Girl Show Ghetto
"I didn’t create this show for little girls, I created it for little girls and their parents —- including male parents. It only stands to reason that adult animation fans without children may like it too.
Mainly, the Double Standard most people have regarding media: that women's entertainment should only be enjoyed by women with no crossover allowed—despite it being okay for women to watch shows primarily marketed towards men—keeping in mind most media is male-focused. Not to mention the stigma that media specifically tailored for women is of inferior quality.
This line of thinking is very clear in most creators and executives' minds (though not without warrant considering many Real Life instances and attitudes). Men and women could watch shows meant for men/starring a man, only women could like a female-centered, never mind "girly", show. Watching a girl show would be unmanly and be subject to ridicule. Just watch any show and the guy who's the more sensitive, caring member of the cast is usually the Butt Monkey.
Unfortunately, women-targeted entertainment has a reputation of not being as good as other shows. Common criticisms are that women's media is overly touchy-feely, simplistic, poorly-written, and shallow. This is mostly due to the aesthetics of the media (and not to mention a lot of it is fashion-based). The men can be the Badass heroes and problem solvers, and women are rarely shown in those roles even in women's media.
Some Merchandise-Driven shows sport a variation, where it's the merchandising that takes a hit. Showing off a Red Ranger figure in the playground is cool, showing off a Pink Ranger figure is an invitation to get beaten up. Or at least that's what toy companies think; even when the girls aren't dressed up in bright pink they'll just assume no boy will be interested in buying their stuff.
This attitude isn't as prevalent as it once was, but it's still rather pervasive. Since Most Writers Are Male, they're going to go for the greatest audience available (or at least, what they think is the greatest audience) and the stigma is still entrenched not only in entertainment, but in Real Life as well.
Compare Real Women Never Wear Dresses, What Do You Mean It's Not for Little Girls?, The Bechdel Test, Double Standard, The Smurfette Principle, White Male Lead, Race Lift, Animation Age Ghetto, Minority Show Ghetto, Lifetime Movie of the Week.
See also Real Men Wear Pink.
Anime and Manga
- Cardcaptor Sakura was a quintessential girls show, but when it was released for Kids WB the dub saw heavy edits to turn one of the male characters into a Protagonist along with Sakura, which included having half the episodes (mainly the ones without him) cut. Broadcasts outside the US aired the remaining episodes (save for two in Canada and the U.K.), thus clearly establishing Sakura as the protagonist.
- In Black Lagoon, while the main character is a male, this doesn't stop all the ladies from stealing the limelight with their guns, swords, and/or freakish strength. In fact, characters like Revy, Roberta, Eda, and Balalaika continue to front the action and receive the most character development then all the male characters combined, all without having to dress like a sexy schoolgirl. And here's the kicker: the primary audience is adult Japanese men.
- According to DiC Entertainment's pitch reel for Sailor Moon, attempts to sell the show in America included informing networks that the dub was distributed by the studio that made Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, a show that earned fans of both genders despite its female leads, and also assuring the networks that, "boys will love the non-stop action!"
- Males who enjoy Shoujo Demographic works are often looked at askance. Sometimes inverted with women that like Shonen being treated like they're all Yaoi Fangirls.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica originally suffered from a Audience-Alienating Premise due to this trope by starting off as a mostly normal-looking cutesy Magical Girl show, causing many people to stop watching it in disgust before the real, much darker premise took shape. Of course once everyone learned what the show was actually about, fans started flocking to the show.
- Wonder Woman has had this problem. She's supposed to be one of DC's Big Three superheroes next to Batman and Superman, yet she hasn't had a Live Action Film yet (infamously in Development Hell.) She hasn't had an animated series yet. (Batman the Animated Series has had plenty in recent years, and Superman got his own show, too.) and the last time she's been out of the comics solo (besides the animated film) is the 70s live action series. The closest she's gotten to another franchise was a failed pilot in 2011 that was rather poorly received outside the industry (though no reason has officially been given for why they dropped it). And even within the comics, she's never been on the same level of sales as Batman and Superman.
