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Alethea & Athena
Look, sir! Toys! 
12th-May-2015 05:29 pm
Well, my whole train of thought has been derailed and I'm not sure I can focus anymore. Today went pretty well, though. We translated a chapter of UQ Holder!, which turned out to be pretty awesome, and then we finished our translation of My Little Monster 10. And we finished it all early! ...Or at our regular quitting time, which of course still feels early these days. We're kind of in denial about the whole busyness thing currently, so we might be stopping at our regular time more frequently, regardless of how much work we need to get done.

Then we decided to have a snack, and while that was going on, we got a call from Gaston. He's attending a wedding this weekend, and our place happens to be on the way, so of course he will be stopping by a day early for a trip to Disneyland. We knew it was coming, but now we are in "get ready for interruptions!" mode. And for some reason, that mode makes it difficult to think.

We have been thinking, though, because there's an article going around Facebook about the Avengers: Age of Ultron toys, and how the different toy companies put different superheroes on Black Widow's motorcycle. We totally agree that this was an awful thing to do, but we think the blame doesn't rest solely on the toy companies. Of course, all our evidence is anecdotal, but we think it bears considering.

Case 1: Someone we know came into possession of some pretty cute Disney prints, and she was considering giving them to someone else we know, because that someone else we know was having a baby, and they might make good decorations for the baby's room. We know that Disney is generally associated with girls, but these prints were not princess prints. There was one of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, one of Bambi...and two more that we forgot about. When the first person offered the prints to the second person, the second person turned them down because "it'd be kind of weird if the baby is a boy" to have Disney prints of any nature on the walls. (With the exception, for some unknown reason, of Winnie the Pooh and his friends.)

Case 2: We were at Disneyland (as usual) with a family that had four children, all boys. As usual, we took them to see the play at the Royal Theatre (in this case, Frozen). As we sat waiting for the show to start, the father of the children expressed his discomfort at the idea that he was taking his boys to watch a princess show.

Of course we were pretty outraged at both of these cases, but the point is this: Disney did not indoctrinate these people that only girls were allowed to enjoy it. I'm pretty sure Disney would be pretty darn happy take money from whoever is willing to give it to them. So our theory is that the reason Disney is so keen on marketing Marvel toys to boys and so adamant about keeping it as estrogen-free as possible is not that they want to gender-type everyone. We suspect their marketing experts realize that parents (not children) are afraid of their children looking weird if they choose something that doesn't fit their gender. Disney realizes girls' parents are going to buy whatever the girls want from them, so they want to make sure boys' parents aren't afraid of buying Marvel toys, because they'll lose that whole market. And so, if our theory is correct, it's weird societal norms/perceptions and parents who buy into them, not marketers, who are causing the real trouble here.

In conclusion, people should definitely keep asking Disney and Marvel to make toys of superheroines, and they should also gently inform the parents they know that maybe it isn't all that weird if their boys like girl characters.

Today I'm thankful for getting our work done today, getting through another lovely volume of My Little Monster, a fun new chapter of UQ Holder!, remembering that we have Ghirardelli minis, and Kodansha using a bit that we translated for their preview of Heroic Legend of Arslan volume three.
12th-May-2015 11:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but I'm not sure the parents who were offered prints of Bambi and Peter Pan and Tinkerbell would have thought that anything Disney (besides the almost all male Winnie the Pooh gang) was automatically too cute and girly for even an infant boy's room if Disney hadn't spent the last decade and a half or so making a big deal out of marketing Disney princess merchandise (and Disney princess tea parties at Disney stores, etc.). Before the whole Disney princess concept was officially created and turned into the main focus of their non-theme park marketing, many people probably would have associated Disney as much or more with characters of more gender-neutral appeal like Pooh, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck as with Cinderella and the Little Mermaid.

Sure, Disney had been making princess movies off and on since the 1930's, but they didn't start self-consciously pushing those heroines (a number of whom, like Belle and Mulan, aren't technically princesses anyway, even by marriage) as "Disney princesses" until around the 1990's. Before that, I doubt the average person tended to regard Disney as significantly more appropriate for girls than boys. (My family sure didn't when I was a kid, although since I didn't have any brothers I suppose we're not the best test case.) Back then there may still have been a fair amount of boys who lost interest in Disney earlier than their sisters, or claimed that they had. But that would have been more because they thought Disney was for babies and really little kids--since boys have historically tended to be more worried about appearing babyish than girls--than because they thought Disney stuff was aimed primarily at girls (because back then it wasn't).

