In the past couple of months, I have been pretty Netflix dependent. I only seemed to watch whatever Netflix offered, which usually resulted in watching reruns of existing shows as well as the occasional Netflix original. Recently, I had the beautiful opportunity of actually being able to watch cable television (a true national treasure) and began to take notice on what I've been missing out on. I've always been obsessed with cartoons and animation but something about the current programming on major "kid centered" networks didn't feel right. It could just be that I'm simply not in their key-demos anymore but yet again, who is? I'm pretty sure I know more preteens out there that would rather watch MTV than SpongeBob SquarePants. I quickly realized what was missing. What I felt was lacking was the ability of being able to relate to it. I'm not referring to story plots or themes but rather gender.
Growing up, I always had access to countless of female-led cartoon shows on major networks. I remember being Kim Possible for Halloween, being obsessed with Sailor Moon and wanting to be Madeline every minute of the day. To give you a bigger idea, the following girl-led shows are from my youth (roughly 1999 to 2009): Totally Spies, The Powerpuff Girls, Angela Anaconda, Braceface, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, As Told by Ginger, My Life as a Teenage Robot, Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, The Mighty Bee, The Wild Thornberrys, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Sabrina: The Animated Series, The Buzz on Maggie, just to name a few. Sadly none of the shows from that list are still around making new episodes today.
Now I decided to compare that very same list to that of shows that have been made on and after the year 2010. I personally was only able to find five major cartoon shows that have a somewhat large female presence. The shows I found were The Legend of Korra, Littlest Pet Shop, Star vs. The Forces of Evil, Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch (reboot) and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (if you count ponies as girls.)
Then the real fun started. I began to look into the current programming on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney XD. I found that every current cartoon show on those networks at this very moment (except for Disney XD's Star vs. the Forces of Evil) are male-led cartoon shows. Just to give you an idea, we currently have Cartoon Network's Adventure Time, Clarence, Steven Universe, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, We Bare Bears and The Amazing World of Gumball. We also have Nickelodeon's Sanjay and Craig, Harvey Beaks, Breadwinners, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and of course, SpongeBob SquarePants. Lastly, Disney XD currently has Wander over Yonder, The 7D, Pickle and Peanut, Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, Gravity Falls (sort of) and several other Marvel/Star Wars type shows. It bummed me out a little because I realized that there are more male-led cartoon shows currently broadcasting on air today than the entire list of female-led shows that I recalled from a childhood timespan of 1999-2009.
I'm not bashing any of those "boy" shows because they are all absolutely incredible in every way. Adventure Time and SpongeBob SquarePants are two of my favorite shows of all time, even if both include a male protagonist. I don't want to say that gender isn't important in kid cartoons but I will say that it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if a main character is a boy or a girl because it won't make the show any less awesome. However, the point I'm trying to make is that as a kid, it was really memorable and fun being able to relate and look up to these female cartoon characters. I remember chanting Sailor Moon attack quotes in every home video and fighting with my sisters and cousins over who gets to "be" Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls. Being able to look up to smart and strong characters like Eliza Thornberry or Ginger Foutley actually seemed better than looking up to Britney Spears at the time. Nowadays, I feel that 10-year-old girls don't really have that.
For some reason, I get the impression that live-action shows and reality TV are being geared towards girls more than cartoons are. I mostly find it crazy that out of those three major animation networks I mentioned, only one in the entire cumulative current programming, is a female-led show. As mentioned, that show is called Star vs. The Forces of Evil, which is led by a female character that has very Sailor Moon-esque qualities. I found watching that show to be super refreshing. As much as I love me some Sanjay and Craig, it felt good to see a character worry about something as cliché as choosing between which dress to wear. On the bright side, next year we will have a brand new Powerpuff Girls reboot and a Tangled animated series. I really hope that one day, we can have more cartoon shows that relate to girls again. Those shows are truly what made my girlie childhood so great. Next to Lisa Frank stickers of course.