- The sad irony here is that Wonder Woman was created for girls, but for the specific purpose of having a female action hero who was equal to her male counterparts. But, apparently, being a literal Amazon still doesn't make you as "manly" as the most Badass Normal male hero.
- Some Fan Fiction writers hypothesise that Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls is the reason why 'fanfiction' is considered to be so viscerally disgusting by so many people. It's worth observing that on this wiki, most of the fanfiction included in tropes lists is either adventure-based stuff written by boys (Shinji and Warhammer 40 K), or relationship-based stuff that's legendarily bad (My Immortal).
- This opinion has even been documented in academic analysis of Fanfic by ethnographer Camille Bacon-Smith and MIT's Henry Jenkins. Jenkins goes as far to postulate in Textual Poachers that Fanfic in general is a reaction on the part of a female audience trying to find their own pleasures in predominantly-male media.
Film - Animation
- The Princess and the Frog did okay at the box office for Disney, but not nearly as good as their previous animated films. Disney determined that this trope was the reason and was rumored to completely shut down adapting fairy tales into movies. For the marketing of their "Rapunzel" adaptation, they completely downplayed the fairy tale-ness of the movie, changed the title to the somewhat more comedic-sounding Tangled, put the male hero character front and center, and marketed it like a Dreamworks comedy film. The advertising brought a whole lot of backlash, but in the end it paid off; Tangled went on to become Walt Disney Animation Studios' first movie since The Lion King to break the $200 million mark domestically.
- This ignored the fact that alleged "girly" films such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were the highest grossing animated films of their times. Clearly there were at least some boys out there watching them. (On the other hand, the Disney Princess franchise hadn't yet been established, so boys back then probably didn't associate watching both of those movies as being girly.) And Princess and the Frog was released the week before Avatar, with Sherlock Holmes and the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel following on its heels, which could have been the real reason audiences didn't turn out in huge numbers.
- Some Beauty and the Beast trailers completely downplayed Belle's role and the romance, such as this one. However, the fact only one of the six trailers included on the DVD and Blu-Ray uses such techniques suggests Disney didn't rely on them as heavily as for Tangled.
- In the early 2000s, Walt Disney Animation Studios started to make boy-oriented movies, such as ones focusing either on men living in jungles with gorillas, dinosaurs, emperors, pirates in space, and bears, but one particular film released during this era had a princess in it.
- Liloand Stitch managed to avoid the ghetto for the most part, despite its female main characters, and became one of the more profitable Disney films of this era. Although, the marketing tended to focus exclusively on Stitch (presumably male), which may be why.
- The Tinker Bell movies are often criticized as Disney's answer to Barbie (usually by people who haven't seen them), though advertising, the toys, and the movie covers can understandably lead people to this conclusion. In fact they were originally set to be a lot more girly than they are before John Lasseter stepped in.
- The original story treatment of Chicken Little had a female protagonist, but Michael Eisner suggested a movie about a male Chicken Little would appeal to more people. The final film became a black sheep of the Disney Animated Canon, though it seems hard to tell whether or not the original plan would have fared better.
- Some DVD sets of The Secret of NIMH and its direct-to-video sequel, Timmy to the Rescue, have a cover that does not feature Mrs. Brisby, the main character of the older and more beloved of the two movies. Instead, it has her son, Timothy.
Film - Live Action
- When The Princess Bride received a new 2-Disc DVD, fans could choose between two gender-specific covers: the pink "Buttercup Edition" with a cutesy synopsis on the back, or the aquamarine "Dread Pirate Edition" with an action-packed synopsis. Later, the Blu-Ray came with a compromised cover: The bottom half featured Buttercup with Wesley, while the top had Buttercup with the Dread Pirate Roberts.
- Warner Bros. producer Jeff Robinov declared in 2007 that "we are no longer doing movies with women in the lead." This was after the poor box office reception of The Brave One (starring Jodie Foster) and The Invasion (starring Nicole Kidman). He even reportedly expressed that a male has to be the lead of every script in order to get broader audiences.
