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Analysis / Girl-Show Ghetto

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Alongside the sexism and homophobia mentioned on the main page, one of the less discussed factors that plays into the Girl-Show Ghetto is the use of Men Are Generic, Women Are Special, where works with female protagonists tend to emphasise the 'femaleness' of the protagonist which can come across as unrelatable and/or political. To give one example, the Big Three of DC Comics: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Superman and Batman, whether their stories have depth or not, tend not to be allegorical or political (at least until Superman's 2011 reboot, and even then the gender of male heroes is almost never likely to be a factor in their stories as opposed to other political topic like race and class). But Wonder Woman's history is female-centric (she comes from an island where men are forbidden to set foot) and works featuring her prominently usually have strong feminist themes.

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Another factor is the perception created by Lifetime Movie of the Week. Though this perception is less common now as more varied media is beginning to feature female protagonists, to those more familiar with Lifetime films over other forms of media, there is an expectation that any show featuring a female lead might bash men a lot.

One topic that might explain this trope is that it is ironically a long term consequence of male domination. For a long period of time, and still in many countries today, men unquestionably held power over women through legal and social means. Thus, anything targetted to a man was considered of a higher status, but the trope of Men Are Generic, Women Are Special was still in effect as while content made for women was considered lesser by men, there was a sense of the mystique of what those "emotional dames" were into.

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Fast forward later on and women's rights movements in the industrial revolution begin fighting for women's emancipation and their inclusion into typically male cultural spheres. There was a sentiment amongst women that they should be allowed to partake in male interests without having their femininity or gender called into question, whilst still being able to enjoy things meant for women without ridicule as well. Some feminists even went as far as to advocate the capitulation towards adopting a wholly male lifestyle and set of interests, arguing that what was meant for women was inferior and to keep them in line. As of now, this particlar line of thought is much less popular and even considered anti-feminist given that most work for women is made by women for women without male input and it means surrendering any notion that something womanly can be good.

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As for young men, there was no movement to fight for male inclusion into female spaces and interests, given that it was seen as inherently emasculating and crippling. While there have always been men who take part in female interests and media, the larger calls for men to be allowed to be interested in women's media have generally accelerated only recently due to the internet providing online safe spaces and social media.

The hesitation for men to be into women's media is also two fold, and both are rooted in the fear of emasculation. First, men obviously don't want to be degraded by other men and thus don't share their interests in women's media with their male friends.

Secondly, however, it is also very true that men don't share their interests in women's media out of fear of being degraded by other women. In fact, it's not uncommon to find a group of men who collectively or at least know a guy that is into more feminine things, but don't share this fact with other women. Men tend towards the belief that women prefer a masculine man, and that men with more feminine traits have something manly about themselves to compensate for it. Thus, men who are struggling with their masculinity and attempt to look good with women may not share their interests in female media with them out of the fear that if they're uncertain about looking manly towards women, revealing that they like frilly romance literature will forever damn them in the eyes of women and subject them to eternal gossip. In essence, the fear these men have stems from the idea that women may hold a double standard that they should be allowed to "upgrade" themselves to masculine interests while looking down on a man for "degrading" himself for feminine ones.

Another aspect of this trope is the latent homophobia. Even Camp Straight men as noted above tend to have an overtly masculine quality about them out of the idea that straight women can't possibly like a man without one manly thing about them. Thus, men who are interested in female media fear being labeled homosexual, and even if they don't hate gay men, would be obviously pissed about not being considered straight because they like girly media. Gay men themselves will also be happy to rant about how interest in feminine things is not what makes them gay, and the large number of gay men who don't have any feminine traits are tired of having their homosexuality denied because they're overtly masculine and refuse to take part in girly media.

And of course, the many nations that still persecute homosexuals may use male interests in girly shows or media as a basis to prosecute a man, giving some men a very good reason to avoid admitting interest in female interests.

An important exception of this rule, found in anime and video game fandoms, is if the female lead in question is attractive. On one hand this is a subversion because attractive female leads tend to be in games and anime explicitly marketed towards young men, but it's still considered acceptable for men to play a game or watch an anime with even just a "cute" girl under the grounds they want them as girlfriends while girls just project themselves onto the girl anyway. It helps that in this regard video games and anime are thought of, at least outside East Asia, things men mostly enjoy while women are thought to enjoy western television and literature more.

Of course, exceptions like a number of shojou manga or video games where the female character isn't designed to attract males and have stories explicitly about the female experience still get males ridiculed if they partake in them.

