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Gender Bendery

Surprise, Surprise: Right-Wingers Get Upset About The Hub’s Genderswapping Superhero Cartoon

Meet Guy Hamdon. He’s a 12-year-old wannabe-macho man whose catchphrase is “It’s a GUY thing.” But when he steals a ring meant for his sister and puts it on as a joke he gets the shock of his young life, as the ring is actually a magic ring that turns its wearer into SheZow, a “a legendary FEMALE superhero who possesses many super powers both physical and in the form of awesome gadgets” and whom Guy can subsequently turn into by saying “You go girl!”

SheZow, which airs in the U.S. on The Hub, has already gotten a lot of people talking about its refreshingly unique attitude to gender. But some of the comments haven’t been so positive.

Look out. Conservative bastion Brietbart News has found out about The Hub’s genderswapping kid’s show. And they aren’t pleased.

I’m not going to go that much into what Brietbart writer Ben Shapiro says specifically, but you can probably imagine it yourself. Basically, he says that it’s not appropriate for children. He doesn’t say why, but I didn’t expect him to, because there actually isn’t a good reason. But anyway. io9 spoke with show creator Obie Scott Wade about the backlash, which he says he didn’t expect, because the show “was really well-received by everybody” after it started airing in Australia in December. Oh, you sweet summer child. Wade responded to critics thusly:

“Just based on what they wrote, they’re reading a lot into the show that’s not there. I didn’t set out to make a show about any sort of political agenda, I just wanted to make a comedy. I wanted to make a cartoon that I would have liked as a kid. So I think people are just reading a lot into it.”

There’s no political agenda, sure—as far as the genderswapping element is concerned, Wade counts among his influences those always-so-controversially-liberal Bugs Bunny cartoons—but there is a lot of stuff about empathy and respecting others. How dare he?! Via io9:

“In [one] episode, [Guy] learns that one key to maintaining SheZow’s powers is ‘good grooming,’ and ‘his sister tries to give him a manicure, because that’s part of maintaining the power, and he doesn’t want to do it. And of course that has a drastic side-effect: part of his fingernail falls into some toxic goo and becomes an evil clone named SheZap,’ says Wade, who represents ‘his dark side.’

‘Yes, there are a lot of experiences he has that broaden him as a character,’ adds Wade, ‘but predominantly it’s about a laid-back kid who’s suddenly forced to save the world. It’s more about the responsibility that he has to take on, and less about gender… [We set out to] make a good animated superhero comedy that didn’t make a big deal out of the situation.”

He and his writer’s team—whom Wade notes is gender balanced—are sure to treat female respectfully, though, rather than as a joke. SheZow “shows a very positive role-model in SheZow,” Wade explains. “There’s been a number of SheZows over the decades, throughout his family. It’s something that’s passed down from generation to generation. And so women are very much honored in the show, and in his family.” And being SheZow in addition to Guy actually helps the main character become a better person. Per the official description, battling supervillains while sporting “an outrageous female superhero costume” helps him “on his own personal journey toward becoming one heck of a super man.”

Other things of note: When Guy turns into SheZow no physical element of him changes, like facial features softening or voice getting higher or anything like that. And if the show gets a second season Wade says he’d like to explore why the ring worked on Wade when it didn’t for any guy in the past. And this tidbit:

“So will it be harder for Guy to hide the truth about SheZow as he gets older? Wade says ‘time shifting is something I’d like to explore in the series. I’d like to jump ahead and see what happens in his future. So we’ll see.’”

Attention, all other studios/companies/creators: An animated kid’s show has just done something new, interesting, progressive, creative, and fun as relates to gender representation. Ball’s in your court.

(via: io9, The Daily Dot)

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  • Anonymous

    Even with the radical difference in neurological configuration between males and females (I would really like to have those extra left right brain connections just to see what it’s like) this isn’t the most unlikely superpower ever to manifest.

