A new superhero is about to hit American screens, and he’s wearing a purple skirt and cape. His name is SheZow.
The show, which began airing in Australia in 2012, will be making its way to the U.S. cable channel The Hub this June. Here’s the trailer:
The animated series follows 12-year-old Guy Hamdon (Sam Vincent, “Voltron Force”), a natural cut-up who fancies himself an extreme dude with his own macho catch phrase, “It’s a GUY thing.” Guy lives the dream of every rough-and-tumble boy when he discovers an awesome power ring, which transforms him into a mighty superhero. Pretty cool, but there’s just one tiny catch — the ring that gives Guy his amazing superpowers was only meant to be worn by a girl and the result is absolutely she-larious. As the amazing crime-fighting SheZow, Guy must use his superpowers to battle mega-villains while sporting an outrageous female superhero costume, which actually ends up helping him on his own personal journey toward becoming one heck of a super man.
First of all, note to self: people still say dude.
Third, there’s going to be some “Think of the children!” from the Religious Right.
Oh, it already happened? That was fast:
Nothing says “child-appropriate material” quite like gender-bending underage superheroes. At least that’s the theory over at the Hub, the network co-owned by Discovery and Hasbro, which is trotting out its latest soon-to-be-dud, SheZow. That show follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy named Guy who uses a magic ring to transform himself into a crime-fighting girl. Yes, you read that correctly.
That’s Ben Shapiro over at Brietbart writing under the title “CHILDREN’S NETWORK LAUNCHES TRANSSEXUAL SUPERHERO SHOW.”
So we need to clear up some things that the pearl-clutching commentators, in their rush to condemn the show, have actually missed.
Chief among them is that Guy doesn’t actually change sex. In order to keep his superpowers as SheZow, he needs to empathize with women and put on a convincing impersonation of a woman. He’s really bad at it. Hilarity (should that be she-larity?) is then supposed to ensue.
As GLAAD rightly points out while firing back at the Breitbart article, Guy is not trans:
This Breitbart News article is just a laughable attempt at attention seeking, comparable to Jerry Falwell attacking the Teletubbies, and demonstrates a profound ignorance of transgender people since this show doesn’t include any.”
Undeniably, there are some cheeky tongue-vaguely-in-cheek nods to drag culture. For instance, in order to transform, Guy must intone “You Go, Girl!”
Also, and by the admission of Obie Scott Wade, the show’s creator, the cartoon does use gender tropes as a running gag much in the same way Bugs Bunny, never one to pass up the chance at high heels and a tiara, used to do when outwitting his enemies, though, perhaps, without quite the same finesse.
Speaking to io9, Wade said that gender swapping isn’t the focus, but Guy growing as a person to understand girls and the SheZow legacy in his family is:
“I think that it shows a very positive role-model in SheZow. There’s been a number of SheZows over the decades, throughout his family. It’s something that’s passed down from generation to generation. And so women are very much honored in the show, and in his family.”
As a number of others have noted, Japanese animation, a problematic but still highly creative medium, has an abundance of not only gender non-conforming characters but also gender-swapping characters. Comic books have done this kind of thing too, Masquerade being an obvious (loosely) comparable example.
Going on some of SheZow’s episode descriptions, though, there are some groan-worthy gender-parsing activities.
For instance, one episode sees Guy in need of a manicure in order to keep his powers working properly. He resists the manicure because boys apparently do that. He loses a nail and bam! Through the wonders of some amazing life-giving goo, that lost nail leads to the creation of his evil alter-ego SheZap.
It’s hard not to roll your eyes at that kind of thing and it’s something some reviewers have also picked up on.
Reviews for the show have been mixed, with ToonZone having seen two episodes ahead of their airing in the U.S. and delivering its verdict that the show “isn’t much more than average superheroics mixed with ‘hur hur dude’s in a dress’ jokes.”
This would be a shame as the show’s premise is, potentially, an interesting one with a refreshing (if not new) spin on the superhero show that could have helped further erode the reinforced gender differences we still see kids feeling pressure to adhere to.
Others have praised the show, however, saying that it is inoffensive good fun.
If anything can be said here, the real story seems to be the unfathomable and baseless detail that a boy wearing female attire is still supremely threatening to some, and what a shame. Guy looks great in his purple skirt.
Image credit: Image taken from YouTube video, no infringement intended.