Thursday, July 03, 2008

Cartoon Network Targets Boys (Because Girls Don't Watch Cartoons)

Cartoon Network's "Ben 10" has a strong female character
-- why wouldn't girls want to watch this?

So this Variety article discusses Cartoon Network's new game plan: target young male viewers:

"Turner Animation prexy Stu Snyder and Rob Sorcher, Cartoon's recently hired chief content officer, have set their sights on male teens and tweens in their sweeping overhaul of the cabler.

They're hoping to stanch the flow of young viewers leaving the network for Disney and Nick, but they're also trying to rebuild the net as "the home for boys," in Snyder's words (though he quickly adds that he hopes the female aud sticks around for shows like Cartoon's new comedy "Chowder")."

"We need a cartoon for girls."

"I know...CHOWDER!"


Chowder: for girls because it has teh pink bunnehs

There are several things about Cartoon Network's strategy here that I'm going to respectfully quibble with.

First, the assumption that their "boy-targeted" shows like Clone Wars, Ben 10, and Batman are only enjoyed by boys. As far as I've been able to observe, these are shows with an appeal to both genders. These are shows that appeal to children who like fun.

Second, to be a cartoon cable network and mostly focus on male viewers -- which is the impression I'm getting from this article -- is kind of shortsighted. There is nothing inherent in animated television programming that suggests girls are attracted to it less than boys. This is, as far as I know, a genderless medium.

And even if you want to make the argument that little girls want more Barbie-type stuff and boys want more Batman-type stuff (I'm not saying this is true, but this might be the argument made by the marketing department) -- go make a Barbie cartoon! Go make a My Little Pony remake. Go make an American Girl CGI cartoon where it looks like the dolls themselves are animated.

These are just suggestions.

(with a hat tip to A Boy Named Art for the post idea)


  1. People who don't account for 50% of the buying public are

  2. Wow. That's something else. I always loved watching the "boy" cartoons. I can't believe they would actually admit to something like that. Personally I think they need to just bring back Toonami and all those related bits. Some of the cartoons they have now are just ridiculous. (like chowder)

  3. You know who hipped me to Ben 10: Alien Force? My girlfriend. I previously wouldn't watch the series when he was a little kid, but I had no idea the series is handled by the same team behind Justice League Unlimited, and it shows. The stories are fun and non-angsty but remind me a lot of Spider-Man or Teen Titans without costumes. And his cousin is a really cool character. She's sort of link Jean Grey back when she was Marvel Girl, but tougher....definitely a show that could appeal to all genders or ages.

  4. I can uinderstand the networks reasoning, that while there are girls that like cartoons with fantasy-violence and male leads, you can't really realistically count them as a majority. Then again who knows, I haven't seen the statistic, but I bet it would still result that more boys than girls watch them.

    Then again, all of this becomes a bit moot, when most cartoons have been through and aesthetic shift that makes them less testosterone-centric (less GI Joe and Transformers, more Ben 10, Jacob 22, Dexter,).

    Even with all the crowing from the executives, I doubt they'll engineer a strategy designed to alienate girls, they'll probably just keep making more action oriented shows, thinking only boys like them.

  5. Wouldn't this be a lot about positioning the channel as a place for advertisers to reach boys, in contrast to Disney, which they cast as the channel for girls?

    (Isn't it Disney with alll the teen/tween sitcoms? They definitely skew girly to me).

    Aren't ad viewers the product with television?

  6. I don't know if this will help illuminate this discussion or not, but I was once working on an animated movie at one of the big studios, and suggested giving the story a female protagonist. I argued passionately for the choice, after which the studio head nodded, said that he understood what I meant, but the fact is, "girls will go see boy movies, but boys won't go see girl movies."

    I think what's happening at Cartoon Network is the network guys are saying "If we make Cartoon Network 'The Home For Boys,' girls will still watch it too, but if we air shows that are seen as primarily for girls, boys will run from us."

  7. Girls hate violence and men hate cute things. Girls hate action/adventure and boys hate those gushy romances. It's like a law or something. "Eww, cooties!"


    My sister used to watch Transformers with me and I used to watch My Little Pony with her. And even though I've stayed a fan of Transformers, she was the one who, as a fan, was disappointed by the recent film.

    Meanwhile, I read and enjoy manga directed at any gender. I can watch Naruto one moment and Fruits Basket the next. Some might find that strange, but I find it even more strange that people can write something off based on surface features like genre. Quality transcends.

