Paul Dini Drops Some Truth, Executives Don’t Want Girls as Their Audience

Posted: December 18, 2013 by Sam in Animation, Comics, Editorial, Maniacal Rantings, Movies, Television
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fatman on Batman

If you’re a fan of DC Comics and all things Batman (which I am), then you’re probably aware of Kevin Smith’s podcast Fatman on Batman where Silent Bob himself talks to pretty much anyone who’s been involved with the Dark Knight in some capacity. It’s a celebration of the Bat and it gives Smith a reason to fanboy out much to all of our delight.

Recently, Smith brought back Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Mad Love, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) to the Fat-cave for a two-part discussion of what were supposed to be minor bits and ephemera concerning Batman and the various properties with which Dini has been involved. In the second part, however, during a discussion of the probable cancellation of Beware the Batman on Cartoon Network (CN), Dini spilled the beans on how executives at Cartoon Network regard their female viewers. The short answer is: They don’t want them.

Apologies for how long this transcript is, made possible by Vi at A Bird’s Word on tumblr, but it’s worth reading the entire conversation as well as Smith’s response. Or, you can download the podcast and just listen to it because it gets very real when the two start talking about the harsh reality of why girls are marginalized.

First he talks about the cancellation of Young Justice and Dini’s own show Tower Prep for CN:

“But then, there’s been this weird—there’s been a, a sudden trend in animation, with super-heroes. Like, ‘it’s too old. It’s too old for our audience, and it has to be younger. It has to be funnier.‘ And that’s when I watch the first couple of episodes of Teen Titans Go!, it’s like those are the wacky moments in the Teen Titans cartoon, without any of the more serious moments. ‘Let’s just do them all fighting over pizza, or running around crazy and everything, ’cause our audience—the audience we wanna go after, is not the Young Justice audience any more. We wanna go after little kids, who are into—boys who are into goofy humor, goofy random humor, like on Adventure Time or Regular Show. We wanna do that goofy, that sense of humor, that’s where we’re going for.’

Then Dini hits us where we hurt:

DINI: “They’re all for boys ’we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”

DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show—”

SMITH: “So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t—A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as f***ing boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them f***ing umbrella with the f***ing character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

DINI: “That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’—this is the network talking—’one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’ And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]’s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t—’ and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down—’Yeah, but the—so many—we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.’”

SMITH: “That’s heart-breaking.”

DINI: “And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, ‘We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.’ We had a whole… we had a whole, a merchandise line for Tower Prep that they s***canned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, ‘Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.’

paul-dini-kevin-smith-cartoon-network-gi

Not this one

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

I just wanna get this out of the way first: “goofy” humor is not a sign of quality in a show. It is an aspect of a show like drama, action, or any number of genres, but it isn’t the only reason people watch Adventure Time or why they watched the original Teen Titans. I personally don’t watch Adventure Time, but I know there’s far more to the show than surrealist imagery and random humor. Teen Titans was also a cartoon that, while it had a lot of humor and anime influences, told mature and sometimes darker stories. Young Justice and Green Lantern had the same mix of action, humor, and quality storytelling. Apparently the people at Cartoon Network really don’t understand why their shows are popular.

Secondly, toy sales should not be the determining factor in the lifespan of a children’s show. They’re not reflective of the actual viewership of the show and with families needing to cut down on spending due to the slow rise of the economy there could be people out there who would normally buy those toys for their kids but can’t afford to. And like Smith says, if merchandise is your ultimate signpost of popularity, then find a way to sell to boys and girls! Superhero_superman_supergirl_batgirl_batman_child_photoshoot_Albuquerque_Photographer_02(pp_w907_h604)

Which leads into the third issue: GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS ABOUT SUPERHEROES! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS WITH “GOOFY HUMOR”! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS, PERIOD! GIRLS BUY TOYS AND OTHER MERCHANDISE BASED ON SAID CARTOONS! Is it really that hard to wrap your head around this fact? Girls aren’t different and they aren’t hard to figure out when it comes to the things they pester their parents to buy. But to cordon girls off from your product based on a preconceived and ridiculously ignorant notion of gender stereotypes, you’re inevitably sealing the fate of your show. Like Smith said, girls and women are 51% of the population and they make up the same demographic percentage when it comes to the media they consume. Nothing, not cartoons, comic books, movies, television shows, games, or princesses for that matter, belongs to one gender. You can sell the same products to girls that you do to boys. The executives at Cartoon Network, and for that matter, the executives of any company that maintain this mindset, obviously do not understand how to do their job.

You know what, I’m just gonna head over to my hittin’ wall and bash my head against it a few times. Maybe then I’ll be able to better understand how these people think. Also, let us now have a moment of silence as the quality of my writing goes right down the tube.

Comments
  1. […] group for girls of all ages. Guess who gave the most thoughtful feedback. Or go back and listen to Paul Dini on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman where he lays it all out that girls are considered […]

  2. aigle says:

    I was sad when they canceled Tower Prep, out of all of the CN real disasters that they gave us TP was pretty good, and when I read that Dini was behind it I went through one of those squealing fangirl moments. TP was like X-men meets Harry Potter meets The Prisoner. A good mix of action, mystery, drama, with a hint of humor not the usual mess of goofy humor and simplistic plots that seems to reinforce the idea of the younger generation’s constant ADHD and the need for every show to be nothing more than a 23 minute commercial.

    I did so love the characters, although we knew who the main character was it was nice to see that everyone else wasn’t made to be weaker or less important just to keep hyping him up, and they weren’t completely reduced to simple sidekicks only around to help when needed.

    Level Up, ugh the stereotypes that show reinforced, the dorky guy, the somewhat average one, the jock, and the high strung over achieving female character who isn’t into games like the others but is basically there as the token female.

    To think that product sales was one of the reasons why this show was cancelled is just heart-breaking. If there was a TP bag, hoodie, and other paraphernalia I would have bought it (I really loved that show). I am hoping that TP can somehow go the way of Community and become a webshow, granted if CN doesn’t have the power to prevent that with licensing rights. I really want to see how it ends.

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