Fair warning: I’ve got my ranty pants on today. And my feminist undergarments. They are the same as my regular undergarments, and do include a lacy bra, if you’re wondering.
This week, I picked up the first DVD set containing four or five episodes of the LEGO TV show Legends of Chima. Cool! LEGO animals! My son loves LEGO! How can we go wrong? When we got home from grocery shopping I put it on for him, and we sat down together to watch the first two episodes.
And I was horrified. Not at the rather ham-handed script — although holy infodumps, Batman — or even at the easily drawn drug metaphor between the magic “chi” that only adults can take and that seems to have addictive qualities. What really got under my skin was the gender mix in the TV show.
The first episode starts with the main character, a bipedal lion named Leval, going to a coming of age ceremony where all of his tribe is gathered to celebrate him turning into a real warrior and getting to “take” chi. His tribe is all male. You can tell, because they’re lions and there’s not a mane-less head in sight. Where are all the female lions, I think? Weird. A fight breaks out and a bunch of other male LEGO animals attack — crocodiles, ravens and wolves.
Then there’s a flashback, and we see Leval with his friends, only one of whom is female. She’s an eagle named Eris, and although the bio on the Legends of Chima site describes her as not as “airheaded” as the rest of the eagles — who all seem to be male too, so I guess that could’ve been worse — you could’ve fooled me. By the end of the second episode she’s accidentally ended up in the middle of the dueling area on a bike thing that the website tells me is called a “Speedor” (plural: Speedorz; someone save us now!). When one of the baddies charges her, she sits there on her bike, which she suddenly doesn’t seem to know how to start, and squeals until Leval saves her. She doesn’t, you know, fly up and out of the way. With her wings. Which she has.
Even worse, the only other female characters I saw in these two episodes where the mother of Leval’s former friend (said baddie, a crocodile named Cragger), who is overbearing and manipulative, and Cragger’s sister, who is even worse. The sister’s name is Crooler. CROOLER, like “crueler”. Get it? She uses a magical flower thing to induce a blood rage in her brother, and whispers in his ear about how bad the lions are so that he starts a war.
I nearly threw up in my mouth.
The icing on the cake, though, was when I looked inside the cover and saw a flyer for other LEGO TV shows, including a bright pink add for LEGO Friends. I guess that’s the one girls are meant to be watching.
I didn’t really have an opinion when LEGO brought out the Friends range of blocks. I have friends who have little girls and they love playing house; I’m sure other girls do too. I did when I was little. But I also played with the little boy next door’s action figures. My sister and I had She-Ra dolls, and we’d play knights, or cops and robbers. I loved action stories, but I also didn’t want to pretend to be a boy to play them. Even to this day if I’m immersing myself in something like a game, I will choose to play the female character — whether that be Lara Croft or one of the female choices in the Arkham Horror board game.
I thought we’d come a long way. Frozen — with its self-rescuing princesses — gave me a lot of hope. But Legends of Chima made me realise some of us haven’t come as far as others. My son has two favourite shows right now. One is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from 2003; sure, most of the characters are male but at least April and Karai both kick ass. The other is an Avengers cartoon, which at least has the Wasp in it.
I’d love to see 50/50 representation between females and males in TV shows in general, and kids TV in particular. But, since that might be too much of a shock for some TV execs to handle, can’t we at least make the female characters that are there more than wet blankets who scream and can’t put their damned bike into gear?!
…ok, I’m done.
PS Ok, almost done. I just remembered the one thing that pissed me off in The LEGO Movie. Right at the end, when Wildstyle/Lucy is about to dump Batman, he stops her only to break up with her himself, telling her she should be with a “real hero”. Sure, Lucy and Emmet clearly liked each other. And sure, she was about to break up with Batman for that reason. But did Batman really have to tell the viewer that the hero was entitled to the hot girl? What kind of message does that give little boys? Grr.