  • Anonymous

    From premise to reaction, this thing sounds like a showcase of stupidity. Being Australian, the people behind the premise can at least blame alcohol or sunstroke for the premise, but what’s Shapiro’s excuse?

  • Anonymous

    So Western animation is finally covering the controversial topic of 90s anime, eh?

  • Skemono

    Other things of note: When Guy turns into SheZow no physical element of him changes, like facial features softening or voice getting higher or anything like that.

    Aside from the apparent long hair and eyelashes? And I think a mole?

    I dunno. I hope that this isn’t just a “macho man (well, boy) gets feminized and we are meant to laugh at that” scenario. Wade’s comments give me hope that it’s not treated like that, but I still have misgivings.

  • Sara Sakana

    Remember, girls–in the end, boys will always be better than you, even if they did have to steal your superpower ring to get that way! What a wonderful message.

    What part of this do you think is “refreshingly unique?”

  • Rebecca Pahle

    The part where it’s a positive portrayal of genderfluidity.

  • Anonymous

    I see what they’re trying to do… but wouldn’t showing that girls are regular people who don’t necessarily like pink leopard print and heals be a better idea? Or how impractical long hair and heals would still be in a super heroing situation?

    Let’s turn him into a GIRL which means PINK and LIPSTICK and HIGHLIGHTS.

    I think Ranma 1/2 did this better. And way earlier. At least with the transformation stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Other things of note: When Guy turns into SheZow no physical element of him changes, like facial features softening or voice getting higher or anything like that.

    Except for the physical aspect of becoming a girl….

  • Anonymous

    From what I understand, and I might be wrong, he doesn’t turn into a girl, he just wears “girly” things.

  • Abel Undercity

    For Zod’s sake, nobody tell the Breitbrats about Ranma 1/2. I can’t bear the karma of being responsible for the carnage caused by so many head explosions.

  • Anonymous

    Funny I immediately thought Ranma 1/2 as well.

  • Michael Fitz-Gibbon

    I don’t see the point of the furor over this. Bugs Bunny cross dressed all the time.

  • Anonymous

    Or, Zod forbid, Wandering Son. A story about trans kids! And they’re minors! In a magazine aimed at little boys! It’s not age appropriaaaate! /clutches pearls

  • Anonymous

    And kissed other guys!

  • Travis

    My first thought was Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars but yeah, Ranma. Welcome to twenty years ago, conservatives.

  • Foxfire

    Yep, I laughed as well, especially when I read this quote from the bottom of the article “Attention, all other studios/companies/creators: An animated kid’s show has just done something new, interesting, progressive, creative, and fun as relates to gender representation. Ball’s in your court.”

    Good on them for actually getting some attention, but really, it’s a case of nutters just being nutters to get some air time, they should just be ignored.

  • Travis

    Of course if the premise was reversed, you’d no doubt be outraged over the idea that a girl would have to turn into a boy to become a powerful hero.

    Keep on keeping on.

  • Anonymous

    I mean I do think this is a cool step in American TV. I certainly wasn’t trying to downplay that or say “LOL Japan did it in the 90′s”, it just made me chuckle a bit when I thought of it.

  • Anonymous

    Ha remember how badly they had to edit out Sailor Moon in the U.S.? Couldn’t even state that Neptune and Uranus were lesbians.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    He doesn’t actually become a girl, he just wears girl’s clothes and is considered such? After stealing his sister’s ring? And it’s something he’s effectively forced to do against his will (after being willing to steal the ring), if he wants the powers?

    There are several troubling aspects to this, which I see no one addressing. It’s either a straight-forward Conservative LGBT-phobic hate-fest, or a straight-forward Progressive embracing with no questions asked.

    Setting aside the ‘your sex/gender is nothing more than what you wear’ message, the troubling ‘masculine dominating feminine’ power dynamic (the ring theft…the power obtained in the ‘image makeover’ is completely beside the swept-away point), or the shades of forced feminization, I’m going to pass, thanks.

