New Cartoon Network Series Portrays Girls And Women Central To The Story

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Superhero and action movies dominate the box office and are perennial hits across the world, yet it’s disappointing to see how under-represented female leads are in this genre. The number is actually fewer than one in ten where the leading film and TV characters from superhero films and TV series have been female: just 6.5% of releases feature a woman ‘hero’ in a starring role. The research by Will Brooker, Professor of Cultural Studies at Kingston University, was commissioned by The Cartoon Network to study the last 80 years of the on-screen superhero genre, and it revealed a massive gender bias. From over 150 superhero movies reviewed, just 13 of the leading female characters are female. and 66% include no major female characters at all.

Yet, despite strides taken by the entertainment industry to re-address the balance, the proportion of big-screen female-led comic book adaptations is a trend that is showing only a tiny 1% improvement. What’s more, 70% of superhero films released since 2000 portray females as the ‘Damsel in Distress’ – whose only role is to be saved by the leading man. While of the ten top-grossing superhero movies, none are centered around a female character; just three women are featured as part of a team. What’s more, 70% of superhero films released since 2000 feature a female character as a Damsel in Distress’ role, rather than the leading character.

With superheroes and heroines aiming to provide aspirational exaggerations of our best selves, The Bechdel Test - a measure which tests for negative gender stereotyping and sexism in works of fiction - suggests that since 2000, over half (51%) of all superhero films portray women as two-dimensional and non-essential to the plot. 

These findings prompted the Cartoon Network to launch ‘The Powerpuff Girls Emporium’ in London’s Soho, from 1 to 3 June, which celebrated kick-ass girls everywhere. Powerpuff Girls ambassador Alesha Dixon, launched the event, which featured a host of immersive experiences, to encourage kids to take on the ‘super cute and super fierce’ philosophy of The Powerpuff Girls. There was a Mojo Jojo punchbag, a PowerpuffYourself area with its own colouring wall, snake and rabbit petting and a power science café where visitors can experiment to their hearts content.

It’s important that women and girls have strong role models to aspire to, and that boys and men see female characters portrayed in the same roles as men, particularly in this genre. More characters like Wonder Woman and the new Captain Marvel are needed now more than ever, along with shows like The Powerpuff Girls. 

Photo Credit: The Powerpuff Girls Emporium