- The first Twilight movie nearly experienced this. The idea that female moviegoers alone could turn a film into a blockbuster hit was considered so unthinkable that, when Paramount was adapting the movie, they tried to make it far more action-heavy (basically, a high school version of Underworld or Blade) in order to attract the male audience that they thought was necessary. This page goes into detail on the changes that would've been made. These plans were vetoed by Stephenie Meyer, leading to Summit's far more faithful adaptation.
- The films' passionate fan base and huge box office success might have made the Twilight series one of the biggest refutations of the Girl Show Ghetto ever, but the marketing still focused more on the action scenes during the trailers for New Moon and Eclipse. And while they've proved that female-focused movies can dominate the box office, bad reviews and myriad parodies confirm that they haven't done anything to help promote the idea that women's media can yield quality entertainment. Part of the problem is the series' myriad Unfortunate Implications—with Bella essentially giving up her entire life to be with Edward, some women have accused Twilight of setting women's rights back by 50 years.
- The ghetto, along with the huge popularity of actor Johnny Depp, is probably why the 2010 Alice in Wonderland 1) turned out to be an Actionized Sequel of sorts to the nonsense stories of its source material, and 2) focused its marketing campaign on Depp's Mad Hatter.
- Historical Fiction author Nancy Rue said at a workshop that the reason all of her protagonists are male is that girls will read "boy books" but boys won't read "girl books".
- This even extends to the authors themselves, as the many women who have used a Moustache De Plume can attest.
- JK Rowling was told to use initials by her publisher, who worried about this trope. In reality, Joane Rowling doesn't have a middle initial or name (the K is for "Kathleen", after her grandmother), and now her gender is common knowledge.
- The same goes for S.E. Hinton. In one interview, she said that she went by her initials because she thought no one would even want to publish The Outsiders if they knew it had been written by a woman.
- And Animorphs author K. A. Applegate.
- A lot of women watch Spike TV. In fact, one of the creators of Spike TV was FIRED because too many women were watching it. However, their view has softened as they're now actually courting women to watch Spike TV as the channel is shifting from the frat boy demographic.
- Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network are "television for women" that often convince many female and male viewers that female-directed media is lesser.
- A lot of Disney Channel's programming is aimed at girls. It got bad enough that Disney created a sister network (or should we say, brother network), Disney XD, because they couldn't get boys to watch the main Disney Channel's programming.
- It didn't work as well as Disney had hoped: similar to the Spike TV note above, in 2009 it was discovered that more girls were watching Disney XD than boys. So yeah, the plan backfired.
- Towards the fifth season of Charmed, the producers, in the hopes of drawing in more male viewers, started dressing the female leads in more revealing clothes and coming up with various episodes where the sisters would be transformed into magical creatures that would require a skimpy outfit. Alyssa Milano got the worst of it, becoming a mermaid, a genie, an Egyptian belly dancer, and dressing up as Lady Godiva. Rose McGowan was also turned into a wood nymph, and collectively the sisters became Greek goddesses and Valkyries. Hell, one episode had a witch stealing Phoebe's body and changing into a different skimpy outfit twice just because she wanted to show off. Before the eighth and final season, the actresses went to the producers and protested against the outfits. The sisters' clothing in that season is noticeably more modest, and it's new character Billie who becomes Ms. Fanservice.
- In an aversion, male and female fans openly dislike the show's sixth season because of how childish and girly it is.
- A combination inversion and example happened with Power Rangers. Originally, the creators tried to get girls to be interested in the show, by adapting some male characters from the Japanese original as females and selling fashion dolls of the female rangers. Eventually though, it became clear that the show had far more appeal for boys, and the straight example came into play for the toys- since boys were thought to not be interested in playing with toys of the female heroes, said females only get a few basic figures in the toy line while the males get all kinds of special vehicles and power ups. This got to the point where a vehicle for the (female) Yellow Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was packed in with a figure of the Green Ranger in the reversion's toyline.
