geenad2.jpg geenad2.jpg

Geena Davis on Cartoons


Actress Geena Davis spoke at the National Conference for Media Reform in January, discussing her new foundation, See Jane. This group seeks to reduce gender stereotypes, and encourages an increase of female characters in the media–particularly in children’s media. In her speech, she discussed the history of female cartoon characters. Although her facts may not be completely accurate, she certainly makes a valid point. Her speech was broadcast this morning on public radio’s Democracy Now!.

DAVIS: “Do you remember the kinds of stuff that they made for us, for kids, in the oldie old days? Let’s see, the first animation, of course, was Disney’s Minnie Mouse and… Daisy Duck, who didn’t really do much at all, except ask to go shopping, I think. There were a lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons — Magilla Gorilla, Wally Gator, George of the Jungle — virtually no female characters. I had a vague recollection that Yogi Bear had a girlfriend, and I searched and searched, and I finally found her, Cindy Bear, as you all remember…”

“…On the Looney Tunes website, they list twelve characters, and only one of them is female, but it’s the great one. It’s the one you all love and remember the best: Granny. She’s the one who owns Tweety, and she has to leave so that the story can happen.”

Geena rips into the Smurfs, Judy Jetson, Winnie The Pooh as well. It’s very entertaining. The whole transcript is posted at the Democracy Now! website, and you can also download a streaming video of the speech.

  • And what about the slew of “Disney Princesses” that did relatively…um…nothing. Snow White cleans…dances a little…um…cleans some more? Cinderella…cleans…goes to a dance. Aurora…uh, wanders around with seemingly no mind of her own. Jasmine…whines. At least they pushed the bar a tiny bit with the “rebellious” Ariel (oh, wait, she rebels because she’s in love with a complete stranger. How invigorating), and at least the best and most human by far are the female characters Lilo and her sister (tho notice they are not at the coveted “princess” level). I wouldn’t go into this too far tho myself…I can’t change the past nor am I anything the feminist.

    If anything I’d say things have gotten better for female cartoon roles (though Disney just doesn’t quite get it…with their slew of new and improved “Young and annoying” female leads as opposed to the “Domestic Stepford Wives”).

  • She raises very good points.
    At least Lilo and Nani are around.

    Let’s hope she doesn’t overhear how Warner Bros has made Tweety into a girl now apparently. Oh joy.

  • Well, we have made a little bit of progress with Powerpuff Girls, Kim Possible and Dora the Exploder—oops, Explorer.

    I was once told by an executive that having a female lead character for a series pitch is practically a guarantee that other execs won’t pick up the show at the particular studio/network that I wanted to pitch to. I asked, “Even with the success of PPG?” and they replied that PPG was seen as an exception to the rule.

    So, do animators who make pitches automatically pitch stuff with male characters because they themselves tend to be male, or do execs shoot down pitches with female leads because they assume that little boys won’t watch shows featuring girls, even if those girls aren’t Barbie/Bratz/princesses?

  • Hulk

    Are you SERIOUS?!?!?!? In this day and age is there nothing better to complain about? As if the animation industry weren’t bad enough with people who don’t know what they’re talking about breathing down the artists necks now THIS? Arggh this is agitating! None of the famous characters were black, jewish or gay either so why don’t we censor them for THOSE reasons too? If Geena Davis is so concerned she should put her energy toward making an entertaining female cartoon character that everybody wants to watch rather than complaining about the past. ARGGGH!!!!!

  • Anastasia Lee

    Funny, growing up watching cartoons… lotsa cartoons, I never once thought of any of the “non-human” characters (from the likes of Hanna Barbera, or Warner Bros cast), in terms of gender. Even now as I watch cartoons with my son, I’m not thinking “omigosh where are all the strong female lead roles in Sponge Bob?”
    Lighten up Geena. The death knell for any creative industry is trying to please all while offending none.

  • It’s unfair to judge animation from the past based on todays standards. How can you make out Disney and Hanna-Barbera and the like to be anti-feminist villians? Was the rest of society any different? They were products of their generations, just like todays animators are products of theirs. I would rather see Geena Davis take shots at todays animation and how it can be improved.

  • Blah Blah Blah.
    I worked on a movie with 3 female leads. Everytime we had any of the characters do anything remotely interesting, someone would jump all over us and say “You can’t do that, you’re making her look mean/selfish/stupid/unreasonable etc.” The male leads are ALWAYS easier because you can make them as flawed as you want and everyone loves it. You even think of loading some flaws into a female character and a world of hurt comes down on you.

  • I totally agree with Hulk!! How petty & stupid can you get!?

    Does NO one remember that THE first toon character WAS a female!? Does the name “Gertie” ring a bell??

  • Geena Davis’s “points” have been repeated ad nauseum by many people before her, and they’re always misguided. Like her rant that “Winnie the Pooh” only has Kanga. It’s that kind of worrying about alleged underrepresentation of women that’s led Disney to ditch Christopher Robin for some new girl character in their proposed CGI show. All that the rabble rousers produce are token female characters who are entirely defined by being rolemodel admirable; they owe their existence only to political correctness. I say let creatives create female characters that have actual significance in the story, and have character depth that goes beyond “I’m a PC female character” ( Chris Sanders created two such characters indeed. ).

  • Ha ha, I love the line about Granny. If all feminist screeds were that funny, I’d convert.

    Disney tried like hell to create positive role models for girls for over a decade, culminating in “supergirl” movies like Pocahontas and Mulan. Whatever entertainment potential they may have had was comprimised by a pervasive feeling of insincerity. Chris Sanders hit the nail on the head with Lilo and Nani, the freshest and most realistic girls ever animated. They were plenty likable too.

    I think we all know that anytime you put a minority in a cartoon, you gotta step on eggs to avoid tirades like this. Just make a waspy guy your lead, and you can blast away. Doh!

  • The two greatest female cartoon characters are Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. Both strong, unique and individual characters. One for being sexy and beautiful, the other for the opposite.

    An interesting character is such because of flaws, in this case, a sex pot and a string bean. But the price to pay for being captivating is possibly having negative qualities and offending certain members of your audience.

    So is Genna Davis looking for a strong character or a vanilla, boring character who won’t offend?

    Besides, I’d think today there are more female characters in animation than ever before… Of course the characters are smart, but not too smart… pretty, but not to pretty… and very very… vanilla.

    Except for the female villains! But they’re negative characters with flaws and not good role models…

  • Robolizard

    She’s definitely not calling for censorship [jeez, Hulk mad…], and she has a more than valid point, but children’s entertainment is getting a LOT better in terms of gender diversity; Frankie on FHFIF, the PPGs, DeeDee… of course these are all from a while ago, but all of those cartoons are even older.

    Plus anime doesnt really have a problem with gender balance, and neither do its US inspirations such as Teen Titans or Ben10. Its still imperfect but certainly improved.

    As for the other diversities…

  • Huh. I still think Geena Davis is kind of cute.

  • I think her role as the first female president has gotten to her head.

  • Floyd Norman

    Geena, Geena, Geena!

    They’re just cartoons.

  • stavner

    Does she mention Gadget Hackwrench? I’d love to see that character make a comeback.

  • So we’re supposed to seriously consider a foundation by someone whose animation knowledge stops at 1984? How hard is it to use Google or Wikipedia before she makes a speech before a crowd? She has to stretch all the way back to Hanna Barbara characters that were designed in the 50’s and 60’s with almost no relevance to what’s happening in animation now. Does she know that the Smurfs were orginally a Belgian comic strip? Does she know that Winnie The Pooh began as children’s novels in 1926? But then if she were paying attention to MODERN times maybe she would have known about Disney’s recent killing of Christopher Robin, replacing him with a helmeted, CG girl, Darby. Perhaps she would like that bit of historical destruction. Maybe she should be more concerned about how Disney doesn’t pay Tinker Bell royalties to the Ormond Street Hospital, denying money to actual suffering children. But no. She doesn’t mention any recent progress in female characters. No mention of the number of strong female characters in anime such as Kiki’s Delivery Service and any number of Miyazaki’s films.

    Dear Geena Davis, please erase your bikini clad self in Earth Girl’s are Easy from my mind before lecturing about Miss Piggy’s boobs.

  • Zee

    life and times of JUNIPER LEE
    DORA the explorer

    Nuff’ said.

  • I like Geena Davis. She’s a very appealing actress whose movies I have enjoyed. Still, I’d have to say she’s sort of offbase with these views.

    Judy Jetson is not a real teenaged girl – Judy is a stylized cartoon of a cute teen girl. Therefore, her proportions are exaggerated to create an appealing, caricatured version of a cute teen girl. Likewise, little brother Elroy has the typical proportions of what Preston Blair dubbed the “Cute” character: big head, little pear-shaped body, small hands and feet, etc. This is what the art of cartooning is all about. It caricatures reality, rather than merely replicating it visually.

    One of the problems we have in fact today is that too many women who just don’t “get” cartoons are calling the shots, resulting in both male and female characters that are set up to be good “role models” rather than just funny cartoon “types”. This affects not only their personality, but also results in awkward and bland character designs.

    In regards to recent vintage Disney heroines, I happen to like Ariel’s feisty, yet appealing and fun teen in “The Little Mermaid”. I was somewhat less enchanted by the more mature Belle and, most notably, the oh-so-noble, yet boring Pocahontas in their respective movies. Is there some unwritten law that says a girl character is not supposed to be funny anymore? I’d agree with Jessica’s comment above that Lilo is one of the best female characters in recent years – she’s a very eccentric, wacky but endearing kid, and therefore comes off as a sincere personality that the audience can enjoy. I’d like to see the same sense of fun applied to more of Disney’s age 16 and up female characters.

  • progosk

    thank heaven for miyazaki’s shojo/heroines (kiki, satsuki&mei, nausicaä, chihiro, sophie…). (more here.)

  • istya

    Um…who cares? What difference does it make, really? Does anyone really truly believe that more female characters in animation will make the world a better place? That’s just dumb. People starving all over the world and she’s crying about some sort-of imaginary character gender bias….unbelievable.

  • Has she ever even tried to draw a girl? They’re haaard.

  • Robolizard

    Oh, and George of the Jungle is not Hanna Barbera. That’s a pretty blatant error.

  • Geena may not imply or intend censorship but that’s exactly what will come of it once this stuff hits the producer filter. Artists, writers, animators, even colorists are already under enough pressure from executives to ruin their work without one more personal cause shoved on to them — especially from someone who only has a vague idea of what they’re talking about.

    What I predict will come of this foundation is one more hack job on an established “franchise” somewhere: like the creation of another Tiny Toons or Loonatics, or the all girl Tinker Bell line, you’ll just see more of classic cartoons “updated” because Hollywood hates to take a chance on something new. They’d much rather alter something that already has a history. Which will in turn divert more studio money to more lifeless schlock where instead they could have been allocated to something good and original.

    This is really the same mentality that lead to Turner editing out the gunshots in the Bugs Bunny classic, Rabbit Seasoning.

    If Geena really wants to make a difference she can get involved with helping female animators and cartoonists, not the characters they create.

  • Daniel

    yet when they base a show entirely around girls they always end up being incredibly patronizing or horribly stereotyped, or just plain boring. I think the best females characters around at the moment are… Kim Possible and… Penny Proud?

    There’s also Mighty B which could potentially be funny, the first episode was a little hit or miss on the comedy but there’s room for improvement. with time The Mighty B could be another decent female character.

    The trick is not to create a female character merely to be female or else you will end up with patronizing crap, but actually get a female that knows how to be funny and has strong charisma that goes beyond shopping and looking pretty. A Lucille Ball type or even a Sarah Silverman type.

    stuff like “totally spies” is retarded beyond belief. Can girls actually look up to that crap as a decent role-model?

  • Maybe Granny had to leave for the action to start, but once she returned and saw what was going on, she usually brained Sylvester with an umbrella. And let’s not forget she took Tweetie to Venice once – obviously a strong, curious, independent woman of means!

