Monday, July 13, 2015

Little Audrey Among the Boys

I have a granddaughter named Audrey. Whenever I think of her I'm reminded of a cartoon I loved as a little girl.

Little Audrey didn't show up on my after school cartoons very often. When she did I was glued to the set. I don't remember much about them except for the one where she goes under the sea.

In preparing for this post I went to youtube and watched several Little Audrey cartoons. They all seem to have some things in common.

Little Audrey has adventures.
She's tough, smart, sassy, and resourceful.
The one time I saw her being rescued, it was by her tough, smart, resourceful grandmother who could really kick butt.
When she makes a mistake she feels remorse and tries to make things right.
She isn't perfect.

So why did this little cartoon that didn't really have a huge following mean so much to me?

It's simple. Audrey is a girl.

In the world of children's programming, there really weren't many girls.

In the evenings I had Marlo Thomas, Doris Day, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett but children's programming was most decidedly male.

Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn, Squiddly Diddly, Huckleberry Hound, all male. Popeye and Brutus fought over Olive Oyl who didn't do much but act helpless and annoying. Casper came from an all male household although his friend Wendy the Witch was thankfully interesting.

And even though the Disney world had princesses, in the 1960's we didn't have VCRs or DVDs to watch them. We got Mickey and Donald and Goofy. Sure there was Minnie and Daisy but they were only there as girlfriends, not as characters of worth on their own.

I watched the Friendly Giant who was male and his friends Rusty and Jerome. I watched Mr. Dressup with his friends Casey and Finnegan.

Scooby Doo  had Daphne and Velma but Daphne didn't do much but stand around looking pretty, and although Velma was the smart one of the bunch, she was boring and humorless.

I loved the Archie gang, except for the part where Betty and Veronica fight over Archie. I mean why? He was just playing them off each other. At least Reggie was honest about being a bad guy.

Even Sesame Street, that great TV wonder that broke down racial barriers and embraced differences and gave disabled kids role models, was almost male exclusive among the Muppets. Kermit, Oscar, Grover, Cookie Monster, The Count, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo, all male characters. Sesame Street didn't bother to break down gender barriers. It didn't see the need.

Even later when the Muppets made their debut, Miss Piggy (played by a man) was pretty much the lone female among her counterparts. Kermit, Fozzy, Gonzo, the guys in the balcony, the Eagle, the scientists, Animal, all male.

Girls were almost invisible. Fine as girlfriends. Not worth much on their own. It's a befuddling thing in a world where women make up half the population.

As my daughter pointed out and I've heard this too, it was believed that girls will watch stories about boys but boys won't watch stories about girls.

But as it turns out, that isn't true either. The Hunger Games and the Divergent Series both have strong female warriors. To Kill a Mockingbird is told from a girl's perspective. And although Harry Potter is about Harry, the women in the stories, most notably Hermione, are strong characters on their own and far more than writers tools to make the boy impressive.  Before Little Audrey came along, books were filled with female protagonists. Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, National Velvet, and Nancy Drew all had strong and resourceful female protagonists and they were all successful.

But for some reason, in the sixties, girls disappeared in children's programming. Our view of females after school and on Saturday mornings, was limited to commercials on TV with girls playing with dolls and the game Mystery Date.

The strange thing about all this? I didn't really realize it until the other day when I was talking about it to Audrey's dad.

It's so much a part of us, that we don't even know when we're being excluded. And that makes me a little sad.