Female Demographics Neglected By Animation

Daria Morgendorfer
This character should be a hint.

When we think of animation, or indeed any form of entertainment, there is a propensity to think of it only in terms of how it already exists. What I mean is that animation, for a staggeringly long time, was considered as belonging in the kids’ realm (I’m afraid I can’t source the famous “we’re the babysitter” quote that I thought was attributed to Wollie Reitherman.) and it’s only very recently that we’ve started to see it slowly away from that perception. What I’m curious about though, is are there female demographics neglected by animation at the moment, and if so, why?

Who IS Covered

First though, it’s important to look at who is currently covered:

  • Boys aged 0-12
  • Girls aged 0-12
  • Boys aged 16-29

Now before you get out the pitchforks, bear in mind that I’m talking specifically about animation that is aimed at a particular demo. Yes, The Simpsons can be, and is enjoyed by everyone; the same goes for Pixar films, but if you were to collar someone from the responsible marketing department and ask them nicely (or maybe rough them up) they will tell you that either animation is marketed with one demographic in mind.

Which demographic that is will depend heavily not only on who is expected to watch the show, but also who is expected to support it. Examples are pre-school and pre-teen shows. Neither has an audience with any meaningful disposable income but both possess parents who do!

So even though the pre-school show will appeal to kids, you find that it is specifically tailored to what parents desire in their kid’s entertainment. In the case of pre-school that is partly the reason why almost all of them contain a heavy emphasis on education over pure entertainment.

Moving up the age scale, kids aged 6-12 do get more of an emphasis on entertainment because their ability to sell their parents on supporting merchandise is much stronger and by the time they make it to the top, they are practically mini consumers; a.k.a. tweens.

Boys and young males aged 16 and above are adequately catered for through the likes of [adult swim], anime (if they are so inclined) and whatever other kinds of animated entertainment they can dig up for themselves.

Who is NOT Covered

Where things tend to fall apart is once the teenage years kick in. Based on what is currently out there, there is a glut for both genders around the 13-15 mark. That’s pretty natural though as kids get caught between a rock and a hard place in regards to content; too old for the younger stuff, too young for the older stuff. I don’t foresee this gap being narrowed substantially any time soon.

What is noticeable though is that while boys have options once they hit their mid-late teens, girls do not. In other words, boys are brought back into the animation fold through the likes of [adult swim] and anime (plenty of guns, violence and giant robots), girls don’t have anything (or very little) comparable to that at all.

Seriously. Close your eyes and think of a current, animated TV program (or animated film) that’s aimed specifically at mid-late teenage girls or those in their early 20s. I can easily name a dozen live-action shows but nothing animated even comes close to mind.

Again, this is not to say that girls in that age range can’t enjoy animated programming or films; a heck of a lot of them do, but a glance around the TV schedules and cinema listings reveals a glaring gap in animated programming tailored to them.

Oh, and as for Brave, well again, you’ll have to corner our marketing friend, but I would be greatly shocked if that was being tailored for anyone over the age of 13.

So could it be that girls are ‘dropping out’ of the animation scene in their teenage years because there is nothing to pick them up at the other side of the lull around 13-15? The signs currently point to yes, and there are many, many reasons behind it.

Standard arguments that get trotted out for this kind of thing is that there is no market for it, that girls genuinely have no interest in animated programming once they near adulthood and (most egregiously) that they simply enjoy the same content as guys. All are false. Audiences can only watch what they are given, so saying they don’t want to watch something that doesn’t exist is a load of hogwash.

What About Daria?

Ah yes, what about Daria. The MTV animated show could be said to aim precisely at the very audiences discussed in this post. It had a female lead(s) and tended to adhere to the social and moral quandaries that many teenagers face. The show also achieved all this while bridging the gender divide and appealing to all teenagers.

However, the show has long since departed from the airwaves and nary a replacement has been seen since. As of 2013, it regretfully resides in the nostalgia zone, where only those who originally watched it will seek it out in any meaningful numbers.

What Can Be Done

It’s a topic that’s been covered here on the blog before, but the bottom line is that there simply is not enough animated content being made for girls at all ages, prepubescent or otherwise. Even the comics industry has seen an increase in this kind of content with plenty of female comic artists and writers getting works out that is more likely to appeal to that kind of audience.

Animation retains a kind of stigma when it comes to this, and my guess is that no-one of the powers that be are willing to make the right move to get the shows that are needed, made and broadcast.

The simple answer is to make the content and make it well.

 

Character Sundays: Daria and Quinn Morgendorfer

Sorry, I couldn't resist!

Via: Sick Sad World

We didn’t really get Daria back in Ireland. It was either too odd for the stiffs at RTE so those of us without satellite or cable (i.e. almost everyone) were left in the dark.

Skip forward to today, and I’ve managed to move to the country where Daria was made. Even better than that, I met someone who likes Daria, a lot. So it goes without saying that I have now watched every single episode and the two movies and it has become one of my favourite shows.

Why? Quite simply it is the characters. They’re a fantastic smorgasbord of types that you would probably never come across in real life, but who make for enjoyable entertainment nonetheless.

