"The belief that boys shouldn’t be interested in girl things is the main reason there’s hardly anything decent for girls in animation — or almost any media for that matter. It’s a backwards, sexist, outdated attitude."
Card Captor Sakura was a quintessential girls show, but when it was released for Kids' WB! the dub saw heavy edits to turn one of the male characters into a Protagonist along with Sakura, which included having half the episodes (mainly the ones without him) cut. Broadcasts outside the US aired the remaining episodes (save for two in Canada and the U.K.), thus clearly establishing Sakura as the protagonist.
According to DiC's pitch reel for Sailor Moon, attempts to sell the show in America included informing networks that the dub was distributed by the studio that made Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, a show that earned fans of both genders despite its female leads, and also assuring the networks that, "boys will love the non-stop action!" Whether or not Sailor Moon has stayed in the ghetto after being Vindicated by History is unanswered. The series has its problems (and the North American dub didn't help), but its longevity and influence have taken it out of Acceptable Target territory.
Males who enjoy Shoujo works are often looked at askance. Sometimes inverted with women that like Shonen being treated like they're all Yaoi Fangirls.
Shoujo anime in general is subject to this.
This was also an issue in Fox TV's ill-fated showing of Vision of Escaflowne. The first episode focused on Hitomi and her crushing on a schoolmate with all of the action-y stuff (featuring the male main character) at the end. So Fox (wanting the show to appeal to a young male demographic,) just cut out the girly stuff and began the series with the action stuff, forcing them to chop up and rearrange huge sections of the show to fit their viewing format.
Wonder Woman has had this problem. She's supposed to be one of DC's Big Three superheroes next to Batman and Superman, yet she hasn't had a Live Action Film yet (infamously in Development Hell.) She hasn't had an animated series yet. (Batmanhashad plenty in recent years, and Superman got his own show, too.) and the last time she's been out of the comics solo (besides the animated film) is the 70s live action series. The closest she's gotten to another franchise was a failed pilot in 2011 that was rather poorly received outside the industry (though no reason has officially been given for why they dropped it). There are some complications with Wonder Woman's creator's estate and DC Comics that have caused legal headaches when using Wonder Woman or any of her "sister" creations (like Troia and Cassie Sandmark), but even within the comics, she's never been on the same level of sales as Batman and Superman and suffers from slightly less Pop Cultural Osmosis compared to the others (most people would instantly recognize the name "Wonder Woman" easily enough, but whereas you could casually mention other people and places from either Superman or Batman and still get a reaction, such as Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Gotham City, or The Joker. Mentioning people from Wondy's comics such as Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, Themyscira, or Veronica Cale would likely only result in blank stares.) The sad irony here is that Wonder Woman was created for girls, but for the specific purpose of having a female action hero who was equal to her male counterparts. But, apparently, being a literal Amazon still doesn't make you as "manly" as the most Badass Normal male hero.
Arguably, one challenge for Wonder Woman finding popularity is that she doesn't really have a niche to fill in the trinity. Superman is the world's most powerful hero with a range of powers and moral exemplar of the group. Batman is a Badass Normal who still manages to hold his own alongside Superman and who is Crazy-Prepared, rich, a skilled detective and the go-to guy for stealth missions. Wonder Woman on the other hand... is almost as powerful as Superman and... umm... yeah. In the larger Justice League too, WW is about the only one who doesn't bring something unique to the table. The Flash: When you need it done fast. Martian Manhunter: Telepathy. Green Lantern: Can use his ring to protect lots of people at once, etc. Wonder Woman is pretty much good at hitting things, and the League has that well and truly covered already. (This is, of course, debatedly down to them not considering that she needed a unique niche beyond The Chick).
Arguably, Wonder Woman does bring something unique to the table because unlike the other heroes mentioned her powers are mystical in nature. Even though she isn't what one would call a sorcerer, she has more of a comfort zone when it comes to magic and mysticism, which are often weak areas for Batman and Superman. Also, of the Trinity, she is nowadays most ready to kill her enemies if she judges it necessary.
