She fought evil by moonlight.
She won love by daylight. She boasted a meatball-esque hairstyle that Shoshanna Shapiro would kvell over. She was the one named Sailor Moon, and she was a hero to so many misfit girls of the mid-'90s, myself included. So naturally, when I caught wind of the power released reboot, Sailor Moon CrystalI dove right in. I had notes, obviously, and I messaged my friend to see if she had grievances of her own.
I could relate.
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And Sailor Moon's not only the only cartoon heroine getting a facelift tummy tuck? With a new The Powerpuff Girls sexy and live-action Jem movie both slated forit seems like all our power animated girls groups are making a comeback. And the women of the comic world are getting their day in the sun, too: DC Comics' Batgirl is getting an outfit redesign and Gotham's version of Williamsburg to protect in an sexy reboot; Marvel's Thor is going to be a woman ; and Marvel's President hopes to make a female-fronted superhero film, you know, eventually.
Girl Power, amirite? Not so fast. It's progress, animated be sure, but we've still got a ways to go. Even in a post- The Hunger Games world, female-fronted films are few and far between. Animated why a talking raccoon got a movie before Wonder Woman. Then there's the fact that, in a study conducted by Dr. Stacy L. Smith of the Annenberg School of Communication old balck women facked Crystal Allene Cooke of The Geena Animated Institute on Gender in Media, it was found that women in children's shows were four times as likely to be shown in sexy attire, and twice as likely to be girl with a diminutive waist.
Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge that the micro-mini skirts and slender figures of girl Sailor Scouts are attributes indicative of Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi's artistic style. But it doesn't detract from the fact that animators have the choice to draw the female form however they want, and consistently, they choose an exaggerated, super slim form that can instill weird body image issues in kids.
More problematic is when hypersexuality comprises the whole character of a female-fronted heroine. If you squirting teen pussy shot a one-dimensional female character, nobody's going to be properly invested in her sexy. I turned to Christy Marx, the original creator of Jemfor some insight.
Marx is not involved with the upcoming Jem movie, and while she respects what director John Chu is doing, she has concerns that the female voice and perspective weren't girl represented.
When I asked what her original vision was when she conceived the truly outrageous '80s show, her answer stunned me with its simplicity. I thought about it in terms of making a compelling show with interesting characters that would keep kids watching.
I'm fundamentally a storyteller. My goal was to tell good stories. Marx thinks we're making some headway. Though on the bigger screen, I think the characters in Frozen are something of a breakthrough.
A thousand times "Yes" on the Frozen sexy, but god, I still get animated when I remember that they probably didn't call it The Snow Queen out of fear of losing a male audience. Now, I have a weird confession: I don't think the success of a female-fronted reboot is our problem directly. That is, the late Gen-Xers and Millenials who grew up with these shows can afford to be disappointed, as we'll digest and regurgitate any flaws all over the Internet.
We'll deal. It's our daughters I worry about. An 8-year-old girl is not concerned with whether a cartoon girl showcasing positive female friendships or instilling proto-feminist values. She just wants to be entertained. Beyond that, a more introspective child may think, "Oh, Sailor Moon is short and pudgy like me, maybe I could be a superhero, too.
Representation, in itselfis paramount.
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And representation on the screen does not happen without representation behind it. Succeeding at this, you can establish a long-lasting cross-generational franchise, and then it's not just Batman and Power and goddamn Raccoon Lad getting their stories told over and over again.
You'll have the Powerpuff Girls fighting crime before bedtime, Jem and the Holograms working to succeed in music to save the Starlight Foundation, or the Sailor Scouts joining forces to protect the planet from the Negaverse.
We need to stand behind strong women writers who won't treat an audience of young girls as a niche demographic, who can acknowledge that a show with aesthetics that are "soft" or sparkly or characteristically feminine power still have depth, and will write powerful, multidimensional female characters.
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