    If Ms. Davis thinks the WB cartoons would have profited from strong female characters who acted like male characters, that would be an interesting debate. If Daffy had been a girl, would Bugs have tricked Elmer into shooting him in the head six times in a row? Probably not. Such a show of deference would send a bad message: Girls are too weak to withstand several close-range bill-spinning buckshot blasts. Of course, if Elmer did shoot Daffina, it would promote violence against female waterfowl. You probably can’t win.

  • searched and searched for female characters in Hanna Barbera and all she came up with was Cindy Bear?

    Josie and the Pussycats

    I guess she didn’t search too hard. ;)

  • I remember somewhere on one of the Toy Story DVDs was an extra where all the key crew named their favourite characters. One of the female executive producers named Jessie ‘because she’s such a positive female character’.
    I wanted to reach through the screen and smack her.
    Jessie was a COOL CHARACTER because that’s JUST how she was created – the fact that she was a girl was irrelevant. Don’t you dare imply that Pixar were being all PC when they created Jessie, woman.

    God, it steams my bean when non-animation people start spouting on how we should be doing our jobs, especially when their facts are outright wrong. At least Whoopi Goldberg is a comic fan.

    I don’t tell you how to act, Gina.

  • Ashram12

    Long time reader of this blog, first time I’m commenting. And also, I do not work in animation, which is maybe why I actually agree with what Geena Davis said.
    From what I read, Geena Davis isn’t advocating censoring the Looney Tunes cartoons because there’s only one female character, she is merely stating that times haven’t changed much. And she’s not just criticizing animation but also live action movies. Let’s take for instance the Harry Potter movies (not a Harry Potter fan, so I may be wrong), I count about 5 male main characters (Harry, his red-haired friend, his blond nemesis, Snape, and Dumbledore) and just one female character (Hermione). At the very least Hermione isn’t a bombshell, which is usually what the lone female character is relegated to be. While I can empathize with the pain of having a non-creative making creative decisions, Geena makes a valid point. And personally, I think the only way we’ll see some positive changes in gender and minority representationin the media is if more women and minorities actually worked in the entertainment industry (and not just as actors).

  • fishmorg

    But… but, but what about Minerva Mink, or Fifi LaFume???

  • Her arguments are stupid and stupidly presented. She conveniently overlooks Olive Oyl, an unglamorized heroine always prominent in Popeye cartoons who acts as mediator in the macho battles between Popeye and Bluto. And Wilma Flintstone, who is always one step ahead of husband Fred and clearly the mature person in that relationship. Not every storyline lends itself to sexual equitability, nor should it have to. I haven’t listened to her entire speech, but for someone who was exposed to all this unfair-to-women Hanna Barbera stuff while growing up, she seems to have turned out fairly well… he said diplomatically.

  • Geena Davis is obviously proud of her performance in “Thelma and Louise” and the way it may have helped to “empower” women. Likewise, her role as the first female president in “Commander in Chief”. I’ve no problem with that, as I believe these were indeed great characters she created. But so too were her roles as the ditzy, teeny-bikini clad valley girl in “Earth Girls Are Easy” and the eccentric yet endearing Muriel Pritchett of “The Accidental Tourist”.

    My point is that female characters in animation have in fact run the gamut of character “types” in just as wide a range as the live-action ladies Geena has had the opportunity to play onscreen. Ironically, the cartoon gals are usually smarter than their male counterparts, as Tim Lucas just pointed out, including Wilma and Betty, Jane Jetson, Marge and Lisa Simpson, etc, etc. So it’s only fair that those in-control dames are balanced out with the occasional, helpless damsel-in-distress, like Olive Oyl or Penelope Pitstop, as well as the overt sexpots like Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit. If Geena would watch more cartoons, I’m sure she’d find all sorts of interesting cartoon gals out there.

  • Charles

    The thing about most of these characters is they’re intended to be funny. They’re not role models; most parents wouldn’t want their kid acting like Yogi Bear anyway. The lack of female characters in animation is more a sign of the perception that women aren’t funny. Plus most people don’t seem to want female characters to be drawn funny looking, like Fred and Barney are. What people need to figure out is what’s funny about women. Olive Oyl is one of the few characters that did that.
    Why Women Aren’t Funny

    And to me something like Kim Possible where there’s a girl hero but she’s some kind of cheerleader is about as progressive as Charlie’s Angels.

  • Wasn’t the 90s full of positive animated female characters?
    Babs Bunny, Dot Warner, Marge Simpson, Bat-Girl, Super-Girl, Lola Bunny, Turanga Leela, Slappy Squirrel, Elisa Maza, Hello Nurse, Shirley McLoon, Powerpuff Girls…

  • I’m afraid I must take exception to Davis’ comment that the character of Granny had to “leave the room so the story could happen.” She was, after all, the obstacle to Sylvester’s attempts to get Tweety–that is, she drove the stories and created the conflict. She *was* the story, for heaven’s sake.

    The exact title of the cartoon escapes me, but I do remember one in which she’s a tenant of a hotel. Sylvester, dressed as a bellboy, thinks he’s absconded with Tweety’s birdcage with Tweety in it, only to remove the cover and discover Granny stuffed inside, ready to clobber him! No shrinking violet, this one, and loopy as she could be at times, you knew there was a lot going on in that head of hers.

    In other words, she had personality, just as her predecessors Olive Oyl and Betty Boop had.

    Not to mention she could be incredibly funny in her own right–one of my earliest memories of Warner Bros. cartoons were of her threatening to send Sylvester to the violin string factory, miming playing a violin and humming a dirge as she does so. Funny stuff.

  • Sure there have been tons of female animation characters, anyone who KNOWS about animation would say that. But I guess in the past they were often just shown as homeworkers or objects of men’s (or the male characters’) interest. But actresses in Hollywood were portrayed in the same way until not too long ago, and still are! Why attack the drawings, Geena?!? Whhhhhyyyyyy?!?

  • intergalactic

    What a joke, how many times has she played a hussy in the movies?

  • Jorge Garrido

    Here’s my ignorant unfounded theory.

    1. Most cartoonists were men.

    2. Men don’t really understand women.


    3. Men have toruble writing female characters.

    So Either:

    4a. They write them in a shallow manner.


    4b. They avoid them.

  • Serin

    Well, Jorge, I’m happy you admit your own opinion is ignorant, even though there was no need for the extra info. Can you even name one female cartoonist to contrast with your theory?

  • Kevin Wollenweber

    Gena Davis isn’t the only one who has commented on cartoons in this way, but my only real problem with what she says here, aside from points that others have already broughtout, is that unfortunately the industry as a whole looks down on the art of animation as kids’ adorable baby-sitters.

    I’m with the individual(s) who wish that Gena Davis pushed harder to see that women and minorities in animation are acknowledged and encouraged to be expressive in their own way. Interesting new characters, whether male or female, don’t come about with the nudging of political correctness; they come about and are latched onto because they are thoroughly fascinating and kids of all genders enjoy them with all their faults.

    As much as some of Gena Davis’ comments are wrong, so is the feeling that “they’re just cartoons.” Cartoons are not out there to be just an educational tool or eye candy. It is an art form and, unless we diversify that art form, it will always be relegated to what it is still now!!

    Look at some modern animated shorts (that never get seen in wide distribution, by theway), and note that some of these artists are looking at their craft as just that, a medium as varied as its live action counterpoint. Animation can speak to art and design and the absolute joy of filmmaking just as modern filmmaking does, but even film critics, when reviewing animated film, look at whether or not a child will be frightened or whether lead characters are good role models. When animation is allowed to speak to the times in which they live or just reflect it back at us in lucid ways, it will just be lowered almost to the point of a piece of chalk on a blackboard. Let the art flourish as it should, then acknowledge what great things it has to say to all of us.

  • Zoe

    DARIA, for God’s sake!

  • slowtiger

    She doesn’t ask to censor old cartoons, she just states that, in her eyes, things in general haven’t changed that much, and to that I agree. The examples already mentioned are just a small percentage of the world wide animation output. Sure there are some fine smart female characters – but the great majority of productions still is stuck with the very same old chlichés.

    IMO, films tend to fit into one of two groups: one is constructed of and dealing with stereotypes, the other is about characters and individuality. Stereotypes can be much fun, I enjoy most classical animation just because of their clever play with stereotypes. It isn’t even an old-fashioned kind of entertainment. I very much like “Navy CIS”, although the whole personnel of that series with all their tweaks and oddities is just a good mixture of well-known stereotypes.

    I estimate that more than 90% of animation production belongs to that first group. The remaining few which deal with characters who are highly individual … there’s just not many examples from classical cartoons here.

    I’d say: put more females into your cartoons. If you play on formula, at least mix the ingredients for good. If you use stereotypes, use them in unexpected and interesting ways. If you have a bunch of characters of different professions, talents, and roles within the group, give an extra though about who’s going to be male or female. I think this is what Geena asked for, and it’s really not much.

  • Robert Igoe

    Oh and I’m surprised Geena didn’t complain about all those scenes on GI joe where Lady Jaye and Scarlett just stayed home and made cookies for the rest of the Joes…Oh no wait a minute, that’s right, the women on that series more than held their own with the men. Wonder why Geena didn’t notice that. Oh wait, it was a cartoon with a pro-military theme and the women and men in it were portrayed as equal in intelligence, ability and courage, not where the men were all dumb as a brick and having to be saved by the intellectually and ethically superior women. Could it be that Geena and her friends only want the “RIGHT” strong female role models for girls?

    Besides, standing up and whining about cartoon characters is a hell of a lot easier than getting off your ass and actually doing something about real issues, isn’t it? Remember a few years ago when that Burk was leading these protests about how women weren’t allowed to play at Augusta Country Club? I wonder how many women living nearby may have been denied a promotion or victims of domestic violence and would have loved someone to put one-tenth of that effort toward solving those problems?

  • Robert Igoe

    One other suggestion Geena: If you want girls to have strong female role models, how about have them turn off the damn TV and look to, oh, I dont know, their teachers? Community leaders? Or here’s a radical idea, how about their mothers, including both working and stay-at-home mothers? Come to think of it, who appointed Hollywood a place for kids to look for role models anyways? Or did you all just volunteer yourselves?

  • John

    Davis really should have done some more research into Paramount’s cartoons between 1930 and 1967. There were five different series — Betty Boop, Popeye, Little Lulu, Little Audrey and (yes, I’ll even include this one) Honey Halfwitch — in which child/adult female characters had either the leading or the key supporting roles. And even within the standards of the time, there were cartoons in those series (especially the Lulu shorts matching her against an Jackson Beck-voiced adult male authority figure), in which the female characters are far from passive in their actions.

  • Patrick

    I can think of several more female cartoon characters who played a major role in cartoons, and weren’t completely stereotyped.

    If Geena had looked harder into female characters for Hanna Barbera, she would have found Penelope Pitstop. I think someone else mentioned her.

    Granny wasn’t the first female character from Warner Brothers. She was the third. The other two were really supporting characters for their male counterparts. You had Honey, from Bosco and Honey, and Roxy, from Foxy and Roxy.

    What about Babs Bunny? She was rather strong in her female role.

    And Lola Bunny from “Space Jam?” Same thing.

    I remembered Gadget from “Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers.” I had forgotten her last name was “Hackwrench.”

    There was Gosalyn from “Darkwing Duck.” Adventurous, daring, and a bit of a smart mouth. Sharp-witted, too.

    “TaleSpin” had Rebecca Cunningham, Baloo’s girlfriend/co-worker. She was smart too. She even had an MBA and owned his flight service.

  • Paul

    Ashram 12, maybe you should be more informed about the examples you use. In the Harry Potter series, Hermione is frequently the character that figures out what’s going on and explains it to Harry and Ron; she’s the brains of the three, in other words. Not a bad role model for girls, wouldn’t you say? And as for additional female leads, there is McGonigal, who is often in the middle of the action just like Snape and Dumbledore. Your point of view would carry more weight if you used examples that supported your opinion.