Anime

  • Males who enjoy Shoujo works are often looked at weirdly at best or creepy at worst. Sometimes inverted with women that like Shonen being treated like they're all Yaoi Fangirls. Shoujo anime in general is subject to this even though the stigma of being an otaku means that many female anime fans are more than happy to welcome hesitant men into their interest without fear of persecution, but even then gatekeeping men from shojou from women themselves is another factor that can drive men away from the content. Some works like Maid-Sama! and Fruits Basket however are considered safer to watch for men as long as the male leads engage in humor and antics that appeal to men.

Comics

  • DC Comics It's very largely a 'boys club'. Of the initial New 52 reboot, a quick count shows 27 titles focusing on a male hero, 6 focusing 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).
  • Over at Marvel Comics, there are no female characters that are as well-known as Wonder Woman, Supergirl or Batgirl.
    • Back in the Nineties, the closest frontrunner was probably Storm.
    • In the 2000s, Ms. Marvel started getting promoted as the company's big-name superheroine after House of M, and the promotional push only got stronger when she was relaunched in 2012 as the new Captain Marvel.
  • Disney Comics are traditionally centered around male characters, with female characters generally being second bananas or somehow related to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy; for example, Minnie Mouse is often just Mickey's girlfriend: she rarely has any direct involvement in each plot's actions. So much so that some adaptations like Ducktales 2017 had to retool the female characters in the comics and original shorts not just to attract girls but to make it acceptable for the boys to like them without being made fun of. That said, these versions of the girls are more positively received for actually contributing to the story with the boys.

Western Animation Film

  • Walt Disney Animation Studios has a rather complicated relationship with the Girl-Show Ghetto.
    • In the early 2000s, Disney started to make noticeably boy-oriented movies, featuring dinosaurs, Inca emperors, pirates in space, alien invasions and bears. This whole run of films constitutes a major Dork Age for the company. Lilo & Stitch, a film with two girls as lead characters, ended up being the most profitable Disney film of this time period. However, it should be noted that Lilo & Stitch's success could have been influenced by the marketing focusing exclusively on co-title protagonist Stitch, a male alien.
    • During the 1990s, alleged "girly" films such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were the highest grossing animated films of their times. That said, they were still outgrossed by the clearly male-led The Lion King. The exception was The Princess and the Frog, which had a myriad of issues: from the use of 'outdated' 2D animation, being released the week before Avatar opened, and having Sherlock Holmes (2009) and the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel hot on its heels. Not to mention the bad publicity stemming from the leaked early draft of the script, which was loaded down with Unfortunate Implications and a serious case of Be Careful What You Wish For if you've ever thought the Disney Princess line needed an African-American member.
      • Part of this may be due to the fact that the Disney Princess franchise had not yet been created, so these movies weren't seen as feminine. This affected Aladdin especially badly; it was originally sold as a gender-neutral movie. But after the "Princess" franchise was launched, almost all of its merchandise became focused on Jasmine and aimed at girls.
    • Making matters more complex is the fact that, while Disney's female-led animated movies are clearly successful, they are still panned by many male viewers, and it is still conventionally seen as at least a little "weird" for men to enjoy these movies despite their multi-demographic appeal. On the flip side, it is not considered strange at all for a female to enjoy one of Disney's more recent boy-oriented animated movies, such as Wreck-It Ralph or Big Hero 6.

Literature

  • This even extends to the authors themselves, as the many women who have used a Moustache de Plume can attest.
  • The young adult and middle grade (eight-twelve years old) demographics mostly consists of young girls. Part of this is because boys have a tendency to refuse to read anything with a female protagonist for reasons stated above and young adult and middle grade tend to be considered girly. Another part that affects middle grade more than young adult, is that parents buying books for their sons have a tendency to look for books that could be considered "masculine" when buying for their sons, and "gender neutral" or "girls power themed" books for their daughters.

Music

  • Happens in music quite often. Boy bands/Teen Idols (usually aimed at girls) usually end up gaining getting disliked, with people sometimes literally sending death threats, but a Girl Group probably won't have as much of a problem, because of all of the fanservice.
    • 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 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.
    • Even outside the pop landscape, female-fronted music tends to garner less acclaim and recognition from critics than male-fronted music. This could probably be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that Most Critics Are Male.

