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What do you care about a leggy dame in nylons?
December 15, 2013 4:37 PM   Subscribe

You probably know of Paul Dini as the guy who, over the past 20 years brought to television Batman, the beloved DC's animated universe (with Bruce Timm) and Duck Dodgers (among many other things). He's now working at Marvel after 20 years with Warner Brothers. Speaking recently on Kevin Smith's podcast he claimed that executives are spurning female viewers because they believe girls and women don't buy superhero show related toys, which may go some way to explaining the Wonder Woman decision (previously). (via) Dini's comments come at a time when many feel that the gender segregation of toys is regaining strength.
posted by Mezentian (104 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.

Gee guys, if only we had a character who was some sort of...Amazon princess. We'd make a fortune!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:47 PM on December 15, 2013 [46 favorites]


Data point: When I read comics regularly, I spent way too much money on desk toys. Weirdly, DC's management's hostility toward female characters and fans played a large part in my stopping that expenditure.
posted by immlass at 4:52 PM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


What's Paul Dini doing for Marvel?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:57 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing makes me feel so lucky and grateful that I didn't imprint on superhero stories as a kid.

And I don't mean that in a "LOL SUPERHEROES ARE DUMB" kind of way. I mean I genuinely feel like I dodged a bullet. I have the luxury of not particularly caring about this asshole or what he has to say, because I'm not invested in the characters he's slighting or the stories he's getting his jerk cooties all over. I have a lot of friends with deeply felt, down-in-their-bones affection for superhero characters and narratives that make this kind of thing incredibly painful to read about; I know many people who have had to deliberately distance themselves from characters that they once loved intensely.

The closest I've had to deal with is Korra disappointment, and that's nothing compared to this.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:57 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to know a guy who worked for TokyoPop who would go drinking with guys from Marvel and DC, and they would say "why won't girls read comics?" And the TokyoPop guy would say "girls and women read comics; they read our comics, apparently because we are selling what they want to read." And the other guys would pretty much ignore his point and just keep insisting that girls don't read comics. The TokyoPop guy was not particularly feminist, but he expressed constant amazement that his competition just ignored a huge market they insisted they wanted to attract. Apparently "tell stories girls want to read" was too bizarre to parse....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:59 PM on December 15, 2013 [39 favorites]


As far as I can tell, Paul Dini isn't being an asshole, he's reporting on what other assholes at networks have said to him about how they perceive gender divisions in their audiences.
posted by skycrashesdown at 5:03 PM on December 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


Same thing happens in the gaming industry. All these surveys show women and girls and minorities play video games (and may even be a MAJORITY depending on if you include social and mobile games and the specific market segments) and are consumers willing to spend money and all the guys find excuses to dismiss the idea and keep making games for 18-35 year old straight white males.

If I wanted to guess why, I'd say it's the same conservative motive that keeps football coaches punting on first down and sending out the field goal team even when that's not the statistically ideal time: because if you try something different and fail, you will be raked over the coals by the press and your peers even if it is the optimal choice.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:05 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


What's Paul Dini doing for Marvel?

He's one of the brains behind their current wave of animated shows (Hulk and the Agents of SMASH, Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man). Sadly they are not exactly up to DCU spec.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:10 PM on December 15, 2013


Yes, girls and women never buy toy figures that represent their aspirational ideals or fantasies. Nope.
posted by emjaybee at 5:19 PM on December 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Narrative: I just want to underline that it's not Paul Dini being the asshole here. He's one of the good guys. The problem's the executives.

And here is my solution: Take the executives and shoot them into space.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:22 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


...And this is how bias can get in the way of all kinds of things, including making a profit.
posted by rtha at 5:23 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


As far as I can tell, Paul Dini isn't being an asshole, he's reporting on what other assholes at networks have said to him about how they perceive gender divisions in their audiences.

Is that what people are getting from this? I think I saw some random Grrr at Dini on Twitter ago and yeah, that is weird.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on December 15, 2013


Here's a recent On Point Radio episode "Girls, Boys, Toys - and Gender" that discusses the growing toy divide, definitely sounds like a more recent phenomenon than I had previously thought.
posted by mapinduzi at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gee guys, if only we had a character who was some sort of...Amazon princess. We'd make a fortune!

Nah. That concept is too confusing. It has no staying power. Now a naked nympho with big norks and flaming hair... people can get behind that.

The closest I've had to deal with is Korra disappointment, and that's nothing compared to this.

That's M Night Shamalyan's Avatar you are referring too? I'm unfamiliar with the property, but I'm led to understand it's the most tone deaf adaption of a character since Catwoman.

Paul Dini is kinda awesome, and I am no DC fanboy.
posted by Mezentian at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


And here is my solution: Take the executives and shoot them into space.

They just come back with even more outlandish powers.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:40 PM on December 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Ugh. Just, ugh. I can't say I'm surprised.

It's even more of a shame since the various DCU cartoons have been the best thing that happened to the DCU over the past two decades, and at this point I am DONE with DC's Comics*, so the cartoons are about it for me.

*And the reason for this is perfectly illustrated by a cartoon I only just found tonight while reading about Dini's interview on io9.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:40 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Same thing happens in the gaming industry. All these surveys show women and girls and minorities play video games (and may even be a MAJORITY depending on if you include social and mobile games and the specific market segments) and are consumers willing to spend money and all the guys find excuses to dismiss the idea and keep making games for 18-35 year old straight white males.

posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:05 PM on December 15


I swear, one of these days, someone is going to march into the video gaming industry and Moneyball the shit out of those guys.