The same is true of DC Comics in general. It's very largely a 'boys club'. Of the initial 'New 52', a quick count shows 27 titles focussing on a male hero, 6 focussing on a female hero (3 of whom have 'Bat' or 'Super' in front of their name) and a number of team books which are predominantly male (with Birds of Prey being an exception and the flagship Justice League title being 85% male).
Not just DC, comics in general have this problem (prior to Marvel Now, the only female characters to get ongoing series that they didn't share with a male character was Ms. Marvel (under the new, gender-neutral title of Captain Marvel) and Black Widow, the latter only short lived). No matter how critically acclaimed the title is, unless it has Gail Simone writing (since she's pretty much the go-to person for awesome comics with strong female characters) or another writer with a high track record, its unlikely the title will last long without either pandering to the straight male demographic or...actually, the only way to get a following big enough for DC or Marvel to justify keeping it going seems to be sex. Unfortunately.
A prime example of this would be the critically acclaimed and fairly successful Batgirl2009, written by Bryan Q Miller, who at the time was new to the scene and as such didn't have a following that would help most books start off. The series is still recommended by comic book stores due to being fun and awesome, but its been reported that more than not, the book gets turned down because its 'a girl book'.
Some Fan Fiction writers hypothesize that Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls is the reason why 'fanfiction' is considered to be so viscerally disgusting by so many people. It's worth observing that on this wiki, most of the fanfiction included in tropes lists is either adventure-based stuff often written by boys (Shinji and Warhammer 40k), or relationship-based stuff that's legendarily bad (My Immortal).
This opinion has even been documented in academic analysis of Fan Fic by ethnographer Camille Bacon-Smith and MIT's Henry Jenkins. Jenkins goes as far to postulate in Textual Poachers that Fan Fic in general is a reaction on the part of a female audience trying to find their own pleasures in predominantly-male media.
This ignored the fact that alleged "girly" films such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were the highest grossing animated films of their times. Clearly there were at least some boys out there watching them; the Disney Princess franchise hadn't yet been established, so boys back then probably didn't associate watching both of those movies as being girly. Also, Princess and the Frog was released the week before Avatar opened, with Sherlock Holmes and the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel following on its heels...
At least one Beauty and the Beast ad completely downplayed Belle's role and the romance (this one). However, that's only one of the six trailers included on the DVD and Blu-Ray, and the actual theatrical trailer made no bones about the movie being about a woman and a romance.
In the early 2000s, Walt Disney Animation Studios started to make noticeably boy-oriented movies, featuring dinosaurs, emperors, pirates in space, and bears. Atlantis: The Lost Empire had a princess in it, though it was more about adventure in undersea caverns than romance; Home on the Range had female animals as main protagonists but was the last 2-D animated film for five years and flopped badly. In fact, this whole run of films constitutes a major Dork Age for the company. Lilo & Stitch managed to avoid the ghetto for the most part, despite its female main characters, and was the most profitable Disney film of this period. However, this may be due to the marketing focusing exclusively on Stitch, a presumably-male alien.
Repeating the Tangled example, 2013's Frozen was retitled from The Snow Queen, the name of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale the film is loosely based on. Some of the many plot alterations may have been made to stave off the ghetto — where Andersen's story is about a girl who embarks on a quest to retrieve a male friend from the palace of the Snow Queen, this movie has a girl team up with a mountain man to stop the Queen from destroying a kingdom.
The Tinker Bell movies are often criticized as Disney's answer to Barbie (usually by people who haven't seen them), though advertising, the toys, and the movie covers can understandably lead people to this conclusion. In fact they were originally set to be a lot more girly than they are before John Lasseter stepped in.
The original story treatment of Chicken Little had a female protagonist, but Michael Eisner suggested a movie about a male Chicken Little would appeal to more people. The final film became a black sheep of the Disney Animated Canon, though it seems hard to tell whether or not the original plan would have fared better.
Some DVD sets of The Secret Of NIMH that include its direct-to-video sequel, Timmy to the Rescue, have a cover that does not feature Mrs. Brisby, the main character of the older and more beloved of the two movies. Instead, it has her son, Timothy, the central character of the sequel.
