Bang! Boom! In Gender-Bending SheZow Cartoon, Femininity Is FIERCE!
Guy Hamdon is an average twelve-year-old boy cartoon character with a skateboard, pesky siblings, and a superhero alter ego. That alter ego happens to be a female superhero named SheZow. On the Hub network's new cartoon series of the same name, Guy shouts the magic phrase "You go, girl!" and gleans superhuman strength and speed, plus a skirt, go-go boots, and a hot pink shapeshifting car.
SheZow creator Obie Scott Wade explains the superhero: "It's just taking something classic and turning it a couple notches to the right." Or perhaps to the left, as some conservatives allege.
Catholic League's Bill Donohue criticized the show for exposing children to cross-gender behavior at an inappropriate age, while Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com accused Margeret Loesch, CEO of the Hub network, of being "high" and "leftist" when she approved the "transsexual superhero show."
Progressive bloggers have been quick to defend the series and tag SheZow as a transgender hero/ine. But the label isn't right, either. Guy's gender identity never changes—he's a boy who ends up in SheZow drag when he wants to use his superpowers. And sure, the show plays on the tired assumption that there's something inherently funny about a male character in a dress, but SheZow also offers audiences a message that rarely makes it the cartoon screen, or any screen: femininity is fierce.
At the start of SheZow's pilot episode, Guy reveals his preadolescent belief in antiquated gender constructs. When Guy's sister asks him to help her unpack boxes after their recent move, Guy says he would rather be skateboarding.
"Can't you do the girly unpacking yourself?" Guy whines. "I'm right in the middle of an important board meeting! Get it? Board meeting?!"
But once he spends a day as SheZow, Guy gets a feminist attitude adjustment along with a flippy new hairdo. Initially disgusted by the hue of SheZow's pink car, Guy's grimace turns into a grin when he learns how fast it can go. When Guy discovers that SheZow's super powers allow him to throw cars through the air and speed up the sides of buildings, he enjoys being SheZow in all her frilly pink glory. Like roller derby girls who play rough in red lipstick, SheZow shows young audiences that femininity doesn't equal fragility. That's an important lesson for boys and girls and boys who look like girl superheroes.
Blogger Chris Trejbal writes that SheZow "is hardly a model of modern feminine power," citing SheZow's elbow-length gloves, pink hair and lipstick laser as evidence of "superficially girly-girl" weakness.
But I know plenty of fierce, femme folks who wear similar outfits and can still fix a flat, throw a tractor tire and win a bar fight. In heels.
Trejbal misses the important fact that SheZow's super powers are acts of physical prowess. Just because they're wrapped in pink glitter, it doesn't make them any less effective.
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