Instead of taking "we must make games for 18 - 35 year old males!" as gospel truth, that person or team will say, "What if we try to approach games the way Billy Beane approached baseball recruiting in 2001? What if we take an analytical, evidence-based approach, and try to develop a game based on who the numbers say actually buy and play games?"

The results will likely be glorious.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:48 PM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


What if we take an analytical, evidence-based approach, and try to develop a game based on who the numbers say actually buy and play games?"

The results will likely be glorious.


Actually, I'm pretty sure the end-result of the purely analytical, evidence-based approach to games is already here, and it's called FarmVille.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:53 PM on December 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


And the TokyoPop guy would say "girls and women read comics; they read our comics, apparently because we are selling what they want to read."

Yeah, to add to that, couldn't it be said that the magical girl genre is a combination of princesses and superheroes? Usually they are not princesses in title, but they have the princess aesthetic, combined with superpowers, and the mood of the franchises all range from cute and innocent to dark and twisted.

I'm honestly surprised that there haven't been many American comics/cartoons creating their own version of that, aside from trying to bring already-popular franchises to America (like Sailor Moon and CCS, but that was so long ago!). There have even been past examples of girls making the princess+superhero combination on their own, so it seems like a no-brainer.

I suppose you could try to look at the Disney princess movies and see how the main characters becoming increasingly more independent, but they're not really fitting the "hero" image--someone who saves the public every week and defends justice in a cool suit with laser beams. Heart-shaped Prism Flower Shine Laser Beams!
posted by picklenickle at 5:56 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's M Night Shamalyan's Avatar you are referring too? I'm unfamiliar with the property, but I'm led to understand it's the most tone deaf adaption of a character since Catwoman.

What? No, Shamalyan did a terrible, racist live-action adaptation of Avatar: the Last Airbender. Korra is the animated sequel to the animated Avatar: the Last Airbender, and while it's not up to A:tLA's level, it's not a huge, terrible sexist failure or anything. Certainly Korra doesn't deserve to be lumped in with DC's terrible track record. As a show, it doesn't rely on sexualization or marginalization of its female characters.

Also yeah, as a kid I read TokyoPop comics, and I'm so glad I imprinted on them instead of DC or Marvel.
posted by yasaman at 6:02 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I saw some random Grrr at Dini on Twitter ago and yeah, that is weird.

You have to get a few rage-inducing sentences in before he clarifies that these are the sentiments of the executives, not his. Given that (if my work experience is any indication) a substantial chunk of people can't read an eight-sentence email for comprehension, I can see how a lot of people would go blind on the early GRAR and totally miss the part where he's paraphrasing misogynistic shitweasels who are too dumb to market to 51% of the population.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:10 PM on December 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I believe the problem lies more in the parents and grandparents of girls who don't buy comics-related gifts for Christmas. Without that demographic and subsequent holiday sales, any toymaker would be sunk trying to exploit that market.
posted by Ardiril at 6:42 PM on December 15, 2013


M. Night Shyamalan did a live-action adaptation of Airbender? No, no he didn't. Why, that would be crazy to have him do that.

NO, NO HE DIDN'T. There was NO live-action adaptation. THERE WASN'T.

I mean, gods, that would be like fucking up The Matrix with a bunch of sequels.
posted by Etrigan at 6:56 PM on December 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


It's weird how, for most women, after the age of about 10, you stop being into Princess media/culture/toys/stuff. Some women really cling to it, so you do see Disney Princess weddings and such. But girls are fed a very hard line about how Princesses are dumb and silly and pointless and uncool after a certain age, so most of us abandon the trappings of that around puberty.

Meanwhile, dudes are expected to keep consuming superhero-related products forever. And post-Princess phase, girls, at least a certain subset of girls, are encouraged to agree that superheroes are important for everyone, just another important aspect of mainstream American pop culture. It's not considered immature to go see The Avengers or wear a Superman t-shirt or lust after the Batmobile.

The implications of toy and movie marketing are really interesting.
posted by Sara C. at 6:57 PM on December 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


Mezentian: Nah. That concept is too confusing. It has no staying power. Now a naked nympho with big norks and flaming hair... people can get behind that.

Gah, the linked comic is so true and infuriating. Animated Teen Titans Starfire is joyous, funny, smart, a bit awkward but endearingly so, and her own person. Then I saw that image of what she was doing in comics at that time. Entirely different character, and so much worse.

There needs to be some word for people who pick up a comic book, thinking they're going to get a version of something from the animated universe, and becoming bitterly disappointed. Suggestions?
posted by JHarris at 6:57 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also: who at DC and/or Warner decided it would be a good idea to let Dini go?
posted by JHarris at 7:05 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised that there haven't been many American comics/cartoons creating their own version of that, aside from trying to bring already-popular franchises to America (like Sailor Moon and CCS, but that was so long ago!). There have even been past examples of girls making the princess+superhero combination on their own, so it seems like a no-brainer.

I feel like the 1980s was the last time there was a serious effort at this sort of thing. On TV you had Jem -- briefly the #1 cartoon on TV -- and She-Ra, and for younger age groups the likes of Rainbow Brite, Comics companies like DC were trying stuff like Amethyst while Marvel was pushing Storm, a superpowered goddess, to the forefront of the X-Men along with Kitty Pryde.

Even properties seemingly aimed at boys, like GI Joe, had a good gender ratio and included a number of female characters who were portrayed as quite capable.

