If you’re the parent of young children who like to play with dolls and watch cartoons, chances are you’ve been dismayed at least once about the options available. Whether it’s the unfortunately named, and even more unfortunately dressed Bratz dolls, the often-maligned Barbie, or the how-much-do-they-cost American Girl dolls, it’s hard to win. And while some TV characters may emphasize kindness or strength, others are all about looking like a contestant on The Bachelor.
It can be hard to find many female characters that manage to exude strength, brains, and beauty.
But maybe, just maybe, Mattel gets it. Last week at New York Comic-Con, Mattel announced that a new show is on its way: DC Super Hero Girls. It involves a high school-age Wonder Woman who crosses paths, at the aptly named Super Hero High, with all sorts of strong female characters, including Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and principal Amanda Waller.
According to The Mary Sue, re-imagining the aforementioned DC female characters (plus Supergirl, Bumblebee, and Batgirl) called for a wide variety of experts including feminists, bloggers, and academics (a move Time magazine call “a game-changer”).
Mattel’s toy designer and chief operating officer said that the show’s corresponding action figures and dolls, which will be out next spring, “showcase the characters’ strengths and appeal to fans of all genders.” In order to make the dolls’ bodies appear more “strong and toned,” they used gymnasts, dancers, and basketball players as models, while also keeping in mind, that as high school students, they have not yet fully matured.
With flexible joints and clothing suited for someone aiming to kick ass not show some, Bloomberg Business reports Wonder Woman is “less buxom and more athletic,” as the “researchers found that girls didn’t want the superheroes to be too girly … One girl complained that the toys looked ‘more pretty than superhero,’ and another pointed out that Poison Ivy’s scarf would only get in the way during a fight. Wonder Woman, meanwhile, was too skinny and not athletic enough.”
Still, soft hair and actual clothes mean the dolls can still be petted and pampered, making them a hybrid that will perhaps appeal to a wider demographic that dolls that came before.
The DC Super Hero Girls certainly aren’t the be-all end-all solution to gender gender stereotyping in dolls and cartoon characters — not to mention real life — but it’s a step in the right direction. This shows that more brands and companies are recognizing that girls don’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, treated like delicate flowers.
Mattel joins Target and Disney in their recent efforts to knock down some of the gender walls that seem not only unnecessary, but old-fashioned. In making the world safer for kids to explore all toys, not just the pink ones for girls and blue for boys, these companies are walking the walk of a talk that has been going on for ages and, until recently, had been just that.More On