Merchandising, everyone knows that most of the money from movies, especially movies like Harry Potter, Captain America, or Guardians of the Galaxy, comes from the merchandise lining store shelves. Last year, film and television merchandising brought in $51.4 billion. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t contribute some of my hard earned money to that total. It’s just a fact that I really can’t live without my Slytherin coffee mug, and lets not even talk about my t-shirt collection.
As the school year starts once again (first day for my class was Monday), my classroom is
flooded once more with backpacks, lunch boxes, and an assortment of folders and notebooks featuring a variety of Disney princesses, superheroes and Ninja Turtles, among many other popular characters. I’m trying to remember which Ninja Turtle wears which color mask (something I had no problem recalling when I was a child), just to keep kids’ stuff straight. In this tidal wave of back to school stuff, I’m reminded once again of something that’s bothered me ever since I was a child; so many things are marketed to boys only, showing little girls that there are specific roles they are expected to take on. Actually, these same marketing trends do the same thing to little boys and it’s disappointing that a trend that bothered me twenty years ago when I was in elementary school is still commonplace today.
As a kid I had a million dolls and barbies purchased by aunts and grandparents who hoped I’d grow out of my “weirdness” that made me disinterested in the things they thought little girls should prefer. As a result I had a lot of toys that I didn’t play with and a lot of things my parents got for me that came from what would have been considered the “boys” section of the toy store. Still I liked what I liked and made no apologies for it. No little girl should have to apologize for wanting to be a superhero or race car driver rather than a princess. No little boy should have to apologize for wanting to play with dolls instead of Superman.
I won’t go out and say that there is anything wrong with Disney princesses. I have never been a big fan, but at least they’ve gotten a little more female-empowering over the last few years (Merida and Elsa could certainly hold their own), but don’t even get me started on Barbie. Still, boys get all the superheroes, and I mean all of them, plus most athletic merchandise and a host of other products. Take Lego for example, which features 32 sets geared toward boys on its website and only 2 for girls (there are a few gender neutral lines), not to mention the fact that in recent advertising boys have been shown with toys simulating designing space stations and and defending cities, while girls in the same ad were shown creating a beach resort. Even in Lego land it seems boys are destined to rule the world.
Though there is absolutely no question that gender-based marketing exists for all products and all ages, I have noticed small changes, especially in movie-based merchandise; there are more and more things geared toward both genders, things that were once marketed only to males. I’ve noticed more than a couple little girls with Ninja Turtles toys. I’ve seen Batman clothes for girls. It’s by no means a landslide change, but it is something. I wish there was more of it, much more, and I wish it happened sooner, like when I was ten for example.
As an adult not much has changed; a lot of t-shirts and other film gear I buy is definitely aimed at a male audience. There certainly are more things for women (half the Dr. Who apparel at Newbury Comics is for women, for example), but it is by no means equal or even close. What I want to see is marketers catching up with the times and realizing that women are a market, and a lucrative once, especially when it comes to all things geek. Women game just as much if not more than men, go to the same movies and in fact buy 51% of all movie tickets, not to mention a proportionate amount of merchandise. I think it’s about time that advertising and merchandising began reflecting that.