NPR keeps me in touch with the insanity of the world for my 9 minute commute every day. Yesterday I heard a story about a cartoon for adults, BoJack Horseman, and an issue that the writers and artists struggle with to be true to themselves and to comedy: women exist.
“The underlying assumption there is that the default mode for any character is male, so to make the characters female is an additional detail on top of that. In case I’m not being a hundred percent clear, this thinking is stupid and wrong and self-perpetuating unless you actively work against it, and I’m proud to say I mostly don’t think this way anymore.”
The point of the story was an argument between show runner Raphael Bob-Waksberg and production designer Lisa Hanawalt. In a one-second sight gag, person and a dog are waiting for a bus on their way to work, and when a car passes by, the dog slobbers on the person. It was originally written for male characters, but Hanawalt argued that there was no reason for the characters to be male. Discussion ensued that it would not be funny if women were gross–like men.
The article mentioned a study that showed audience perception of a crowd of people to be 50/50 male and female, when in fact women were only 15% of the group. This explains the token character on any show. For example, Nichelle Nichols was 16% of the bridge crew on Star Trek TOS, as was George Takei, with Chekov and Spock as white guy normals beside Kirk and McCoy. If you add in Scottie and Nurse Chapel, each character is 11% of the group, 55% white male.
Even these young professionals, people who believe they are feminist and equality based, still need to be made aware of their own gender bias as male=normal. This is very ironic as all fetuses start out as female–or what are nipples for?
Unconscious concepts are never examined unless challenged, as they work within a culture, until they don’t. If a cartoon about an alcoholic, has-been-actor horse can raise awareness and make social change, write and draw on.
Read the story here: For ‘BoJack Horseman,’ It Matters If A Cartoon Dog Is A Man Or A Woman