Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:54 on 21-12-2013, Michal
You know those times when you open a book, read the first few paragraphs, then wonder, "How in all that is holy did this thing ever get published?"

So I just started reading Year Zero by Rob Reid. Then I stopped.

This has been a warning to you all.
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at 15:35 on 20-12-2013, Andy G
I remember there was a lot of fuss a while back about a campaign that successfully got Hamley's toy store to stop having a Boys floor and a Girls floor. Now they merely have a pink female-coded floor and a blue male-coded floor that are not explicitly called Girls floor and Boys floor. Not the most inspiring progress I've ever seen.
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at 21:11 on 18-12-2013, Dan H
Topically, Marks and Spencer are making their toy packaging gender neutral next year.


Although by "gender neutral" it seems to actually mean "not actively and offensively gendering things for no reason at all." I'd be interested to see what they actually *put* on their packages.

I'd add that this also ties in interestingly with the observation alula_auburn made on my article that things seem to get less gendered in more upmarket stores. M&S might be a supermarket, but it's a supermarket with aspirations.
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at 13:18 on 18-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
Topically, Marks and Spencer are making their toy packaging gender neutral next year.

Which I think is particularly interesting given that M&S is a store where people buy gifts for others, rather than somewhere children shop.
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at 01:35 on 18-12-2013, Bookwyrm
To be fair though, the cartoon in question wasn't intended to sell one brand of toys, it was meant to sell the DC Comics franchise in all its many and myriad forms.

So having absolute disinterest in selling to girls is par for the course.

Of course. DC, female superhero fans do exist. We're willing to pay for T-shirts, comics,and DVDs too. Why is DC limiting their target demographic so narrowly? If they're thinking they can target the other demographics through cartoons and movies... they're not doing a very good job in that department either. Two of the four DC cartoons on Cartoon Network have been cancelled. Beware the Batman will probably get cancelled too. So there goes the younger, toy buying demographic.
As for appealing to the movie going public; DC can't seem to make a profitable live action movie that isn't about Superman or Batman. Catwoman, Jonah Hex, and to a lesser extent Green Lantern failed financially. The only recent non-Supes/Bats movie to do well was Watchmen and you can't really build a movie franchise on that. DC movies rely heavily on Superman or Batman at the expense of other characters.(Like Wonder Woman. Seriously when is she getting her own movie.). How does DC expect to compete with Marvel Studios if they're so afraid of variety? >_<
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at 21:25 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
I suspect I'm over-interpreting from a single data point, but I think that this is particularly tough to achieve in cartoons, where often the whole *purpose* of the cartoon is to sell toys (He-Man, She-Ra and Transformers being good examples from my childhood) as opposed to more conventional merchandising, where the merchandise is a secondary revenue stream. Finding that your cartoon isn't appealing to the sorts of people who buy the toys that the cartoon is designed to sell is basically a disaster, and there really isn't an alternative model that makes sense, any more than it would make sense to shoot a TV advert and then design the product after you found out who liked the commercial.

To be fair though, the cartoon in question wasn't intended to sell one brand of toys, it was meant to sell the DC Comics franchise in all its many and myriad forms.

So having absolute disinterest in selling to girls is par for the course.
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at 19:43 on 17-12-2013, Dan H
That may be the case, but that isn't how Dini is reporting it - he's saying that "too many girls" was presented as a bad thing alongside "not enough boys".


I suspect that this is just averagely non-rigorous use of language. Even in Dini's report, I don't see anything which suggested that the company thought girls qua girls were a problem, just that they weren't the target market.

To put it another way, it's another example of the distinction Jamie made in his 2009 article about the difference between not wanting and wanting not. There are sensible business reasons not to want your show to appeal primarily to girls. There are no sensible reasons to actively want girls to stay away from your show. Even on Dini's reporting, it feels to me like the execs were saying the former, not the latter.

If you could work out a business model which allowed you to rapidly reframe a merchandising plan to respond to a show/movie/whatever's audience demographic not matching the one you originally expected you could make fat stacks.


I suspect I'm over-interpreting from a single data point, but I think that this is particularly tough to achieve in cartoons, where often the whole *purpose* of the cartoon is to sell toys (He-Man, She-Ra and Transformers being good examples from my childhood) as opposed to more conventional merchandising, where the merchandise is a secondary revenue stream. Finding that your cartoon isn't appealing to the sorts of people who buy the toys that the cartoon is designed to sell is basically a disaster, and there really isn't an alternative model that makes sense, any more than it would make sense to shoot a TV advert and then design the product after you found out who liked the commercial.