    As for Geena Davis, if she has to reach back past all of what’s going on currently in animation in order to validate her point of view, then it isn’t much of a point of view to begin with. Her mind is made up; don’t confuse her with the facts…

  • Larry T

    Hindsight is 20/20.

    It’s easy to create a claim on anything when you dig through old boxes to use outdated and limited source material to support a newly-formed viewpoint.

    Is Geena somehow needing to validate herself after her long and relatively successful acting career, seeing as an actor/actress is nothing more than a hired personality or figurehead that still must be the person the movie director/ story writer is paying them to be, whether or not it shows them in a pleasing light? That equates to actors / actresses selling themselves (and their talent) to make money… I personally find it difficult to hardily accept the opinion of someone who does that for a living….

    Now back to the point. There have been many valid arguements in this thread, mostly outlining the many previous successful female cartoons characters- she just draws attention to the stereotypes. There are other female cartoon characters that deserve recognition as well as they had a lot of redeeming qualities- Babs Bunny, Slappy Squirrel, Alice (from Wonderland), Wendy Darling, Lisa Simpson, Miss Tickle, PPG, Mulan, Lilo and her sister…. they weren’t just bimbo figureheads, they had personalities and carried themselves about as such.

    I would like to hear her take on the Japanese series “Ranma 1/2” where the main character, a boy, is cursed periodically with the body of a girl… and must endure the motions … there also are some excellent female characters in that series with very defined personalities and likeable traits… Or is Geena just talking about the limited North American subset of golden age animated females… As I said earlier, it’s easy to make your point when you pare off all the data that could potentially discount your accusations.

    However, I think Geena is falling into the same trap that many Hollywood personalities also are…. they are drawing on old examples of entertainment to try to ‘fix’ them, re-interpreting things because social values have changed since the original items were created. This is why so many movie scripts, stories, plotlines are being re-interpreted and remade…. because there’s somehow a need to make them better and more acceptible.

    I totally agree with the previous poster that suggested Geena (and others) should spend their energies creating a new and positive female role model that fits their criteria if thee aren’t happy with our existing ones…. it’s easy to point the finger but a lot harder to make a difference.

  • This ranks up their with the Gorilla Girls as far as I’m concerned. Huge changes have been made to the animation market place and I’m not going to renounce the history of animation because it does not match your world view.

    Huge changes have been made and markets have been identified. Male writers and animators are featuring male characters, whose authenticity they can speak for what a shock! I have never felt the need to use my celebrity status to start a foundation or group attacking “Bitch” magazine for its lack of male voice.

    If the market place failed Geena why in the hell did she not address or go looking for alternatives. Japanese animation has a mountain of powerful female leads and the North American market place is catching up quickly.

    It breaks my heart that people need to be spoon fed their value system back to them like some kind of baby bird.

    Suck it up. Boil it down. Bring it to life. Animation takes a lot of commitment and desire, far more then starting your own foundation.

    I would like to send a shopping list of changes made in the last 20 some-odd years to “See Jane” feel free to e-mail me a list any female leads you can think of.

    My Neighbro Totoro: Satsuki Kusakabe
    Bubblegum Crisis: Priss + almost entire cast
    Shrek: Princess Fiona
    Power Puff Girls: Cast
    Princess Mononoke: San (Princess Mononoke)
    Perfect Blue: Mima Kirigoe
    6Teen: Jen Masterson, Caitlin Cooke, Nikki Wong
    Sponge Bob Square Pants:
    The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: Mandy
    Codename Kids Next Door: Numbuh Five (Abigail Lincoln)
    The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper Lee
    The Zimmer Twins: Eva Zimmer
    Atomic Betty: Atomic Betty
    Dexters Lab: DeeDee
    Scooby Doo: Velma Dinkley
    Totally Spies: Sam, Alex, Clover

    I hope that gets the ball rolling considering thats off the top of my head. Its also worth mentioning that MORE SO THAN MALE characters females tend to be portrayed in a positive light. The dumbest, most vilified are almost exclusively male in this day and age.

    I’m actually angry that this woman can speak with any creditability on this subject.

  • Steve Gattuso

    Let’s see… Just sticking to main characters and not supporting roles:

    Jessie, Dory, Elastigirl, Violet, Princess Fiona, Stella, Jessica Rabbit, Miss Bianca, and just about everything from Studio Ghibli. All off the top of my head in about 30 seconds.

  • The last thing this industry needs is input from yet another overly PC, liberal woman.

  • The whole thing is an insidious Catch-22. When female or visible minority characters are portrayed in animation, they seem to come under fire from various groups no matter how small their character flaws may be. Anything less than noble, upstanding role models drawn without any tinge of caricature in their design are apparently forbidden. Can you really blame those in animation who have become gun-shy of trying to create new female or minority characters when they’re forced to walk on eggshells in the process?

    A case in point. Disney came under attack for not portraying any black characters in “Tarzan”. While on the surface it may have seemed ludicrous that nary a black person was to be seen, it makes perfect sense when you recall how Disney was (unjustly) denounced for their handling of Arabs in “Aladdin”. That’s also why we got such bland, boring Indian designs in “Pocahontas”, which contrasted greatly with the more entertainingly caricatured British settlers.
    Let’s face it, a black character in “Tarzan” would have had to be either a spear carrying tribesman in loincloth or one of several jungle guides accompanying Prof. Porter’s crew, likely carrying all of their crates and equipment. In short: a subordinate or, dare I say it: a slave. A Harvard, or more appropriately, Oxford educated, Sidney Poitier type would have been straining credibility in the context of the story and the time period it takes place in. Yet, I am certain that any portrayal less than that would have been set upon by African American civil rights groups everywhere.

    The same is true for female characters. Anything less than intelligent, strongwilled independant women is verbotten in today’s politically correct environment. That’s why we end up with such noble, yet insufferably bland characters as Pocahontas and Mulan. I agree with Geena Davis that some more female characters would be a welcome sight in animation. Yet, I’d also argue that the animators should be free to create female characters that run the entire spectrum of personality types without fear of politically correct attacks. That means allowing the ditzy, the nasty, the self-serving, and the downright sexy ones in along with the role models, and allowing some fun caricature into the designs. Sorry, Geena, but those are our terms, take ’em or leave ’em.

  • LNG

    While she’s at it, the ancient Lascaux cave paintings betrayed a shocking scarcity of female protagonists and were way too violent for modern PC sensibilities. Is the role of art to reflect the culture as it is or is it to change the future? Culture should change the future, not a handful of artists working under deadline for too little money. Is the role of the media the same as that of the artist? This is a time of relentless commerce, minimizing the impact of art. Who says artists are the only ones with vision? Had a woman in those cave paintings been depicted holding a spear, would it have changed things? Would it have even been depicted? Does culture lead art or does art lead culture? Geena is a grandstander and loves a microphone. She just needs to be more thoughtful before using it. Nothing is quite so black and white as she sees it.

  • Nate

    Wow another actor complaining about the injustices of entertainment. That’s a new one.

    A very unfamous Magic Mountain caricatures artist taught me the secrets of his trade one day and explained how doing caricatures of women was difficult because you had to make them look good and not be too exaggerated, dumb looking, or funny looking, which results in a fairly boring drawing. The same could be said for animation.

    Women aren’t made to be dumb or exaggerated in animation, because that would be offensive. Dumb and exaggerated characters are funny. Throw in lots of exaggerated and dumb characters to make funny animation.

    And honestly, I’m not sure who’s looking for role models in cartoons.

  • Juan Pablo

    So… If I want to be a cartoonist today, and I think about a great character who happens to be a little boy, and I start developing situations and characters, etc, I have to get my ideas approved by Ms. Davis?

    And if she tells me I need more girls in my fictional cartoon world, I have to listen to her because otherwise I’m perpetuating the discrimination and suffering of all women throught all ages?

    How about if my cartoon gets air time and I just let the audience tell me whether they like it or not?

  • Brian Romero, Mr Fun, Peter Emslie and Nate are right on!!!
    Good role models are NOT funny, or even interesting.
    If Geena Davis wants to see good female role models in cartoons, then she should pony up the dough and produce some of her own. Then she can load her “cartoons” up with all the good female role models she wants.
    Wow, doesn’t that sound entertaining?

  • Wyatt Wingfoot

    Uh-oh, a little girl (named Ogee, BTW), who wants only to purchase Magilla and can never afford him, doesn’t count as a regular ‘female’ character. Seems to have been the plot of most episodes I can recall, other than selling the latest ‘must have’ toys from Ideal©.

    Geena, if you’re trying to make a point, at least get your ‘facts’ right. Nothing kills a debate more quickly. Research, research, research.

    Maybe she’s trying to be the PC gone mad version of a ‘Dr. Frederica Wertham,’ a crusader of wrongs wrought by eeeevil cartoon villainy via exclusion of female characterizations in the past. Let the pyres of righteous indignation fuel the stacks of celluoid oppression!

    Contemporary depictions? ‘Bratz’ is the essence of evil.

  • Sarah

    All these comments are really great, they really go back and forth on the topic very well. I just wanted to add my own experiences to the mix.

    I worked on an animated show that centered on a group of four kids, two of them female (one of whom was considered the main character in the whole series). We made an entire season filled with action and fun villains. The main girl was not “girly”. She had the universal traits of kids in general.

    The network only showed two episodes and shelved the rest after ratings showed that high numbers of girls were watching the show. Since they wanted to advertise toys for boys during that time, they decided to never air the shows.

    I’m still bitter over the whole thing. Girls watch boy characters. Can’t boys watch girls? And if girls like that kind of action and adventure, they might like the “toys for boys” being advertised too, right? It should be about making good characters. Why does the sex of the character matter?

  • Daniel

    Marlo Meekins, Katie Rice; let them draw funny women.

  • From Geena’s Wikipedia page:

    She has… three children: daughter Alizeh Keshvar (born April 10, 2002) and fraternal twins Kian William Jarrahy and Kaiis Steven Jarrahy (delivered by Caesarean section on May 9, 2004).

    So she’s been a mother for almost five years. I don’t know what she’s been showing her kids on TV… certainly not ‘Cutthroat Island’ or ‘Transylvania 6-5000’. I’m not even sure if she is watching children’s television with her children. From the examples she gives in her speech I’m not convinced she’s seen any programs on Nick or Disney or CN. Maybe she’s been watching lots of Boomerang.

    Tipper Gore helped create the P.M.R.C. after hearing Prince’s song ‘Darling Nikki’ on her 12 year-old daughter’s stereo. Something had to set Geena off to get her this motivated. I wonder what show it could have been…
    Oh, that’s right. She’s not complaining about shows. She’s complaining about CHARACTERS. And female characters at that. I’d buy this argument more if it was Geena Davis’ husband starting an organization complaining about the negative portrayals of fathers in cartoons.

  • There was a “See Jane” thread on the TAG Blog a while back. And I had a similar comment to Sanford’s. I said that I thought it would be easier if Ms. Davis just produced more profitable films with female leads and hope the studios take notice. She took the time to read the blog and sent her own thoughts back, including a direct reply to my comment that she already had made profitable movies (Thelma & Louise & A League of their own) and they studios still weren’t taking it seriously. I thought this was an odd response, because it sounded like she was saying, ‘I made two WHOLE movies and still, nothing has changed.’

    I don’t think you can force a cultural change on animators, directors, writers, even executives. The only people who are going to produce work with clearer visibility of women (and minorities) are the ones who have a desire to create that. I think there are more options for girls in cartoons and animated features nowadays than there is on live action tv and film.

  • Wow, what a huge overreaction! Ol’ Geena really hit a nerve with some of you! ;-)

    I’ll come right out and say that I haven’t watched TV since the 90’s, so the recent TV cartoon references all whiz by me. But I can speak to the relative dearth of female lead characters in animated features.

