Girl Power? Grrrrrrr!

Green-Lantern-The-Animated-SeriesThe other day, as I watched an episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series (developed by Bruce Timm, Giancarlo Volpe, and Jim Krieg for Cartoon Network), I wondered whether or not the producers, animators, and writers of animated superhero shows really want more female viewers. The point is moot in regard to this show, however, since it was canceled after one season. But the catalyst for my musings is the look of the females in it. Many have the look of swimsuit models with Barbie-like measurements. Even a starship’s AI (artificial intelligence), after deciding to take on human form to travel and converse with three male comrades, chose to be a female wearing a midriff-baring shirt and tiny briefs.

gl_wp_aya2_1024x768

Aya the computer turned Green Lantern warrior

In the illustration below, note the amount of clothing of males like Hal Jordan, one of the Green Lanterns, in comparison with females like the Star Sapphires—a group of women wielding pink power rings. The woman in the suit is Hal’s boss and girlfriend, Carol Ferris. Her Star Sapphire outfit (long story) is at her right.

tumblr_m6jnjw3Nrm1qj6ki4o1_1280

When referring to the Star Sapphires, Hal Jordan calls them “hot girls” (not women or smart, powerful women). How’s that for empowerment? Fine. I get the fact that to him, they’re “hot girls.” They’re supposed to be powerful, but do you think of power when you look at the illustration above? (Makes me long for Katara and Toph of Avatar.)

  katara-katara-26156210-1024-768 Toph-toph-23222186-640-480

Katara and Toph

Look, I grew up reading comic books and loving superheroes. But some things irritate me. I realize that writers and animators have the right to do what they want with these characters. I’m speaking as a woman who watches them, but sometimes is ready to throw in the towel. If the power of women is really to be emphasized, let’s start with the basics, namely wardrobe. If I’m blasting people with my power ring while ducking their energy blasts, a bikini and six-inch high boot heels don’t add up to a smart wardrobe. Ever try to run in six-inch heels without turning an ankle? Also, anyone who has ridden a roller coaster high up in the air knows how cool the air can be. Who in their right mind would fly around half naked in cool air? Who would expose that much skin to an energy blast that could singe you?

Okay, I realize I’m in the minority with this. And I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed many of the Green Lantern episodes I’ve seen. I gave the show a shot by watching 14 episodes. But I can’t help seeing a pattern here which also was obvious in other series. Women might have powerful abilities, but that power is deemphasized when design choices for the characters are made to appeal to only one demographic. My thought is this: why not try to appeal to a wider market?

I searched the Internet to see if I could find anyone who had a comment on this issue. I found a different take on the subject. Writer/director/actor/producer Kevin Smith and famed writer of Batman/Superman animated series, Paul Dini, discuss the issue of female viewers and canceled animated superhero shows on this SModcast. Warning: if you’re sensitive to language, avoid listening at all costs. I listened, because I’ve seen many of Paul Dini’s scripted episodes in various Batman animated series. I wanted to hear what he had to say. Part of the conversation was transcribed here. This part especially jumped out at me:

DINI: “They’re [Network executives] all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”
DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys.” (Emphasis and punctuation as per the transcript.)

Well, my blood boiled after that exchange. Adults buy the toys—not boys. I’ve bought many toys for the kids in my life. And I’ve seen many girls playing with action figures long after the boys have given up and turned to Hot Wheels or Thomas trains.

I like Kevin Smith’s solution to those who claim they can’t market to girls toys related to animated superhero shows: “Get better at your job.” In other words, find something else you can sell, rather than write off a significant group of viewers. Irate listeners agreed with Smith and totally disagreed with the notion that girls weren’t interested in the licensed products. The problem, says the parents whose children watched some of these series, is the lack of toys for girls.

Honestly, based on the decisions made about female characters in some series, I wouldn’t want to hand a little girl an action figure of those characters, where the depiction of women leaves a lot to be desired. I’d rather give a girl the X-Men action figures (particularly Rogue and Storm). Or, better still, I’d rather just say, “You’re beautiful and special just as you are.”

Toph and Katara from fanpop. Green Lantern logo from Wikipedia. Aya, Green Lantern, and other characters from Cartoon Network.

Gone in a “Flash”

Feels like forever since I last posted or stopped by other blogs to say hi. With two deadlines soaking up most of my time last week and this past weekend devoted to my uncle’s funeral and family gatherings, I felt a bit overwhelmed. The following is the post I wrote last week, but put aside until now. I hope to return to my routine this week.

What is it about a baby shower that makes men’s eyes glaze over? I’m always amused when I see how fast guys scurry away as they drop their wives/partners off or run out the door if their wife/partner is the one throwing the shower. Yet my extremely busy week of curriculum projects due now, now, now culminated in a baby shower, for which I had to crochet sixteen kittens. (Sounds like a fifties song, “Sixteen Candles.” “Six-teen kit-tens!”) So, I’m sorry to have missed reading many of the blogs I usually read, since I had next to no free time whatsoever, even to post on my own blog.

   006  001

Hermit-ThrushC14784Speaking of now, now, now, the other day, as I waited in my car at a light, watching tiny birds like brown teacups gathered at a street corner, I thought about a quote I read in Entertainment Weekly’s double issue (September 19/26).

“I think we have to get to stuff faster probably than we otherwise would have,” [Andrew] Kreisberg sighs. “Everybody is telling stories a lot faster on TV now.”

250px-Andrew_Kreisberg

Andrew Kreisberg

Who’s he? The producer of the upcoming new series The Flash, the CW network’s vehicle for DC’s comic book hero, the Flash—“the fastest man alive.” Grant Gustin stars as the Flash. The quote is Kreisberg’s answer to the question of how the series will roll out the Flash’s powers—all at once or gradually? Inquiring minds wanted to know. But Kreisberg’s words raised questions within me beyond those having to do with the Flash’s abilities.

The-Flash

With so many shows for viewers to choose from, I totally get the need to quickly grab viewers’ attention. A trip to Half Price Bookstore helped me see that. As I wandered in the section for MG and YA books, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of books on the shelves, books screaming for my attention. Many were written by authors I’d never heard of. I scanned the first pages of some of them before I quickly moved on.

Skimming books in a bookstore doesn’t give justice to the authors who slaved over their manuscripts like great chefs—meal maestros who slave over a hot stove. And I don’t mean to convey that a book’s greatness should be judged by one hastily skimmed page nor that a television show’s worth is proved by how quickly viewers are gripped. After all, good storytelling often plays out over several pages and or over a season in television. Yet many people allow only one shot–a fleeting opportunity to quickly engage them or lose them forever.

I hope that the “fast” storytelling Kreisberg mentioned doesn’t mean that time spent crafting compelling characters will take a backseat while gimmicks and formulaic action sequences are thrust into the driver’s seat. That method of storytelling causes me to scurry away from a television program or a novel.

While I like to be engaged in a story early on, I also like to care about the characters beyond So-and-so’s hunt for his partner’s/wife’s/girlfriend’s/brother’s killer while he deals with his own issues with rage/PTSD/addictions. Of course this is not a description of the Flash/Barry Allen, whose antics I used to read about in comic book form. But I’m hoping that “fast” storytelling refers to his famed speed only and not to slapdash characters. Otherwise, I’ll be gone in a flash.

What do you think “fast” storytelling means? What’s the fastest way to engage you in a story?

“Fall TV Preview.” Entertainment Weekly. 19/26 Sept. 2014. 35-109. Print.

Grant Gustin as the Flash from screencrush.com. Bird from aconerlycoleman.wordpress.com. Andrew Kreisberg from arrow.wikia.com.

.