Apparently, Cartoon Network isn’t the only corporation that thinks its female viewers are worth less than its male viewers. Starting on Friday, Jan. 17, fast food giant McDonald’s will be featuring a new line of gendered toys (which is problematic in and of itself). (First of all: Don’t you think non-binary children would like some toy options, without feeling like they’re being shoved into unnecessary categories?) With this round of gendered toys, the chain is handing out figurines from the popular series “Adventure Time” — but only to young boys. Young girls have the option of pink and purple Paul Frank toys, most of which appear to be wearable (um, why?).
But wait! Doesn’t “Adventure Time” have tons of female characters? Wasn’t there an entire episode dedicated to “genderswapping” characters so that Finn and Jake could become Fionna and Cake, and continue to kick ass even when gendered as female? Couldn’t McDonald’s feature “Adventure Time” toys for all children, based on these facts?
Apparently not, since McDonald’s didn’t even bother to include any of the show’s female characters in its new toy line. Hmm. I smell some grade-a misogynist bullshit cooking on this grill.
What makes the whole thing worse is that Cartoon Network probably signed off on the toy line without a single problem. After all, the network continuously cancels shows like “Young Justice” because the executives believe that having a largely female audience means a show can’t survive. Their reasoning is that female viewers won’t buy toys related to the show — but what Cartoon Network fails to realize is that toys don’t need to be gendered. Girls are just as likely — and have just as much right — to play with “Adventure Time” or “Young Justice” action figures as boys are. Boys are just as likely — and have just as much right — to request toys from the Paul Frank line at McDonald’s as girls are.
Furthermore, if Cartoon Network is so concerned about girls buying toys, maybe they should work with corporations like McDonald’s and insist that female characters be included in toy lines! But alas, this isn’t the first time Cartoon Network has dropped the ball on representation on “Adventure Time”. When the show’s writers initially began to establish a more-than-platonic relationship between Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum, any explicit mention of it was erased from official channels related to the show.
As a fan of “Adventure Time” (and “Young Justice”, for that matter), it angers me to know that my viewership is valued less than the viewership of my male counterparts. While I haven’t ordered a Happy Meal at McDonald’s in several years, I can say with some conviction that if given a choice between a Paul Frank wristlet-thing and an action figure of Lumpy Space Princess, I’d choose the latter. Every. Time. I’m sure that there are plenty of children out there who would agree with me — and it’s gross that McDonald’s isn’t even presenting the option.
“Adventure Time” features more than just male characters, and gives its female characters depth and personalities that have meaning. The show deals well with mature subjects that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike — so why can’t Cartoon Network and McDonald’s do the same?