    Women make up half of our population. You’d think that they would therefore make up half of the lead characters in our movies. But of the 14 major-release animated movies released in 2006, only one had a female protagonist: Hoodwinked. A few of them (Ice Age 2, Monster House, Flushed Away) had interesting, three-dimensional female characters in supporting roles. The rest had only female characters in bit parts, or females whose sole purpose was to be the beautiful object of deisre for the male protagonist. This is what we call a bias.

    Nobody’s calling for censorship or some kind of PC affirmative-action program. I went to a liberal college, so I’ve been around that block. But we all need to step up and ask ourselves, when we’re creating characters: “Does this character really need to be male? Or is that just my default assumption that I’m too unimaginative to question?” If the character’s gender doesn’t matter to the story, then flip a coin.

    Here’s a thought experiment for all you guys out there. Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. Just swap the gender of every character you can think of. Bugs Bunny? Female. Elmer Fudd? Female. Daisy Duck? Male. Et cetera. Do you start to feel outnumbered?

    It gets better. Bugs Bunny, a female character, is portrayed with no sexual characteristics whatsoever. But once in a while, she dresses up in drag, just for yuks! She straps on a huge red codpiece, sticks her chin out and puts on fake stubble. She has to do this, because that the only way we’ll know she’s a “guy”. Remember this: female characters need no sexual characteristics. An asexual character is inherently female by default. The only way to make your character look “male” is to put a huge package in his crotch.

    This is the world that girls grow up in. Does it make you feel uncomfortable?

  • Hey Cassidy! That’d be f—ing hilarious!!! What a great idea!!
    I’d watch that!

  • From a creative standpoint, that kind of sounds like a “PC affirmative-actionâ€? program to me…

    It also sounds like what you are suggesting is that animators should immediately rip out all of the cultural and societal wiring that was firmly in place before we ever picked up a pencil. I don’t want to stop and wonder if a character “needs� to be male, he’s male because I want him to be. Just as my female character will be female because I want her to be. Plain and simple.

    And no, it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, females aren’t the only unrepresented characters out there.

  • Melanie

    Wow. I have to agree with Cassidy here. While i don’t agree with Geena’s lack of research and some of her points.. a lot of you are REALLY overreacting. Some of you are point for point quoting that guy who was ranting about woman executives on that blog “Anibation Fantasy.” (Now gone.) So if you were burned by a female boss and have a chip on your shoulder because of it… show of hands! As a woman animator in this industry, I can tell you some fun little horror stories about discrimination and “good ole boy” mentality, not to mention some outright sexual harrassment. Boo hoo for me. That doesn’t mean that men are bringing down the industry. So chill out people. I for one would be happy to work on some more females that were actually CHARACTERS as opposed to filler. I can only point to a handful of female characters in feature films that have that and whether that’s because of PC executives, male dominated industry or the tooth fairy. it doesn’t really matter. It’s kind of sad.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Hi, Serin. My theory was brought on by this quote from Katie Rice on Eddie Fitzgerald’s blog, but I don’t know if she agrees with me:

    “Hi Eddie! I have a theory about girl drawings, although it’s not directly related to this post. I think in a lot of comics and cartoons, girls are more like props than they are actual characters, like a chair or a car, you know? Whenever guys put girls into their stories, she’s usually there to help out a gag, and in most cases a symbol can be used- a super hot vixen, or a butt ugly man-woman. I think you get a slightly different result when it’s girls drawing girls though, since we see other members of our gender the same way men see other men- well sort of. Does that make sense? In any case, I love all types of girlie drawings, butt ugly, funny, super sexy, or whatever. I like the girl you drew, too!”

    Maybe more girls should write for female characters.

    Or maybe the lack of good female characters in animation is a symptom of a larger problem in animation.

  • Just to be clear: my objection to the lack of female roles isn’t because of injustice or inequality. It’s because watching all these unimaginative storylines is SO FREAKING BORING! We live in a big beautiful world, but our movies only reflect a tiny sliver of that experience. That’s just lame.

    I had a brilliant English teacher in 5th grade by the name of Stevie Chinitz. One of the writing assignments she gave us was to write a story where the protagonist was the opposite sex (i.e. girls had to write stories about boys, and vice versa). The story I wrote for that assignment was the most intersting piece of writing I did all through elementary school, and I still remember it today.

    C. Edwards, if your creative process is well-established, and you consistently do brilliant work that you love, then I wouldn’t suggest you change a thing. But if you ever find yourself getting stuck in a rut, swapping some genders around can be a real eye-opener. Flipping that coin is just one more creative tool to make your writing better. I see no reason why a serious artist should ever resist this.

    John Sanford: my “thought experiment” wasn’t a recommendation for an actual story– it would never work. Nobody would get it, because in our world, asexual characters are assumed to be male. If you were to actually make that cartoon, it would be perceived by many as shrill feminist propaganda, even though it’s just a mirror reflection of the world we live in.

  • Larry T

    Of course, Melanie. I totally agree with you and would also like to see that happen myself.

    What Ms. Davis is trying to do here is crusade that she thinks there has historically been a lack of prominent female cartoon characters… not offer any solutions as to how to move the situation forward. It’s just another Hollywood ploy to get her into the frontlight, and maybe become mayor of some state because she’s using -hot buttons- to start the double-standard machine. (Sorry Geena, Oprah will get there before you.)

    Remember, as I said in an earlier post, she’s an actress- paid to do what someone tells her to do.

  • If women want more lead female characters they need to step up to the plate and create them. It’s not my job as a male cartoonist to create some sort of twisted and politically correct utopia where all people are represented equally.

  • I don’t know, Cassidy. What you described involves the crotch, and crotches are inherently funny. Hell, crotch is a funny word in and of itself. Try saying it out loud. Now say it 3 times fast! See? FUNNY!
    Again, Brian is speaking my mind.

  • John

    Cassidy, I think your hypothetical situation has to be looked at in both directions, at least when it comes to the comic action/aggressive style of cartoons made from the late 30s through the early 60s that Davis references in her speech.

    To allow a female character not just to be as rough as the male characters, but to be roughed up, malleted, blown up, drooped off a cliff, pancaked, sliced, dieced mangled and otherwise treated in a very un-live action-like way, as even many of the “heros” of those cartoons were is a very iffy proposition for someone to greelight, thanks to (as pointed out by Lileks above) the fear that someone, somewhere is going to take those comedic situations seriously and declare that the cartoon is in some way advocating violence against women.

    Society can deal with male anthropomorphic characters as innocouios as Porky Pig being treated roughly in cartoons because society is used to men acting uncivil. With women, unless you give the character somesort of power advantage, as with Witch Hazel’s magic or Cruella DeVille’s money, you run a great risk of offense if you discombubulate the character. So to avoid that potential problem, the parameters of what is and isn’t allowed with female characters is ratcheted down to the point of blandness.

    IMHO, Paramount did the best job of putting a regular female character into the classic comic violence format with the Little Lulu series; a cartoon like “Bargain Counter Attack” is both as good and as violent as anything coming out of Warners or MGM at the same time. But you can get away with a troublemaking child in a battle with an adult authority figure/parent a lot easier, because the child is supposed to get into trouble but not face the same type of consequences as an adult. Even Bugs took his lumps in WB cartoons when his ego got too big, but to have an adult female pull the type of stuff the rabbit did without the possibility of acceptable retaliation would be to create a very annoying personality; to have a character that does get slapped around is to risk having the filmmakers get slapped around by some anti-violence watchdog group in the audience.

  • Brian, you’re more right than you know. Your job as a cartoonist is not to bore your audience. So why insist on perpetuating the “twisted utopia” where all protagonists are male? I’m already bored of that world. Have you ever gone to a party and found just a roomful of guys, and no women? Pretty boring, right? That’s what I’m talking about. Compared to the real world, animation today is a freakin’ sausage fest.

    I just hope that there are some people out there who are as talented at writing female characters as Katie Rice is at drawing them. And I don’t care if those people are men or women. Just be clever and funny, and tell interesting stories that entertain me!

    I feel like Jerry Seinfeld in that episode when his dentist converted to Judaism just so he could tell Jewish jokes. Elaine: “so that offended you as a Jew?” Seinfeld: “It offended me as a comedian!

  • Wow. John, your analysis is making me actually want to try writing that cartoon now! :-)

    Your point about cartoon violence is an interesting one. To me it says more about our double standards as a society. Clearly, portraying a man harming a woman is a huge taboo. But are you saying that man on man violence is okay, but woman on woman isn’t? Hmm, not sure if I buy that. Anyway, contemporary cartoons aren’t really about the violence so much anymore– certainly not in features. And violence is far from the only way to get a big laugh. Look at Lucille Ball. And of course, comedy isn’t the only kind of animation.

    Part of what makes female leads interesting, when they’re well written, is that they’re not just like men in every way. They can be strong without being macho. They can kick ass without violence.

  • Matt Wilson

    I find bringing Looney Tunes into this discussion very spurious of her, considering the typical violent and absurd nature of them. I recall there was a 2004 Doyle LT being developed where Bugs uses his typical slapstick to defeat an animal-skin wearing fashion queen (or something to that extent) — it never got past concept because the thought of a woman being attacked in the same manner as other antagonists was too offensive to (paranoid men on behalf of) women.

    Also Granny got to lay the smack down on Sylvester without any retribution on a regular basis. What’s so bad about that? Lots of characters leave pets alone in cartoons, men and women. If they stayed, or didn’t issue an ultimatum, there’d be no conflict, no tension, and thus no cartoon.

  • Aster

    This is always a double-sided issue that has no clear answer. Just because a show doesn’t have a female main character doesn’t mean girls can’t watch it. And just because it has a female character doesn’t make it a girl show. I love W.I.T.C.H. and Kim Possible despite being a male, because they’re funny, have good action, and good stories. I think those three elements should take priority over gender.

    However, it also seems unless a female character is shown to be the best character on the show, they’re being oppressed. Look at many sitcoms on television today, most of them follow the format of “strong, independent, beautiful mom who handles everything” and “dopey, fat, funny father who’s inept at doing anything” Empowering women is fine, but it seems unless we go that route, we’re being sexist. A lot of male cartoon characters are getting beat up, threatened, maimed, blown up, or tortured in a Looney Toons-esque way. If they were female, we’d surely get complaints about cruelty against females and how the shows promote violence against women. If we don’t make them female, then we get accused of being sexist and oppressing females. It’s a lose-lose situation for us so we may as well go the path that won’t get us sued by domestic abuse lawyers and get the show canceled.

    On the flip side, look at live-action children’s media on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Hannah Montana, Zoey 101, Unfabulous, That’s So Raven, all of them have female characters as the main stars. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has also been pushing Maddie and London to be more prominent characters as the series goes on.

    As you can see, there’s plenty of shows starring and for females out there.

  • Anne

    “If women want more lead female characters they need to step up to the plate and create them.”

    Okay, I’m on it. lol.

  • Instead of asking how many female characters there are in animation, Geena should be asking how many female artists are creating shows. I say again, if she really wants to empower women through animation, then she’ll help the real live female artists, not the fictional female characters. Art needs to be free to go where it goes without outside influence from a political group.

    Your gender reversal question isn’t intimidating at all, Cassidy. I think it sounds funny. But then some of my closest friends are transgender.

    What John says is true. You cannot get away with the same kind of ridiculous cartoonish violence with female characters unless they are a villain. You can almost do whatever you want with male protagonists, however. I worked on a show where in one episode the male protagonist could be heard vomiting and crying as he cleaned a toilet with his head. This got hardly any reaction from the studio. But in the same episode the female protagonist was seen wearing a pig costume in an isolation chamber and then the studio reacted with shock and dismay.

    Again, Geena may mean well, but in the hands of producers and their lawyers, it will go horribly wrong.

  • Melanie

    Brian Romero said: It’s not my job as a male cartoonist to create some sort of twisted and politically correct utopia where all people are represented equally.