  8. Low level cable networks need to have distinct demographics in order to bring in advertisers. Disney is dominating the girls' market with Hannah Montana/Raven/High School Musical/Jonas Brothers/etc.

    Cartoon Network needs to get advertising money somehow, and it's not going to be young girls. So they're focusing on the Corporations Targeting Boys advertising dollar.

    This has nothing to do with who is actually "supposed" to watch the show or anything else.

  9. I don't understand why a channel would tailor their shows to only one gender. And I don't think I ever will.

    The CW is a perfect example. I was so excited when I first heard about it, because it was the best of the WB shows and the best of the UPN shows all on one channel, and it would be the first time I'd get to actually watch Veronica Mars on tv instead of downloading it.

    Two years later, it seems like it's nothing but reality shows about models and marriage and stuff, and of their three shows that could be considered "for guys", at least two of them will be gone. Beauty and the Geek is already cancelled, and once Smallville ends (and possibly before then depending on how the last season goes), I'll have absolutely no reason to watch the network anymore.

  10. Anonymous4:18 PM

    Oddly enough, we've started a team of separate webcomics characters called the CROSSOVERLORD and we have four females and one MALE. For some reason, in webcomics, female heroines tend to predominate---or maybe it only SEEMS that way, in comparison to mainsteam comics.

    It seems odd to have one male in a supergroup, but hey, I bet Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four or Wonder Woman in the original Justice League felt the same way...

  11. Plus boys are a more lucrative demographic than girls because they are more susceptible to advertising and more likely demand that mommy and daddy buy the products they are being exposed right now!!!!!

  12. I think the basic problem is that action shows like Batman are fairly gender neutral, but something like My Pretty Pony is definitely aimed at just one half of the population. You can't watch that as a boy and think it was made for you.

    As a parent of a three-year-old girl, I actually don't mind what Cartoon Network is doing that much. Most of the entertainment aimed at girls ranges from mediocre to absolute crap.

    "If I can't stand it, she shouldn't watch it," is my motto. That keeps her away from Barney and My Pretty Pony and steers her towards Beauty and the Beast and the Justice League.

    She still loves princesses and fairies, but she doesn't need special "girl" programming. When she found out that Wonder Woman was not only a super-hero, but also a princess, she talked about nothing else for weeks.

    She doesn't need to be force fed Disney-brand consumerism and boy-craziness at a young age. We can watch The Princess Bride or Batman: TAS together and I think we're both better for it.

    My only quibble with Cartoon Network's strategy is that instead of targeting boys or excluding girls, they just need to focus on making the cartoons good.

    Girls will watch the Justice League because it is good, and boys will watch Princess Mononoke for the same reason.

  13. Maybe they just have enough episodes of Totally Spies, Powerpuff Girls (and Z), WITCH, Winx, Atomic Betty, kim Possible, Juniper Lee and so forth 'in the bank' that they can afford to stop chasing an uncertain demographic and chase one they've already quantified and successfully courted and won in the past? Once the channel is choked with boys' own action adventure serials, someone will remember Xena (a show with a female lead in a male-dominated genre that led to an explosion of copycat shows from Buffy to Cleopatra 2525) and make a show with a female lead. De-emphasising such things momentarily doesn't amount to much - it's just marketing, and marketing doesn't care about gender, it cares about money.

  14. How about a She-Ra remake? :)

  15. I'm the father of a a 4 year old girl(and a 2 year old who wont watch TV) and she will watch damn near anything. She likes the old X-Men cartoon and Batman cartoons, she likes Smurfs reruns, and the new Care Bears, even Chowder, there is no such thing as a boy cartoon or a girl cartoon.

    By and large kids are kids and don't descriminate in what they watch.

  16. Anonymous1:01 AM

    Ya know they could just be losing viewers cuz their programs suck. Ya know. It's possible!

    Btw, have they ever heard of the insanely popular Avatar: The Last Airbender? This cartoon's actually getting the live-action treatment and will be directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Its a pretty gender nuetral show. Although the main character is a boy, almost all the toughest/talented fighters are females. Girls love this show!

