Friday, 28 November 2014

Why Hollywood, toy companies and clothes companies are letting superhero fangirls down - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Lego Batman gets his own standalone movie before Batgirl even gets a whiff of a big franchise-builder. Not atypical, sadly.
The title of this blog post pretty much sums up my day today. It started with a trip into town to pick up some clothes for Charlotte. We visited a popular high street chain (H & M) to buy a couple of white T shirts for her nativity.

Browsing around, I noticed two things

1) Girls get a slightly larger clothes section than the boys (fair enough, girls are - I guess - more interested in clothes than boys, perhaps?)

2) Girls get absolutely no options for licensed clothing lines other than the usual cute pony, hello kitty or ballet / princess / pink pink PINK stuff.

What incensed me was the fact that the boys section carried a fairly hefty selection of comic and superhero-based clothes. T-Shirts, pyjamas, dressing gowns, dressing up clothes, even flipping UNDERPANTS all adorned with characters from the moneyspinning movies that drive merchandise sales to such lofty heights. I would dearly have loved to have seen even one or two items featuring our header image star (Batgirl) or even Captain Marvel (who we'll have to wait all the way till 2018 for, to be Marvel's first big and proper female led franchise movie star). No such luck though in store but if you dive onto the H & M website, things are a little more positive…Awesome Batgirl T Shirt but it's fairly lean pickings! Most other high street chain stores do absolutely nothing superhero-ey for girls at all, let alone entire sections of the store given over to awesome girl comic or superhero movie characters (you can't sodding MOVE for Elsa and Anna / Frozen stuff though, blechhh!)

I came home, heavy hearted, wondering if my efforts to get Charlotte interested in comics were all for nought because eventually I'd have to explain to her why big players like Marvel and DC consistently let women and girls down, providing female character only when they can shoehorn them in for a bit of a sprinkle of sex appeal or just to tick a few demographic boxes (I don't agree that a Standalone Black Widow movie would've been awesome, Black Widow in movie form is a waste of space compared to her comic book counterpart. As for the upcoming Wonder Woman cameo from DC, I would dearly love to be proved wrong that her first appearance in Bats vs Supes is going to be anything more than eye candy to please male viewers, when we all know that an effective standalone movie would've really been preferable).

Fantastic female superhero characters exist despite a male-dominated industry (thankfully with more and more women kicking ass and putting together some of the best stories and artwork out there at the moment, and more and more men paying proper homage to well established female superhero characters by giving them a depth and dimension that stretches far beyond just being 'pretty' and 'clever').

An evening's conversation with Charlotte made me feel a little better. I asked her if she would wear a superhero costume to a party. She said she would, and that she would dress as Batman (interesting that - not Batgirl, but Batman!)

I asked about Spiderman ("I Don't like him, he's rubbish!" she answered (!) and Superman (Again she seems to be a DC girl, she would dress as Supes). Then I moved on to a few well known and less-well-known female superheroes. Wonder Woman she knew, had no idea who Captain Marvel was (understandably), no She-Hulk, no Oracle (Barbara Gordon) though she knew who Batgirl was (there's a whole level of awesomeness that could be constructed from an Oracle origin movie).

In most cases she seemed to prefer the idea of female superheroes who weren't just 'girl' versions of the male ones, also quite interesting from the perspective of trying to construct a franchise around something where a male character is already well established and bringing in vast amounts of coinage from movies and merch.

I pushed the conversation a bit. "Would she wear a Batman T Shirt if it was in the boy's section of a store" (this was how H & M was divvied up, and it's how just about every other clothes store with kid clothes in it is arranged too). She wouldn't, and I asked why - and she answered "Because it says it's for boys!" - I tried to point out that a boy's T shirt is no different to a girl's but the labelling won out (believe me, I won't let THAT one slide when she's old enough not to fall for that ridiculous gender pigeonholing).

So many excellent folk I converse with on Twitter and Facebook, and in the hazy real world (with their own mighty girls at home, their own comic fans both girl and boy who would love to see female superheroes where they belong - up there right next to the male ones) would be as annoyed about all this as I am, but after a day like this, it still feels like despite the best efforts of amazing folk like those behind "A Mighty Girl" and the wholly brilliant Tumblr "Little Girls are Better at Designing Superheroes than You" the rotten core of the problem still exists, still bugs the hell out of everyone, and still seemingly crawls toward no foreseeable satisfactory resolution.

(Apologies if this reads like an extended rant. There are truly wonderful folk out there involved in comics who will be able to read this and hand on heart swear they're doing their utmost to redress the imbalance and to them I offer a huge thanks, because they're working towards a better future for our comic-loving kids, both girls and boys).