Hey McDonalds, Girls Like Adventure Time Too, What Gives?
Oh my glob! McDonalds has announced they are releasing Adventure Time Happy Meal toys! While there's tons of merchandise for the beloved and surreal Cartoon Network series, this benchmark means it will be easier (and cheaper) than ever for fans to indulge in their appreciation for Finn, Jake and all the other inhabitants of Ooo! Except wait…There's a noticeable absence in this cast of characters. Oh right, McDonalds has deemed these "boy" toys so there's none of the show's female characters represented.
Tipped by Kotaku, HappyMeal.com has debuted some pretty cool figures of Finn, Jake, BMO and the Ice King. But as they've relegated these as the "boy toys" option, there is no Lumpy Space Princess, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline or Flame Princess! Instead, girls are suggested toys featuring Paul Frank's monkey. (Not even Lisa Frank? I don't get kids today.)
For now, let's set aside the issue of coding toys for boys or girls. Instead, let's focus on Adventure Time itself. A hit with kids and grown-ups, it's a series about a boy (Finn) and his brother/best friend/shapeshifting dog (Jake) who act as heroes in the land of Ooo with the help of their friends, many of whom--as mentioned above--are females, not to mention fan favorites.
Maybe there's some assumption that only boys watch Adventure Time. Admittedly, I don't have figures on the show's demographics, but I can tell you that it seems to me both in the merchandise at We Love Fine and the mass amount of girls I've seen co-splaying as any given Adventure Time character at Comic Cons that I am not alone there. Clearly, girls are watching the show.
But for the sake of argument, let's assume the majority of Adventure Time's demographic is male. Okay. Why is McDonald's assuming these boys won't want to play with some of the show's coolest characters? Finn and Jake are the stars, sure. But Marcelline is a Vampire Queen who sings crazy catchy songs and can fly!
Princess Bubblegum is a genius mad scientist with crazy cool self-made technologies. Lumpy Space Princess is a lovable clown who is a blast to impersonate. And Flame Princess is so powerful she could bring about the end of the world!
Why limit a boy's playtime from these kind of adventures solely because these characters gender-identify as female? And this doesn't even take into account the many adults who love the show and would be game to add new pieces to their growing Adventure Time collections. With two Finn and two Jake toys in this group, there was definitely some room for at least PBubs and Marceline!
Worse yet, this exclusion of girls goes against the very grain of the show. While Finn rescues plenty of goofy princesses from peril, the show offers many more progressive models of gender dynamics. For one thing there's BMO, whose gender identity is a fascinating topic of debate:
Then of course there are the various forms of femininity and masculinity the show offers. Princess Bubblegum is dedicatedly girly as is LSP, and together they successfully urge Jake and Finn to try things like tea parties. But PBubs is also great at science, defying a common gender stereotype. Marceline on the other hand is more of a tomboy, favoring pants and edgy rock music. Then as sort of the male reversal of that, you have Princess Cookie (A.K.A. Baby Snaps), a male citizen of Bubblegum's kingdom who dreams of being a princess, a wish that Jake warmly encourages.
Then of course there's the show's self-imposed gender-swap episodes where every character (except arguably BMO) gets a gender makeover to see how those new dynamics might play out.
As a big fan of the show, I am torn. I want these toys, but don't want McDonalds to think this lame kind of sexist marketing is acceptable. But as I don't have kids and haven't bought a Happy Meal in maybe a decade, any "boycott" on my part would be meager and overlooked. So what can I do? I can write a column calling out this sexist bullshit, and ask you, fellow Adventure Time fans, what you think. Sound off in comments.
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