I mean, obviously the whole Disney princess thing has been a big success for Disney commercially, and presumably they kept going with it once they got started because from the beginning it was at least somewhat more conspicuously profitable than their previous less gender-specific marketing strategy. But it did have the side effect of making many aspects of Disney's image skew increasingly toward the girly end of the spectrum in a way that they hadn't before--thus making many boys, especially as they got past first grade or so, increasingly less than enthusiastic about Disney products and even movies. Or so the Disney marketers seemed to have belatedly concluded by the time "Tangled" was released. At that point they started talking openly to the media about de-emphasizing the princess angle in order to get boys interested--for instance, by calling the movie "Tangled" instead of "Rapunzel."

So yeah, parents and society at large have sexist ideas about which toys, TV shows, movies, etc., are appropriate for kids of each gender. But Disney's own longtime princess-oriented marketing campaign significantly contributed to this, at least when it comes to modern-day parents consciously associating Disney stuff with girls, rather than kids in general. (They're probably somewhat less directly implicated in the current gender segregation of toys in general, which seems to have resulted at least partly from toy manufacturers' desire to force parents to routinely buy separate new toys for boy and girl children instead of letting their children play with toys previously owned by opposite-gender older siblings--even when those toys are something theoretically non-gender-specific like toy medical kits or Legos.)
13th-May-2015 03:36 am (UTC)
Regardless of the cause of the parents' misconceptions, the fact remains that those misconceptions are a problem. Are you suggesting that the solution would be a Black Widow action figure? How would you convince the parents who have these misconceptions ("female characters are for girls only and something must be wrong with you and/or your boys if they're playing with them") to buy that action figure?
13th-May-2015 06:29 am (UTC)
Since the parents have presumably seen the movie with the kids and know that Black Widow was the one who actually did the motorcycle stunt involved, in this case it might conceivably be less difficult to sell them on that particular female action figure than it would be to persuade them that it wasn't prohibitively weird for a baby boy to have pictures of Disney characters like Bambi and Peter Pan and Tinkerbell on the walls of his room. I imagine even a lot of parents who are normally concerned about how it might look if their kids were seen playing with allegedly gender-inappropriate
toys might have less of a problem with an action figure of an action heroine-type female character who comes from a movie/story as well-known and popular with both genders as the Avengers movie franchise. At this point probably practically everybody in the country has at least heard enough about Black Widow from the various Marvel movies she's appeared in (even if they haven't actually seen them) to vaguely understand that she's neither presented as a damsel in distress, a princess type, or a heroine who conspicuously outshines the male characters around her in ways that might also strike some parents as inappropriate (as with, say, Katniss or Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Besides, it sounds as if with the specific toy that inspired this discussion, the motorcycle that the action figure rides/comes with is at least as important a part of the toy as the figure itself is. As a result, people are less likely to perceive a kid playing with it as playing with a doll (which is presumably part of the reason toy companies aiming at a largely male target market make so few female action figures) than they are to perceive the child as playing with a toy motorcycle that happens to come with a toy rider. So Disney may have been more paranoid than the situation actually required about potential parental attitudes in this particular case, even with parents who wouldn't want to buy their boy children action figures of, say, Buffy or Katniss or Mulan.

13th-May-2015 07:31 pm (UTC)
Okay, so I think you're saying the parents will be convinced by Black Widow's inherent awesomeness. You may be right. This whole thing had us thinking, so we called our young mother friend (who also happens to be the one in Case 1 mentioned above (but herself has no problems with princesses and is a pretty big fan of Snow White)) and asked if she or her husband would buy a Black Widow toy for her son (age 3), and she said she doesn't buy him action figures, but she figures if she did, he'd want the whole set. And when we asked him his favorite power ranger, he insisted that his favorite is all of them.

