I really wanted to like this show. I had first heard about it a little while before it aired in the US. The idea of a boy dressing in drag to fight crime was something so controversial that One Million Moms (OMM) wrote a nasty letter to Hub, the company that was going to air it, telling them to reconsider on a count of the fact that billions of young people would be so confused about gender roles that it would lead to the breakdown of society. Anyone that can piss off anti-LGBT hate group One Million Moms is okay with me. But this show did not live up to my expectations. At all.
The premise of the show is that SheZow is a mysterious super heroine that regularly saves people from various super villains. A twin boy and girl discover a magic ring in the wall of the basement of the house that their family had just moved into and the male twin, Guy, tries the ring on, not believing it to be actually from SheZow. But the ring is and it transforms him into the super heroine. You find out later in the series that the ring was passed down from aunts to nieces, for some reason the woman who is SheZow never seems to marry or have children of her own. Kelly, Guy’s female twin sister, is jealous that Guy gets to be SheZow when she considers herself an avid fan of the super heroine and adores her work.
Meanwhile, their dad, and yes, they have parents, is a cop. As a police officer he resents SheZow for getting all the glory of saving people when they put in a lot of hard work themselves. Their mother is apparently a homemaker and supports SheZow, even offering to train her in elocution lessons for her Glamageddon battle with Terra.
The main part of the controversy was that this should would normalize transgender people and *gasp* break out of the gender binary that conservatives are working so goddamn hard on maintaining. But this show doesn’t feature a transgender person at all. When Guy transforms into SheZow the ring puts him into an entirely pink outfit and gives him super powers. He doesn’t actually change into a girl. He remains male bodied the entire time. He also has no desire to actually be a girl and doesn’t identify himself as a girl. So he’s not transgender, like OMM was claiming. But they also don’t know the difference between being transgender and cross dressing, so what were we really expecting from them?
But Guy, even though he dresses as a woman to fight crime, doesn’t seem to learn much about women or femininity from his time in tights. He spends his time, both fighting crime and being a regular 12-year-old boy, with his best friend Maz, who also doubles as his side-kick. Keep in mind that his sister is available to be a crime fighter too, but the boys go out to deal with the bad guys while she stays at the She-lair and generally is nagging and annoying. The characters regularly make jokes about manicures and beauty care not being manly and Guy even tells Maz at one point not to, “Act like a girl.”
SheZow, who is even referred to with masculine pronouns in the theme song, on the other hand is 100% girl. She is dressed entirely in different shades of pink and has a pink streak in her dark hair. She carries a beau-tility belt (like a utility belt, but for girls) that holds a variety of crime fighting tools including laser lipstick, boomerang brush, fingernail clippers of courage, and fishnet stocking bombs. Among her powers as SheZow, Guy also has She-SP (extra sensory perception) and a sonic scream. Just like Cloe in Bratz Super Babyz, which, as she puts it, makes her a super cry baby.
Noticing a pattern here? While SheZow is styled and outfitted to be highly feminine, the characters keep adding the word “she” onto common words in order to feminize them as well. Instead of breaking down gender barriers, this simple erects more by making words automatically masculine and forcing the characters to attempt to gender their language by using as many she- starting words as possible.
In episode 3, Glamageddon/SheZap, the cast uses 14 different words and phrases that have been refashioned with the word “she” at the beginning of them. It should be noted that some words are used more than once at different times. The list for episode 3 is as follows:
- She-ality TV
- She you later
- She-saster zone
- She-tective work
In a show clocking in at just over 24 minutes with no commercials, but with opening credits, closing credits, as well as act break intros and outros, that one of these made up terms are used on average every two minutes.
Why? Why the need to gender language and set femininity apart as something strange and other? Why is this happening?
I found an interview with the creator of the series, Obie Scott Wade, who was surprised by the reactions of One Million Moms and stated that he just thought that a cross dressing superhero was a funny premise and wanted to run with that. He adds that gender issues were something, “We didn’t explore too much. We just kind of knew it was there and didn’t geek out about it.”
This thoughtlessness to what they’re doing worries me. One way to continue gender inequality is by completely ignoring gender issues. Like when white people say that they don’t see color. Not seeing color is an example of white privilege and it’s a privilege that a lot of people don’t have. Not seeing gender, in today’s society, isn’t an option, it’s a privilege and it’s a male privilege.
Wade, who by the end of the interview, sounds rather clueless, adds on that the writer’s room is pretty-gender balanced. However, on IMDB, the list of the show writers include 5 female names to 20 traditionally masculine names. I wasn’t able to verify each of the writer’s gender but this leaves us with either 5 women writing for the show and 20 men writing, additional women writers who aren’t mentioned and aren’t getting credit for their work, or a lot of female writers who are named Tom and Chris.
As for SheZow in action, she loses all her powers if her hair gets messed up. No, seriously, that happens in the show. Maintaining her apperasnce and receiving beauty treatments is part of keeping her powers working properly and she runs, jumps, dives, and dodges all while wearing platform high heels.
This isn’t really a gender breakthrough. It’s putting hyper feminized clothing and accessories on a hyper masculinized boy for laughs. He doesn’t learn about being female, unless you count when Kelly forces him to watch chick flicks as part of “sensitivity” training and he starts suffering from “she-latablity” where he can feel empathy and care about other people. Because apparently that’s something that only women want or have the ability to do. But that idea is so demeaning to both men AND women that I’m just not going to count it.
This show could have been such a great opportunity to start a dialogue about gender in society and how people are viewed and treated based on their gender and even about how people SHOULD be treated, regardless of their gender. But it’s not. It’s not trying to be anything other than a funny show for kids to watch, but as I got deeper and deeper into the series, I longed for more substance and thought put into the cartoon than what had been delivered.
When it really comes down to it, this is just an average cartoon with too many puns. The only thing that sets it apart is that the main character wears a dress when going into battle. That’s it. There’s nothing particularly memorable or charming about it on the whole and I couldn’t force myself to watch any more than six episodes out of the 26 that comprised the first season. Moreover, with the main characters’ family being so nuclear and nothing else in the storyline being even vaguely eyebrow raising, I fail to see how this show would even bother OMM if they had actually viewed it before protesting it.