My name is Lindsay, and I was born in the 90s.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to your input. ‘Toon’ in next time for a fresh look at your favorite cartoons.