So why did these attempts wane?

Also: who at DC and/or Warner decided it would be a good idea to let Dini go?

Dini and Timm both seem to have left because DC wants their animated projects to adapt contemporary comics stories rather than do DCU originals or adaptations of older material.
posted by kewb at 7:07 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


couldn't it be said that the magical girl genre is a combination of princesses and superheroes?

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, seemed like an attempt to do an American magical girl. It was really good. The artwork was brilliant.

It kind of went south when they tried to integrate Amy into the DC universe, which is a shame. The tale of a smart girl in her own, personal Narnia is one that any reader, male or female, can buy into.
posted by SPrintF at 7:10 PM on December 15, 2013


Animated Teen Titans Starfire is joyous, funny, smart, a bit awkward but endearingly so, and her own person.

They tried to mimic this in the comics with Miss Martian, who I simply adored. But some folks can't leave perfect alone, I guess.
posted by SPrintF at 7:13 PM on December 15, 2013


On TV you had Jem -- briefly the #1 cartoon on TV -- and She-Ra, and for younger age groups the likes of Rainbow Brite

All of which were built around toys.

Which might prove the toy marketing angle on the dearth of female counterparts to the major superhero franchises aimed at adults.

Little girls want barbies and princesses. Superman and Batman swag sells not only to children, but to adults. Figuring out how to get the adult female demographic probably has something to do with it all.

Meanwhile, I stand in the Warner Brothers gift shop on the Warner Brothers studio lot where I work, wishing there was more Wonder Woman stuff for me to buy. So I'm pretty sure the answer isn't that the market isn't there.
posted by Sara C. at 7:19 PM on December 15, 2013


Also: who at DC and/or Warner decided it would be a good idea to let Dini go?

They have a bad decision spinner wheel or something.
posted by Artw at 7:19 PM on December 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


I grew up with a brother I was very close to (he was older & were were 2 1/2 years apart). I had Barbies and My Little Ponies. He had Justice League figures and Go-Bots and Transformers. We both had Legos.

I also, early on, had a boy as my best friend who preferred girl toys and tended to have better ones than I did.

I guess, ultimately, I never really saw much difference between the "boy" toys and the "girl" toys. My brother and I played with a lot of the same stuff. I never grew up feeling like being a girl was a bad thing, even when I liked a bunch of "boy" stuff. I still don't. Girl stuff was good. Boy stuff was good. It was all just part of a big pile.

I am so in love with the Nerf Rebellle line -- Nerf toys were such a huge part of my childhood (I think there's still some video of some American Gladiators Nerf tournament we staged where I totally was crazy focused and won).

"Girly" stuff too often gets pushed to the edges -- you're either a princess (and that's bad!) or you like boy stuff (and that's good!).

But you can like both (if you're a girl or a boy). I liked both. We were in college, yeah, but both my brother and I had Sailor Moon posters.

I have hope that more and more kids are just liking stuff that they like. Let's just let them like those things and play with what they want. They'll figure it out for us.
posted by darksong at 7:22 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


There needs to be some word for people who pick up a comic book, thinking they're going to get a version of something from the animated universe, and becoming bitterly disappointed.

DC-llusioned? (like disillusioned)
posted by Think_Long at 7:27 PM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Also: who at DC and/or Warner decided it would be a good idea to let Dini go?

Warner has a weird relationship with their animated films division. Evidently they regard any success or popularity in the animated division, as not meaning anything, especially when it came to the DCAU and Teen Titans. The attitude seems to be that even though the DCAU sold much better than the comics, the animated films should be modeled more closely after the comics.
posted by happyroach at 8:14 PM on December 15, 2013


The attitude seems to be that even though the DCAU sold much better than the comics, the animated films should be modeled more closely after the comics.

I guess that explains how we ended up with the Flashpoint movie.

I just checked the sales charts for Teen Titans (they were doing a special event). They had two comics out, and it seems that they peaked at wound 48,000 per issue, and in 2012 after a year of New 52 were around 30,000.

And, largely unrelated (or is it?), but Dini seems to be one of the writer's of Maleficent, a movie surely doomed to failure because it has female leads and is about a princess and witch.
posted by Mezentian at 8:27 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Has that Frozen tanked yet?

Of course, given the context, it should be pointed out that the toys for both of those will be on the pink aisle at you local Target/whatever.
posted by Artw at 8:40 PM on December 15, 2013


I've actually seen a LOT of adult women in my various social networking feeds (Especially Facebook and Tumblr) talking about how much they love Frozen. I don't know how you get from there to BUY MOAR SWAG, but it's the first big movie I've seen a lot of women getting behind despite the fact that it's Disney, involves princesses, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 8:42 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"BUY MOAR SWAG"? Here you go.
posted by Ardiril at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2013


I haven't seen any of the Hulk: Agents of Smash, but my kids watch a fair bit of Avengers Assemble and particularly Ultimate SpiderMan. I've been fairly impressed with those.
posted by ericales at 8:51 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


With something like Frozen, it's a bit less iconic, and that seems to be a key for buyers in adulthood.
You're really needing adults to be invested in the whole Disney Princess thing.

Now, Maleficent has been around for decades, and people love the iconic images. I'd imagine that would do better, knick-knack wise.

I'm refusing to watch Avengers Assemble because I'm still hurting over the loss of the fantastic Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. That show was just amazing.

Knowing that Dini is involved in Hulk: Agents of Smash is about the first thing I have heard that makes me want to see it.
posted by Mezentian at 8:54 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a Marvel prodyct Earths Mightiest Heroes was almost DC-level good.

