Well, the franchise debuted at New York Comic Con this week and last month I had the absolutely incredible
opportunity to actually sit down with 5 other feminist/blogger/moms and representatives from Mattel to actually have the kind of conversation about DC SuperHero Girls that I often fantasize about having with toy makers before they get so close, yet so far with a new product line.
Y’all, these dolls are amazing. They have muscles. MUSCLES! And cute, yet practical shoes. And clothes that are comfortably feminine, but still practical for some badass crime fighting. They are designed to appeal to a broad cross-section of girls who may be in it for a different kind of doll that is scaled to fit in with their Barbies, and also girls who are already fans of the characters themselves. They are attractive without being sexualized. And they come complete with a line of action figures sized to hold their own against any 9 inch figure in what Target used to call the “Boys Action Toys” aisle, and companion accessories that spur girls to be the hero of their own story.
But it is not enough that the toys and the media they are based on are incredibly awesome. They have to get into stores and be seen by the people who have been clamoring for a franchise that takes their kids seriously, and Mattel and DC and Warner Brothers are only a part of that equation.
Something that I learned in almost a decade as a trademark lawyer and 15 plus
years of practice overall, is that companies that make and market products are often hostage to the merchandisers who actually sell them. I’ve done settlement agreements which expressly address how certain large retailers will be informed of the terms so as to not disrupt shelf placement for either party. This retail power is something we all acknowledged when we celebrated Target’s move toward de-gendering their toy and bedding aisles or when we complain about the pink and purple and aqua Lego Princess, Friends and Elves sets being shelved differently than everything else.
Likewise, it matters whether McDonald’s calls the almost inevitable Happy Meal tie in a “girl’s toy” or if the DC SuperHero Girls are presented as an option for all kids. It matters if Barnes and Noble puts the books on a “Great Choices for Girls” endcap or if Amazon only serves up the franchise as an option when someone searches “girl superheroes”.
This line has the possibility to honestly be almost everything that advocates for better media featuring active powerful girls have been clamoring for. With the kind of major corporate and media backing that comes from DC Comics, Warner Brothers and Mattel it has the ability to reach kids who don’t have parents who back pricey Kickstarter campaigns. But we have to keep the pressure on the whole supply chain to see the real power and appeal of these characters beyond the obvious slot on the pink-backed shelf. And we have to remember not to make perfect the enemy of good.
This line is proof to me that we can make a difference. So #GetYourCapeOn and let’s help our kids be heroes.
All images courtesy Mattel.