- This has an interesting effect with shows in syndication. A lot of shows that were very gender-neutral during their original run can be put into reruns on networks that are considered exclusive to women (Network Decay aside, networks like Lifetime, Oxygen, and We have a long reputation of being solely for women.) A lot of shows that were gender neutral and incredibly popular with men and women, like Will and Grace, Frasier, and Roseanne, now have to overcome a stigma that they're shows for women.
- This trope is the reason Panel de Pon was brought over to the West as Dolled-Up Installment Tetris Attack - Nintendo assumed male gamers wouldn't want to play a cutesy game with a primarily female cast of mainly fairies. They seem to have changed their minds on this recently, however, as characters from PDP have appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in sticker form even in the American and European releases.
- Many gaming review sites/magazines refuse to cover games that are openly aimed at girls. If you're a parent looking to buy something cute for a young female gamer you can have a difficult time telling the difference between games that truly are terrible and games that are simply dismissed because they are girly.
- The game industry is notorious for refusing to break out of the idea that all gamers are 18-25 year old white men, at least if you're planning on making a non-casual title. Activision famously told a studio pitching a game set in Hong Kong with an Asian female lead to "lose the chick, they don't sell." A.J. Glasser once noted in an editorial for Kotaku that the only role presented for women in Modern Warfare 2 were NPCs who are all immediately gunned down. There were no speaking parts for women in the entire game, despite earlier Call of Duty games actually remembering once in a while that there are in fact women who serve in the military. She also pointed out a culture gap between Japanese games, which tend to frequently have female leads or supporting casts but also greatly objectify them as a trade-off, and Western games, which frequently just leave women out entirely.
- The reason there are no female playable characters in the Call of Duty games is a reflection of the fact that women do not serve in the roles portrayed in the game in real life.
- This story made the rounds in late 2011, in which a young boy was threatened with actual violence by his father for wanting to buy Mirror's Edge. Entirely because, well, it must be a girl's game, it has a woman on the cover!
- The raison d'etre of The Nostalgia Chick. Her original function was to review the movies that were too girly for The Nostalgia Critic, but she eventually revolted.
- What makes this even better is that she's The Ladette while the Critic is a Sissy Villain. Obviously she was going to revolt at some point.
- Although in a way, she still keeps with this trope—in a blog post she notes that she was hired to bring more female viewers to the site, but women were still watching the boys (for the reasons you might expect) and only started coming after she started doing other subjects. It's worth noting she still does girly topics as well.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic strives to please both genders, but it's not the case for the toys. In particular, the store owners requested the Princess Celestia toy to be pure pink, since they think it would sell better to little girls than if she stayed white (or actually, very light pink).
- The other series count too. While the shows typically are quite popular it's almost always toward girls within the 2 to 11 year old age range. The series typically has no merchandise aimed at boys.
- One of the common fan theories about the introduction of a new, pink Alicorn Princess in the show, was to have a pink Princess character to sell that kind of toy, and yet allow Celestia toys to be Show Accurate White.
- In-universe, one episode of Family Guy features Lois dragging Peter to a Chick Flick, which he thinks might turn him gay. However, he quite enjoys it (and several others), and decides to make a Chick Flick of his own. It...doesn't turn out well.
- Compared to the show, which was basically He Man and The Masters of The Universe with female main characters, the original She Ra Princess of Power toyline was far more Barbie-esque. Catra was portrayed as the Big Bad in the toyline while in the show, she was a subordinate to Hordak, who had previously been sold as a Masters of the Universe toy, and was portrayed as the show's Big Bad. This was all supposedly because Mattel didn't think girls would play with a Hordak toy, nor would boys play with a toy of a female She-Ra character.
