The Big Problem behind #BigHero4

bighero6The Big Hero 6 franchise made news recently for leaving the female members of the team, Gogo and Honey Lemon, off the themed fabric made by Springs Creative. (EDIT: The original story appeared on the blog of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies.)

A number of fans, both female and male, were enraged by this insensible omission. As one fan points, out, girls make up one third of the Big Hero 6 team! Not to mention, the name of the move counts all six members, you can’t just ignore two of them, as the hashtag #bighero4 points out.

So the company apologized and everything is hunky-dory right? Not quite. This is only the latest development in a trend that has been getting a lot of attention, at least since the #wewantleia hashtag back in June, and still hasn’t gotten any better.

Let’s go through the list, shall we?

  1. Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy

Do you remember when we wrote about the #wheresgamora phenomenon back in August?

Gamora, the green-skinned female member of the Guardians of the Galaxy was conspicuously absent from the Disney Store’s GOtG T-shirts and stores were not stocking her action figure, while her teammates filled the shelves. The twitterverse exploded, as moms and fans lamented the missing girl. This is the issue that got the most attention, but we can trace the trend even further.

  1. Leia from Star Wars

Back in June of 2014, #wewantleia was trending on twitter when Leia action figures were noticeably absent among hordes of jedis and stormtroopers.

  1. Black Widow from the Avengers

By the time Avengers merchandise came out without  Black Widow, we had our outrage down to a science: write angry blog posts,  start trends on twitter, and make our outrage heard.

The problem is that these companies focus on marketing exclusively for boys. Springs Creative was quoted saying that they left the girls off the merchandise because young boys would think they are “Yuck!” The Young Justice animated tv series also got a lot of attention recently when the producer pointed out that most execs are not interested in catering to a female fanbase because they believe that girls “buy toys differently.”

Women have been fighting for representation in the geek world for a long time, especially in the super hero sector. We’ve finally made some progress with kickass figures like Black Widow and Gogo and Honey Lemon (though some of them have their issues, as we discussed in our analysis of Gamora). Erasing these women from merchandise erases a good chunk of that progress.

The “invisible women” of superhero merchandise doesn’t merely refer to the characters being left off of t-shirts and toy shelves. It refers to all the female fans who want to share in the franchise and are excluded.

How long will it take the toy & t-shirt world to realize that women and girls, and let’s not forget all the gents who would love to rock a Gamora or Black Widow shirt, are a force to be reckoned with?

Are you as mad as we are about these girls being left out from the merch? Share your thoughts in the comments!

UPDATE: Melissa of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies, author of the original article on the Big Hero 6 fabric, has invited our readers to join her twitter campaign #IncludeTheGirls. If you come across merchandise that excludes female characters like the ones listed above, snap a pic, add the hashtag, and tweet about it to join in the discussion!

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12 thoughts on “The Big Problem behind #BigHero4

    1. Yes, and that was good of them. But the issue remains that they left the female characters off in the first place, and that this is not an isolated incident but part of a larger trend. I hope that as this issue gets more attention, more companies will respond in the positive way Springs Creative did, and maybe stop creating such divisive merchandise at all.

      1. Agree. And maybe these companies could stop thinking in such an old-fashioned way and maybe actively pave the way for some more gender-independent marketing? Sure they could carve themselves a name and a (big) niche in the market by being first-movers! Would also get them positive social media feedback rather than having to make lame explanations based on backlash…

  1. Hi Carly –
    My name is Melissa and I’m the original author of the Big Hero 6 story (BoingBoing never asked permission to reprint my post) and I want you to know I fully agree with you, this is not an isolated incident but rather part of a troubling pattern. You can read more about what I have to say on that by going directly to the original source of this story on my blog: http://pigtailpalsblog.com/2015/04/mom-contacts-company-over-missing-girl-characters-company-responds-it-is-because-boys-think-girls-are-gross/

    This is an issue my parent activist community tackles regularly. In fact, I also started a #IncludeTheGirls hashtag on twitter for people to call out exactly the types of example you provide in your post. I’d love for you and your readers to join in and tweet more examples for that hashtag.

    I also just gave an interview to CNN on this story and made sure to point out that both this apology and the one my community received from TOMS shoes yesterday (http://pigtailpalsblog.com/2015/04/toms-reacts-with-lightning-speed-to-consumers-voicing-concern-over-gendered-messages/) are great, but in 2015 sexist attitudes towards consumers should be buried and we shouldn’t have to be asking for these changes in the first place! The other point I was sure to make was that if all media, children’s media in particular offered a more balanced ratio of male/female main characters it wouldn’t be quite so easy and commonplace to leave the female characters off merchandise.

    Great post on your part, thanks for being part of the fight!
    🙂 Melissa Atkins Wardy
    pigtailpalsblog.com

    1. Thank you Melissa for reaching out, and for the original post that inspired so much discussion! I’d be glad to add the link to your original post and mention the #includethegirls twitter campaign

  2. I watched all the Big Hero 6 special features when I got my copy, and I noticed that the majority of creators for this movie that they highlighted were white men. Yes, this movie was super good at diversifying, but what I get loud and clear from the “behind the scenes” stuff is that women are not welcome to create these movies. It’s a man’s game. And regardless of whether that’s true or not, they didn’t stop to think about putting a woman in the creator discussion, and that’s a HUGE issue.

    Another franchise that was mentioned on my facebook link to this article is Star Wars: Rebels, which has some of the coolest female characters on TV right now. I agree that this show needs to put their women on merch too.

    I’m noticing a larger theme thought: GotG, Big Hero 6, and Star Wars all have the same parent company… I think Disney needs to step up in a big way.

  3. My three year old daughter is obsessed with Big Hero 6 and so we searched high and low for merch. My husband got her some pajamas from Amazon, but they were only in the “boys” section. When they got here, only the four boys were on the PJs. I thought my daughter might not pay attention and just be excited for the PJs, but a few weeks later she announced she was going to be Baymax, Hiro, Fred, and Wasabi. When asked about the girl heroes, she said “they aren’t on my shirt, so I can’t be them.” Needless to say, we had a long and educational chat. Children pick up on more things than we give them credit for. Shame on Disney.

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