That is a thing that makes sense in the parallel universe of animation... Or at least did.
posted by Artw at 9:00 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What strikes me about all the Frozen merch in the link is that not only is most of it aimed at little girls, most of it could only plausibly be used by little girls. It's all dress up costumes and pajamas and kindergarten backpacks.

Meanwhile, you can get a Batman coffee mug or Superman adult sized t-shirt or a Spiderman thumb drive pretty much anywhere.
posted by Sara C. at 9:01 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Little girls want barbies and princesses. Superman and Batman swag sells not only to children, but to adults. Figuring out how to get the adult female demographic probably has something to do with it all.

It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

If female characters, including princesses and female superheroes, are forced to be "one step behind the boys," those characters are just not going to be as appealing to adolescent girls and adult women as the more empowered male characters are going to be to adolescent boys and men. It doesn't really matter how hard you market your princess or sexbot/superhero to adults (or near-adults) if the version of adulthood that the character represents isn't appealing to people actually entering or in adulthood. The problem is with the characters at that point, not the marketing.

But in terms of the merchandise itself -- there does seem to be less merchandise produced for the non-princess but also non-macho characters/stories that might be more popular with girls. I don't know what other people's experiences were, but even as a young kid, I didn't really care about the Disney princesses, and I never had any (?) princess merchandise. I *loved* some Disney movies though, especially Newsies. I was obsessed with Newsies, and tried to buy everything I could get my hands on connected with it. Which turned out to be a nonfiction book of photographs of child laborers that I ordered through Scholastic, and a novelization of the movie that I found in a remainder bookstore. I mean, wtf is that?!
posted by rue72 at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe the problem lies more in the parents and grandparents of girls who don't buy comics-related gifts for Christmas. Without that demographic and subsequent holiday sales, any toymaker would be sunk trying to exploit that market.

This is a free-market solution waiting to happen if ever there was one. I'm a dad and I can tell you this: I don't care how alien the concept is to you as a parent, all it takes is one Christmas or birthday with your little girl in tears because she didn't get the Spider-Woman or Batgirl toy she asked for, and next time around you'll be thinking "I don't get it, but hoo boy does she want that." Court that audience, have a little patience, and the parents and their money will come around.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:15 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can get washed out look T-shirts with Wonder Woman on them at K-Mart (saw them recently, along with some more obscure Green Arrow/Green Lantern stuff). Wonder Woman dress-ups too.
Probably Supergirl and Batgirl have merchandise with logos and such....

So, it's there, just less obvious. I'm not sure what toys the supermarkets are selling, but I just did a search on the US Toys R Us website for "dc action figures" and it spits out results for girls (5) and boys (137).

It's a split that makes no sense. Bane is a "girls" toy, apparently. I doubt the usefulness of this data.
posted by Mezentian at 9:17 PM on December 15, 2013


Also discovered during my net travels:
Fret not, Women-Type Creatures, DC has a range of Women of the DC Universe Busts!

They have heard you want oddly-busty busts with no articulation or feet, and they have responded with all your favourites! Black Canary! Wonder Girl! Starfire! And fret not, Power Girl is also rendered in all her three-dimensional glory.

(I think my point got away from there. They are almost delightfully cheesecakey, but I can't say I'd ever spring for one).
posted by Mezentian at 9:30 PM on December 15, 2013


Mezentian: "It's a split that makes no sense. Bane is a "girls" toy, apparently. I doubt the usefulness of this data."

CITIZENS OF WELLESLEY...
posted by Sphinx at 9:46 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


washed out look T-shirts with Wonder Woman on them at K-Mart

So, the dregs of "oh I don't know maybe some hobo would wear this before going naked in the streets" level clothing, basically.
posted by Sara C. at 9:48 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's the style of the times.

I am not sure if it is hipster or tied directly into the superhero zeitgeist or not, but in terms of disrespecting the thing that they depict, it's akin to that time you could buy Ramones, Sex Pistols and Siouxsie shirts from the same places... iconic for the sake of it.

But the sight of a "Flash of Two Worlds" shirt makes me a little happy... before the crushing disappointment sets in.
posted by Mezentian at 10:04 PM on December 15, 2013


Washed out graphic tees are the style of the times of 2004.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 PM on December 15, 2013


It's the 2004 revival!

And about time.
posted by Mezentian at 10:16 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I see plenty of women of all ages buying merch with Hello Kitty, Betty Boop, and Minnie Mouse on it. The market's right there. The comics corporations are just lazy and are leaving money on the table by (A) not studying what women and girl consumers actually want to buy and (B) not adapting their IP into appealing designs.

Don't blame me for not buying some crap Wonder Woman action figure based on Jim Lee art when I actually want t-shirts with the Super Best Friends Forever on them!
posted by cadge at 10:22 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Super Best Friends Forever is just about my favourite DC-related properly of the last year, and if there isn't any sort of commercial exploitation of it, man, I just don't understand the DC executives.

DC has heard of the whole Brony phenomenon, surely? Or the Power Puff Girls? How are they not hearing cash registers ringing?

I mean they're right there and recognisable (as long as you ignore Donna Troy's backstory), and there's a Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld series? How are there not action doll figure and related products for that?

