With her star-studded superhero outfit and knee-high red boots, Wonder Woman became an icon to many young girls in the 1970s. While they might not have read the comics (or maybe they did), the Lynda Carter version of brunette beauty was something many now-40somethings aspired to be.
Those sparkly spankies set off what for decades would become a parade of glamazon ‘action figures’ for girls who looked more like Barbie than the bold, take-charge characters they should be. Ok, so maybe 70s Wonder Woman isn’t at fault. But, the buxom and busty versions of female superheroes never really hit the mark when it came to giving little girls ‘real’ role models.
And, along comes Mattel. Yes, the Mattel who created Barbie. Yes, the Mattel who set the standard for blond bombshells of the doll world. Yes, the Mattel who made many of us feel utterly and completely inadequate as young string bean thin brown-haired girls who were far (oh, so very far) from Barbie’s perfect Playboy bunny curves. Even though Mattel may have created what would become the quintessential dollification of feminine beauty (as seen through the eyes of someone who believes that blond and bustiness are the only ways to go, of course), they are now responsible for taking female action figures into a whole new world.
Mattel’s new line of female action figures are superheroes design by a woman, for girls. Instead of the overly sexualized versions of the heroes, these figures are meant to be all about girl-power. The DC SuperHero Girls line was created by Mattel in partnership with Warner Bros.’ DC Comics. Girls will have their pick of 12-inch dolls, 6-inch action figures and gizmos and gadgets that are similar to the superhero playthings aimed at boys. Nixing the big busted, teeny tiny waisted female form, these figures feature more realistic athletic frames.
Why give girls better superheroes? Why not! In a statement on the DC Comics website’s blog, Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment and President and Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment says, “DC Entertainment has a deep and rich roster of strong female characters – both heroes and villains – that have inspired and empowered girls and young women for decades. From the iconic Wonder Woman and Supergirls, to the complex but compelling Harley Quinn and Catwoman, there is a character to whom every girl can relate, no matter what stage of life in which she currently finds herself.”
Aside from the obvious reasons (i.e., the hourglass, hyper-feminized forms just don’t do much to give little girls much to live up to), Mattel found that girls were already purchasing action figures – the ones geared towards boys that is. Gone are the days when girls sat quietly brushing their doll’s hair. Well, maybe those days aren’t completely gone. But, Mattel’s new journey into less-Barbieish toys is meant to move the company into a better place. After replacing their CEO, this new line is the beginning of a new era for the toy-maker. Along with their research into what girls are buying (or more like what girls are begging their parents to buy them), Mattel also found out what girls are looking for in an ‘action figure’.
Unlike boys who often lean more towards the violent end of things, girls are more interested in dolls that can talk to animals, make others tell the truth and eventually turn their arch enemies into BFFs. That said, they didn’t want girly girl dolls. Athleticism and strength was prized over the typical ‘pretty’.
Not only is the SuperHero Girls line making figures that are better suited to girls, but the manufacturer has crafted an entirely new story that appeals to the young audience. Instead of grown women, these heroes are teens in high school (think Monster High).
Along with the dolls, girls (and boys) can check out the characters at the DCSuperHeroGirls.com website. The website features animated webisode shorts that star the teen comic heroes. The high school heroes include stars such as Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Woman.
What does all of this mean for girls? Along with their favourite Batman and Superman toys, they now have a few females that aren’t just pretty pawns.