When The Princess Bride received a new 2-Disc DVD, fans could choose between two gender-specific covers: the pink "Buttercup Edition" with a cutesy synopsis on the back, or the aquamarine "Dread Pirate Edition" with an action-packed synopsis. Later, the Blu-Ray came with a compromised cover: The bottom half featured Buttercup with Wesley, while the top had Buttercup with the Dread Pirate Roberts.
The first Twilight movie nearly experienced this. The idea that female moviegoers alone could turn a film into a blockbuster hit was considered so unthinkable that, when Paramount was adapting the movie, they tried to make it far more action-heavy (basically, a high school version of Underworld or Blade) in order to attract the male audience that they thought was necessary. This page goes into detail on the changes that would've been made. These plans were vetoed by Stephenie Meyer, leading to Summit's far more faithful adaptation.
The ghetto, along with the huge popularity of actor Johnny Depp, is probably why the 2010 Alice in Wonderland 1) turned out to be an Actionized Sequel of sorts to the nonsense stories of its source material, and 2) focused its marketing campaign on Depp's Mad Hatter, although Alice is clearly the protagonist throughout the film.
Whiteout lost its second female lead because executives feared men would not go see a movie with two female leads. Carrie herself was turned into a much less dynamic character in order to give her male co-stars adequate supporting actions. This is ironic given the Les Yay subtext in the graphic novel and the Girl on Girl Is Hot trope, but perhaps they were worried about losing potential female audience members with too much Les Yay and no handsome male lead.
This was proposed with the sequel to Aliens, with Hicks being the hero because it was assumed he'd attract both male and female viewers (also because executives weren't sure Sigourney Weaver would be available for another movie). Fortunately Ripley is so identified with the Alien series that any movie with them in is expected to have an Action Girl as a main character, even if it's not Ripley.
Historical Fiction author Nancy Rue said at a workshop that the reason all of her protagonists are male is that girls will read "boy books" but boys won't read "girl books".
And so did Diana Wynn Jones but she also said things changed during her career, and started writing books with female protagonists.
This even extends to the authors themselves, as the many women who have used a Moustache de Plume can attest.
J. K. Rowling was told to use initials by her publisher, who worried about this trope. In reality, Joane Rowling doesn't have a middle initial or name (the K is for "Kathleen", after her grandmother), and now her gender is common knowledge.
The same goes for S.E. Hinton. In one interview, she said that she went by her initials because she thought no one would even want to publish The Outsiders if they knew it had been written by a woman.
A lot of Disney Channel's programming is aimed at girls. It got bad enough that Disney created a sister network (or should we say, brother network), Disney XD, because they couldn't get boys to watch the main Disney Channel's programming. Ironically, in 2009 it was discovered that more girls were watching Disney XD than boys.
Strangely enough when Fox owned Fox Family, they tried the Disney XD strategy first with two different digital cable channels, the "Boyz Channel" and "Girlz Channel' in 2000. They were gone within a year due to pressure from outside groups that segregating networks based on sex was a bad idea, and cable providers didn't want to alienate anybody.
In an aversion, male and female fans openly dislike the show's sixth season because of how childish and girly it is.
A combination inversion and example happened with Power Rangers. Originally, the creators tried to get girls to be interested in the show, by adapting some male characters from the Japanese original as females and selling fashion dolls of the female rangers. Eventually though, it became clear that the show had far more appeal for boys, and the straight example came into play for the toys- since boys were thought to not be interested in playing with toys of the female heroes, said females only get a few basic figures in the toy line while the males get all kinds of special vehicles and power ups. This got to the point where a vehicle for the (female) Yellow Ranger from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was packed in with a figure of the Green Ranger in the reversion's toyline.
This has an interesting effect with shows in syndication. A lot of shows that were very gender-neutral during their original run can be put into reruns on networks that are considered exclusive to women (Network Decay aside, networks like Lifetime, Oxygen, and We have a long reputation of being solely for women.) A lot of shows that were gender neutral and incredibly popular with men and women, like Will and Grace,Frasier, and Roseanne, now have to overcome a stigma that they're shows for women.