    Dude, who’s mandating it? Nobody is forcing you to do anything. Who gives a flying f__ what Geena Davis thinks? I can’t believe how threatened people are about the “suggestion” to make more leads female. It’s like somebody threatend your rights as a citizen or something. The execs arn’t going to suddenly start forcing their artists to make more girl stories based on G.Davis.. even if she IS some two bit actor who thinks she’s doing something worthwhile for society. They are only going to follow the trend of the dollar. Whatever sells. And girl stories, (with maybe the exception of “Dora the Explorer’) don’t sell.

    And as far as girls stepping up to the plate…. nice idea. How many woman directors out there that have the power to make the stories they want? Can you count them on one hand? Believe me. I think if they were out there, and they had the power to greenlight projects.. they would be doing so.

    Cassidy’s point was spot on. If you have the power, and you have the opportunity… MAKE GREAT CHARACTERS. And explore ideas outside of your comfort zone, because buddy pictures and father/son/daughter themes are getting pretty old.

  • I don’t feel threatened… just annoyed at the political correctness that has sapped most of what I enjoy from cartoons. There’s next to no chance that anyone will air new cartoons that are in the vein of classic Looney Tunes or MGM shorts. Hell, they won’t even air the classics now without editing out the funny parts! It’s like The Simpsons episode where Marge protests Itchy and Scratchy and the characters end up sipping lemonade on the porch instead of beating the tar out of each other.

  • Melanie

    Brian Romero wrote: just annoyed at the political correctness that has sapped most of what I enjoy from cartoons.

    Me too. But I think PC-ness is a byproduct of the real problem. Mainly… following the money…. and what’s considered a “safe investment’ by execs. I don’t see what’s got everybody up and arms over this Geena Davis thing, unless you think execs are going to listen to her. And even then, would it be so bad if the story ideas were GOOD?

  • Matt Sullivan

    I myself have pitched a number of films/shows with storng female characters. I just get turned down a lot LOL

  • Joe Strike

    Talking about female LT characters & political correctness, I can’t believe no one’s mentioned the frustrated spinster Miss Prissy (“yay-ess”) or how Penelope exists solely to be sexually harrassed by Pepe.

  • John


    Since I very much enjoy the classic theatrical cartoons, I don’t have a big problem with male on male anthropomorphic and/or human violence in those cartoons when it is handled correctly (and there are some cartoons at Warner’s and elsewhere that don’t do that, and created some very disturbing images). But it’s cartoon violence, which in a comedy setting has it’s own ground rules that the characters and the audience understand (anime has its rules for violence as well, but those are different from the theatrical and early made-for-TV cartoons Davis refers to, because in general those are more closely pinned to the effects of violence in the real world).

    And to be honest, a cartoon in the classic vein featuring woman-on-woman violence would be a lot easier to get across than one with man-on-women violence, because of both the feelings held by most people in society, and the actions man-on-woman violence is connected to in the real world. Tex Avery had to be very careful with his Red cartoons, because he was making a direct link between cartoon violence and real-life sexual urges taken to cartoonish extremes. Jones’ Pepe LePew cartoons work under the same modus operendi, but take more of the edge off because of both Pepe’s smell and his (nearly) unshakable faith in his own sexual prowess makes him confident and aggressive, but not physically imposing in the way Avery’s Wolf is (or Bluto in the Popeye series when he demands that kiss from Olive, or else).

    The goal of those cartoons was/is to make you forget about real-world problems as much as possible. But artists and writers trying to get female characters into those comic violence situations have to walk a fine line in how they use the female characters. Granny works, because people are familar with the ideal of crochety/slightly dingy old people, male or female, being overly aggressive, and Warner’s used the same formula with Slappy Squirrel in “Animanicas”, while Spongbob gives Sandy Squirrel the familiar audience image of the loud, wild Texan to give her a little bit of aggressiveness, which in turn allows her to suffer a little more physical grief than your average female cartoon character (usually inadvertently at the hands of Mr. Squarepants).

    But like Witch Hazel or Cruella DeVille, you’re giving those female characters a certain amount of added power, in order to give the male characters a justification for coming back at them with comic violence. As much as some people would like to see Yosemite Sam set loose on the girls from “Bratz” or “My Little Pony”, there would be hell to pay from some special interest group if that was done on a daily basis.

  • All good points. What that says to me is that cartoon violence is inherently limiting as a storytelling device. There are so many other kinds of things in the world that can be caricatured in a funny way besides violence!

    Geena Davis didn’t go into this much detail in her little talk, but I feel like some folks are still missing her point. It’s not that we need to be making stories about female characters. That makes it sound like their gender is the whole point of the story. Yuck, boring! Sure, there’s a place for a few stories like that, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

    What we need is to make stories about interesting characters, some of whom just happen to be female. I contend that if people really committed to the interesting part, they’d discover that female leads create opportunities that would never occur otherwise. Would “Lilo and Stitch” have been as interesting or appealing if it were about two brothers? I doubt it. The mushy emotional bits would have been a lot less believable, for one thing– guys don’t emote quite the same way. But why was Lilo an interesting character? It wasn’t because she was a girl. It was because she was obsessed with Elvis, and had a unique way of looking at things.

  • Quiet_Desperation

    Cheetara. Nuff said. :)

    It might be fun to screen some Japanese tentacle porn anime for Geena. Maybe her head would explode or something, or she’d gain some glimmering of relativity.

  • Maybe if half the population of animation directors was made up of Women, we would get an equal share of animation starring male and female roles. Not the best of examples, but at Uni on the animation degree I do there is 14 of us…only 3 of them are female. It’s a real shame that you rarely hear about female roles in the animation industry.

    We need more people like Joanna Quinn and Suzan Pitt out there. Men don’t tend to try and make female characters as they don’t really know how girl’s really tick like girls themselves do. Girls tend to also be more easily offended by how they are represented for the most half (of course there are exceptions, but they are the minority, sad to say).

  • DanO

    Geena Davis’ position and her foundations research are whooly misguided and dunderheaded to the core.

    This discussion begins and ends with the simple, irrefutable fact that her SeeJane organization’s “research” was a study on gender bias that proved EXACTLY what it intended to prove from the get go.

    ^that right there is the hallmark of a biased study.

    If you want to back her conclusions, there are some studies that refute global warming you might weant to consider the merit of as well.

  • hellooooo… lucy van pelt… had her own psychiatry stand… continually pulls football away when charlie brown tries to kick it…

  • Andreas

    I like female characters. Miyazaki puts out some awesome strong female characters that I enjoy. Fio in Porco Rosso is one of my favorites. Airplane designer, mechanic, strong character. I would love to meet a woman like that. It is interesting to see Marco’s reaction to having a girl design his plane, and the idea of women building his plane contrasted with the women’s ability proving his “sexist” ideals were wrong.

    I have much more difficulty drawing convincing females than I do males. Maybe that is a product of seeing my own body in the mirror for 32 years. I might have a much easier time drawing females if I was married and had that intimate first hand knowledge.

    I do have a few questions for Geena, is it wrong for a girl to have a male role model? When did Yogi Bear become a role model? Bugs Bunny? Popeye? Why do we have to look to entertainment for role models? Entertainment isn’t exactly the best source of role models. If children have to look to entertainment for role models, I think there is a much bigger problem on our hands.

  • EJ

    Geena Davis made an animated movie with exactly zero empowered female animated characters: STUART LITTLE. Is she ready to denounce the film as patriarchical propaganda?

    There was a female canary in the sequel. She was the stooge of a crime lord and Stuart had to keep rescuing her. As empowered female characters go, she makes Sweet Polly Purebread look like Catherine The Great.

    To my knowledge, there are no major, empowered, animated female characters in Stuart Little 3. Maybe that’s why it went direct-to-video. The public was clamoring for empowered female characters and this movie just failed to produce.

  • mwb

    Interesting discussion all around.

    I’m willing to cut Geena a lot of slack for the lack of contemporary references. She’s addressing an audience who are not animation fans and are adults. Most adults who aren’t animation fans only watched animation as children’s cartoons, thus most of her references would be about cartoon characters whom the audience would be likely to know from their childhoods. Otherwise the speech would have been filled with pointless references.

    Yes, there has been changes and there are a number of female characters now who are, as a whole, a vast improvement over some of the portrayal of women in the past in animation. But I think the essential point remains. As a whole TPTB don’t cater to the female market. Either as children or adults.
    And the problem of lack of female creators stems from the same focus on the male market to the exclusion of female market.

    A number of folks quote examples of female characters in anime, which illustrates the problem. The seed bed for much anime is manga. Manga in Japan caters to males and females (comic magazines aimed at girls, comic magazines aimed at boys, etc.) Shoujo manga are comics aimed specifically at girls. Because of that you get more female creators, readers and buyers which equals more prominent female characters in manga and you gain more female characters filtering into the anime market, as properties are adapted into animation.

  • Andreas

    Very good point about anime, MWB. The change needs to start in the printed market. Walking into a traditional comic book store is a mostly male experience. I think there are a few comic books aimed at female readers, but couldn’t name a single one to save my life. If you walk into a Barnes & Nobel, Borders, or any bookstore that carries manga, it is a totally different story. You can’t walk through the manga aisle because there are young boys AND girls sitting on the floor with books in their hands. What books do little girls have? Princesses are popular. I can’t think of a single girl under 5 that hasn’t had some sort of Disney princess clothing or shoes. They could all tell you who Cinderella was. I had the step-daughter of a friend tell me that when she visits her father and step-mother she feels like Cinderella. She could relate to the bad situation Cinderella was in, and it gave her comfort. It didn’t mean she wanted to forgo a career and cook, clean and sew all her life. It also didn’t mean she had some illusion that some Prince Charming was going to take her away from it all.

    Overall, I still say we shouldn’t be looking to entertainment for role models. Saw a who wants to be a Pussycat Doll advert, when the young woman said she wanted to be the next Doll because the Pussycat Dolls were a good role model and a symbol of female empowerment I was left thinking to myself “What is wrong with this picture?” I think THAT is a sad message to send to little girls.

  • As a double-X type who grew up in the 60s and 70s I can tell you that I never identified with simpering princesses. I know lots of girls who did, of course, but that wasn’t for me, nor were Barbies and Archie comics. When push came to shove I would identify with the male characters who embodied the traits that I was looking for. (I did have a soft spot for Velma, come to think of it.)

    I think there have been some much better female cartoon characters since those days, but as many people here have said, why settle for a stereotype? Why go for the easy way? Female characters are traditionally left out of “mapcap comedy” genre except as forces for order (Granny, Margaret Dumont) but why should that always be the case?

    I looked on Davis’s comment as a call to question, not censor.

  • Phoebe

    Being a feminist (though not a militant one) I wholeheartedly agree with Geena Davis.

    I didn’t need her to point out to me that there are a lack of female characters in cartoons – though to be fair there’s a lack of female characters in everything. I noticed that as a child…. which admittedly wasn’t that long ago. There’s that old saying, “Girls will read/watch a male protaganist but boys will not read/watch with a female protaganist.”

    I don’t think she was calling for censorship of cartoons in any way. I wouldn’t censor any classic Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny cartoons simply because there are no females in them. She’s just calling for more awareness.

    As for her reaching into the past for her examples… uhmm… didn’t she preface that by saying, “Do you remember the kinds of stuff that they made for us, for kids, in the oldie old days?” She’s totally correct in saying there was a lack of lead female characters. Girls and women were regulated to the sidelines – love interests, children, the designated “girl”-friend, etc. They didn’t have their own plots and storylines as constantly as the males.

    Wilma Flintstone was often more percepetive than her husband, she was clever. But what was she? The WIFE of the male lead! As someone mentioned earlier in the post, “Granny was -the- story.” BULL! Tweety and Sylvester’s antics were the story. Granny was a means of pushing the story forward. And please don’t defend Olive Oyl. If she wasn’t a flimsy cardboard cutout character I don’t know what is.

