I haz a sekrit.
I’m a comic book fan (no, that’s not the sekrit) who enjoys animated adaptations of comic book properties (that’s the sekrit). As a child of the 80s, there were two shows I enjoyed more than anything.
This is one:
This is the other:
When the 90s hit, I enjoyed a few more superhero animated series, such as:
Post-2000, I really loved watching the Justice League & Justice League Unlimited shows
and I thoroughly enjoyed Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (though I don’t care much for its successor):
I got to watch the Avengers show earlier this year, when I was jobless for 4 months (it was agonizing). During that time, I’d subscribed to Netflix and watched the entire first season of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Having awoken my slumbering love for superhero shows, I decided to watch the Green Lantern animated series (I’ve since cancelled Netflix, bc I’m not impressed with their inventory of movies and tv shows).
I also watched the latter half of Season 1 of Young Justice (a Cartoon Network show featuring the young protegés of various Justice League members as they sought to prove their worth as heroes).
Both shows had season-wide, overarching stories, which I tend to prefer in my shows (stand-alone stories are fine here and there, but I like the connective tissue provided by a serialized story format; sue me, I like continuity). I quite enjoyed both series (though I liked YJ more–it had more mature stories, had emotional resonance, had strong & prominently featured female characters, and featured a black male not just as a lead character, but the team leader), and was eager to watch subsequent seasons.
Guess what I found out? Cartoon Network cancelled Young Justice and Green Lantern! TV shows, whether live-action or animated, are cancelled all the time, so no big deal, right? That’s what I thought until I learned that Cartoon Network executives felt that too many girls and women were watching the Green Lantern and Young Justice. Apparently, the executives wanted those shows marketed primarily to boys. From io9:
Vi at agelfeygelach transcribed part of Dini’s conversation with Smith on the Fat Man on Batman podcast, during which he talks about the cancellation of Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Tower Prep. He explains that studios are looking to capture younger male viewers, “boys who are into goofy humor, goofy random humor,” and that they aren’t interested in the older Young Justice audience.
The key quotes come when Dini starts talking about the problems that he says executives perceive with female viewers (emphasis is Vi’s):
DINI: “They’re all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”
SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”
DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show—”
SMITH: “So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t—A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as f***ing boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ’em a T-shirt, man, sell them f***ing umbrella with the f***ing character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ’em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ’em a toy, what’s the point?’
DINI: “That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’—this is the network talking—’one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’ And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]’s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t—’ and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down—’Yeah, but the—so many—we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.'”
SMITH: “That’s heart-breaking.”
DINI: “And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. 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 the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.’”
If the decision to cancel both shows were based on ratings, or rising costs in animation, I could understand (if not like) the decision. But if what Dini says is true, Warner Brothers executives cancelled both shows (as well as Tower Prep) bc there were too many girls and women watching and they think those girls and women don’t buy toys. Though connected, those are really two separate issues.
Looking at the first, I can’t see the problem. For any product, whether it’s an animated television show or a vacuum cleaner or a car, it’s a good idea to market to multiple demographics because the more people a product appeals to, the greater likelihood that more people will buy the product. So it’s a good thing that girls and women were watching Green Lantern and Young Justice. Take them out of the equation and I wonder how badly the ratings would have declined. There’s no such thing as “too many people are watching this show”. No, what this translates to is “the wrong kind of people are watching these shows”. That’s a great message to send to fans (read that last sentence with oodles of sarcasm).
Looking at the second issue, I’m left thinking ‘so what?’ If girls and women don’t buy the toys they want, why not find out what they will buy and market to them accordingly? Don’t they have a marketing department for just that type of thing?! While not a perfect counter-example (and a different company), in 2013, Hasbro’s sale of boy’s toys fell by 35%. Their girl’s toy sales? They rose by 43%. Look at that! Girls buy toys! News at 11. Oh, and I’m gonna need some evidence before I’ll believe that girls and women don’t buy superhero action figures. I suspect Warner Brothers execs meant that girls and women don’t buy enough superhero toys. In which case, again, find a way to market those toys to them, or find another product based on the shows that girls and women will buy in the numbers they want. Puzzles. Books. Video Games. Hell, T-Shirts…like Kevin Smith suggested. But no, instead of doing that, Warner Brothers has sent a clear message. They’re ok with girls and women watching their shows, but they aren’t their primary concern. Boys and men? They’re the important ones. Because