And yet Marvel is going to get Rocket Raccoon on screen first. Probably with all the toys.
posted by Mezentian at 10:32 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It tuns out, via Twitter, you can get Super Best Friends Forever toys.
posted by Mezentian at 10:58 PM on December 15, 2013


Also from Ms Faust's Twitter feed: Gender Inequality in Film.
posted by Mezentian at 11:03 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those stupid busts with no legs make me SO ANGRY. What, feet on women aren't sexy enough? Cut them off! Like how much do we need to pander to this objectification fetish before we get embarrassed and just commit mass suicide.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:17 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What, feet on women aren't sexy enough?

I am sure Rob Liefeld is to blame, somehow.

I don't get the lack of feet thing, and the Internet tells me that there are more foot fetishists than amputee fetishists, so in summation... I am confused as to the lack of feet.
posted by Mezentian at 11:23 PM on December 15, 2013


Those stupid busts with no legs make me SO ANGRY. What, feet on women aren't sexy enough? Cut them off! Like how much do we need to pander to this objectification fetish before we get embarrassed and just commit mass suicide.

I don't get the lack of feet thing, and the Internet tells me that there are more foot fetishists than amputee fetishists, so in summation... I am confused as to the lack of feet.


Haven't you guys seen Misery?
posted by rue72 at 11:37 PM on December 15, 2013


How else do you think I learnt to hobble my heroes?
posted by Mezentian at 11:56 PM on December 15, 2013


I play the Marvel Heros mmorpg. I was only marginally invested in it until they added Squirrel Girl and now I can't stop playing. She is hilarious, bad-ass and (based on the chat boxes) drives a portion of the male players insane with man rage - my favorite quote was something like "she is massively powerful and she's not even hot."

Yeah, I love her.

And, come on, confident, competent, intelligent and genuinely noble? And hilarious? Totally hot.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:43 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I wonder if the age when they turn off marketing princess themed stuff to girls is about the same age they start cranking up marketing cosmetics?

Their disposable income is only going to go so far, you know.
posted by mikelieman at 1:50 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the age when they turn off marketing princess themed stuff to girls is about the same age they start cranking up marketing cosmetics?

Aren't they basically the same thing these days? Weren't they always? This one webblog suggests there is Tinkerbell-themed makeup for young girls, and between the fashion dolls and everything... I think we're looking a seamless vertical marketing empire, capturing all the demographics from toddler to... well, it seems to break down in the teens.

Teens put away "childish things", get their teen angst on, and then gradually we, as males, may find it easier to pick up the things we loved before the hormones kicked in, and women, having less opportunities to form nostalgia with hunks of plastic, find fewer chances to get back into it. Perhaps?

We have a structural problem, but the interconnectedness of the Internet is changing that slowly, and as people like Dini and Joss get into positions of power they chip away at all this "Bic Pens, For Her" nonsense.
posted by Mezentian at 2:04 AM on December 16, 2013


Squirrel Girl is in Marvel Heroes? OMG OP.

(Actually, awesome.)
posted by JHarris at 2:49 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]



| was never into comics when I was young or princess stuff but I did play with pop culture toys. I still have a box of star wars figures and toys somewhere. Interestingly now that I look back that box also has female figures made from other toys that my sisters and I made to fit in with our play because of the lack of them in Star Wars. We would live action play games with neighborhood kids and always made our own female characters. Luke had another sister in our games which I always played and being unfamiliar with the comic universe beside batman and superman we'd just make up our own female superheros to fit in with that sort of play. For me that sort of play morphed into a love of role play games and gaming in general.

When I think of the pop culture swag I've bought or desired as grown kid there isn't much. It's not that I wouldn't be interested it's just what's available isn't super appealing. I do have a Xena action figure which is awesome. I also have a viper which sits on my desk. I have a couple of Firefly shirts which are so worn that they only come out on special occasions. My Starbuck and cylon mugs have their special shelf places. Heck make more characters like Starbuck from the new BSG and I'd be all over it. Oh and then there is Buffy. Buffy rocks.

And as far as gaming goes... Do you know how difficult it is to find Mass Effect wallpaper for your desktop that has the female Shepherd on it? It takes way more searching and sifting. My fun setting up my new laptop time last week became an act of frustration and meta contemplation of the gaming industry because I couldn't easily get FEMALE SHEPHERD wallpaper. Yeesh.

After reading this thread I'm going to give Tokyo Pop a looksee. Maybe I can find some of what I appear to be looking for there.

If not maybe I start writing my own comic where Xena, Buffy, Shepherd (F) and Starbuck team-up to save the world.
posted by Jalliah at 5:20 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the age when they turn off marketing princess themed stuff to girls is about the same age they start cranking up marketing cosmetics?

The way that the distinction between "girl" and "woman" gets enforced (for objectification, for supremacism, for confidence/self-image policing) in ways the distinction between "boy" and "man" is not seems like the major subtext of all of this, yes.
posted by kewb at 5:48 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno, isn't there a social expectation that you'll move on to Sportsball or Popular Music Type of the Day eventually?
posted by Artw at 6:47 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, dudes are expected to keep consuming superhero-related products forever.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon -- it was taken as a given for a looong time by the comic book industry that you had to re-gain a generation of readers every few years because boys aged out of it. The adult comic book fan was an afterthought until he started proving his market power in the '90s or so.
posted by Etrigan at 6:55 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Minor data point: I assigned a movie review to my English 101 classes this semester, and the only students who picked superhero movies were women. (Coincidentally, The Dark Knight Rises in each case.)
posted by fogovonslack at 7:35 AM on December 16, 2013


But girls are fed a very hard line about how Princesses are dumb and silly and pointless and uncool after a certain age, so most of us abandon the trappings of that around puberty.