    In summary… there was in the past (and still is today) a lack of female characters in leading roles (and also supportive roles – why is there only one girl friend within a group that may have 2 or more guy friends?) in ALL forms of media.

  • DanO says:

    “Geena Davis’ position and her foundations research are whooly misguided and dunderheaded to the core.

    This discussion begins and ends with the simple, irrefutable fact that her SeeJane organization’s ‘research’ was a study on gender bias that proved EXACTLY what it intended to prove from the get go.

    ^that right there is the hallmark of a biased study.”

    On the contrary, DanO. A biased study is one that’s done using poor methodology. You have no idea what methodology See Jane used to conduct their study. Just because you don’t like the numbers they came up with doesn’t mean they were “biased”.

    What’s the worst possible method for doing science? Anecdotal evidence. That’s all I’ve heard from those voices in this thread who say “but, but, but what about Olive Oyl? And Dora the Explorer?” No number of isolated references to this or that female character will give us the information we need to understand whether there is or is not an actual bias out there in the world. Only a thorough, systematic census of all characters will give us that information.

    The fact that Ms. Davis had a hunch as to how the numbers might come out, in advance of doing the actual study, doesn’t make her biased. All it means is that she has eyes in her head and can see what’s completely, utterly obvious.

    For anyone who questions the validity of See Jane’s studies, I’d recommend going to their website ( and reading some of the PDF documents they’ve written up about their research. If you still disagree with their results, you’re welcome to do your own study using your own methods. That’s the nice thing about science. Perhaps you’ll come up with a different answer, but I doubt it! :-)

  • D Davidson

    Who really cares?

    The majority of people who watch cartoons are boys. Most girls would rather watch Laguna Beach or some dumb MTV reality show. This is coming from someone with a 13 year old sister.

    Because Davis has nothing better to do now she wants to drag cartoons into a whole heap of muck. Here’s a thought, how about taking that time and energy wasted on this topic and try and fix something that would benefit the world. Not worry over the fact that Judy Jetson’s design isn’t P.C to her.

    In all reality, if there were more cartoons that starred mediocre female designs nobody would watch them. Boys would hate them, and the majority of girls would be too caught up in their Real World repeats and TRL to even care if a cartoon came on, because they think that stuff is too immature in their mindsets.

    It makes no sense for Davis to start a fuss over this topic, seriously for a percentile that is about as large as the head of a needle, it’s pointless and a waste of time.

  • Thanks for engaging in comments around Geena’s speech broadcast last week. Her statistics are based on research done at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and include very careful analysis done by experienced researchers of the top 101 G-rated movies from 1990-2005. Most of what you mention in this blog are characters from TV… and our TV data will be released on March 21, 2007. We would like to invite you and your bloggers to our website to read that brief for yourselves then.

    Additionally, I would like to invite you and your fellow bloggers to read the texts of the briefs she based her comment on, online at, to make you aware of this topic coming up at the TV Academy and Humanitas on March 21, at WGAwest on April 24, and to invite you to look at The Animation Guild’s extensive blog-postings and response around a panel they hosted around this research in October 2006. BTW, this research does not only concern animation, but also live action and includes statistics on race and occupations as well.

    Thanks so much.

    All best,

    Crystal Allene Cook, Program Manager
    See Jane,

  • Andre

    Geez guys. Why can’t Geena Davis express an opinion like anyone else? I don’t agree with everything she says but I realize it’s just her opinion. Heck, just give me some animated shows that really make you care about the characters instead of the one-dimensional bland boring toons that dominate on tv these days.

  • DanO

    Cassidy, i’m sorry you took such offense to my post as to single out its reason and attack it. You conveniently state that no number of isolated characters can repute the sum of all characters. this statement could not be more factually dishonest.

    Not all characters in media have the same exposure.

    SeeJane’s study willfully ignores the massive exposure of a movie like “Pocahontas” or “Beauty & The Beast” and dishonestly lumps them along with all other media releases as having equal relevance. This is misleading to the core. Small release and direct to video movies that fall by the wayside of the public view do not have the same measure as major blockbuster releases.. and that is just the START of how misguided SeeJane’s studies are:

    the “Where the girls aren’t” study that SeeJane has bandied about is study that often amounts to nothing more than beancounting. most notably, the study skews its findings with the gender breakdown of group shots. yeah – thats right: groupshots.

    if what immediately comes to mind for you is a TV paused with scene from Disney’s “Hunchback Of Notre Dame” where the royal guards are carrying away Quasimodo and researchers counting how many girls are in the scene, you’re right. thats how a large part of the study was done.

    This is nonsense. No gender breakdown of group shots in a film should ever be taken as a valid representation of the female contribution to the story. It certainly shouldn’t be factored into a cockamamie equation that grants those numbers equal relevance to lead characters and narrators as it is with the SeeJane study. different stories and scenes have different gender makeups and a study can’t simply count heads to present whether the film is fair or not.

    If that were true then “Kill Bill”, (albeit not a children’s film) would be sized up in the study as being grossly biased towards the male gender, and we all know that isn’t the case. Its a movie with a female protagonist that is a likable, empowering, hero. I’m guessing SeeJane would be too busy counting the men of “The Crazy8s” to realize that.

    The fact of the matter is that it is quite easy for a study to be skewed and it only takes common sense and a quick perusal to seperate the skewed from the fair. I don’t think Seejane’s study makes the cut. I encourage everyone to go download it from their site and look at it for themselves. Furthermore, it would be innocuous enough if Geena Davis’ organization was in fact simply alerting the animation community to a gender bias(there probably is one, but not nearly as bad as they present it). My big problem is SeeJane’s agenda to have a say in the makeup of animated films. Their website makes it very clear:

    “At the See Jane Program, we look forward to working with writers and producers, directors and actors, animators and sponsors to encourage projects that more accurately reflect the real world our kids live in – a world shared by boys and girls, men and women.”

    A statement of intent like this makes me cringe. Art stifled by a politically correct watchdog ready to count heads and make sure every show has the same breakdown. If a Disney executive were meddling with films in the same obsessive manner, we would all give him the frowning of a lifetime, but Geena davis gets a free pass in the name of the politically correct.

    Just wondering, how many of the classic cartoons we pine for were politically correct?

  • That’s all I’ve heard from those voices in this thread who say “but, but, but what about Olive Oyl? And Dora the Explorer?â€? No number of isolated references to this or that female character will give us the information we need to understand whether there is or is not an actual bias out there in the world.

    If you are actually talking about the world and not just America then it’s not isolated references that See Jane’s data is up against but all of Japan’s anime, distributed throughout the world including America. The majority of anime female characters outnumber the male characters in anime — and it is anime that the majority of girls in America are renting on DVD, watching at home at at anime clubs, not George Jetson, not the Smurfs. People have given references over and over again on this blog, pointing to anime and especially the works of Studio Ghibli but you seem intent on ignoring them.

    At the See Jane Program, we look forward to working with writers and producers, directors and actors, animators and sponsors to encourage projects that more accurately reflect the real world our kids live in – a world shared by boys and girls, men and women.

    And I look forward to resisting and ignoring them, and I say that as a professional who already writes stories where the majority of characters are female. It’s not the directors, actors, animators that See Jane will be working in corporation with anyway, it’s the producers who will listen to them. The producers will then take See Jane’s ideas and force the show creators against their will to make political changes that have nothing to do with the story. Kids aren’t stupid. Even if they don’t voice it they can feel that there is something not right about these politically designed characters, and in the end all this serves to do is add to the overall despair in American cartoons, that feeling of unnatural forces at work within the story, and the girls are driven further towards anime.

    And even then, would it be so bad if the story ideas were GOOD?

    If that were the case, sure, but the truth is their ideas rarely ever are GOOD. Most producers are not good at creating content. They are usually only proficient at editing and deleting and demanding changes that are anti-intuitive to the natural creation process. See Jane states explicitly on their site that they’re not just looking to change the male/female ratio in animation, but also the roles in which the characters play. THAT is a recipe for inane interference.

    Art should be free to go wherever the muse takes us. See Jane is no muse.

  • “At the See Jane Program, we look forward to working with writers and producers, directors and actors, animators and sponsors to encourage projects that more accurately reflect the real world our kids live in – a world shared by boys and girls, men and women.â€?

    Cartoons? “Real world”?

    The fact that my alltime favourite TV cartoon showed a bunch of suburban cavepeople co-existing with dinosaurs that functioned like household appliances didn’t quite “accurately reflect the real world our kids live in” never really confused me or interfered with my coming to grips with reality even at age six, back forty years ago. But of course the good folks at See Jane will probably want some shows depicting kids at school learning to respect each other’s unique qualities, just to be safe…

  • The person that commented that See Jane did all of its counting in groupshots is wrong. The breakdown of 3 males for every 1 female is in speaking roles, which jumps to 4 males for every 1 female in crowd scenes. Further, the 101 top-grossing movies are counted… because one has to start somewhere, and this included worldwide distribution as well as video sales. If you read the website carefully, you’ll note that a data brief on hypersexuality is one of the next releases that will come out, which would take into further account both male and female portrayal, beyond the two briefs we have that already do that: about how boys/males are portrayed and about the breakdown of occupations. No one is insisting cartoons reflect the real world… but that in the aggregate, females make up half the real world, thus, in entertainment media, they should, in the aggregate, take up half the space.

    For the most part, our statistics on kids’ movies reflect the reality in TV programming for adults and are better than the statistics for R-rated movies (where the ratio of males to females is even higher), that is, TV for adults also sits at around 3 males for 1 female. This is not necessarily the case in kids’ TV, which you can read about next week at our site.

    Again, See Jane looked at live action as well as cartoons… in both movies and TV. Live action means real people. So, the concern is not just with animated features (movies) or TV.

    Again, here are See Jane’s statistics… and please compare them to statistics behind the camera and out in the “real world.”

    I purport that bean-counting matters.

    Compare the statistics: What Does Your Daughter Want to Be When She Grows Up? Where Will She Find or Not Find Herself? It’s interesting to note how close See Jane’s statistics are numerically to some of the “real” world statistics — hovering between and around 15% to 25% for “industries” of power and influence: entertainment on screen and behind the camera, politics, and business.

    See Jane

    Where the Girls Aren’t is the first of several research briefs drawn from the most in-depth content analysis of popular G-rated movies ever conducted. Led by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, researchers from the Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) at the University of Southern California (USC) studied the 101 top-grossing G-rated films released from 1990 through 2004. The research analyzed a total of 4,249 speaking characters in the movies, which included both animated and live-action films.

    Where the Girls Aren’t analyzes the pronounced imbalance in male and female characters which researchers documented. The researchers tracked the gender of speaking characters in three ways: characters, groups of characters, and narrators.

    The research found that, overall, three out of four characters (75 percent) are male, with similar patterns holding true when the data is analyzed from multiple perspectives (major characters, characters in groups, movies released in the 1990s vs. the 2000s).

    Key findings show that:
    • In the 101 studied films, there are three male characters for every
    one female character.
    • Fewer than one out of three (28 percent) of the speaking characters
    (both real and animated) are female.
    • Fewer than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd
    scenes are female.
    • More than four out of five (83 percent) of the films’ narrators are

    According to WGA, west’s report, Catching Up with a Changing America:
    In 2004, the total number of employed film writers was 1770. 18%, or 318, were women. The total number of TV writers for the same year was 3015. 27% of these, or 822, were women.

    Here are The Animation Guild’s most recent statistics, in 2006:
    Percentage of Women, 399 out of 2308, or 17.3% in these capacities:
    Producers, 8%; Directors 14.9%; Writers 10.8%; Art Directors, 11.1%; Visual Development, 13.1%; Story Art, 13.8%; Layout, 17.8%; Model Designers, 21.4%; Background 25.6%; 2D Animation 21.3%; 3D Animators and Modellers, 13.0%; Compositors, 29.2%; Tech directors, 13.8%; Checkers, etc. 34.0%.

