Paul Dini (kingofbreakfast) wrote,
  • Mood: annoyed

Rooty-toot

The other day I read on the Cartoon Brew website that actress Geena Davis is spearheading a group to reduce female stereotyping in cartoons. She recently spoke at the National Conference for Media Reform and you can read the full transcript of her speech here:

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/03/08/1443236

While everyone can applaud Ms. Davis for taking an interest in what her children watch on TV, once again the animation industry is under the scrutiny of people who have never noticed the artform before, and now that it has fallen in their laps, find it lacking. It's easy to tell that Ms. Davis has never watched, or at least never paid much attention to the cartoons she tries to use to prove her point. Instead, it seems she is relying on the glibness of a speechwriter who has also never seen the cartoons (at least not many of them) and is drawing from comfy old half-truths and stereotypes about the characters. I must have seen every classic Donald Duck cartoon made and outside of showing off a new hat she once bought, I never saw Daisy Duck spend any time shopping. (Then again, she's a horrible caricature of the stereotypical "naggy female" in "Donald's Diary" so she is probably not the best role model.) And wasn't Minnie Mouse in a series of cartoons like "First Aiders" where she was shown as taking a proactive part in the homefront war effort? Fairly tame by today's standards for sure, but it was something.

It seems while selectively ignoring or alternately dwelling on the past, Ms. Davis has also ignored current female characters like Kim Possible, Juniper Lee, the girls on THE PROUD FAMILY, many more from contemporary children's anime (TOTORO, anyone?) and even Sandy the squirrel on SPONGEBOB. Are they favorite characters of mine? Not really (well, except for TOTORO) but they certainly seem to fit the roles that Ms. Davis says TV and animated movies are currently lacking. And they are an encouraging sign to show that attitudes toward female characters, especially lead heroines, are changing. In feature films, Elastigirl AKA Mrs. Incredible is smart, funny, caring and tough, one of the best heroines in live action or animated films, period.

I also found it both amusing and depressing that not one word was mentioned about the deluge of contemporary negative sterotyping aimed directly toward young girls, such as those freakish poster girls for baseless entitlement The Bratz or the grotesquely overmerchandised Disney Princesses. Today's girls sure live in a schizoid society -- prodded by their parents to be proactive doers and thinkers like Dora and Kim, yet encouraged to act like spoiled celebrities and princesses and magically "have it all!"

I don't mind people voicing pro and con opinions on animation or any other art form. Intelligent discussion sparks ideas that often lead to change. But people should at least have some general idea of what they are talking about before launching another "crusade" against evil animation. It reminds me of a short poem by Walt Kelly, a fine cartoonist well adept at skewering self-righteous do-gooders:

The rooty-toot-toot of the very minute,
The booty-boot-boot of the band,
The cutey-cute-cute of the less than astute
Shivers and shudders the land.
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