Girls don’t buy toys! This is the new and exciting new finding from A Cartoon Network Exec, as reported by Paul Dini (who has a strong track record writing women in comics) to Kevin Smith (who, uh, doesn’t). Anyway, it’s been doing the rounds on the internet. Apparently the people who produce superhero cartoons don’t want to produce anything for a potential female audience, not because girls don’t like superheroes (they do) But because girls don’t buy toys.
This is news to me, as I suspect it’s news to Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, and anyone who has ever hidden a plastic cake down their top after pretending to eat it, or has suffered the agony of Barbie’s shoe hiding in their shoe, or who has seen the pink aisles in any toy store ever.
Maybe Cartoon Network execs cannot see the colour pink, and are thus unable to register the entire section of toys aimed at girls.
I suspect though – suspect – that they just haven’t figured out how to market superheroes into toys for girls. And as I, as a big fan of superhero cartoons, have a vested interest in these cartoons selling their toys, and as a former and current buyer of girls’ toys have some experience in the area, have decided to take it on myself to do Warner Bros’ marketing execs’ jobs for them.
Disclaimer: I am assuming in this section that girl-children do in fact, prefer to shop for toys marketed at them, but not that they intrinsically dislike superheroes. My sample size of one particular four year old feeds this assumption by asking me to read her Ame-Comi Girls but refusing to watch Batman “because it’s for boys.”
DEAR PEOPLE WHO MAKE TOYS BASED ON SUPERHERO CARTOONS: THESE IDEAS ARE FREE. Disney or WB, I don’t mind who you are, just go forth, make and sell your toys in the Pink Section. All I ask is that you reward me with cartoons. A third season of Young Justice will do nicely.
(My regular readers may think that I’m generalizing in the following. That’s okay. YOU know and *I* know that some girls do, in fact, like and play with superhero action figures, and that some girls don’t. And some girls like make up and some girls don’t. And some girls will never like superheroes, ever. But go with me here.)
1. WONDER WOMAN WONDER WOMAN WONDER WOMAN.
It has been said plenty of times, and it deserves to be said again: If you own the rights to a universally recognised character who is a PRINCESS who wields the power of TRUTH and can TALK TO ANIMALS, and you are not milking in all the pocket money from all the little girls in the world, you are doing it wrong. Who cares if she’s too ‘tricky’ to make a movie out of? That doesn’t stop you marketing her for fully grown women, so why not stick your cartoon’s name on some toys for girls?
– A plastic tiara with the star set in a fake gemstone
– gold colored skipping rope.
– Star-themed plastic jewellery
– actual honest-to-gosh swimming costume
– Three-color body glitter. Everyone loves body glitter.
– lunch boxes, bags, T-shirts.. everything you already produce with Superman and Batman on? ADD WONDER WOMAN AND DOUBLE YOUR AUDIENCE.
(PS. Also Vixen needs to get out more. She is a SUPERMODEL who has ALL THE POWERS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM. She is little-girl wish fulfillment through and through.)
2. Secret Identity fashion dolls.
Superheroines were made to be dolls, seriously. They combine imaginative roleplay with multiple lives and changing fashions. So Black Canary Barbie in fishnets was too risque for some mums? Well then, here’s your cue to listen to that other thing female fans have been telling you for decades: costumes need sorting out. In the meantime, package up the leggings-based Canary from Young Justice, give her a wig and a complete change of clothing, and market a florist shop playset separately. Do the same with Supergirl (student); Bumblebee (scientist); Wonder Girl (photographer); Flamebird (tennis pro) Wonder Woman (any job you want – Diana would rock at it.) And while you’re at it, please recreate Barbara Gordon’s completely reversible Batgirl costume.
Additionally, please find a way to make plastic change colors for a Ms Martian doll.
This doesn’t have to be limited to superheroines! Ken dolls are marketed to girls, too. Do a Bruce Wayne/Batman, a Clark Kent/Superman and a Dick Grayson/Nightwing to go with. Add some non-super characters like Lois Lane, Renee Montoya, Maggie Sawyer to complete the line up. (Renee obviously can also come packaged as The Question if you want, but she doesn’t have to be.)
And let’s try to market the dolls at girls who play with dolls, not grown ups who can afford £50-100 for a single Barbie.
3. Roleplay weapons
Okay, so some parents don’t want their children playing with toy weapons. That’s perfectly acceptable, actually, but don’t act like they can’t be marketed to girls – go talk to Hasbro about how they’re tapping into the Katniss market, and repackage some of your existing roleplay toys with a girl-friendly twist:
Bows and foam arrows: Purple for Hawkeye (not Hawkguy), green for Artemis
Foam projectiles: In bat shapes for Batgirl
Toy firearms: Black Widow
Bow staff/batons: Mockingbird
Purple swords: Psylocke
Girls love imaginative play! They love distress-and-rescue stories, they love dressing up and taking the roles themselves as much as they love acting things out with dolls. they love taking roles themselves while their dolls take on other roles. Just like boys do. The only difference is girls are more likely to play with toys-for-girls (e.g. “dolls”) than toys-for-boys (e.g. “action figures”). So make the thing you’re selling a toy-for-girls. Girls will buy a foam sword if it’s pink and the package features a woman wielding it.
Cosplay and roleplay is one thing, and it’s a market open to be tapped if you just stick Wonder Woman and Black Widow alongside Superman and Iron Man (one tip: Supergirl doesn’t wear pink. Check your own canon). Let’s take a moment though, and look at that other sort of dress up girls love to do: looking pretty and accessorizing. MAC did a number with their Wonder Woman line for women, but there is zero reason why you can’t tone that down for proto-women. Girls love looking pretty. The aforementioned nearly-five year old loves jewellery and make up and having pretty hair.
And if you’re thinking you can’t do Superhero themed jewellery, I say: SHUT UP AND TAKE OUR MONEY. Apart from all the Wonder Woman stuff above:
– LANTERN CORPS RINGS. Not those bulky manly plastic ones you get on the counter in your LCS (though those as well), but delicate plastic-and-resin designs packaged with Aya and Star Sapphire and Saintwalker on the label. Jewellery that harnesses the power of emotions, folks. Why are you trying to sell this to boys?
– FLASH RINGS. Because rings.
– Crucifixes in purple packaging for Huntress. Hey, it worked for the Buffy toy people.
– Vixen’s Amulet. It gives you the power of animals.
– Oracle earrings/ necklace. Okay I admit it, this one’s just for me.
– Kryptonite necklaces. (Green plastic gems) Because there’s always one who wants to be a supervillain
– Jubilee’s earrings. Okay, that’s probably a lawsuit with TfL waiting to happen, but it would be glorious!
– Facepaints. Harley Quinn, Mystique, Starfire, Raven. You’ve got a bunch of characters with really well designed faces. Market them.
– earrings and necklaces and rings of all your favorite symbols. You’ve GOT these symbols, profit from them!
– X-Man everything. EVERYTHING.
You know what else girls love? Crafts. Doing things. Making things. Being creative. I’m not even going to list them all. And you’re working for a company that produces art in the visual medium. This shouldn’t be hard. Grab some of that art and print it on things. It’s like printing money, only legal.
– Plaster of paris moulds.
– Stringing beads in your characters’ colors.
– Coloring books
– Join the Dots
– A Poison Ivy gardening kit.
You’re welcome, cartoon executives! I’m not even a toy person and I’ll give you these ideas FOR FREE. But if you want these to sell, you’re going to have to do something for me, and my niece, and for every girl whose money you want to take for yourself.
Make us stories with all those wonderful female characters you have.