Stargate Atlantis is a weird example in that it was mostly marketed to young men, but it still attracted a significant Periphery Demographic of women. SyFy has a difficult time accepting that its scripted shows have a tendency to attract viewers in addition to/other than the ones they planned on, and Atlantis ended up getting cancelled to make way for Stargate Universe ... which then got a lot of flak for having significant elements of soap opera IN SPACE!
In-universe example. In an episode of Friends Ross makes a comment about going to read a Superman comic and Monica immediately coughs "Wonder Woman" in an attempt to embarrass him.
It helps that, in North America at least, girl groups tend to have a much shorter run, whereas pop idol soloists are often women. Hence: contractual purity and associated tropes. Male pop singers face backlash from A Man Is Not a Virgin and are expected to transition from "cute" to "adult" without losing their audience, much in the same way female pop idols are required to become Hotter and Sexier. It's then that double standards kick in, as the male musician who sheds his "cute" image will be praised, while women will be accused of relying on their body, abandoning their values, etc.
The Ladies Professional Wrestling Association's one PPV, LPWA Super Ladies Showdown on February 23, 1992, was held at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN. The sports facility, the Taylor Arena, has a capacity of 7200. The PPV only drew 400. This event, which featured Terri Power (Terri "Tori" Poch) winning the LPWA Title in the main event, was the LPWA's final show, as the company shut down soon after.
This trope is the reason Panel de Pon was brought over to the West as Dolled-Up InstallmentTetris Attack - Nintendo assumed male gamers wouldn't want to play a cutesy game with a primarily female cast of mainly fairies. They seem to have changed their minds on this recently, however, as characters from PDP have appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in sticker form even in the American and European releases.
Many gaming review sites/magazines refuse to cover games that are openly aimed at girls. If you're a parent looking to buy something cute for a young female gamer you can have a difficult time telling the difference between games that truly are terrible and games that are simply dismissed because they are girly.
The game industry is notorious for refusing to break out of the idea that all gamers are 18-25 year old white men, at least if you're planning on making a non-casual title. Activision famously told a studio pitching a game set in Hong Kong with an Asian female lead to "lose the chick, they don't sell." A.J. Glasser once noted in an editorial for Kotaku that the only role presented for women in Modern Warfare 2 were NPCs who are all immediately gunned down. There were no speaking parts for women in the entire game, despite earlier Call of Duty games actually remembering once in a while that there are in fact women who serve in the military. She also pointed out a culture gap between Japanese games, which tend to frequently have female leads or supporting casts but also greatly objectify them as a trade-off, and Western games, which frequently just leave women out entirely.
This story made the rounds in late 2011, in which a young boy was threatened with actual violence by his father for wanting to buy Mirror's Edge. Entirely because, well, it must be a girl's game, it has a woman on the cover!
Similarly, 2K took a lot of flak for not featuring Elizabeth on the cover of Bioshock Infinite, when Ken Levine implied that this trope was the reason why. Similarly, Naughty Dog was pressured to move Ellie to the background or completely off the cover of The Last Of Us due to this trope, but the dev team held firm.
This trope and the confusion between light novels and visual novels (the latter has gameplay, the former doesn't) likely contribute to a significant amount of Periphery Hatedom for visual novel games and their players. Visual novels that have become successful, such as Ace Attorney and Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, will immediately attract a flock of players who insist that the games aren't actually visual novels, because visual novel games are a "girl" thing. Ironically, the two most successful visual novel franchises are centered on male playable characters.
On the other hand - considerable amount of women (some surveys put it at around 40%) ARE interested in porn, but with almost all of it being shamelessly targeted towards men, they probably have a huge problem finding something to their tastes. Visual Novels, on the other hand, notoriously elevate Porn With Plot to actually decent stories, partially BECAUSE they apply romantic girly novel standards to them. What about numerous H-game Visual Novels getting "clean" rereleases/sequels because plot was good enough.
This is a proposed reason for why Um Jammer Lammy sold poorly when its prequel Parappa The Rapper sold well, despite Um Jammer Lammy generally being considered the superior game. Um Jammer Lammy has a female main character, and the cover showed only female characters (despite Parappa also being a playable character after clearing the story as Lammy).
