Women And Cartoons: Beyond Breast Size

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If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be? The BBC seems to think you have a lot of awesome options:

Stephen Garner lists nine "subversive animated female heroines" who "have challenged stereotypes of how 'good girls' should look and behave and have proved an important and useful catalyst effecting change in women's battle for equal rights." Who are these powerful role models? How about Betty Boop, who subversively "wore short dresses, high heels and a garter belt and was an object of affection for many men." Or my personal favorite, Modesty Blaise, a comic book character whose favorite trick was taking off her shirt to create a diversion so her male partner could kill the bad guys.


Despite its inclusion of Tank Girl, Garner's list basically shows that cartoon and comic book women have a lot of the same problems real women have — they're supposed to be sex objects first, and this limits their ability to do cool stuff. They've even been getting plastic surgery to better conform to society's standards of beauty — check out the transformation of Snow White, and the liposuction of the underage Strawberry Shortcake.

Of course, since girls do, in fact, read comics — and play video games — creators have made efforts to appeal to them. Unfortunately, these efforts are disturbingly boob-focused. Lara Croft of Tomb Raider got her chest reduced as a ploy to appease female gamers. And X-Men writer Brian K. Vaughan sees a need "to raise the dialogue about comics beyond, 'Could her boobs be smaller?'"

Karen Healey at Girls Read Comics points out that the sexiness of female comic book characters isn't a problem in itself — as long as it doesn't get in the way of storytelling. Which brings up a question: who are female comic and cartoon characters for? Snow White and Strawberry Shortcake are arguably for kids, who purportedly like watching average, kid-like bodies — so perhaps their makeovers should be reversed. But if grown-ass women are reading comic books — and, this lady's opinion notwithstanding, they are — then they can handle a little hotness. It may not be obvious to all male comic book writers, but many women have boobs and sex — and also have interesting lives. Maybe superwomen should act a little more like us.

The sexual revolution... in cartoon form [BBC]
Show, Don’t Tell [Girls Read Comics]
Supergirls Gone Wild: Gender Bias In Comics Shortchanges Superwomen [Mother Jones]
When Did Snow White Get So Dirty? [Deep Glamour]
Cartoon characters getting "makeovers" [Feministing]
How kids prefer cartoon characters to look [AdFreak]
Lara's curves reduced to appeal to female gamers [Sydney Morning Herald]
Superhero Comics Aren’t for Girls [Comics Worth Reading]



The only cartoon character I've ever wanted to be is Ariel. I was 9 or 10 when The Little Mermaid came out, and I was pretty much obsessed with mermaids for the next 3 years.