That was exactly the way it was for boys and superheroes 30 years ago. In fact, Warner / DC is still embarrassed of superheroes, judging from the recent Batman and Superman movies.
posted by straight at 8:19 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Makeup marketing - it can be done! So many of my friends flipped out when MAC announced its Wonder Woman collection.
posted by cadge at 8:21 AM on December 16, 2013


(Even DC Comics seems to feel the need to apologize for publishing 75 years of Superman comics.)
posted by straight at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2013


Those stupid busts with no legs make me SO ANGRY. What, feet on women aren't sexy enough? Cut them off!

Since a bust is traditionally just the person's head (and maybe shoulders), it's not so much cutting the feet off as adding boobs and butts (which makes it worse, not better).
posted by straight at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


as people like Dini and Joss get into positions of power they chip away at all this "Bic Pens, For Her" nonsense.

You realize that the bic pens for her stuff is actually recent and didn't always happen, right?
posted by Sara C. at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2013


I heard that Kirby only inked with Bic pens for Her.
posted by Think_Long at 8:58 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno, isn't there a social expectation that you'll move on to Sportsball or Popular Music Type of the Day eventually?

Naah, not since the Playstation debuted.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:31 AM on December 16, 2013


The comments above about the games industry stupidly excluding women (among many others) are true for AAA console / multiplatform focused games yes. And this one part of the industry is what the media portrays as the end-all-be-all of gaming.

But if you want to see the counterpoint to that, pick up any smartphone or tablet and look at the top games in the store. This is the "moneyball" mentioned above.

The recent HAWP podcast also made the interesting point that indie games have come to represent a broader range of views and identities than even indie cinema.
posted by Riemann at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2013


And just to bring that around to the OP, if you are waiting for DC/Marvel to stop being dicks it's gonna be a long wait for some very small, very patronizing steps in the right direction. They are the "AAA" of comics. Might as well wait for a Call of Duty game that isn't about bulky white Amurricans slaughtering under equipped brown people.

Instead look to the smaller and up and coming types.
posted by Riemann at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2013


But the point is that there's a whole demographic the AAA games people aren't tapping.

I would TOTALLY buy one of the new generation of consoles if I was confident that there would always be interesting new games that I actually wanted to play. I would happily drop $50 a couple times a year on AAA console game titles if there were two games a year that I felt excited about. And not excited about in spite of a bunch of other annoying shit I just have to assume as part of the culture (for example the GTA series), but ACTUALLY for real excited in the way guys get to be excited about the new games they want to play.

I can't be the only woman who feels this way. And as younger people who grew up with video games grow up, the market is just going to grow and grow.

I said it in another thread about sexism and AAA games, but this is like if all the Hollywood studios assumed that women simply did not watch movies at all. There's already enough sexism on the studio/development side in terms of assumptions about what women want to see, who drives decisions about what to see in theaters, etc.

But, hey, at least the film industry assumes that people with vaginas also like to watch feature films, most movies should be made with the assumption that women will see them, many movies should be made catering specifically to women, and some movies should at least pay lip service to women as more than shoe-obsessed bimbos.

Hollywood gets it wrong a lot, but at least they see women as part of the market. AAA/console style games do not. And it's an understatement to say that's fucked up.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


(All of the above said, I saw a Wii U commercial this weekend with 50/50 gender balance in the kids, and which seemed marketed to both girls and boys. Which is a start.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2013


Eh, my view is AAA gaming isn't even worth saving. It's a dying cul-de-sac. Pretending that AAA games are the entire gaming industry is the real problem. Because when you take off those blinders there is a whole lot more inclusion to be found.
posted by Riemann at 10:57 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


A dying cul-de-sac which sells a billion dollars worth of a single game on one day? I wish we could all be so lucky as to live in such a dying cul-de-sac!

The death of AAA gaming has been greatly exaggerated.
posted by Justinian at 11:18 AM on December 16, 2013


btw, I'm not saying "go buy a console" but if you restrict yourself to $60 on-disc games you are not seeing the good stuff even on the previous generation (xbox 360 / PS3). EG on the 360: Stuff like Bastion, From Dust, Costume Quest, the Kieflings games, Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers, Monaco, Terraria, Spelunky, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, Fez, Torchlight, Limbo, Puzzle Quest, PB Winterbottom etc...

(though just about all of these are on the PC too, though several of them control better with a gamepad and are nice in the 10ft view of a TV)

And that's not even including the actual indie games section on the 360.

For the new gen systems, it seems right now the PS4 has a leg up on the indie games. The xbox one has some interesting stuff in the works there as well. But in either case I wouldn't buy one until next summer at the earliest.
posted by Riemann at 11:22 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Justinian - look at how the money in AAA games is divvied up. That segment of the industry gets more reliant every year on a smaller and smaller number of mega-hits in order to recoup the increasingly insane cost of development and marketing. It doesn't take many flops, or even just mediocre titles to eat up all the profits from a given studios one big hit (if they even have one).

Bioshock Infinite, probably the only really good AAA game of recent memory, spent $100 million on dev and $100 million more on marketing. It was also a hit, but when titles cost that much to make they have to be a hit every single time in order for the studio to survive. They only have to fuck up once.
posted by Riemann at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2013


I don't think anyone is.

I also don't really see how it's a "dying cul de sac". There are billboards for GTA V across Los Angeles, and bus ads for CoD and the newest Assassin's Creed entry. They seem to be advertising on the same level as major film releases. I don't think this was the case 5-10 years ago, and from what I can tell it's a sector that seems to be growing, in an economic sense.