The Casio Loopy can be seen as a testament to this trope, as it was completely marketed towards female gamers and never went on to target actual male audiences.
What makes this even better is that she's The Lad-ette while the Critic is a Sissy Villain. Obviously she was going to revolt at some point.
Although in a way, she still keeps with this trope—in a blog post she notes that she was hired to bring more female viewers to the site, but women were still watching the boys (for the reasons you might expect) and only started coming after she started doing other subjects. It's worth noting she still does girly topics as well.
Compared to the show, which was basically He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) with female main characters, the original She-Ra: Princess of Power toyline was far more Barbie-esque. Catra was portrayed as the Big Bad in the toyline while in the show, she was a subordinate to Hordak, who had previously been sold as a Masters of the Universe toy, and was portrayed as the show's Big Bad. This was all supposedly because Mattel didn't think girls would play with a Hordak toy, nor would boys play with a toy of a female She-Ra character.
Even though The Powerpuff Girls earned fans both male and female, creator Craig McCracken noticed that by the time the show reached its third season, it had spawned a disconcerting amount of girls-only merchandise. When Cartoon Network asked him to helm a Film Of The Series, he decided to bring Powerpuff Girls back to its action-packed, "whoopass" roots. The Darker and Edgier product received mixed reviews and made less money than any other movie of its year.
Avatar: The Last Airbender got hit with the merchandising version; with no female action figures even though girls made up a good half of the cast. What made this even more jarring was that male characters who only appeared in a few episodes, like Jet, got action figures, but Katara, an Action Girl and a member of the MAIN CAST (appearing in all episodes except "Zuko Alone") never got one, neither did Toph, (also a main character from the second season onward) despite being more of a tomboy, nor the villainess Azula, even though her brother Zuko and his less Bad Ass rival Zhao did get figures.
When the toy company asked the creators to write in more "cooler" costumes for the characters (read: easier to make gimmicks for), they responded by completely trolling the company with having Aang trying on a ridiculous set of armor for 5 seconds, and then having him wear campy Animesque outfits in a Dream Sequence. No toys were made.
In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Friend Falls In Love", Milhouse takes his girlfriend to the treehouse. When she asks if Bart has any girl comics for her to read, Bart says he doesn't but his sister has a wide collection of crappy comics.
Disney Channel commissioned Phineas and Ferb, despite various worries about it, because they needed a show to attract young boys. Considering Disney's female-targeted fare currently doesn't seem to be doing nearly as well, it's just another example of this trope in action.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic strives to please both genders, but it's not the case for the toys. In particular, store owners requested the original Princess Celestia toy to be pure pink, since they think it would sell better to little girls than if she stayed white (or actually, very light pink).
The otherseriescount too. While the shows typically are quite popular it's almost always toward girls within the 2-to-11 year old age range. The series typically has no merchandise aimed at boys.
One of the common fan theories about the introduction of a new, pink alicorn princess (Cadence) in the show was that Hasbro could have a pink princess character to sell that kind of toy, and yet allow Celestia toys to be show-accurate white.
In-universe, one episode of Family Guy features Lois dragging Peter to a Chick Flick, which he thinks might turn him gay. However, he quite enjoys it (and several others), and decides to make a chick flick of his own. It...doesn't turn out well.
It took decades for Transformers to get an action figure for Arcee, one of the most prevalent characters in the long-running franchise.
Likewise, she was hardly in the Michael Bay movies at all.
Ironically, her limited screen time didn't stop a whole bunch of toys being released during the course of both sequels, despite her being in only the second. She even got one for the first movie, which she wasn't in! This seems to have put an end to the stigma of female character figures, at least for Transformers.
DC Super Friends: made to advertise a new toyline, and featured the rather bizarre omission of Wonder Woman... and any trace of any female DC comics member. This was because that since it was made to advertise a toy line, it was assumed that no boy would play with (or purchase) a female action figure, and thus, found no need to include a female Superhero in the program.
