Think outside the pink toy box, Nelvana

When the Nelvana and Topps Company television series Mysticons was first announced in 2013, the head of Topps’ parent company – ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner — said in a media release: “Nelvana has a strong history of success in building and launching hit boys action properties and the partnership with Topps sets the stage for Mysticons to be the next big global boys action franchise.”

Yesterday, Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana sent another media release about the reworked series, still in partnership with Topps, calling it an “epic animated series for girls 6+” and using the phrase “Girls Action series” throughout.

I have some questions.

Why the proper noun for Girls Action? But more importantly, why is it necessary to specify in a media release that the show is for girls, any more than it was necessary to specify in a media release the show was for boys?

I guess the answer to both questions is in a tab on Nelvana’s website called Boys Action. They are going for broke in putting a gender to their action shows, at a time when corporations like Eisner’s former employer Disney and Toys R Us are removing gender labels in response to consumer demand.

Of course demographics are everything when selling a show to advertisers. Demographics will tell you where you’ll get the most bang for your marketing buck. All of that is important to advertisers and marketers … behind the scenes. Not to media. And by specifying before you’ve even produced the show that your marketing and advertising will target girls, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when boys shy away from it.

If it’s truly self-evident that a show with girl characters is more appealing to girls, let it be self-evident and therefore unstated publicly, especially in a time when that casual normalizing of this kind of gender division is under siege by the very people affected by it: kids.

There are rules about how you can advertise to children because they’re impressionable, not yet formed. And it shouldn’t be up to Nelvana to form kids along an unnecessary gender line. There should be in-house rules for production companies and broadcasters on how to publicly discuss a show without excluding boys from Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins and girls from Beyblade and Di-Gata Defenders.

We’re talking an age where companies like Lego and Disney are being reminded, loudly, that not all girls like pink and some boys like to play with dolls. Some girls want to dress up like Darth Vader and some boys like Elsa from Frozen. The kids themselves will let you know when you fail them.

Nelvana, you’re failing them.