    Dismissing criticism of the premise by creating a reverse version (girl steals boy’s ring, must become male to have powers) that would also be criticized is several logical fallacies at once. Contrary and sub-contrary statements can each both be false or true, depending on the statement. Take a Logic class.

  • Anonymous


    God, I’m old…

  • Amber Clark

    but I’m kind of skeptical about this. Any show that uses gender variant
    people in a comedic fashion always makes me nervous.

  • Anonymous

    Apparently the Argentinian version of Stars had Taiki, Yaten, and Seiya “summon their twin sisters” instead of transform…

  • Dessa Brewington

    It’s like that in the first episode maybe, but after that, Guy is totally cool with being SheZow.

    Not that there aren’t problematic bits to the show, but that one is dispensed with and gotten over early on.

  • Dessa Brewington

    Yeah, even after 8 episodes in, it never really addresses that. There’s plenty for liberals to be frustrated with here as well.

    FWIW, creator Obie Scott Wade seems willing to listen over at his SheZow facebook fan page. I mentioned that the show might benefit from some sort of balance in that regard, and he liked the comment (though he didn’t respond to it beyond that…)

  • Dessa Brewington

    Take some hormones then. All evidence seems to suggest that they affect brain layout too.

    But the difference isn’t all that radical. We’re talking a fraction of a fraction here.

  • Dessa Brewington

    SheZow runs in the family, and he is the first and only male SheZow (and the ring picks its wearer). There’s no suggestion that he was better than his aunt or any of his other female ancestors at being SheZow.

  • Dessa Brewington

    Beyond that, even if he were to shun the powers altogether, the ring imposes a moral code on him. If he steals, for instance, he shrinks. He could give up being SheZow forever and he’d still have to deal with some effects (some of them gendery).

  • Dessa Brewington

    The clothing and hair changes, but he’s still entirely male. It’d be interesting to see what he looks like 20 years from now. Does the ring suppress a 5-o-clock shadow? Iono.

  • Anonymous

    They’re cousins! Really, really, really close cousins.

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention genetics, environment, practice/memorization, and a million other things. We tend to use a “hardware” metaphor, but the brain is not a computer, it’s a living biological system. And one we don’t know all that much about, so appeals to fundamental biology are a little sketchy.

    I have a lot of extra right brain/left brain connections… because I’m left-handed.

  • Mina

    You know, the brain actually re-routes itself all throughout your life according to what you’re using it most for. That is, if you’re regularly performing a certain type of task, it assigns a little extra space to managing that task so that it will be better able to handle it. If you stop doing some type of task, it reassigns some of the brain space that had been helping with that, since it doesn’t think you need it as much anymore. The brain is all about making the best use of its space and it changes all the time to make that happen. So if you want to try out a different brain “wiring,” you can. You just need to learn learn new skills.

  • Anonymous

    Show seems perfect for progressive infighting as much as conservative outrage. I mean, you’ve got to have a guy turning into a girl as a hook to make a show about a girl superhero? Because a girl superhero who’s “only” a girl would be uninteresting?

    It’s kind of a separate problem, and we don’t need a single show to try to fix every problem, but we do have far too few sensibly-dressed female superheroes who are complete and “real” characters.

  • Brian

    And if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t hit its ass on the ground.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Yeah, this. I’m definitely going to give it a try before I start fussing about it “getting something wrong.” We get a lot of good shows about girls–not nearly enough, but there are still great girl superheroes for kids to get excited over. Not a lot of genderfluidity for kids, though.

  • Laura Truxillo

    That just made it so much WORSE!

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Wah? they were really guys who turned into women?! Gaaah~ The sailor stars confused me to no end having only seen the english dub XD

  • Saga Silkesmo

    “Right-Wingers Get Upset About ____”

    And in other news; the sky is blue.

