At a TV Kids Summer Festival keynote earlier this week, Warner Bros. head of kids and family programming – including Cartoon Network – Amy Friedman made several comments which have animation fans and professionals up in arms.
She began the talk by explaining that “We’re trying to take that DNA that is so beautiful about Cartoon Network and turn it into a full-fledged family offering. So that would include preschool, inviting girls in, and also families.”
Mundane enough stuff to start with, but were girls not “in” before?
But it’s where she went after that sent animation social media into an uproar.
Referencing Cartoon Network’s recently announced plans to revitalize its earlier efforts in the live-action space, Friedman parroted comments from Tom Ascheim, Warner’s recently departed president of global kids, young adults, and classics, saying: “Girls often graduate out of animation. Some of our most incredible competitors have been at the live-action game for a long time. We know that’s what girls want. With live action, we’re excited to reflect the world as it is, inviting girls in without alienating the boys.”
The reaction to her words was swift and decisive.
Lauren Faust, writer-director-produce on classic animated shows including The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and DC Super Hero Girls, among others, was none to pleased. She tweeted:
Western Animation doesn’t give girls what they want. We give them toy commercials and lectures about how society expects them to behave. Why would ANY ONE OVER 8, female or male, want any of that? Girls don’t “graduate from animation” early. WESTERN ANIMATION doesn’t give older girls what they actually WANT. I’ve been in this business for 28 years and the statement “girls don’t watch animation” has NEVER gone away. Only little windows of open mindedness that disappears immediately with only one not-popular-enough girls’ show. No number of failed boy cartoons would ever make studios give up on boys as viewers.
Amphibia creator and executive producer Matt Braly expressed exhaustion at hearing the same thing repeated time and again:
So damn tired of this take – it’s based on outdated methods of data collection and a self fulfilling prophecy to boot. Here’s a thought – stop thinking in terms of gendered demographics. Like the toy biz all it does is reinforce stereotypes and needlessly force kids into lanes.
Lea Carosella, assistant animatic editor on Invincible, posted photos of Encanto, The Legend of Korra, Infinity Train, and Miss Marvel to argue that Friedman’s comments were off the mark:
I think Cartoon Network misspoke & meant to say that executives in charge of making creative decisions have “graduated out of” wanting to make cartoons for girls. Because to me, it’s quite clear that the problem isn’t lack of interest. It’s in lack of inclusion and lack of faith. Like shit. Kids can tell when they aren’t wanted in certain spaces or being thought of. I wouldn’t want to watch your cartoons either and would gravitate elsewhere too if it never at all seemed to speak to me. Also if it wasn’t clear, this post is tongue in cheek. The whole point of this is that THEY are the ones who aren’t interested in making content for the demographic they claim isn’t interested.
The Patrick Star Show and Spongebob SquarePants character designer Chris DeRose’s opinion on the matter got more than 32,000 likes and has been retweeted 3,500 times. He included photos of Steven Universe, She-Ra, Amphibia, and The Owl House to emphasize his argument:
“Girls often graduate out of animation” Your sure about that? Like…you’re REEEEEEEAAAAALLLLY sure about that?
Viral Youtuber (2.13 million subscribers) illymation was flabbergasted:
That Cartoon Network tweet claiming “girls graduate out of animation” is just boggling my mind this morning. I grew up on CN— Powerpuff Girls, My Life as a Teenage Robot, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Perhaps the issue isn’t girls, but the lack of shows that include them.
There are countless other tweets expressing similar concern about Friedman’s misguided comments, many we didn’t include here as they used vocabulary not fit for an animation news site.