Of course there *have* been cartoons designed to sell toys primarily to girls (My Little Pony being the obvious) but they're very different from the cartoons designed to sell toys to boys.

This is getting long enough that I'm half tempted to spin it out into a full article, because this raises the fascinating point that how effective a show is at selling things to [Demographic X] seems to be wholly unrelated to the question of how much members of [Demographic X] actually *like* it.
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at 18:33 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
Obviously we're only seeing one side of the conversation here, but it sounds like the conversation went something like:

"We're axing your show."
"Why?"
"Revenues."
"But viewing figures are up!"
"But it's all girls, and girls don't buy our stuff."

That may be the case, but that isn't how Dini is reporting it - he's saying that "too many girls" was presented as a bad thing alongside "not enough boys".

Again, though, not saying that Dini is accurately reporting here. It wouldn't surprise me if this is a point he is misremembering.

Another point which occurs to me: if the problem with the show was that the audience, despite being of an acceptable magnitude, had a demographic breakdown which was wrong for the merchandising plans, it occurs to me that there's scope for tightening up efficiencies there. Presumably part of the reason they didn't go with Kevin Smith's plan of knuckling under and rolling with the gender essentialism to bring out a different range of merchandising products is that they wouldn't have had time to sort out an entire new merchandising strategy and make the requisite agreements with suppliers and retailers, and had already sunk a lot of money into their existing agreements. If you could work out a business model which allowed you to rapidly reframe a merchandising plan to respond to a show/movie/whatever's audience demographic not matching the one you originally expected you could make fat stacks.
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at 18:16 on 17-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
Equally, though, aren't action figures just as overpriced as dolls are?


Absolutely. I was just thinking about the bit in the article that said parent were watching Tower Prep too. When you're eight years old it's imperative that mum thinks your programmes - and therefore your toys - are a waste of time and money ;-)
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at 18:09 on 17-12-2013, Dan H
Equally, though, aren't action figures just as overpriced as dolls are?


I think that was sort of Sonia's point. Dolls/Action Figures are both expensive enough that they tend to be bought *for* children, meaning that even if girls *wanted* superhero toys, they'd be unlikely to get them, because people (particularly people who don't know the child very well) go into gender-essentialism overdrive when buying toys for children.

I'd add that nowhere in that article did I see any evidence that the executives were saying that girls were *detrimental*, just that they wanted to appeal to boys and currently weren't. Obviously we're only seeing one side of the conversation here, but it sounds like the conversation went something like:

"We're axing your show."
"Why?"
"Revenues."
"But viewing figures are up!"
"But it's all girls, and girls don't buy our stuff."

Although as Sonia points out, there's an extent to which being popular with girls *really will* put boys off of watching something.
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at 17:26 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
If your mum doesn't tell you off for wasting your money on 'that crap', whatever 'that crap' may be, then you've probably bought something too sensible.

Equally, though, aren't action figures just as overpriced as dolls are? Or is there some sort of mad gender-based markup if your action figure has less articulation points, more pink, and wears a dress? Either way I'd have thought action figures fell into the "toys bought for children" camp.
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at 16:33 on 17-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
It's because we're got girl-germs :-p

Flippancy aside, there's no distinction made between toys bought *by* children and toys bought *for* children. Given the price-point of most dolls, I imagine most of this range is the latter - and I'm sure that many relatives *are* more reluctant to buy girls superhero toys. If a portion of your audience is going to receive a junior makeup set (and fuck, I received a lot of those) regardless of whether they pester for your toys, then not counting them as successes in your viewing stats makes sense.

But like Arthur, I'm struggling with the leap to the assumption that female viewers are not neutral but detrimental.

I guess there's always the risk that so many girls start to like a programme that boys start to see it as something girly, putting us back to the girl-germs situation. And in the playground there is a certain uncoolness that comes with things your mother likes. If your mum doesn't tell you off for wasting your money on 'that crap', whatever 'that crap' may be, then you've probably bought something too sensible.
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at 15:05 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
If you are competing in a small marketplace, surrendering your position to compete for a share of a larger, more competitive marketplace is likely to be suicidal.