  • Caribbean Brony

    I don’t. For reasons…

  • Emppu

    You do realize that girls liking pink leopard prints and heals are just as regular as those who don’t? Just saying I’m puzzled constantly the attitude of gender-bland girls being only acceptable form of girls. Surely I haven’t seen the show, yet I would find it more fruitful to dress activity usually considered “girly” as something that isn’t so big dent in one’s gender-identity.

  • Kate A

    Well, it’s not like there haven’t been animated shows about girls kicking butt before. Powerpuff Girls, Kim Possible, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe he means comedy a la “has to keep two lives in a balance and secret”? Like a more lighthearted version of a Peter Parker? Less to do with the gender side of it and more with just the superhero side.

  • Anonymous

    Italian version, but yep.

  • Anonymous

    True. I don’t know enough to get into proportions (that is, how many Ben Ten are their per Kim Possible, etc), but it might not surprise me if animated shows are probably one of the best subsections of superhero fiction for balance. Compared to actual comic books, or to movies, my gut does put them a bit more balanced. Teen Titans vs. The Avengers, for example.

  • Maus Dresden

    Quote: “if the show gets a second season Wade says he’d like to explore why the ring worked on Wade when it didn’t for any guy in the past.”
    …Has anyone thought about Guy beeing intersexual? Boys hit usually puberty later than girls. He is 12yo, so about the right time to develope his secondary sexual characteristics, but what if he is both male and female?

  • AJ

    To bad nobody watches The Hub. The ratings are generally so bad that they hit the low end of the Nielsen threshold and get a random boost just because of it. On the odd show that The Hub actually garners decent ratings it’s usually a one off and the ratings generally slide back down pretty quick.

    My guess is another cheap 90′s looking Anime knockoff out of Australia isn’t going to help anything, especially once parents get wind of this. Not that any of it matters anyway, cable and satellite are as dead as print. It’s just a matter of time.

  • James Fletcher

    All this makes me want to do is actually see the show to see what’s the fuss is. So, good job protecting the uninformed conservative watchdogs!

  • Anonymous

    Women dressing as men / pretending to be guys / learning about male gender roles is a hell of a lot less controversial a topic than the reverse, and is extremely well-worn ground. See: Mulan, tons of Shakespeare plays, the “surprise” of Samus Aran’s gender reveal. Because masculinity and “guy stuff” are generally speaking the default assumption for modern culture, most people are used to the concept of women playing with male gender roles, and even praise it.

    A guy? Turning into a woman, wearing woman’s clothing, and learning to empathize with women? That’s still pretty unusual. And as the Breitbart reaction indicates, it pisses a lot of people off.

  • Charlie

    The first thing I thought of was Moldiver.

  • Anonymous

    If that’s the case well the Right-Wingers sound even more nuts. I was fine with a full gender swap, but could see people being upset about it. If he’s just changing outfit/hair but still male, well that is not really an issue.

  • Amber Clark

    You do realize that many gender variant people hide their gender identity and expression from people around them, right? Many crossdressers are closeted, a large number trans* people go stealth. By simply being an out trans woman I have statistically reduced my expected lifespan due to violence that targets the gender variant. Conservative estimates place the murder rate of trans people at ten times the rate of the national average, around 1 in 12 trans people will be murdered.

    With numbers like that you can see why many trans people hide who they are.

  • Dryad

    This squicks me out a little just because seeing someone forced into a gender role they don’t identify with is uncomfortable to me as a GQ person, but I can see how it could get people to think about the distinction between looks/presentation and identity. I’ll catch an episode if I can and see how it plays out.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    It’s not radical. And the differences that exist are due to environment, hormonal factors, and repeated forms of mental activity. Google ‘Neurological Plasticity’.

    In short, no fundamental divide exists between the sexes, unlike what Conservatives would have you believe. On the subject of sex (chromosomes themselves), there are approximately 16 variations. ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ as you would understand them ‘genetically’ (itself a misused word) are only two.

    As far as Progressive beliefs go, those plasticity factors do produce some end-result differences between sexes that are more significant than gender deconstructionists would like to believe, or at least acknowledge, Both sides tend to only quote the science that suits them.

