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The issues with the premiere of Young Justice being light on women, continues to generate some interesting posts. My colleagues and I at “3 Chicks Review Comics” also discussed the show and what a low profile of women in the premiere means for girls watching the show.
Some of the pushback I’ve heard from about why women take a back seat in animated superhero programs seems to be based on the idea that boys are more likely to watch superhero shows. Sadly that may be true today. But I wonder how much of it is a chicken and the egg issue? Fewer shows featuring women, mean fewer women watching.
It wasn’t always this way. And a good example of the equality that boys and girls once held in the world of superheroing can be seen by examining the world of Underoos.
For those not familiar with Underoos, they were underwear designed to look like superhero costumes. Until they arrived in 1977, kids’ underwear was a pretty humdrum white cotton existence. The multi-colored logo emblazoned sets were hugely popular. This is one of their advertisements.
Look a girl and a boy together marketing superhero apparel. When do we see that today?
And blended marketing was a regular occurrence. The first ad for the Underoos featured Wonder Woman flying into a girl’s bedroom to celebrate their availability. Just like Superman, Spiderman and Aquaman flew into boys’ bedrooms to celebrate in the same ad.
"Great Hera, a real change in underwear," declares Wonder Woman. The girl then sings the Underoo jingle with the boys. (Click on it view it)
Boys and Girls celebrating superheroing together. It must be the apocalypse!
Here’s another ad from Christmas 1980.
And here are just a few of the happy recipients of the Underoos.
Through the 80s the girls’ underwear began adding characters like Barbie although Wonder Woman was still there. And Batgirl and Supergirl later joined her. As more non-superhero characters were added the advertising started featuring a single sex with boys and girls going into separate ads except for Holiday ads.
Today if a girl wants to dress up like a superhero the options are primarily bastardized pink costumes. And last time I looked there are no superhero little girl’s pajamas or underwear at Wal-Mart or Penneys. Although there is a lot available for women. Women who may have worn Underoos as a child, perhaps?
But for a few years, there is proof that girls and boys were seated equally at the superhero table. What happened? Did television’s increase in content bifurcate viewing? Did the move of comics to the direct market from newsstands make female comic characters invisible? Was it the cancellation of Superfriends in the mid-80s?
Theories abound. But when I hear the bullshit slung about why “boys” are the target audience for animated superheroes and comics being a “male market made for males”, the world of Underoos shows that this is modern fallacy. And I also say this:
“kiss my underoos.”