Breaking Out of the Ghetto:
As discussed here, Fairy Tales as a whole tend to invert this trope hard. Fairy tales with a female protagonist, like "Cinderella" or "Snow White", tend be much more popular and iconic than stories with a male hero.
Another good way to transcend the ghetto is to create a capable action heroine, but then have her go on all her adventures in the skimpiest clothing imaginable. Then both women and men will watch, but men (presumably) for all the "wrong" reasons.
One explanation posited is that men feel less moral dissonance seeing a "strong" woman killed, raped, or otherwise endangered. This also ties to cultural norms regarding sexuality and horror movie tropes — the most promiscuous girl will die first and the virgin will live, etc. It can be difficult to impossible to separate the cause and effect of cultural norms, since the majority of media produced won't feature capable action heroines, and the works that do are created with the knowledge that these works are the minority and creators risk never finding an audience if they push too hard, so there's an incentive for defaulting to a male hero. If a work that does feature a female action protagonist flops, the fact that it was centered around a woman may not be the reason for its demise. Women may prefer works with compelling characters regardless of gender (since women are conditioned not to expect leading female characters) over a show in which The Chick is the protagonist. Suffice it to say, it's complicated.
Anime and Manga
Hayao Miyazaki's frequent use of female protagonists hasn't stopped his movies from earning critical acclaim.
The Chi's Sweet Home and Chi's New Address manga and anime features a female kitten as its the main protagonist, but the series appeals to both male and female viewers as opposed to coming off across as a "girls' show". In fact, it was originally a Seinen manga/anime targeted at men ages 18-40. Also, neither the main character nor the other female characters, (Alice, Mike, Tama, Hana, Yohei's mom) is preoccupied with fashion or boys.
While Shoujo anime usually falls into the ghetto, Shoujo manga often averts this trope - Sailor Moon was the best selling graphic novel in Spring 2012.
Sailor Moon, even though the show is sometimes thought of as the female answer to Dragon Ball Z, does maintain a fairly large male fan following, including male fans who don't watch it for the short skirts.
As a Swedish fan-site puts it: "Saying people only watch Sailor Moon for the short skirts is like saying people watch Pippi Longstockings for the violence."
Coraline received an exorbitant amount of critical praise. It also managed to make more money than some people probably expected-not only did it star a girl, but it also seemed rather surreal, and came out during the Dump Months. The advertisers didn't even need to make any of the male characters overshadow Coraline to attract people.
Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure has become a cult hit for Generation X-ers and Generation Y-ers of both sexes, despite roughly half the protagonist characters being female (with the male lead mostly reduced to a condescending "sidekick" role) and almost all of the antagonist characters being male. And of course, the basic story is more than a little indebted to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz - two other tales that have always been popular with both female and male audiences despite having a female lead.
Brave was actually expected to bomb due entirely to its female lead supposedly driving away boys and men and analysts notably lowered their expectations for its box office despite being a Pixar film. They were forced to eat crow when Brave was number one at the box office and performed within the normal box office for any Pixar film. The film would go on to rake in several awards during the 2012-2013 award season, most notably the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Films — Live-Action
Bridesmaids' aversion of this trope was a major factor in its success. A lot of the reviews praised it for being a female-centric comedy that wasn't a Strictly Formularom-com, and apparently, a lot of female moviegoers agreed.
Female writers at Slate.com and other sites practically begged readers to buy tickets to convince studio execs to greenlight more female-driven scripts.
The Hunger Games received good reviews and hefty box office returns. In what the business calls a "four-quadrant" success (meaning it's popular with teen girls, teen boys, adult men and adult women), some 40% of opening-weekend viewers were guys.
Similarly, while Snow White & the Huntsman didn't get the good reviews, it did rake in the box office for a female-led action film and it demonstrated a larger crossover potential in its audience. Notably, however, much of the advertising campaign downplayed Snow White in favor of the Huntsman to try and attract an audience outside the Twilight crowd. Even so, the one-two punch of these two films have been reported to have Hollywood genuinely considering female-starring action films again.
The Wizard of Oz not only has a female lead, but also has many female strong characters and remains as one of the most popular and beloved fantasy books ever written, having a very succesful film adaptation which is still well liked by modern viewers, disregard of their gender.