  • Amber Barnes

    I take umbridge with calling women who are not traditionally feminine as “gender-bland”.

    But, I think the key here is balance. I get what Furrama is saying: the female superhero, this embodiment of generations-long feminine empowerment is adorned in hyper sparkly accessories, with pink, pink, pink, PINK everywhere. It feels really pigeon-holing and stereotypical, that these are the traits and features we’re supposed to idealize as women. But on the other hand, we do need more media telling EVERYONE that traditionally feminine things aren’t frivolous and can be just as empowering as traditional masculine trappings like rippling muscles and massive weapons, etc. Gender presentation is a very complex subject and it deserves a lot of nuance.

  • Amber Barnes

    Yeah, the whole “male steals/takes over a traditionally female role of power and the sister that was supposed to take over the role is upset but that’s negative/makes her a bad person” dichotomy gets all my side eye. I’ll give it a shot, but its going to have to impress big time to make up for this.

  • Dan Hydar

    …. and, Suprise-Suprise, the corresponding subset left-wingers become upset about that subset of right-wingers being upset.

    seriously, the two equal subsets DESERVE each other.

  • Dan Hydar

    (eyeroll) … and folks on the left didn’t run about demanding that DC Comic burn Orson Scott Card at the stake. It’s always amusing when folks only see the nuts on the **other** side.

  • Anonymous

    Emporio Ivankov is going “He-Haw” right now.

  • Emppu

    Sorry for my poor choices of word, gender-neutral is the term I was looking for and though I’m completely with you that gender isn’t defined by how much they are drowned in pink and glitter, we are looking this as a problem only from feminine point of view. The masculine point of view is what makes “girly” stuff constantly problematic because the way society has defined girly stuff is somehow demeaning, vain, sissy and gay. How the heck we should break out from this idea that the girly stuff people try so eagerly paint in everywhere isn’t that what they think it is? Unless the show is directly aimed for girls only, I think it’s nice to present it’s not a problem for a boy to wear and do typically defined girly stuff.

  • Linda Fate Demissy

    “steals a ring meant for his sister,” says this article’s author. How do we know it was intended for his sister? Guy is the one for whom the secret compartment opens, by throwing the urn with Aunt Agnes’ remains directly onto it. Were it not for this, the ring may have stayed hidden for a long time. There’s no note saying who the ring is intended for, nor did Agnes leave a will that we know of. There is no theft.

    Even her super computer didn’t know but makes no fuss about it, which lets us suppose that whoever finds it and puts it on is the Chosen One: that means it’s Guy. The fact that his sister wants it doesn’t mean it’s intended for her, just that we have a reluctant hero. Since the ring doesn’t come off until death, that means either someone took it off Agnes and put it there, or it magically hid itself so it could be found by the right person.

    So either it’s an “equal opportunity feminine power” device who doesn’t care who wears it or has no agency (seems unlikely), or there was a good reason why it chose Guy as its bearer. If you think about it, it’s actually pretty rare that the person who dreamed of being a hero gets to be one. It’s the one who didn’t want that power who usually gets it.

    Having to give up macho behaviors and attitudes, as well having to embrace feminine ones to gain power, seems like a good theme to explore. Well, as much as a comedy kid show can. If nothing else, this show opens the possibility of feminine behavior equating power for boys, being acceptable and even desirable. It’s something that even Ranma doesn’t achieve (as he’s no more powerful in girl form and feels being feminine is entirely negative). I think this show is a Good Thing.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Um, I just watched the first episode of the show. Contrary to the impression you may have gotten from reading this, its more like the kid is cross dressing. I got the impression that he’s basically a boy dressed up as a girl, who has super powers. He doesn’t really change sex, its just that when he transforms, his costume, makes him look like a girl. His voice doesn’t even change.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    That’s the impression I got as well.

  • Emily Hill

    Of all the crap happening really Shezow is getting stigma fuck these backwards idiots with their own pitch forks