- Even though The Powerpuff Girls earned fans both male and female, creator Craig McCracken noticed that by the time the show reached its third season, it had spawned a disconcerting amount of girls-only merchandise. When Cartoon Network asked him to helm a Film Of The Series, he decided to bring Powerpuff Girls back to its action-packed, "whoopass" roots. The Darker and Edgier product received mixed reviews and made less money than any other movie of its year.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender got hit with the merchandising version; with no female action figures even though girls made up a good half of the cast. What made this even more jarring was that male characters who only appeared in a few episodes, like Jet, got action figures, but Katara, an Action Girl and a member of the MAIN CAST (appearing in all episodes except "Zuko Alone") never got one, neither did Toph, (also a main character from the second season onward) despite being more of a tomboy, nor the villainess Azula, even though her less competant brother Zuko and his less competant rival Zhao did get figures.
- Robot Chicken demonstrates how Sex and the City can gain the male audience.
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Friend Falls In Love", Milhouse takes his girlfriend to the treehouse. When she asks if Bart has any girl comics for her to read, Bart says he doesn't but his sister has a wide collection of crappy comics.
- Disney Channel commissioned Phineas and Ferb, despite various worries about it, because they needed a show to attract young boys. Considering Disney's female-targeted fare currently doesn't seem to be doing nearly as well, it's just another example of this trope in action.
Breaking Out of the Ghetto
- As discussed here, Fairy Tales as a whole tend to invert this trope hard. Fairy tales with a female protagonist, like Cinderella or Snow White, tend be much more popular and iconic than stories with a male hero.
- Another good way to transcend the ghetto is to create a capable action heroine, but then have her go on all her adventures in the skimpiest clothing imaginable. Then both women and men will watch, but men (presumably) for all the "wrong" reasons.
Anime and Manga
- Hayao Miyazaki's frequent use of female protagonists hasn't stopped his movies from earning critical acclaim.
- Bridesmaids' aversion of this trope was a major factor in its success. A lot of the reviews praised it for being a female-centric comedy that wasn't a Strictly Formula rom-com, and apparently, a lot of female moviegoers agreed.
- Female writers at Slate.com and other sites practically begged readers to buy tickets to convince studio execs to greenlight more female-driven scripts.
- The movie adaptation of The Hunger Games received good reviews and hefty box office returns. In what the business calls a "four-quadrant" success (meaning it's popular with teen girls, teen boys, adult men and adult women), some 40% of opening-weekend viewers were guys.
- Little House on the Prairie. It doesn't hurt that Laura is the most tomboyish of the three Ingalls daughters.
- The Hunger Games is a young adult series with a female lead that sold well and got very positive reviews. However, it has also received significant backlash from the Twilight Hatedom that sees it as a Follow the Leader.
- Clarissa Explains It All was groundbreaking not only in its content, but because it finally disproved the common (at the time) thinking for children's television—that boys would NOT watch a show starring a girl. Nickelodeon proved everyone wrong by making Clarissa—a smart, funny, free-thinking girl, who was only a tiny bit tomboyish—the lead character and one of the most recognizable characters in that time period. Much of Nickelodeon's future programming, from The Secret World of Alex Mack to iCarly, has had similar "girly girls" in the lead roles, and also pushed tons of girls' merchandise in the pink aisles of toy stores—all without sacrificing boy viewers.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a successful, well-regarded TV show that had a female lead and, for a time, a majority female cast. Its fanbase includes a good mix of males and females.
- Despite many ignorant fans claiming that it's impossible for women's wrestling to draw, history provides several examples:
- Wendi Richter's partnership with Cyndi Lauper helped kickstart the "Rock N Wrestling Connection" and brought wrestling to mainstream success. This helped draw in both male and female viewers, judging from the crowd reaction to the match at the first Wrestlemania.
- In 2003 while critics were slating the WWE product as a whole, the women's division was arguably at its peak and nearly all the women's matches on PPV that year were praised as being the high points of disappointing shows. Both male and female fans have spoken up about how much they enjoyed the feud between Trish Stratus and Victoria which involved various hardcore matches. Also, Lita and Trish Stratus's match in the main event of Raw earned a 3.4 in the ratings department, falling in line with the show's average. Trish Stratus's retirement match at Unforgiven 2006 was also highly received by fans and critics being called match of the night.
