Think and Share: Boys watching girls’ shows. Girls watching boys’ shows.

playing with dolls

Yesterday, I read an article on io9 that described an interview with Paul Dini in which he lamented the corporate mandate to gear “boys’ shows” exclusively to young boys and their “goofy random humor” (original interview and a partial transcription).

Relevant bit:

It’s like, ‘We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.’ We had a whole… we had a whole, a merchandise line for Tower Prep that they s***canned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, ‘Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but[sic] the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.'”

So what does this make you think about bronies? Their penchant for buying little pastel colored ponies? The nods that the creators have made towards this fandom? Why does it seem more difficult to go in the other direction, to make shows for boys that nod towards “girl stuff”?

Or to put a bit of an edge on the question: how come the girls’ show you love has four seasons, and the boys’ shows girls love have been canned?

Go where your heart desires!

5 thoughts on “Think and Share: Boys watching girls’ shows. Girls watching boys’ shows.

  1. I’m going to apologize in advance for the scattered nature of this. I just finished with finals about an hour ago and I’m a little frazzled…

    I’m not entirely sure this is a fair question because (as I understand it) shows like CIS and JAG were very popular with women, and both of them went on for a good long time. I would have to know more about the specific show that was cancelled to be able to say more. Then again, there are shows that everyone loves that are cancelled too… Firefly comes readily to mind.

    I think a lot of it comes down to luck, honestly. MLP arrived at the right time and struck just the right note with he right people to become a success. Even shows that try to imitate MLP, like Littlest Pet Shop, aren’t seeing the same success that MLP has.

    You also have to consider advertising when you talk about TV. For example, the cable network Spike use to play episodes of CSI all the time. It was difficult to ‘not’ find CSI playing on that network. CSI got really popular with women, so much so that the number of female viewers began to eclipse male viewers. This put the network in an odd spot because they ran under the image of a network for men, and they ran adds for men and products for men. Now they had some choices to make. They could either lose advertising revenue from male products, change the network image to include women and risk alienating their intended viewership, or pick up a new show to try to bring men back. Ultimately they decided to drop CSI and pick up something new, but the decision was motivated by advertising revenue more than anything else.

    I think it boils down to how narrowly one defines “girly” things on tv, especially in cartoons. All of us can probably agree that Jem and Rainbow Brite are very girly shows, but shows like Tailspin and Rescue Rangers aren’t. MLP is widely considered to be very girly, but what about it makes it so? Is it the female cast, the setting, the colors, the theme? Where do we, as a society, draw this line? It seems that anything neutral is attributed to boys and only ‘traditionally female’ things are considered girly. It may be difficult to fit a makeover into an episode of G. I. Joe, but it’s perfectly acceptable to fit a chase scene into MLP.

  2. I think Dini hits the nail on the head in the remainder of that interview: it’s because so many execs are idiots. Hasbro gets it. MLP isn’t continuing solely on the strength of bronies’ purchasing power; it’s a huge hit with little girls, too. Bear in mind that Hasbro only gets all of the proceeds from toy sales, which I’m sure still primarily go to little girls. (Though I’m not privy to the exact terms of their licensing agreements, they obviously can only get a portion from what WeLoveFine, Funko, EnterPLAY, et al. sell to bronies, since those companies need to profit, too.) They’re expanding their marketing to girls with their other properties, too, like Nerf’s new Rebelle sub-brand.

    Some other companies seem to get it, too. Pokemon has always had huge appeal across gender lines, as have a number of other Nintendo properties. Disney might have gotten some flak for de-girly-fying the marketing for Frozen to appeal more to boys, but it remains a story about sisterly affection, and if those marketing choices do get more boys to the theater and they leave liking a movie like that, then it’s great on many levels.

    Then there are companies that are utterly clueless. It’s no secret that DC has been stinking up everything lately. I haven’t watched Cartoon Network since the ’90s because almost nothing new they’ve done since then has remotely interested me. (Yes, yes, Adventure Time is still sitting on my Netflix queue waiting for me to have time for another new series. One in a decade isn’t a lot to crow about, especially considering how they used to churn out brilliant original series.)

    It’s obvious from what Dini is saying here that these execs still see appealing to boys and to girls as mutually exclusive, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Why would you not want to promote a series that appeals to your target group just because it also appeals to another group? It can only be that they think if more girls like it, that will erode the number of boys who like it, which is utter nonsense.

    1. Something else to note is that there are, in fact, traditional guys’ media that have been proactively and successfully recruiting female fans. The NFL has been growing its female audience by leaps and bounds for at least a few years now, following on the heels of NASCAR doing the same. I don’t know if they’ve been as successful, but WWE is clearly trying as well with shows like Total Divas on E!. It’s all more evidence that those who think a diverse fanbase is a problem don’t know what they’re doing.

  3. Just to throw my two bits in here; I think it just comes down to Hasbro realizing it has an untapped revenue stream from the Brony community. Like Danny and Ben have mentioned already, Hasbro has been smart enough to recognize opportunity when it has been knocking. It also happens to encourage a positive response from the fandom, starting what I’d call a positive reinforcement loop of enthusiasm.

    1. I read about a month ago that the “female toys” division of Hasbro has experienced a 400% growth in sales over the last few years. I have no idea how that breaks down by demographic, so I can’t say for sure how much of that is from bronies, or little girls, or royalties from other companies, or any of the information that would be really interesting. But it does show that MLP has been incredibly successful for Hasbro, and they don’t wanna do anything that may jeopardize numbers like that.

      I also think it would be interesting to see how much of the brony fanservice is directed by Hasbro and how much comes from the show staff themselves. I know that the writers and VAs and such are really appreciative of the brony community and are always throwing little nods our way, but I have no idea how involved Hasbro is in any of those decisions.

      I think the real lesson to be learned here is that people will watch good tv regardless of how the show is geared. It can be primarily a girls show or a boys show, but so long as it’s a good show everyone will watch it. That seems to be the disconnect we’re seeing. Execs are only interested in the quick buck to be made from a small target demo and then they move on to the next quick buck with another flash in the pan show with no broad appeal. Hasbro seems to have realized that if you make one really good show and cultivate it with broad appeal, you get to ride the money train all the way to the bank.

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