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05 August 2008 @ 03:47 pm
Ranty Panties: Mattel and Sexism  
Okay, as you folks around here know, I'm both ambivalent toward the ongoing Pleasant Company vs. Mattel war, and not terribly likely to jump on the feminism steed and ride into battle crying "sexism!" the whole way. So when I'm climbing on the Internet to cry "MATTEL IS SEXIST", you gotta know I have serious, irrefutable proof.

Okay, aside from AG dolls, some of you know my major love is action figures (I consider my gashapon collection to be an extension of that). Whenever I am really into something, before I jump into making a doll of a character, first thing I do is shop around for action figures and and usually get a handful of them for whatever my interest is. Right now that interest is Avatar: the Last Airbender, a Nickelodeon show that just wrapped up, and the action figures are largely discontinued and hard to find.

So I'm poking through various websites and online stores looking for an action figure of Katara, a female main character who has been in the show since the first episode, and isn't a token female character, either. Her actions in the first episode were the catalyst of the entire series. She's a master of her particular ability, usually very level-headed and practical (to the point that yes, sometimes other characters see her as a nag), an all around competent, well-rounded female character.

There's not a single action figure of her.

Thinking this had to be a mistake, I poked around more and more and more. I quickly realized there are no action figures of any female characters, not even the microscopic "figures" in the mini-sets. Not the female main villain of two seasons, not the other strong female main character introduced in the second season, none. These are characters shown in almost every episode after their introduction. Instead you've got figures of male characters who were in a handful of episodes, two of a character who has a speaking role in only three episodes.

Guess who is responsible for the toy line? You guessed it: Mattel.

As it turns out, I wasn't the only one to notice and feel angry at the lack of female characters. Several even sent them letters, including a woman who wanted a chance to buy the female characters for her son so he didn't have to use his sister's dolls to play the female characters all the time. Here is the form letter they were sending out in response to it as of middle of last year:


Two things:

1.) "Katara's increased role on the show"? As I stated before, she's been a main character since the very first episode. The only way she could become more important is if she were the title character.

2.) Obviously, they were lying about releasing a figure of her, because it's mid-to-late 2008, the show is over, and there still isn't one, and it seems that Mattel is done with that line, not even making figures for characters beyond the first season (which aired in '05, BTW).

I know the show runners aren't responsible for this because they've stated in interviews since the show began the reason they created Katara and the other strong female characters was to show the boys in the target demographic of the show that girls could be just as cool as the male characters. There's even an episode in the first season devoted to showing kids sexism is bad and girls are just as awesome as boys. Mattel's form letter even seems to acknowledge they are responsible for which figures are released when and for whatever reason, they decided not to release any of the female characters.

So that's my long-ass rant for the day. I'm going to go shake my fist angrily at Mattel for a little while (I'd send them a letter, but with the toy line apparently a done deal, I'd probably just get a form letter about them no longer developing any figures for it at all) and then do something relaxing.
Current Mood: bitchybitchy
Anna Belmont: morons on my payrollangelari on August 5th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
I have run into Mattel's apparent dislike of female action figures many, many times over the years - I am one of those rare creatures, a female GI Joe fan. The female character, no matter how important she is, is almost always the "rare" character. It was months before I found a Sue Storm action figure (and then I didn't like it) when the Fantastic Four movie came out - and you would think producing equal numbers of the FOUR main characters would be a no-brainer; kids are probably going to want toys of the WHOLE TEAM if they're going to play with FF toys at all.

Toymakers seem to have two bizarre thought patterns: one, only boys play with action figures; and two, children don't want to play with opposite-sex toys. There are as few boys in the girl aisles as there are girls in the boy aisles. Boy dolls, whether they are fashion dolls or baby dolls, are few and far between, as if young girls are expected to forget the fact that their brothers and fathers even exist when they enagage in "imitative play." Sisters and mothers - and strong female characters that appear in their favorite shows - are supposed to be similarly nonexistent in boy-land. Mattel isn't the only guilty party in this - I notice that there don't appear to be any "American Boy" dolls, for example. I remember the "My Buddy" dolls, marketed for boys - but they never marketed them for girls; girls were only expected to want the gender-appropriate "Kid Sister" dolls.
A Guy Named Goo: Shoesaguynamedgoo on August 5th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC)
*Nods* Too true, sadly. As someone said somewhere else where I posted this rant, it's a vicious cycle: companies don't want to take a gamble on marketing the opposite sex to kids, but when they do try it, because it's something new they don't initially sell well, and it puts them off of it all over again.

By the way, American Girl is owned by Mattel (they weren't initially, but Mattel bought them in 1998).
Supernonamegirlsupernonamegirl on August 5th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
Welcome to my world. This is why I have a copy of every DCAU female I've been able to find, regardless of liking her (and there's still a few I like that I'm missing!).
The action girls are always shortpacked, regardless of the maker in my experience, though Mattel has a long history of it.
Additionally, and this might really upset you, I looked into Katara back before Season three started, I read that the Avatar line was canceled before series 3 (or 2? whichever is the newest one should be the last) went into production. They later changed and said they were going release most of the series 3, which they had models for. The one they left out? Katara, of course. That explains the proposed mid-2007 release.
A Guy Named Goo: Shoesaguynamedgoo on August 5th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
That's more or less what I found when poking through. Considering they were talking about the mid-2007 release in a letter dated late May of '07, they must have pulled the plug very suddenly indeed, though, unless it was a form letter that hadn't been updated.

Still you would have figured that Katara would have been made back in the first wave, when they made Aang and Sokka, because the main trio that was traveling in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE? Aang, Katara, and Sokka. So if kids are going to play the adventures of Team Avatar or whatever, they'd need Katara to make the group complete.
Larissa: TPS - doctor masklarissa_j on August 6th, 2008 02:44 am (UTC)
Oh Mattel. When I think of Mattel, I think of Barbie.

I have a love/hate relationship with Barbie. She's a part of my childhood but she's so wrong. Pretty but so so limiting and sexist.
chocolate_frappchocolate_frapp on August 6th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
I just have a plain old hate-hate relationship with Barbie. Totally sexist, so what do you expect from Mattel? (The kindest thing you can say about Barbie is she looks less like a hooker than the Bratz dolls do.)