- Similarly in TNA, the Knockouts division in 2007 and 2008 proved to be a huge ratings draw for the feud between Gail Kim and Awesome Kong and the women have main evented quite a few Impacts and drawn plenty of ratings for them.
- The success of various women's-only wrestling promotions such as SHIMMER and WSU proves that there are fans who want to see women wrestle.
- Watch this indie match. Listen to when the male crowd starts chanting "best match ever!".
- The Metroid series, Trope Namer for Samus Is a Girl with its protagonist female bounty hunter Samus Aran.
- However, one should note Metroid: Other M; this was the first game to show Samus' personality beyond "stoic badass" and, well, let's just say there were a lot of arguments involving gender politics.
- Portal whose only two (seen) characters are both females, but managed to become a huge hit despite it. Its sequel evened out the gender ratio a bit by introducing Wheatley and Cave Johnson but Chell and GLaDOS have become icons.
- Lisa Simpson, at least before she was Flanderized into a Mary Sue and then a Jerk Sue. She managed to be both quirky and vaguely nerdy (jazz music, Beat poetry, etc.) and unabashedly "girly" (her love of ponies and "Malibu Stacy" dolls). A very good example of an animated female character whom boys could not only like, but identify with.
- Raggedy Ann and Andy A Musical Adventure has become a cult hit for Generation X-ers and Generation Y-ers of both sexes, despite roughly half the protagonist characters being female (with the male lead mostly reduced to a condescending "sidekick" role) and almost all of the antagonist characters being male. And of course, the basic story is more than a little indebted to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz - two other tales that have always been popular with both female and male audiences despite having a female lead.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has a huge male following (who call themselves "Bronies"), most of whom had to be cajoled to watch it first because of this very reason, but eventually became hooked. Not only is this a show about ponies and magic, but there are literally six female main characters and one male character.
It should be noted that this aversion was Invoked Trope by Lauren Faust, as shown in the page quote, who purposefully had the goal of making it appealing to not just little girls, but older viewers as well, including older males. Judging by the massive male fanbase, it seems she's succeeded.
- She Ra Princess of Power was an interesting case. She-Ra was meant to basically be the Distaff Counterpart of He Man and The Masters of The Universe, but despite having a female lead and a brighter color palette the tone wasn't all that different from its predecessor, especially since the series has Hordak (technically a MOTU character) as the lead villain, whereas the toyline has Catra as the Big Bad. So it basically attracted most of the same audience that He-Man did, despite trying to be a girl's show. A girl who wasn't into He-Man probably wouldn't be into She-Ra either, but a boy who liked He-Man would usually like She-Ra too (unless scared off by the fact that it was supposed to be for girls).
- Jem was also popular with male viewers but aimed at females. This is probably due to a mix of action-packed plotlines, mild fanservice...and initially debuting on the same show as Inhumanoids, ROBOTIX, and Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines.
- The Powerpuff Girls was another cartoon that was admirably able to avoid the Girl Show Ghetto and attract an audience of both genders.
- Daria has a tendency to focus on its female characters more often than the male ones, but quite a few boys and men like it, too.
- Kim Possible stars a well-renowned Action Girl with an incompetent male sidekick, yet managed to gain a rather large fanbase. This included male viewers.
- Although Avatar: The Last Airbender had a problem with the merchandising (noted above), the show itself was an aversion, as the cast's gender ratio became weighted in favor of females during the second season without losing its male audience - in fact, most of the girls became fan favorites. This encouraged the creators to go ahead and put a girl as the main character of the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, which absolutely nobody in the fanbase has a problem with. The creators admit that when first selling Korra Nick execs didn't want to greenlight it for this very reason. An interview said that when brought before a test audience of boys they "didn't care that Korra was a girl. They just thought she was awesome."