Indie and casual games are awesome, obviously, and have a growing market share. But to say that we should just ignore AAA stuff is like saying "oh well TV and web series and radio dramas exist, and LBR Hollywood is a dinosaur, so let's just ignore that".

I don't think anyone who wants to talk about how women are represented in the world of AAA games is trying to say that indie games are bad, and it's weird how people always pipe in to say "but indie games" whenever criticism of gender and AAA video games comes up. It's like saying that we don't need to fix fucked up ideas about gender in Hollywood because Showtime has Nurse Jackie and Weeds. Great for Showtime, but I still want my Wonder Woman movie.
posted by Sara C. at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2013


Sara C. - Because criticism of games, including in this thread, almost never specifies "AAA". They just say "games" or "gaming" in general and then exclusively talk about AAA games.

Even Anita Sarkeesian's otherwise excellent vids on the subject do this a fair bit. Though I think that is more because of the decision to frame her discussion in terms of Tropes which kind of limits her choice of examples.

But to your mention of all the billboards, I think that is actually direct proof of the problem that is killing AAA games: The ever spiraling budgets. Those few titles that get $100+ million spent on their advertising campaigns show up heavily in the public consciousness regardless of their (lack of) quality. That kind of spending on marketing, let alone development costs, also means there is an ever smaller number of studios capable of participating in the AAA scene. It also pretty much requires such games are sequels and stick to the "safest" possible audience (ie: white males 14-35 ish). There is quite a bit written on this subject (gamasutra is a great site) but it used to be that big studios could afford 3 or even 4 "meh" to "failure" games off the proceeds of one big success. This allowed for some wiggle room on new concepts or trying to court new audiences. Now they can only afford .5 or maybe 1.

Just like Marvell or DC (for all they are tiny compared to the games industry) are going to be the very last ones to be more inclusive in their industry - if they ever do - so to games that cost a quarter billion dollars to even bring to market are going to be the very last to improve in games.
posted by Riemann at 11:45 AM on December 16, 2013


here is my solution: Take the executives and shoot them into space.

You're overthinking. We have oceans a lot closer and rocks are a lot cheaper.
posted by Gelatin at 12:09 PM on December 16, 2013


I'm another lady who got into DC via the DCAU and who is also continuously disappointed by everything else they create. They did such a great job getting me attached to Jon Stewart--and now they make TV shows and movies about the young, white Green Lanterns, instead. I loved Harley Quinn--and I was immediately turned off of Arkham Asylum when I saw the way they'd dressed her in that.

These execs have put themselves in a bind, because even though I love superheroes, I'm not sure if any daughters of mine are getting gifted with DC toys--why would I set them up for a lifetime of frustration when there are other franchises that *do* consistently provide strong female characters? So their "girls don't buy toys" nonsense has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
posted by chaiminda at 12:15 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Riemann: That's the same criticism made of, as you mention, the fate of the Hollywood Blockbuster. It's been made for years and years now and yet Desolation of Smaug is still there in the theaters this week. I have no doubt indie games and games from smaller studios will play a significant role in the future but that doesn't require or even suggest that the death of the tentpole game is imminent.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, even if Call Of Duty: I Dunno What Edition Even Is This Anymore is the last "tentpole" AAA game ever to be released, it still behooves game companies to not be misogynist dickwads.
posted by Sara C. at 1:48 PM on December 16, 2013


Why Marketers Fear The Female Geek - a look at the dread Messaging Optimization.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on December 22, 2013


I'm an adult woman and loved Frozen, as did my mother (who is in her 70s and was the one who wanted to see it). I was totally not expecting to love it, but I did. It's not exactly feminist, but it is...different. It's cool. No pun intended.
posted by sweetkid at 4:18 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw's link is required reading, I think, although infuriating, and in places a bit suspect. It states: On lego.com, there are currently 32 product lines advertised for boys, while only 2 for girls and a few gender neutral lines.

Actually, aren't most of Lego's products gender-neutral? They show a picture of an obviously female, custom-molded Lego person, alongside one of the basic minifigs. But those minifigs can also be female, as a few in my personal collection can attest. And often the only way you'd even know one of those blobs of highly stylized plastic was suppose to be a guy-blob instead of a girl-blob is hairstyle, which is far from conclusive really. I would think that Lego makes specialized female figures at all, typically arrayed in gender-normative colors and sold with bricks representing stereotypically girly things, would be the issue.

The attitudes of marketers depicted, however, I think is spot on, stupid and full of that special kind of cognative bias that's both hyper-detailed yet completely wrong that results from obsessively overthinking an issue, blind to important things that are obvious to bystanders because they've focused on some small part of a thing for so long, blind to the fact that the line between the sexes in terms of interest in video games is at best a self-fulfilling prophecy, and at worst partly their doing.
posted by JHarris at 5:28 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the most part non-friends Lego is as gender neutral as you want to make it - there's cues in marketing and store placement that can say "boys stuff", but it's pretty easily ignored, the only real problem is the gender balance of the Minifigs tends to skew male - I used the pick-and-mix store to get a bunch of girl-hairs and that sorted that out.
posted by Artw at 5:43 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hm, when I said it was "in places a bit suspect" above, I didn't mean it, that was from an earlier pass over the comment and if I had noticed I left it in before I hit Submit would have removed it. The Lego bit is minor really.
posted by JHarris at 5:55 PM on December 22, 2013


Yeah, Artw's pretty well spot on there. Lego toys outside of Friends are technically neutral, and Lego is one of the better toy companies when it comes to gender inclusiveness (not labeling kits as "boy" kits, for instance), but there are a lot of subtle things going on that point to them as boy toys, and the stores tend to make it worse with placement and advertising.