But as you mention, everybody in the country must know about Black Widow and how much people like her, so that must include the toy companies. It doesn't make sense that they would exclude Black Widow unless there's some factor we haven't considered. Either they're a bunch of sexist pigs as the Internet suggests, or their focus groups are, or the money isn't there. So to further the cause of Black Widow merchandise, I'm going to commit right now to buy a Black Widow toy. We're going to Disneyland today, so we'll see whether or not we have to order one from the internet.
13th-May-2015 12:56 am (UTC)
I'm also of the opinion (if less well-thought-out than the above commenter) that Disney's marketers have been pushing most of those cringe-worthy values and societal norms, and it's their own fault, and about time, if it's starting to backfire at last. Even as a girl who loved/continues to love the princesses and female characters in Disney's stories, I've repeatedly whined to you about how all the Princess marketing ruins the good of them for many who only see things on a surface level :)

Yay for your productive work day!! I hope I can feel like quitting at the normal time is viable one day... (then again midnight probably is my normal quitting time. uggggghhhh.) Sorry for coming here and being all negative. I really do appreciate and feel encouraged by your positivity though!!

(is Kodansha crediting you for additional Arslan translation yet?? They should be. Tell them to do it!! :D )
13th-May-2015 03:41 am (UTC)
You know we agree with you that the princess marketing is annoying, but we still have a hard time believing that it's the cause of all this. We know some people who have an irrational dislike of Disney princesses that would have had to come about before all the ridiculous marketing started. We were defending Disney princesses back when we were in college, and the princess explosion didn't happen until right around when we graduated.

Ha ha, thanks. We always like to get our work out of the way, so when midnight is our quitting time, it's because we haven't done anything but work all day. I'm hoping that's not the case with you! Or that you really really really love your job.

I don't know if Kodansha's crediting us for Arslan. You'll have to buy volume three and find out. XD (Actually, the chapter they posted for the preview is the first one we translated, so they wouldn't have credited us before that. But we still don't know if the senior editor on it has any idea we worked on it.)
13th-May-2015 11:00 am (UTC)
Ohh, okay. I thought you had translated something from an earlier volume and they didn't credit you then... Guess I was mixed up. But I woke up to an email that Arslan 3 is waiting for me at the comic shop, so I won't have to wait long to find out! (unless work is inescapable and I don't have time to get to the shop. Maybe by the weekend...) That's also my prompt to ask them where oh where is my Your Lie in April 1???

13th-May-2015 07:25 pm (UTC)
Nah, it's an understandable assumption. Even we didn't have any idea what volume our translations would first show up in until we happened to be in a bookstore and they had volumes one and two and Athena checked the table of contents and found out chapter ten was the last one in volume two. We hope you get Your Lie in April soon! PS, we posted our review of Noragami 4 last week.
13th-May-2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
I saw your Noragami review! I meant to comment but my thoughts were a little mixed up (from having read v5 more recently) and then busyness and chaos and travel ensued. I want to go back to it though! Maybe once I get my comp copies................ ha ha ha. (I just want pretty paper Noragami books of my very own. Why is it always so hard to get them??)

I inquired about Your Lie in April and was told it had been added to my subscription list, but they added it too late to get v1 in for me through their normal distributor. They said they'd order in a copy from another distributor but it might take a couple/few weeks. But going forward everything should come in on time!!
15th-May-2015 08:46 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, yeah, that is a bit of a problem. I think it helped us, when we were rereading the review before posting, to not be mixed up because we'd already written another review for volume five, so the different thoughts were already separated.

Well, at least you know what happened with Your Lie in April. You'll get it eventually!

13th-May-2015 02:00 am (UTC)
Heroic Legend of Arslan? What? This is a thing that I need more of. It was one of the first epic type anime I saw as a kid, and left a big impression, but it just stopped. I should look up the manga. And then read more!
13th-May-2015 03:28 am (UTC)
Yeah, there's a new manga by the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist! Crunchyroll is simulpubbing it, and here's the link! You can read the newest chapter for free, but you need a membership to access earlier ones. I think we have some all-access guest passes that should give you two days to catch up. We tend to guest translate every five chapters or so, when the regular translator can't for whatever reason.

And Funimation is simulcasting the anime!
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