    U.S. Census, 2006
    Females, 51%
    Males, 49%

    The National Association of Corporate Directors reports women occupy only 16.2 percent of Fortune 100
    board seats.
    From, Heidrick & Struggles article, 2006.

    According to, in the 107th Congress, there are 74 women members: 61 women in the House out of 435 members (14%) and 13 in the Senate (26%).

    From an online quiz from The Fund for Women Artists:

    1) In the 78 year history of the Oscars, how many women have ever been nominated for Best Director?
    Answer: Three
    2) How many were women of color?
    Answer: Zero!
    3) Who were the women nominated for Best Director and for which films?
    Answer: Lina Wertmuller, Seven Beauties, 1977; Jane Campion, The Piano, 1994; Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation, 2004
    4) Who was the first African-American female director nominated for a short-subject Academy Award?
    Answer: Dianne Houston, for Tuesday Morning Ride, 1996
    5) How many women have won the award for Best Director? Answer: Zero!
    6) Of the 40 full-length films nominated in any category in 2006, how many were directed by a woman?
    Answer: Two! North Country, directed by Nicki Caro: Charlize Theron, Best Actress; Frances McDormand, Best Supporting Actress; and Don’t Tell, directed by Italy’s Cristina Comencini for Best Foreign Language Film.
    7) Of the shorts nominated in 2006, how many were directed by a woman?
    Answer: Two! God Sleeps in Rwanda, directed by Kimberlee Acquaro and Stacy Sherman, is nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject and Badgered, directed by Sharon Coleman is nominated for Best Animated Short Film.

    1) Of the 250 top-grossing films released in 2004, what percentage were directed by a woman?
    Answer: 5%
    2) On those films, what percentage of all those working as directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors were women? Answer: 16%
    3) Is that an increase or a decrease since 2001? Answer: Decrease! In 2001, the figure was 19%
    4) Of the 250 top-grossing films released in 2004, what percentage employed NO women as directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors? Answer: 21%
    5) What percentage failed to employ any men in these positions? Answer: Zero!
    6) What percentage of the screenwriters working on these films were women? Answer: 12%
    7) What percentage of the cinematographers working on these films were women? Answer: 3%!
    8) Of all the speaking parts in the 101 top-grossing G-rated movies released between 1990 and 2004, what percentage are female? Answer: 25%

    Sources & Resources:
    *The Fund for Women Artists (
    An alliance of artists and audience members dedicated to celebrating and supporting art that tells the truth about women’s lives. “The Celluloid Ceiling,� by Martha Lauzen:
    *Movies by Women (
    A grassroots collective working to increase the awareness of women’s contributions to film and television history. The site includes information on historical women directors, statistics on women directors, and Director interviews. “The Women Behind the Camera in Early Hollywood,â€? by Cari Beauchamp:
    *Sisters in Cinema (
    A resource guide for and about African-American women feature filmmakers. Sisters in Cinema is also a 62-minute documentary offering an overview of the lives and films of African-American women feature film directors from the early part of the 20th century to today.
    *See Jane (
    “Where the Girls Aren’t,� a study commissioned by this organization founded by Geena Davis to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters, and to reduce gender stereotyping, in media made for children ages zero to 11.
    *Margaret Fulford’s Women in Film Quizzes:

  • DanO: I didn’t take offense at your comments. I only singled them out because your description of See Jane’s reports seemed a bit off the mark, as if you hadn’t actually read them. Even in your second, longer post, you seemed to be hunting for problems with their methodology, and in doing so, you were again inaccurate in describing it.

    As I said earlier, if you disagree with their methodology and feel that there’s an implicit bias, you’re more than welcome to conduct your own study. The data’s all out there.

    Rikki Simons: I hear the complaints from you and others that See Jane’s activities can only, inevitably, lead to an army of know-it-all politically correct producers suddenly coming in and meddling with an otherwise perfect, unsullied creative process. (You say this as if producers don’t already meddle more than enough! ;-)

    Is that really the only way this could possibly go? Isn’t it equally possible that these efforts might just give more of a chance to female-centered stories that are already being written, but have been pushed down because they were perceived as “not commercial enough” or whatever? Maybe if you chose to work with See Jane instead of having a knee-jerk reaction against them, you might find them to be helpful in your quest to tell the stories you want to tell, and prevent the kind of meddling that you quite rightly resent.

    (Oh, and I misspoke earlier– when I said “world”, I really just meant “North America”.)

  • This statement: No one is insisting cartoons reflect the real world…

    is transparently incompatible with this:

    but that in the aggregate, females make up half the real world, thus, in entertainment media, they should, in the aggregate, take up half the space.

    I see no anime in your keyfindings or your trivia quiz and it is anime what the girls are watching. Did you know that two of the richest people in Japan associated with animation are women? Rumiko Takahashi, creator of Ramna 1/2 Noako Takeuchi, creator of Sailor Moon. It’s great creators like that who girls are seeing as role models, not fictional characters like Miss Piggy.

    If See Jane wants to be seen as anything more than part of the process that makes lives difficult for creators of animation then they should be focusing only on the Animation Guild’s statistics about female CREATORS not female CHARACTERS. Help the real life female animators to create whatever they want, even if you don’t like what they create. Then you’ll see real progress because real girls will have role models like Noako Takeuchi here in America. But you have to let them create what they want! If See Jane, a collection of non-artists, non-writers (of animation), and non-animators interferes with the stories you will make them unwatachable, the kids will feel it, and they’ll stick with anime. Let the story tellers do their work unhindered, just like you’d let a dentist, or a fireman, or a lawyer do theirs.

  • Is that really the only way this could possibly go?


  • DanO

    Cassidy, you’ve contested that “If I disagree with SeeJanes’ methodology and feel that there’s an implicit bias, I’m more than welcome to conduct my own study because the data’s all out there.”

    Unfortunately i don’t consider myself profficient enough or having the means to conduct any study. As a rational person though, i am free to to critique studies that I feel are flawed.

    One thing you may have overlooked is this: If Geena Davis finds fault with the gender breakdown of cartoons, SHE herself is free to make her own cartoons. She clearly has the money and time available to make a mark in thie field she is critiqueing. -but at the end of the day, it’s clear that its much easier for Ms Davis to comission a study and demand changes in someone else’s field than to contiribute to it.

  • I guess what this boils down to is that I’m a bit more hopeful that this group not only has good intentions, but might actually accomplish their goal of leveling the playing field (which goal I share) without hindering the creative process (which I agree should not be hindered!)

    Rikki, you seem convinced that they’ll only meet with producers, and never animators, writers or directors, despite the fact that they say that they’ll meet with all of the above. I hope you’ll forgive my naivete here, but I’m going to take them at their word on this one. If it turns out later you were right, I’ll buy you a beer. ;-)

    DanO: you’re welcome to critique all you like– but your critique will hold more weight if you try to stick to the facts. Otherwise you give the impression of having some other agenda. Again, I think you’re misunderstanding Ms. Davis when you say “its much easier for Ms Davis to comission a study and demand changes in someone else’s field than to contiribute to it.” See Jane isn’t demanding anything. I think the word they used was encourage. That’s a very different thing.

    I can totally understand how folks who have been burned by non-artistic meddling in the past might be a bit leery of anything that smacks of more meddling. If anyone from See Jane is still reading this thread, hopefully they’ll take that truth to heart, and when it comes time for them to do something, they’ll do it in a way that doesn’t trample anyone’s artistic rights.

  • DanO

    They are not encouraging people – they are convincing people that programs without an equal balance of genders is an inferior product. more importantly, they are going over the heads of artists and convincing executives that their product isn’t a quality one unless there is an equal breakdown of genders in it. Its petty and completely misguided.
    Its an intellectual foul ball.

    Look at her speech:

    “we thought, without the hard facts, it’s going to be hard to convince people. We don’t want to go in to the people who make these programs and movies and say, “Our impression is that there are fewer female characters.â€? We wanted the results and the data…
    So you have to think, what message is our culture still sending to kids? That women and girls are worth less and their worth is different than men and boys. What if — partly because the media children are seeing from the very beginning, programming that’s aimed at our very youngest kids, have this huge imbalance — it’s affecting them when they’re adults? …So, armed with our study, we’ve had meetings with studio executives and entities that make movies and television programs for kids… These people, just like an average viewer who really perhaps doesn’t notice this, they were not aware of this gender disparity in the product that they’re putting out. …So our goal at See Jane is to dramatically increase the percentage of female characters and reduce gender stereotyping in media that’s made for kids, eleven and under, and we’re going to do it through working with the industry in a collegial way and sharing our information with them and through a public education campaign, because, frankly, my dream is in five years that if a movie came out that had only one female character, every reviewer would notice and every parent would notice and say, “What the hell is going on here?â€?

    Here’s an important question:
    Does SeeJane have ANY data that conclusively proves that children of one gender who grow up watching shows without an even breakdown of male and female characters are somehow affected negatively by it?
    The answer is a resounding NO.

    They are suggesting it. they are assuming it. Geena Davis even asks the question of the audience in her speech.

    I can read off a list of classic, timeless, childrens content in books, films, and tv shows that doesn’t have gender equality. From “Where The Wild Things Are”, to Dr. Seuss, to “The Muppet Show” gender equality isn’t as important as SeeJane is making it out to be. This is politically correctness run amuk.

  • Robert A. Porrazzo

    This is my first time responding on Jerry’s site. It’s clear I totally disagree on his politics–then again, most if not all of Hollywood is run by the left and Ms. Davis’ feminutso whining about lack of females is a clear example. I know the word Filmation is taboo to some but, anyone remember She-Ra?

    I wonder if she is taking her frustrations out on conservatives because her show “Commander In Chief” was a dud of a program disguised as a Presidential run by her girl Hillary Clinton?

    The minute I saw Democracy Now! mentioned–some alarm bells went off in my head. I also checked up on Free Press–read this and weep:

    Democracy Now! airs on mainly college radio stations or those affiliated with the radical left-wing Pacifica. Here is NYC, that would be the infamous 99.5 WBAI or for those in La-La land KPFK. I know about WBAI–had a professor in college who made listening to that station A REQUIREMENT!

    Look I love cartoons like the next person. But to politicize them? THAT’S LOW!

  • Sabbie Mizu

    While I agree that there needed be some more female roles in cartoons, I’m just going to re-inforce what the others has said.

    “What about the recent cartoons??”

    Case in point:

    1. Kim Possible
    The main character does most of the ‘saving’ the world actions

    2. My Life as a Teenage Robot
    Same case in point with Kim Possible

    3.Powerpuff Girls
    they’re the ones who save the city.

    4. Avatar The Last Airbender
    While it is true that the main character’s male, the main character’s teachers are both very competent females who can hold their own in battles without asking for much ‘help’. Hell, the deadliest and smartest villain in this series is a female.

  • Andrew Lee

    In Pixar’s “Cars”, Tow Mater was contrived to be the town idiot,…he is a male,….he is also very country. So now children equate male and southern with dumb? Doesn’t this fit the negative profile of what message children receive?… But Tow Mater is one of, if not the, strongest and most well received characters in the movie by girls and boys,…well….my girl and boy anyway. So, in my opinion, their studies are biased and probably sound pretty nifty on paper, but don’t hold much weight in reality.

    But what if his character we’re female….I’ll bet it would still be as funny and appealing to children, heck I’ll bet it would be funnier . But I’ll bet the entire farm that a lot of people….I mean adult’s like Geena Davis… would be insulted by the idea of a woman being portrayed in such an unflattering light. I don’t know if that is the reason he is a male,…it’s just an example off the top of my head.

    One can have more female characters,….but are only aloud to portray them in a positive light. Limitations like this severely limit characters from many types of humor, style, and story. (ie….you can’t drop an anvil on a girl, but you can a boy….you can have a reaalllyy dumb guy,…but not a reaalllly dumb girl.) Respectively.