As a parent, you're constantly at war with this horseshit. I have to correct my son when he says X is for boys or girls don't like Y, which of course he's getting from a million places outside of our home. I have to explain to my daughter why we threw her a superhero birthday party with Daily Planet invitations, and yet everybody brought her pony stuff. I have to hear his friends say "purple is a girl color" and pointedly not respond "wow, your dad must be goddamn terrified".

You have so much to worry about from day one when it's what about SIDS/autism/breastfeeding, on through the teenage years when it's what about car wrecks/drugs/pregnancy, on top of the usual cooking and cleaning and feeding and teaching and disciplining. When a toy company or some friend's dad shoves this kind of crap through your front door, you rub your head and think "thanks, I didn't have enough to do today".
posted by middleclasstool at 7:06 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


TBH I suspect this thing might be easier to push against with girls - the kid will happily play with superheroes, nerf guns, whatever, that are "boyish" and never give it a second thought, than the other way around where touching anything pink would be filled with social anxiety.
posted by Artw at 7:13 AM on December 23, 2013


That's our experience. My daughter will jump right into the middle of "boy" stuff, but my son will only grudgingly let on that he thinks MLP is funny. When he was a toddler, he was home with me and watching me cook, and so all he wanted was cooking toys. One of his first sentences was "I want cook", but now only my daughter touches that stuff. But with girls, everyone around you who isn't familiar with your daughter's tastes will set up a princess/pony/kitchen/baby/pink conveyor belt outside your house.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:20 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


TBH I suspect this thing might be easier to push against with girls - the kid will happily play with superheroes, nerf guns, whatever, that are "boyish" and never give it a second thought, than the other way around where touching anything pink would be filled with social anxiety.

This is exactly how we got where we are now.

This is why Warner Brothers releases a Batman movie and assumes both genders will see it, but is afraid to release a Wonder Woman movie. Because it's going to be a "chick flick", which presents two problems: A) you don't spend $300 million on a "chick flick", and B) a lot of the women who like superheros don't like "girl movies" and a lot of the women who like "girl movies" don't like superheroes.

If dudes would just TOUCH A FUCKING PURPLE SPARKLY THING every now and again, the problem would be quickly solved.
posted by Sara C. at 8:56 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


If dudes would just TOUCH A FUCKING PURPLE SPARKLY THING every now and again, the problem would be quickly solved.

I notice that, when some guys do decide to embrace something stereotypically female en masse, like say My Little Pony, large sections of the internet band together to deride them as being teh gay/creepy/perverts.
posted by JHarris at 6:25 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most of the "derision" I've seen for bronies is of two types, neither of them anything to do with being gay/perverts:

- highly uncool/dweeby; "You're into My Little Ponies, of all things?????"

- nonexistent; "I keep reading online that there are all these adult men who are into My Little Ponies. That can't possibly be real."

That said, yes, there is derision, and yes, it ultimately comes down to the fact that anything feminine is to be derided. I feel like, if a certain subset of guys were comfortable enough with themselves to put up with a little mocking about this sort of thing, this is a fight we could probably win. It's actually a pretty great front for guys who are supportive to feminism, to be honest. And it shouldn't be too hard to see progress, because ultimately these companies want to sell people things.
posted by Sara C. at 6:37 PM on December 23, 2013


I will happily deride adults who do creepy shit with My Little Pony because eww, come on, that's the show my kids watch.

Of course we're going beyond Brony into Furry here...
posted by Artw at 6:43 PM on December 23, 2013


I base my statements on what went down one or two pony-related threads ago, right here on the Blue.

Artw, I agree with you. But that thread showed that some people are not awfully willing to make that distinction, between Normal and Perverts, if it has to do with a group they are not a part of, they all get lumped with the weirdest anecdotes.

(Although from my observations [yes I'm working on a post], there's actually not a lot of overlap between bronies and furries; if you look hard enough you can certainly find examples though. And it turns out I know a furry in Actual Physical Reality, and I get the impression that he's as offended by the furry stereotype as anyone. I wouldn't doubt at all that the weirdest furries get all the attention.)
posted by JHarris at 7:00 PM on December 23, 2013


If dudes would just TOUCH A FUCKING PURPLE SPARKLY THING every now and again, the problem would be quickly solved.

I have a shirt that matches this description (not quite as Liberace, but close enough) in my wardrobe, and I have never been a ballroom dancer.
posted by Mezentian at 12:39 AM on December 24, 2013


Wish I saw this post sooner. I was a big DC fan for years. As a little girl I was exclusively buying DC books and merchandise, flinging my Meego Superman doll out of a moving car with some expectation he would fly. RIP, Supes!

As a teen, I continued buying DC stuff and did through university and as an adult. I bought statues and dug for vintage books, carrying shopping bags out of my comic book store every week.

Now, I do not spend a dime on DC stuff-- still love comics, but lost respect for DC. One myopic stunt and reboot too many and they have no sense of fun, anymore -- or even a spark of creativity. If they want to exclusively cater to depressed men and ignore the upbeat female consumer, it is their right to do so. I believe in supporting the economy, but not with another gloomy, angry book that fears estrogen...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:42 AM on December 28, 2013


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