While I could write a post for each and every one of them, it makes sense to focus on two in particular. No, not Daria and JaneĀ  but Daria and Quinn. Why you ask? Because they’re sisters but are still polar opposites when it comes to personality, which the series uses every chance it gets for comedic and dramatic effect.

Daria

At first glimpse, Daria is deathly boring. She’s mostly expressionless, very rarely conveys any emotion of any kind and to top it off, her voice is as monotonous as the corn fields of Iowa (no offence to Iowans). On the surface, she’s an extremely flat and unlikeable character, and yet, the more we see of her, the deeper and more complex she becomes.

Daria is the school oddball, in other words, quite content in herself but seen by just about everyone else as a weirdo. She’s also the voice or reason, or rather, that of rationality. She sees things in a very black and white manner and has the ability to see past attempts to pull the wool over her eyes.

What is particularly interesting about Daria is that even though she’s a teenager, she displays hardly any of the typical teenage traits. She rarely talks back to her parents and rarely gets into mischief. She’s smart to be sure, but throughout the series her attitude and generally vacant expressions make it difficult to determine when she is enjoying herself.

The series did a great job of including some character growth throughout the series hwoever, and it’s nice to see that, by the end, Daria is well on her way to being a real, sort-of rounded adult as opposed to a selfish child.

Quinn

Speaking of selfish children, let’s talk about her sister. Quinn is presented as the stereotypical teenage girl. Obsessed with fashion, popularity and friends, Quinn is also a member of the “Fashion Club” whose members talk a lot about fashion but not much else.

Quinn is presented as being an even shallower character than Daria but the difference is that her’s is portrayed much more up front. Her blatant self-interest is made only more pronounced by the fact that she uses her dates as a means to her own ends.

For the majority of the series, Quinn is shown this way, but like Daria, she begins to develop towards the end. In the first movie, “Is It Fall Yet?” we see her come to terms with the fact that she yearns to succeed but is faced with the prospect of having to actually study in order to achieve it. Perhaps fittingly, we see her in the end credits of the second movie, “Is It College Yet?” as someone who appears to have succeeded in life.

Together, Daria and Quinn represent the yin and yang and despite their differences, they do have some similarities. For one they are both relatively indifferent to their parents, they both respect the value of a dollar when it comes to negotiations and they are both quite good at hiding their true feelings from their friends.

Together, both characters add a lot to what could have been a devastatingly dull series. Without them, the surrounding characters would be floating around Lawndale with little to provoke them or bounce off of.

Anomaly Appraisal: Daria: The Complete Series

This is a bit of a rare post, just warning you in advance. I don’t normally tend to rant about stuff, but when something as idiotic as I am about to describe occurs, I can’t help but bang my head against the wall.

Daria. We all know the show (or should for that matter). Broadcast on Music Television (which is what I prefer to call it, not only out of respect for Fred and Frank, but also because the acronym “MTV” has been turned into a redundant one, ironically enough as a result of shows such as Daria) starting in 1997, the show was a spin-off from the teenage animated show of the 90s, Beavis & Butthead. Centred on the eponymous Daria Morgendorffer and her life at home and in school, it was notable for being perhaps the most sarcasm filled show ever made.

This fact however, was to the show’s benefit. Daria was hugely popular with teens because it pretty much mocked authority in a much more subversive way than Beavis & Butthead. Not withstanding the usual high-school stereotypes (the jock footballer, the blonde cheerleader, nerds and geeks, etc.), the core of the cast were perfectly poised against each other while we, the audience, got the chance to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

Should you watch this show? The short answer is yes, yes you should. The writing is still as sharp today as it was back then, which for a TV show is a pretty difficult thing to achieve, especially one such as Daria that uses poop-culture references fairly often.

But that is only part of the story. The real talking point about the Daria DVD release, is that all (or rather, 99%) of the original music has been substituted with original works. Why is this so? Well, according to series creator Glenn Eichler,

…the cost of licensing the many music bites we used would have made it impossible to release the collection (and for many years did).

So the bottom line is, because Daria used actual music samples in episodes, they must then be licensed again for a DVD release. This once again shows how ridiculous the whole music business is at the moment and why they continue to shoot themselves not only in the foot, but in the bloody face as well.

The long and the short of it is that because record companies demand a quick buck from 30 second recordings, a show must be altered. The studios don’t get a penny, so they end up with nothing. Why on earth would you do something like that?

If Music Television, the one channel that has perhaps done more to grow the music industry than any other, and indeed create a whole new industry in music videos has to pay for short bursts of actual songs, there is something seriously wrong.

Why oh why couldn’t someone have realized that if the actual music was used, there might be a upsurge in demand for the music? Don’t say it doesn’t work. Look at the Sporanos, they used that one Journey song and suddenly I can’t change the radio without hearing them. Once again, short-sightedness gets in the way and ruins everything for everyone in the process.

Does the change in music ruin the show? Not entirely, and it shouldn’t stop you from buying the boxset, It’s well worth the money, especially for 8 discs packed with episodes we all know and love.