That's what I find weird about the whole thing - it might be that Dini is misreporting what happened, but the whole "We've got too many girls, we need more boys" thing seems to set up a false dilemma. Surely, if you actually believe that the problem is you aren't selling enough action figures marketed at boys and therefore you need to get more boys watching the show, the number of girls watching the show is irrelevant to the problem you believe you have? It's not like every show is given a rationed number of views, and every girl watching the show is stealing a view which would have otherwise gone to a boy. The idea that you can't appeal more to boys without deliberately driving away girls is offensive in itself, but the idea that the mere presence of women and families is somehow an obstacle to reaching the required number of boys through some sort of boy-repelling sympathetic magic is downright weird.
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at 14:00 on 17-12-2013, Dan H
Outrageous, but when you think about it an inevitable consequence of two things that have been true for decades: the fact that cartoons exist primarily to sell toys, and the fact that advertising in general (and toy advertising in particular) is extremely gendered.

It's a depressing article in general, but Dini and Smith don't exactly come across as bastions of enlightenment either. Their response to the execs (the people whose *job* it is to know how to monetize TV shows) is "well sell them tee-shirts or umbrellas or something instead", which strikes me as not only being mildly sexist (it seems to carry the assumption that girls are basically interested in fashion accessories) but also as being grounded in the rather arrogant assumption that they know how to do the marketing executives' jobs better than they do.

I'd argue, for example, that the figures quoted in the article - that dolls aimed at girls make approximately twice as much money as action figures aimed at boys - actually support the executives' position, not Dini's. If you are competing in a small marketplace, surrendering your position to compete for a share of a larger, more competitive marketplace is likely to be suicidal.
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at 07:36 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
Whilst this news story rather hinges on the executives in question telling Paul Dini the truth about why they killed Young Justice, and Paul Dini accurately remembering what he was told (in other words, it's hearsay), this is still outrageous.
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at 13:20 on 16-12-2013, Andy G
Great! That M&M place is spectacularly weird.
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at 09:13 on 15-12-2013, Adrienne
Possibly of interest: a marvelously-written essay I just found about Marxism and M&Ms.
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at 09:12 on 15-12-2013, Adrienne
Thanks, Bryn!
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at 18:02 on 14-12-2013, Robinson L
@Andy: I see your point about the ending to
"The Doctor Dances"
being narratively earned, as opposed to that of the special, in the sense that the plot bears out the conclusion and it doesn't come as a Deus Ex Machina. On the other hand, I would say that the ending was emotionally earned, in that
the special (as a culmination of the new series up to this point), has the viewer wanting the happy outcome, yet doubting where it will occur. I was putting this in contrast to those endings which revolve around the question of whether the Doctor will survive/manage to save the Earth/the universe, which generally lack the same punch because no matter how hard Moffat tries, there's never a smidgeon of doubt that the answer will be a resounding "Yes." Perhaps "The Doctor Dances" was a bad example to illustrate the point, though.


I don't think that the time war backstory can be blamed for Moffat's bad habits

I didn't say it was to blame for Moffat's bad habits: I said I thought it worked as an enabling factor for some of them (which he shares with Davies). The Doctor's
status as the only living Time Lord, and his role in causing the deaths of all the others, has been a major source of angst and melodrama on the show. Not the only one, but a big one. Now that's gone, maybe the writers will have an easier time either shifting to a lighter tone or focusing on drama rather than Serious Drama - probably not, but it could happen. Also, they're going to have a harder time setting up the Doctor as a demi-god figure to whom no one and nothing in the universe can really compare when there's now a couple billion more people with exactly the same powers and depth of knowledge as him running around somewhere out there.


That said, I'll agree with you the ending could have been handled better - I'm just saying that to my mind, the (hopeful) benefits outweigh the less-than-stellar execution.
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at 14:48 on 14-12-2013, Bryn
Adrienne: here's one I came across today.
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at 05:47 on 14-12-2013, Adrienne
Arthur B: got any rundowns that aren't on video? Because I'm interested -- I seem to have missed this kerfuffle so far -- but I can't deal with video.
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at 21:42 on 13-12-2013, Arthur B
Another Kickstarter project, another heap of men crying about women getting into the videogame clubhouse. Video Game Therapist gives the best rundown of the "don't let girls touch my Mega Man ripoffs" controversy.
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at 17:05 on 13-12-2013, Andy G
Ha, true. But what annoyed me especially was the false consolation it offered to something actually tragic: not sure whether this was because of the *form* of the consolation (fictionally representing the tragic thing as not actually having happened - bit like Atonement) or its *content* (Van Gogh's profound despair would be alleviated if only he had realised he would be a bona fide Celebrity and Tourist Attraction in the future). [not spoiler-tagging this since it was about three years ago btw!]
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