The Poppy Cat children's books and TV series does not come across as girly or hyperfeminine even though it features a female main protagonist.
Honor Harrington is a sci-fi military series centering on a female starship commander. Of course, Honor is very tomboyish, particularly in the early books, and learning to embrace her femininity is a major part of her character arc in the first three books. The major story arc of the books would arguably play out the same except for a few key points (particularly the plotlines involving the male-dominated Protectorate of Grayson) if Honor were a male character.
The works of Tamora Pierce (The Tortall Universe and Circle of Magic) are both popular young adult fantasy novels with predominantly female main characters (only one of the ten main characters is a boy), and a heavy emphasis on gender issues.
Clarissa Explains It All was groundbreaking not only in its content, but because it finally disproved the common (at the time) thinking for children's television — that boys would NOT watch a show starring a girl. Nickelodeon proved everyone wrong by making Clarissa — a smart, funny, free-thinking girl, who wasn't very tomboyish — the lead character and one of the most recognizable characters in that time period. Much of Nickelodeon's future programming, from The Secret World of Alex Mack to iCarly, has had similar "girly girls" in the lead roles, and also pushed tons of girls' merchandise in the pink aisles of toy stores — all without sacrificing boy viewers.
Melissa Joan Hart's follow-up series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch was even more successful in that regard, having smart and funny female leads, running for 7 years and having almost equal popularity in both male and female demographics.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a successful, well-regarded TV show that had a female lead and, for a time, a majority female cast. Its fanbase includes a good mix of males and females.
After iCarly generally avoided the ghetto, Nickelodeon figured out a way to completely smash it. Have a equal male/female cast and make the female cast the hottest teenage girls they could find wearing as little clothing as it can get away with.
Austin & Ally averted the ghetto by using an equal cast of two guys and two girls, giving both the male and female lead important roles and singing time, making Ally an Adorkable nerdy girly girl and Austin a cute Power blonde to attract both male and female viewers with eye candy. You can take the viewpoint that the show is slightly shifted towards girls because Ally is just slightly more of the lead character due to Ally's music store being where the majority of the plot takes place and that it was Ally the audience was introduced to first.
However, Austin's name is first in the title and all of the characters are primarily focused on advancing his singing career. They are even referred to a "Team Austin".
PBS Kids Sprout hasn't suffered for having female hosts for its "Super Sproutlet Show" and "Good Night Show" programming blocks, and the channel's mascot is Chica the (puppet) chicken, who interacts with both male and female emcees in the channel's signature "Sunny Side Up Show" live block. Her own series, The Chica Show, launched in 2012; her dress-up adventures therein have her in roles varying from princess to ringmaster to pirate to Wild West sheriff. (The secondary lead, Kelly, is also female.)
TNA Impact Wrestling's women's division typically draws stronger ratings than most other quarter hours on the show, despite most of the women being amongst the lowest paid talent, though TNA has recently allowed the contracts of many of its female roster expire.
Wendi Richter's partnership with Cyndi Lauper helped kickstart the "Rock N Wrestling Connection" and brought wrestling to mainstream success. This helped draw in both male and female viewers, judging from the crowd reaction to the match at the first WrestleMania.
In 2003 while critics were slating the WWE product as a whole, the women's division was arguably at its peak and nearly all the women's matches on PPV that year were praised as being the high points of disappointing shows. Both male and female fans have spoken up about how much they enjoyed the feud between Trish Stratus and Victoria which involved various hardcore matches. Also, Lita and Trish Stratus's match in the main event of Raw earned a 3.4 in the ratings department, falling in line with the show's average. Trish Stratus's retirement match at Unforgiven 2006 was also highly received by fans and critics being called match of the night.
WWE has attempted to break the 'Diva' mold with some talent signings in the past year or so, signing the former TNA Knockouts Champion Awesome Kong, aka Kharma and the highly regarded Sara Del Rey. However, Kharma debuted, destroyed half the existing female roster outside of wrestling any actual matches, got pregnant, reappeared as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble but then left the company after it transpired that she had miscarried her child. Additionally, Del Rey has yet to debut with the company, being signed as a trainer.
