New Children’s Cartoon Distresses, Excites, and Leaves Others Nonplussed

A new children’s cartoon has garnered mixed reactions, though most all of them agree: it’s funny and children will watch it.

 SheZow  is a timeless superhero story with a twist. In order to be a hero and battle various villains, twelve-year-old boy Guy Hamdon needs a ring to transform and access his powers. The twist is that Guy’s alter-ego is SheZow, a crime-fighting heroine who dresses in pink and purple, and whose world revolves around puns on the word “she.” To access his powers, he shouts “You go girl!” and goes about in the “she-hicle” to stop “she-vil” doers. It’s silly, but it attempts to bridge the gender gaps of many children’s shows with superheroes who appeal to only one or the other.

As soon as it was announced to be coming to American television, the group One Million Moms sent out a warning to all parents to boycott the show, saying that “This character especially will appeal to both boys and girls since the superhero represents both genders by cross dressing and being transgendered. This dude becomes the FEMALE superhero SheZow dressed in pink and purple.” Their central fear is that their sons will quickly ignore all of the other television shows and movies marketed just toward them and think, (taken from their press release) “I want to be a girl, so I can help people and save the world!”

Other groups were quick to voice their praise, happy to see a network taking on such a potentially challenging idea and running with it. Originally premiering in Australia in December 2012, it green-lit for America on June 1 on Hub Network, which replaced Discovery Kids and specializes in programming for children 2-11. While not the powerhouse of Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, the network gets a sizable amount of viewers and is hoping that the characters on SheZow will attract more.

The CEO of Hub Network, Margaret Loesh, commented to the Los Angeles Times that her initial reaction to the show was, “Are you out of your minds?” She added, “Then I looked at it and I thought, ‘This is just funny.’”

Most news outlets are calling the cartoon character SheZow a transgender or transsexual superhero, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. While the show does play on typical gender stereotypes, Guy likes to skateboard and comments that his sister should “Do the girly unpacking [herself],” when fighting villains as SheZow Guy’s voice doesn’t change, he doesn’t try to pass as a woman other than to keep his secret identity, and comments on how uncomfortable some of the superhero gear makes him. His roles are acknowledged as separate, and nothing is ever mentioned about sexual orientation.

GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) responded with a similar view. Spokesperson Rich Ferraro commented on the show, saying “I don’t think this show is about transgender issues any more than the Teletubbies were about gay issues, because one of the characters was purple and carried around a purse.” Creator Obie Scott Wade himself argues that “by becoming SheZow, the main focus is on responsibility and less on gender.”

While having the central shtick of a television show be the cheap laugh of an uncomfortable gender reversal, the show uses the character of SheZow to help the main character Guy grow, since he’s learning lessons from two genders. It also shows that, although SheZow becomes weakened when her hair isn’t perfectly coiffed, she is powerful when confronted with danger and uses both brain and brawn to save the day.

You can watch new episodes of SheZow every Saturday on Hub Network at 12:30 pm EST/9:30 am PST.