    "On January 8, 2007, it was announced that Shyamalan would write, direct and produce the live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated TV series on the children's cable channel Nickelodeon, a series influenced by Asian art, mythology and various martial-arts fighting styles. The movie will be produced for Paramount Pictures' MTV Films and Nick Movies. The trade paper Variety later reported Shyamalan would film Avatar after The Happening.

    According to an interview with the co-creators in SFX Magazine, Shyamalan came across Avatar when his daughter wanted to be Katara for Halloween. Intrigued, Shyamalan researched and watched the series with his family. "Watching Avatar has become a family event in my house ... so we are looking forward to how the story develops in season three", said M. Night Shyamalan. "Once I saw the amazing world that Mike and Bryan created, I knew it would make a great feature film."

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, M. Night will begin filming Avatar: The Last Airbender in May 2009; he will need four or five huge soundstages in the Philadelphia area to produce this film. On April 15, 2008, Paramount and Nickelodeon announced the official title for the film will be The Last Airbender. Also announced was the release date, July 2, 2010. The Last Airbender is currently the only movie announced for the July 4th holiday weekend of that year.

    So, uh, how long has Teen Titans or the Justice League been around in comparison? What live action movie have we to show for it?

    Avatar's been around for THREE years.

    Geeze, QUALITY, Cartoon Network! Quality will bring in the viewer and the advertisers! sheesh.

  17. That's just nutters. Have they forgotten about the cross-gender appeal of something absurd like the Powerpuff Girls? Make things fun and funny and quirky and you'll get all the kids (and, uh, me).

  18. Anonymous2:23 AM

    I'm fine with them only having 'guy shows', I mean, as long as they keep TDI >>; -current fandom-

    But it is rather upsetting that girls don't seem to matter to them >:/

  19. Chris Eckert nailed it. Cartoon Network needs to target a demo to get the advertisers to bite. End of story. The funny thing is that Cartoon Network somewhere in the process lost the slightly older male audience (you know, the one that drives the credit industry) by getting rid of shows like JLU. It's going to take some really innovative stuff and a strong marketing campaign to get any of their audience back.

  20. Cartoon Network needs to target a demo to get the advertisers to bite. End of story.

    I guess the trick is to do whatever they did with Avatar: "Target" the boys, but do not exclude the girls. I wonder if Nick had any idea that Avatar would have such crossover appeal.

  21. Really? You folks don't understand why we have Lifetime or Oxygen and Spike TV? It's not as if CN is all TV ever, there's an awful lot of variety to be had in basic cable channels. Disney has the young girls markets pretty cornered; I'm sorry if you don't think a lot of Disney fare stuff is very positive, but just because you feel that way doesn't make it so. Going on about "50% of the commercial market" is something i'd expect from someone who doesn't really understand how marketing works; There is a very real financial incentive in focusing strongly on a single, powerful demographic as opposed to trying spread yourself over two or more. You have to consider the CN just may not have the resources to cover everything.

    I just don't really see what's so wrong with having a boys club.

  22. "I guess the trick is to do whatever they did with Avatar: "Target" the boys, but do not exclude the girls. I wonder if Nick had any idea that Avatar would have such crossover appeal."

    Where are you getting the impression that CN is "excluding the girls"? I mean, I understand it's the title of the blog post and a presumption on the part of most of the commenters here, but last I checked CN isn't running NO GIRLS ALLOWED bumps in between their shows, or telling girls they're disallowed from watching Ben 10.

  23. Where are you getting the impression that CN is "excluding the girls"? I mean, I understand it's the title of the blog post and a presumption on the part of most of the commenters here, but last I checked CN isn't running NO GIRLS ALLOWED bumps in between their shows, or telling girls they're disallowed from watching Ben 10.

    I didn't say that CN was excluding girls. I was trying to say that, if they must target boys (e.g., for advertising purposes), it doesn't mean they need to exclude girls. I'm certain that Nick didn't promote Avatar as a girls show at first, yet there were elements of the show that brought girls in (most notably the fact that it is good).

  24. Actually, at least from what i've seen, a lot of the girls are brought in by the love triangle aspect between Aang, Katara and Zuko. At least, that's where a lot of female fandom seems to be concentrated.

  25. I've heard that Sorcher is only looking for male main characters in new shows. I guess in their opinion, boys won't watch a show that stars a girl, but girls WILL watch a show that stars a boy. Never mind the fact that gender segragation has no place in cartoons ... or that kids watch good shows regardless of their favorite character's gender ... argh.