The reality show Total Divas. Despite centering around the female WWE employees, the show has been a hit with high ratings for its debut episode and re-runs. It appears to have plenty of male viewers too, maybe due to also featuring top WWE stars John Cena and Daniel Bryan.
The Nancy Drew PC Games run into the same problems of most "girl games," namely a lack of recognition from gaming journalism. However, that hasn't stopped them from being incredibly successful with male and female audiences (being one of the only surviving point-and-click adventures games still around probably helps), winning lots of praise for being just plain good and for getting girls interested in gaming and technology.
Lisa Simpson. She managed to be both quirky and vaguely nerdy (jazz music, Beat poetry, etc.) and unabashedly "girly" (her love of ponies and "Malibu Stacy" dolls). A very good example of an animated female character whom boys could not only like, but identify with.
She-Ra: Princess of Power was an interesting case. She-Ra was meant to basically be the Distaff Counterpart of He-Man, but despite having a female lead and a brighter color palette the tone wasn't all that different from its predecessor, especially since the series has Hordak (technically a MOTU character) as the lead villain, whereas the toyline has Catra as the Big Bad. So it basically attracted most of the same audience that He-Man did, despite trying to be a girl's show. A girl who wasn't into He-Man probably wouldn't be into She-Ra either, but a boy who liked He-Man would usually like She-Ra too (unless scared off by the fact that it was supposed to be for girls).
Jem was also popular with male viewers but aimed at females. This is probably due to a mix of action-packed plotlines, mild fanservice...and initially debuting on the same show as Inhumanoids, ROBOTIX, and Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines.
The Powerpuff Girls was another cartoon that was admirably able to avoid the Girl Show Ghetto and attract an audience of both genders.
Even though one of the two main protagonists is female, Cow and Chicken avoids the Girl Show Ghetto nicely and attract an audience of both genders. Though Cow's gender is a bit of a different example, since she's voiced by amale.
Daria has a tendency to focus on its female characters more often than the male ones, but quite a few boys and men like it, too.
Kim Possible stars a well-renowned Action Girl with an incompetent male sidekick, yet managed to gain a rather large fanbase. This included male viewers.
Although Avatar: The Last Airbender had a problem with the merchandising (noted above), the show itself was an aversion, as the cast's gender ratio became weighted in favor of females during the second season without losing its male audience - in fact, most of the girls became fan favorites. This encouraged the creators to go ahead and put a girl as the main character of the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, which absolutely nobody in the fanbase has a problem with. The creators admit that when first selling Korra Nick execs didn't want to greenlight it for this very reason. An interview said that when brought before a test audience of boys they "didn't care that Korra was a girl. They just thought she was awesome."
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a huge male following (who call themselves "Bronies"), most of whom had to be cajoled to watch it first because of this very reason, but eventually became hooked. Not only is this a show about magical ponies, but there are literally six female main characters and one male character. In fact, the Girl Show Ghetto trope was defied by Lauren Faust, as shown in the page quote, who purposefully had the goal of making it appealing to not just little girls, but older viewers as well, including older males. Judging by the massive male fanbase, it seems she's succeeded. Much of the brony hatred is due to the assumption many people make that this trope is always in effect and that a show targeted at girls automatically sucks. The rest of the brony hatred is usually directed towards overly obnoxious bronies, along with the fact that now ponies areeverywhere on the internet.
On the other hand, most anti-Bronies are mocked for being hypocrites who like to pick on "easy targets" as a way to hide their insecurities, kind of a double-edged sword here.
Often times, the reaction of non-fans to the show is not even necessarily dislike of it, but simple bewilderment as to how the show could possibly have achieved the type of popularity it has, and not even because of this trope. It's generally pretty common knowledge that there are children's shows that are popular with adults, but some can't wrap their heads around one of these shows actually becoming popular enough to have its fandom form what is essentially a demographic in its own right.
Pepper Ann had more focus given to the female characters than the male ones (Though they had plenty of focus, too), but there are several male fans of the series.