Time for another adventure in Tired Marketing Fails!
As a comic book fan and Wonder Woman fan, I was pretty stoked to see Target unveil a line of Justice League themed products for the summer months. There is a little something for almost everyone from housewares (dishes, barbecue accessories, aprons), decor, toys, gardening tools (really), clothes, and a lot of kid’s stuff.
As I stopped at a display of kid’s dishes, I couldn’t help but notice that only one out of five characters — Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman — is, well, a woman. Certainly, part of this rests with some past sexism in the comic book world. But come on, no Hawkwoman? No Huntress? No Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon)? Okay, okay. Maybe that’s asking too much. I can accept a “originals only” concept for Justice League merchandise.
But I’m having trouble with the execution, starting with this ad campaign in the summer double issue of Entertainment Weekly a few weeks back:
So, we start with, well, let’s just call her “Mom,” because I’m pretty sure that’s her not-so-secretly implied identity. Mom is taking the kids to Target and they happen upon all this Justice League loot. Hooray! But wait! I spy with my little eye that the girl in this story is getting the short end of the stick. The big fancy Target display depicted on this page only features guy heroes. The exclusive sheets are male-only characters (as depicted in the ad). And by the last panel, the girl is reduced to sitting on the floor and watching as her brother gets a TON of loot, fancy new PJs, and kick-ass bed set. Um, that kinda sucks for the girl, dontcha think?
But there’s more:
Here we are at a lovely family party. Looks like it’s brother’s party, in fact. He gets the superhero cake, clothes, toys, party supplies and even Dad gets a Flash tee. Meanwhile, the girls are sitting on the ground. Again! Also, they have no hero-specific apparel, except tiaras! Oh right, Wonder Woman is a princess! How could I forget? Obviously, Target hasn’t. Sigh. (And again I ask: Why are there no Wonder Woman party plates? A tee for Mom? Anything?
Here’s the third part of the big Entertainment Weekly ad-buy:
So finally, finally we get to see the sister character doing something! But does she get to do it with a cool superhero swimsuit, like her brother’s superhero trunks? Nope. Does she get a Wonder Woman beach towel nearby? Nope. (Although, yes, there are WW towel-capes).
Also, I’d like to point out that in almost every panel, the male models out-number the female models. And of course, Mom is on-hand in every single situation. Where’s Dad? Eh, he shows up for the party.
This might not be the most vile example of Tired Marketing Fail, but even in its subtly sexist undertones, the message of misogyny is there.
And here’s what I found in the kid’s clothing department:
It doesn’t get any more blatant than this. You come out with a line of superhero-themed goods and clothing and then pretty much skew them totally to boys. Girls have to poach them from the “boys” section (but don’t worry, gender constructs are just illusions anyway) with no apparel that is cut for their bodies. The message is clear: Superhero stuff is for boys!
And let’s get real. Women and girls read comic books! Like, a lot. Tangentially, 45 percent of video gamers are female. And tech-oriented parents aren’t waiting around for the corporations who make the marketing decisions to catch up. Some crafty parents are hacking video games to create more positive girl-themed stories from existing titles, like Legend of Zelda. I bring this up as an example of how the market is demanding parity and the suppliers are not listening. I mean, how many times have I ranted about the diaper and children’s underwear aisles? (Still seeking Spidey undies, girl’s size 4T.)
So here comes Target, with their flashy ad campaign to launch a whole line of products with superheroes. Here’s a perfect opportunity to meet the market’s demand! And what do we get? Tiaras, plastic tumblers, and a gardening broom and pale with a WW slapped on. Really?!
Get it together, Target! Indeed, it’s time for the entire marketplace to get it together!