongebob, Mordecai and Rigby, Wirt and Greg. . . the Amazing World of Gumball features Gumball and Darwin, and Breadwinners follows SwaySway and Buhdeuce. Uncle Grandpa, Clarence, Harvey Beaks, Timmy Turner. . . Each lovable protagonist shares one striking characteristic.
They’re all male.
In today’s original programming targeted at youth aged 7 to 16 on two of the most prolific cartoon channels in America, not a single show focuses on the experiences of female characters. Of course, there are females within most of these shows who may be considered central characters (Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time, Annaise in the Amazing World of Gumball, and the Fairly OddParents just introduced Chloe Carmichael, a girl with whom Timmy shares Cosmo and Wanda), but the central experience presented in each show is that of one or several male characters.
This pattern revealed to me a vast world of gender waiting to be explored and analyzed in children’s animated programs, and that’s why we’re here.
Toon In is a blog dedicated to the analysis of gender representation and portrayals in children’s media, especially animated television programs. Each post will be dedicated to the analysis of gender in a particular cartoon, and you can expect posts at least every two weeks.
Before we begin, please keep in mind a couple of things:
Because I grew up watching primarily Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, most of my ventures deal with original programming from these two networks. However, please keep in mind that there are certainly more television options for viewers to enjoy and analyze.
While I want to be as objective as possible, media analysis is subjective and continuous. I may be interpreting information one way while there may be a completely legitimate and completely different interpretation. My analyses are not absolute, and I encourage any additional information that may affect these analyses as well as differing opinions that could allow us to see the data in a new light.
I am eager for YOUR participation. Leave comments, share posts with your friends, or even contribute your own work. Take a closer look at the representation of gender in your favorite cartoon and email email@example.com
I look forward to your input. ‘Toon’ in next time for a fresh look at your favorite cartoons.