    So why the double standard? The question needs to be ” Why can’t a female character be set to the same standards as any other male character?” as opposed to “Where are all the girl characters?

    I think the major complaint that Geena and See Jane has is rooted more in the PC moral delimma of America than in the lack of female presence in cartoons.

    Personally,……I would like to see more “funny and good” cartoons. I think that those would be a more benificial to the youth of America than another run of the mill, strong hero equality type character.

    The state of blandness in characters has nothing to do with an animator’s lack of creativity, it has everything to do with executive’s needs to make money off of unoriginal ideas, keep PC parents happy, and people who know nothing about cartoons trying to make up the rules.

    Also,….If I were to put up the money to do research, I’m sure that the evidence would be in my favor as well, and leave anything contrary to the curb. If not, then that sure would be a waste of money huh?

    I’ll leave you with this,………If a child’s moral fiber is dictated by the political equality of a cartoon…..Then I think that it’s up to the parent to let the TV take the day off and do little more of their own

    All of the above is simply my opinion, based on the observations of my own children. The studies are still pending, but when the findings are evaluated and calculated into a pie chart, I will be holding a meeting. Executives only……we don’t want anyone with a backbone or artistic integrity comin in their and mukin things up.

  • It’s all psychological

    I’m going to create a group that advocates the consumption of high-sugar products because I myself have an interest in desserts and sweets.

    Everyone appointed in the group will also be regular sugar-eaters, and I will hire a Hollywood personality to represent us that has been seen eating a piece of candy in a movie or commercials they once did and supports it.

    We will conduct a series of studies to prove that everyone through time around the world has enjoyed eating sweets….
    we will get our data from the top 100 food/beverage commercials of all time….
    we will use sales figures of sugary products to further support our claims…
    we will fuel our engine with the fact that the ratio of people who consume sugary products outnumbers those that do not….
    we will raise public awareness that humans require sugar whether they admit it or not.

    I am doing this because my group and I desire sugar. I could go ahead and just make my own desserts at home and enjoy them between us, and then eventually release them to the public, but I feel the need for the entire world to agree with me and that my group is setting out to convince people that I am right and they are wrong.

    Why? Because my opinion supersedes yours- I have the means to do this- and I want support for my beliefs by convincing you to agree with me, because if I just went out and made my own candy that wouldn’t be enough… I need justification for what I THINK everyone else wants by trawling the masses.

    And what is my bottom line? Never clarified it… haven’t got a concrete final product of my committee’s purpose.. don’t intend to make my own sugary product that everyone wants or even likes…. I’d just rather spend thousands of dollars raising public awareness on the subject with the intent of others to pick up the cause and run with it.

    It’s a classic example of passive-aggressive behaviour… something sugar-eaters are known for.

  • Andrew Lee: I totally agree with you about the double standard. If you only have one female character, and you make her an idiot, some people will jump to the conclusion that you’re making some kind of misogynistic statement.

    But what if most, or even all of the characters are female? Then you can have a smart one, a dumb one, a normal one, etc… and nobody will think “oh, he’s saying women are dumb”, because you have contrasts. You can give each one a more distinct personality. To me this is an argument for more female characters, not against it.

  • D Davidson

    Cassidy, you & I’m sure everyone else is overlooking case studies done in the early 1980’s regarding children and cartoons.

    Keep in mind the majority of children that watch cartoons are boys. My young teen sister stopped watching them around the age of 12, I’m guessing because everyone wants to grow up so fast in today’s world, and be viewed as an adult before puberty sets in.

    In the 80’s women outnumbered men, and in today’s world men are beginning to outnumber women. Now to say that more girls watch cartoons today would be absolutely ludicrous when considering the facts.

    My point being that the studies done showed that viewers took less interest and as a result did not like cartoons which contained central characters of the opposite sex. So if the key demographic of viewers are male, then why alienate a market which is already in peril even farther?

    Look at all the female characters on Nick and CN now, they are all the same, just maybe drawn in a different style…They’re all redheads with boring characteristics and wear green attire. Calling for more female characters to “level” the playing field, is subjecting everyone else who does not agree with this feminist cause to the same kind of discrimination which is now being claimed to exist in cartoons. It’s not discrimination, it’s a matter of marketing, you don’t go making cartoons that don’t appeal to the existing audience. Just because an actress with a feminist agenda is going to cry the blues about it doesn’t all of the sudden make it OK.

  • Andrew Lee

    Hi Cassidy,

    I’m not neccesarilly against the idea of females in the equation. The idea of a girl character doesn’t bother me in the least bit. But the idea of making a character a female just to give a vaild performance to another character does.

    What you suggested…”But what if most, or even all of the characters are female? Then you can have a smart one, a dumb one, a normal one, etc… and nobody will think “oh, he’s saying women are dumbâ€?, because you have contrasts.

    That is a formula that I am not interested in following. I want all my characters to stand on there own as an individual,….the way they were created. If I wanted a male character to be dumb,…I don’t need to create another male character to offset him…Why should I have to do the same for a female? If I had the lead as a female and the dumb sidekick as a male,…..Would the veiwers think I was making a statement about males?……no……Would I then need a smart male to counteract the dumb one?….no…..So why for females?

    The point I am trying to make, is that, creating female characters (of varied ranges) would be a lot easier if people would loosen up the ole’ PC poop shoot and not try to find some hidden agenda behind characters that aren’t represented to there tastes.

    In my humble opinion, parents do a far better job of skewing a child’s view of the world than cartoons.

    But that’s just me,…..You are entitled to your views as well.

  • Not a soul here has mentioned Pepper Ann.. I love that show.. that and she’s a deeply flawed character. I wish they were still making it.

  • Julie Peeler

    Geena is not just talking about cartoons from the past. She is talking about how men totally talk over everything! I use to get so angry on Charlies Angels when A man tried to out-do Farrah, Kate and Jacklyn. They always think they have to be the hero. Well, girls need someone to look up to also! I did a little looking around in the Male action hero area and I can count on (1) hand the amount of female heros. The rest are boys! WHY!? Also, why is it that women can’t play on the baseball teams, or have a baseball team, but men are all over fastpitch softball! If they are not coaching it, they are playing it!! WOMEN ARE JUST AS GOOD AS MEN! AND OUR YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO SEE THAT. IT IS ABOUT TIME!!!!

  • Doc

    Gee Julie,

    It’s time to chill out. Same as Geena…. Little uptight about nothing….

    No one said women are not as good as men. Perhaps this is your own personal inferiority complex at work here.

    Maybe you can go watch some more Lifetime channel propaganda (Remember, Television for women?) where Men are perpetually stereotyped as the bad guy.

    I do not see you raising even an eyebrow about that.

    And Julie, Charlie’s Angels was a TV show. Good propaganda too… Don’t you think the producers of that show were playing right into your sensitivities about “Hey, if we make it look like the guy is so bad, we can keep our female audience watching, especially if one of the angels out does this guy. apparently it worked as it got you really riled up.

    Please don’t go into your drivel about how poor and unsatisfactory conditions are. The new stereotypes you women have created about men (yes, created) make it impossible to do almost anything.

    Geena should have done more research before making her speech. As noted above….many cartoons…many organizations out there to help women.

    If there were an organization called “National Organization of Men”…you and your feminazi cohorts would be up in arms as it would be chauvenistic.

    Oh, if you want a fast pitch softball team, go make one…no one is stopping you.

  • Kristen

    DARIA, holy jeebus you plain cannot talk about this subject without referencing MTV’s old show Daria. The fact that is was a freaking Beavis and Butthead spin-off is only the icing on the perfect cake of an example. C’MON, PEOPLE. I EXPECT MORE FROM YOU. Pssh.

  • Norah

    Wow – so much good stuff here. I’m trying to write an essay on how Japanese anime has led the way with strong female protagonists… but now I’m just confused and not sure that’s all true. Someone said there are more female anime characters than male. That can’t be right. There are so many sub-genres within anime. And while we have strong women characters (thank you Miyazaki and others) we also have the tentacle rape genre and lots of anime that is aimed at boys. Others have pointed to strong western anime girls. And I absolutely agree that animators should be always free to make cartoons funny, larter than life, not PC. So help me out here… is it because Japan makes manga/anime for both girls and boys — or is it because they just ‘make art’ and the market comes to them? I also don’t believe that it’s still a boys market for cartoons in America.. Can I say positively that Japanese animators create more female protagonists as strong women than North american animators — and how do I prove that? I am so naive in this area, but it seems wonky to me that Japan is more’ feminist’ in its anime. Maybe Japan is just more ‘everything’ — they feel free to depict boys love, violence against women — is it because they aren’t shackled by Politicial Correctness. I can go around in circles on this.. anybody?

  • Norah

    OK, maybe I just answered my own question.
    PIXAR – no female leads
    DREAMWORKS – ? Don’t think I know of any.
    Disney – only heroic one was Mulan, others, while definitely leads, are always just looking for a prince. (But I do love Ariel — she was adventurous)
    WIsh I had list of top North American animated films and their male leads for, say, 2006 and Japanese animated films and their leads.. but then again, maybe one has to be genre specific in anime.. still Miyazaki’s studio’s had more female leads than any other animated studio, period. SO what does this meaning convey, culturally? That Japanese see women as more heroic, stronger than we do in the west? I’ll stop now.

  • sam

    maybe it’s a bit late for me to comment on this (seeing as the last comment was posted months ago) but I felt I really had to share my opinion on this. First off, Miss Geena is only mentioning examples from animations of the past and not more recent ones (I think someone may have mention something like that earlier). I think that instead of focusing on what was drawn in the past, we should look more to the future. The truth is, there have been stronger leading females in animation of today (We still have a bit of a way to go, but progress is being made).
    I think that earlier a few people mentioned how instead of looking to television for role models, they should look into their own lives. I agree with that but whether we like it or not, children are going to watch TV and they are going to formulate opinions of gender roles based on what they see. SO we should at least try to show some positive gender role models for both boys and girls.
    I think North American writers and anyone else involved in producing an animated show should take a look at creators of Japanese anime (and manga) since there seems to be a lot more strong female characters there then in many American works. Because (as Norah suggested) the Japanese culture does indeed seem to view women in a more ‘heroic’ way then we in the west do.

  • Joan

    Jessica = meopausal bitch

    the disney princesses have a lot of personality and character…more than youll ever have actually

  • Wowee….Some very angry men out there.

    We all know that Animation is a men’s club. I have worked in this business for 22 years and sometimes I was the only woman on the production/commercial/music video. I am lucky that I get along with men well, and have fun working with them.

    Out in the real world (away from studios), there are companies you can work for who have helped their employee morale by working with women, rather than against them. These companies have lower turnover, high morale, and family friendly policies. They are listed as some of the best companies to work for and people will gladly relocate to share in the benefits these companies provide.

    It benefits everyone, not just women, to treat women with respect and listen to their concerns. Men benefit by new and interesting stories, and characters that they normally would not think of. Men benefit by a child friendly workplace, better and more health benefits, and a connection to a world outside of their own heads. This really should be common sense and not something to be afraid of.

    When I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, there were no female astronauts. But, I thought it would be so cool to be an astronaut. But how? There were no women in the space program. As a small child, I assumed that only men went to the moon. That is all I saw. And women only served coffee.

    There are very few female show creators, writers, and feature directors. It is not easy to compete in these categories because people automatically choose the man. Nora Ephron’s film was just released and men are loving this film about Julia & Julia. Yet it is still considered chick lit.

    There is still a bias against a woman who has kids vs. a man who has a wife raising the kids. A studio will hire a man before a woman for the same job and pay her less than her male counterpart. I have seen it and experienced it. But I love my work, and I love animation, and I plan on staying.

    There is a long way to go. And the attitudes in the angry posts above need to change.

  • Maggie Simpson

    Well, being raised the way my mom raised me, she’s right. A little…I wonder if Geena Davis’s middle name is Harvey! Get it? C’mon!