Franchising “Super” Feminism: The “Me Too” Concept Explored

The premise of She-Ra: Princess of Power held that He-Man, the muscle-bound protector of the planet Eternia, had a twin sister similarly sworn to defend planet Eternia. Thus, the original television series and toy line multiplied into a second set of products aimed at young girls–part of what scholar Gary Cross referred to as a ‘me too’ industrial strategy.

Derek Johnson

Johnson’s book Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries does a decent job at examining a lot of the psychological strategic planning when it comes to the manifestation and reincarnation of entertainment across media. I thoroughly enjoyed his segment on Gendering Production, where through his example of the He-Man/She-Ra parallel shed light on the foundational divide in franchise marketing between young boys and young girls. The gender dichotomy was a profitable point to satisfy the increasing niche market orientation. What I gathered was that in order for what Johnson calls “girl power media culture” to have even been considered, there had to have been male counterpart already in existence.

heman_shera

Image courtesy of comicvine.com

Although the assumption would be that He-Man and She-Ra (the alter egos of Prince Adam and Princess Adora) are identical based off of the fact that they are twins, Johnson points out one important gender-based difference in the dynamic duo that can potentially spark a debate. “As a warrior woman, She-Ra could be powerful, but the gender-defined marketing logic prevented her from being powerful in exactly the same way as He-Man… [He] was quick to solve problems through violence and aggression… [She] proved more likely to use magic and cleverness than muscle and sword,” (Johnson, 58). The implications can go one of two ways in response to this:

  1. This supports the idea that women are more apt to using logic as a method of problem solving rather than force or violence. It teaches girls at a young age that there is a place for women in the role of leadership, and being a hero does not mean being quick to throw a punch.
  2. This shows that women are unable to match the physical strength of men. It intensifies the limitations placed on women and girls in our society. Young girls will watch this and wonder why the heroine does not display justice tactics in the way that her brother does. There is an imbalance.

Either way you choose to argue, She-Ra has at least seen some success with two complete seasons airing between 1985 and 1986, DVD releases over three decades after it’s final episode aired, and lines of products, including action figures for the nostalgic, die-hard fans. And even since She-Ra’s rise and fall, there have been countless other super heroines to impact the lives of young girls as a form of entertainment and inspiration. If we think about the success of franchising feminism in terms of fictional characters today, there is no doubt that Wonder Woman wouldn’t be one of the prime examples. Her story has seen many variations, and has been the inspiration for many internet fanfictions 

There are numerous other girl power successes, including the infamous Disney Channel teen spy, Kim Possible. Another Kimberly has stolen the hearts of young kids across the country since my upbringing during the 1990s, way before Ms. Possible. She was the infamous pink ranger from Power Rangers, and she was indeed a force to be reckoned with. Even today, she is the prototype people still refer to when talking about PR evolutions, which are still airing today,

pinkranger

(image courtesy of Photobucket)

Despite whoever the next big icon that a generation of young girls can look up to will be, it’s important that she is a person who has her own identity, own story, and her own self-made path to bringing justice and balance back to the people she saves. Men have dominated superhero-dom for ages, while most women have been part of the undercurrent. Luckily, times are shifting, and we are now starting to show children that the playing field can be leveled. The most important thing about this kind of entertainment is how it is delivered.

Johnson, Derek. Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries. NYU Press, 2013. Print. Postmillennial Pop.

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