Sunday, December 29, 2013

SheZow and Gender Binary: Part 1

SheZow is an Australian/Canadian coproduced cartoon that was picked up by the Hub, and began airing in the states in June, 2013. The original pilot aired in 2007, as part of the Disney Shorty McShorts' Shorts show.


The story follows Guy, a twelve year old "extreme dude," as he is described by the official website. Guy and his family move into a home they inherited from his deceased Aunt Agnes. While Guy and his twin sister, Kelly, are unpacking boxes they discover a hidden ring that belonged to their Aunt. Kelly at once recognizes the ring as SheZow's ring. Guy doesn't believe that Agnes was secretly a superhero and puts the ring on, thus inheriting the SheZow powers that are normally passed down from aunt to  niece in their family line.


Guy must learn how to step up as a superhero, fighting crime while dressed as a woman.

When SheZow first began to air in America, One Million Moms expressed their concern:
"Everyone knows children are drawn to animated shows; both boys and girls love superheroes. This character especially will appeal to both boys and girls since the superhero represents both genders by cross dressing and being transgendered. This dude becomes the FEMALE superhero SheZow dressed in pink and purple."

They ended their statement with this:

"There is no doubt this superhero character will confuse kids. Children desire to be just like superheroes and will mimic a superhero's every action, even to the point of dressing up in costumes to resemble the characters as much as possible. It won't be long before little boys are saying, "I want to be a girl, so I can help people and save the world!"

These comments give incite into a certain conservative perspective. There is no differentiation made between a boy cross-dressing, being transgendered, or becoming a female. The fear of the shows' affects on children, particularly male children speaks  to One Million Moms opinion on gender norms. If seeing Guy become SheZow and fight crime would make a boy "wish to be a girl," one cannot help but wonder what the reaction of that same child would be if they watched a show with a female heroine who saved the world. There is a fear not just of cross-dressing, but a fear of a male child looking up to, or wishing to emulate, a female role model.
 
Looking at how few cartoons there are with female hero's that target both a male and female audience,  perhaps this fear is not isolated solely to conservative groups. But One Million Moms does make a good point about the show, it is clearly targeting both boys and girls. Having a rough and tumble guy like Guy turn pink, allows boys access to the kind of character that is normally reserved for "girly shows."
 
Though it currently airs on the Hub, the network co-owned by Discovery Communications and Hasbro, the character of SheZow pokes fun at many elements of the hyper-feminine, traditional female-targeted animation that companies in the eighties (like Hasbro) helped create.



 
Strawberry Shortcake (1980) tends to a farm in Strawberry Land where she lives in a cake made of strawberries with her pink cat, Custard. Hardworking and kind, she grows her garden with love and gentle tending. With the help of her friends, she keeps her town safe from the berry stealing Purple Pieman.


 
Rainbow Brite (1984) lives in a magical land at the end of the rainbow where colors come from. She uses her Color Belt to perform magic and good deeds, and her Star Sprinkles to help keep color in the world. Along with her friends, the Color Kids, she keep the kingdom of Rainbow Land safe and colorful.

 

Jerrica Benton's secret identity is that of the fashionable pink haired Jem (1985), a singing sensation. Her holographic computer, designed by her dead father, helps her create her secret identity and keeps her and her friends safe from danger.



Decked in pink, Lady Lovely Locks (1987) is loving and sweet. The colored streaks in her hair denote her royalty, and enable her to summon her friends, the Pixietales. These magical woodland creatures help Lady Lovely Locks keep her kingdom safe and beautiful using their "hair magic."


 


Using powers like Laser Lipstick, Sonic Scream, She-S-P (feminine intuition), Shelatability (empathy powers), and the Heavy Handed She-Slap, Guy fights crime as his fashionable super secret identity: SheZow. Always careful to maintain his feminine appearance while in costume (a bad hair day drains SheZow's powers), SheZow is a pink and powerful superhero. With the help of his sister, friend, and supercomputer, SheZow keeps his town safe from danger.
 
 
Part 2

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