• Tue, Apr 5 2011

Why Do Animators Feel the Need to Sex Up Female Cartoon Characters?

So it turns out the Thundercats reboot is definitely coming to Cartoon Network, and even has a trailer. But aside from the souped-up graphics thanks to CGI, we couldn’t help but notice a big change. Two big changes, if  you will.

That’s right, Cheetara went up at least a cup size, got luscious locks, and is basically a tarted-up version of the perfectly acceptable Cheetara we knew from the ’80s. But more and more, those in charge of animated characters — be it studios, producers, or the animators themselves — have decided that “update for a new generation” means “make sexier.”

Nowhere was this more pronounced than when old and new childhood icons Strawberry Shortcake and Dora the Explorer underwent major physical changes. The companies behind these cartoon girls — American Greetings Properties and Nickelodeon, respectively — have reimagined the decidedly childlike characters as having gone through puberty and getting all the features that often come with it: A thinner physique with body weight more distributed, longer hair, a predilection for lip gloss and talking about boys on the phone.

In writing this out, I can see how it makes some sense; the animators have the characters literally grow up with their viewers, rather than keep them ageless for the next generation of five-year-olds. But it’s one thing to adjust the physical characteristics; these “new and improved” versions of Strawberry Shortcake and Dora both abandon the adventurous spirit that made them so endearing for more superficial things.

But these changes linked to puberty still make more sense than the Cheetara reimagining, or a similar shake-up that happened to Batman villain Harley Quinn. When we first meet the Joker’s equally deranged lover/sidekick in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series, she’s clad in what is one of my favorite costumes for that genre, a simple black-and-red costume reminiscent of the Arlecchino stock character in Italian theater. Her most reincarnation, in 2009′s Arkham Asylum video game, is downright appalling.

Disney, which subtly tweaks its roster of princesses very few years, has made them bustier but usually left all other details of clothing and accessories untouched. What gives?

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  • Lucia Peters

    Have you guys seen what they’ve done to Rainbow Brite lately? It’s just as horrifying. *sigh*

  • Jessie

    I’m sorry, but have you seen America lately? Have you seen it for the past, I don’t know, forever? It’s called a change in the times. It’s just the way things are. You can’t stop it. Think back to the things that were different to your parents while you were growing up. It’s the same thing. As with your parents and their parents. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s just something you get over. Also, this is clearly just a reflection of current society. Why hide it on their cartoons, when it’s right out there in the open with people in society.

  • Marcus McElhaney

    I have to point out that in the 80′s Cheetara was naked in the first episode

  • Akmy

    Not to play Devil’s Advocate but have you seen the male re-vamps? No man could hope to have physiques like that of cartoons/games without the help of serious gym time and HGH injections.
    Also, I don’t really see Dora or Strawberry Shortcake as sexualized/post-puberty here…whatsoever. The game and show featured are meant for an older audience…An audience that no doubt sees the impossibly-ripped abs in Cosmo or the starved, enhanced bodies in Maxim.

  • RosaLee

    Went up a cup size? That’s being saxier? Thanks media! No wonder boob jobs are so common. It just loves to look down on girl with small boobs!