Pinball

  • Pinball has been hit with this hard, is still deep within it, and shows little signs of moving out of it, though the level of acceptance depends on if you're viewing it from the base of players or from the industry itself. Both stem from pinball's history of being games played at casinos and bars, places where men would hang out with each other and develop a clique-like social atmosphere, with manufacturers catching on and making games accordingly; and of pinball's aging demographic. From the player side, there have been many events designed to bring women in and have them feel welcome, and the result is a slow but gradual shift in the gender ratios at competitions, conventions, and other events, though it is still overwhelmingly male. From the industry side, most of the designers, executives, and producers have been making pinball since The '80s, carrying the social attitudes about games from that period. Pinball moved from casinos and bars to more family-friendly locations like arcades, pizza parlors, movie theaters, and bowling alleys, resulting in machines aimed at kids, but the only manufacturer to have ever designed tables aimed explicitly and unambiguously at women was Zaccaria in Italy, though it went out of business in 1990.
  • The one machine that might shake the industry out of the ghetto would be Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons, a game with an incredibly strong Male Gaze element, as it received a tremendous backlash, enough for Stern to issue a Palette Swap with a complete overhaul of the theme, changing it to the more gender-neutral Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (though still thoroughly rooted in pinball's association with bar culture). The main movers and shakers in pinball are all white males, however, and are very specialized in their knowledge—considering the disastrous attempt in 2012 to sell pinball machines to China (they did not do any localization, translation, or even voltage changes), it's unlikely they currently have the know-how to sell outside their standard demographics.

Toys

  • Some Merchandise-Driven shows sport a variation, where the show itself doesn't have this problem as much but it's the merchandising that takes a hit. Showing off a Red Ranger figure in the playground is cool, showing off a Pink Ranger figure is an invitation to get beaten up. Or at least that's what toy companies think; even when the girls aren't dressed up in bright pink they'll just assume no boy will be interested in buying their stuff.. Starting in 2014-15, if you see a Twitter hashtag asking "Where's [the girl]?" (like #WheresGamora, #WheresBlackWidow, #WheresHera, #WheresRey, #WheresSkye), that's people responding to this trope in play.

Video Games

  • Despite Rated M for Manly being deeply entrenched in gaming culture, research has shown it's actually the opposite: while boys largely don't care about whether the main character of the game is male or female, girls do and would prefer to play as a fellow female; the logical choice in terms of reaching the greatest number of players, then, would be a game about an Action Girl, but such things are the exception rather than the rule.
  • Video games may perhaps be the hardest one to have been hit by the ghetto in Japan, mainly due to many of the founders of the Japanese video game scene being male. This extended itself to the sheer idea that while a girl could play a game, she could never program one. This assumption was considered true until 1989, when the very first video game companies with female programmers started appearing and begun programming video games. The (Western) game industry is notorious for refusing to break out of the idea that all gamers are 18-25 year old heterosexual white men, at least if you're planning on making a non-casual title.
  • 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 detractors 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 three most successful visual novel franchises are centered on male playable characters.
    • This is horribly ironic, given that visual novels more prominently fall under All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles. It's hard to see how Fate/stay night can be considered a girl thing.
      • 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.
  • JRPG titles like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy play with this trope. On one hand, many protagonists are male and do masculine things. On the other, they tend to be really good looking which attracts the fan girls, although this leads to the issue of (particularly younger) male fans accusing those girls of not being real fans and just being in it for self-insert Wish Fulfillment or Yaoi. Thus, fanfiction even for male-targeted JRPG series is not safe from this trope. Regardless, female characters in JRPG franchises take multiple roles, even decidedly girly ones like being a Princess and Musician, and can fight alongside the boys, attracting female fans who are happy to see masculine and feminine roles acting in unison.

Western Animation

  • Somewhat inverted with Ben 10: Alien Force. The original show, despite having a female major character, it attracted a mostly male fanbase, so the sequel series gave also more spotlight for Gwen and added a love story between her and Kevin to try to appeal more to both genders, and although it got more girls to the show, it's still mostly preferred by boys, so the third sequel, Ben 10: Omniverse put Gwen and Kevin on a bus an focused in the wacky adevntures of Ben and his male alien partner, Ruk.
  • Many people think the main character of Magic Adventures of Mumfie is a girl due to his pink jacket, and claim it's a girls' show due to the fact. Even in France, the show was aimed at preschool girls and had the main character's gender changed to be female although the name was the same!
  • Care Bears is assumed as being for girls and very little boys despite being unisex.

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