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Unisex Series, Gendered Merchandise

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Sokka: There's no girls in the Avatar universe.
Aang: There's not?
Sokka: Of course not. Just ask Mattel.

Merchandise is a tricky thing. Often times, merchandise producers don't seem to take note of what the work is about. A lot of merchandise will blatantly go against a work's morals or feature the characters doing things they'd never do. Merchandise also has a tendency to be aimed at one gender that isn't the entirety of the audience. A work with a unisex audience will end up with merchandise aimed at either mostly men or mostly women.


Children's works are especially prone to this. Gender neutral toys exist, but in general, toys are broken into "boy toys" and "girl toys". This leaves unisex works in the middle area, forcing them to appeal to only one gender. The protagonists are mostly boys? Make a bunch of boy toys. Mostly girls? Only make girl toys.

This often results in a work falling into the Girl-Show Ghetto. Female characters will rarely get any promotion if the merchandise is aimed at boys, no matter how much of the main cast is made up of girls; likewise, any work with merchandise aimed at girls will either ignore or heavily downplay the existence of its male cast. Gendered merchandising can actually affect the work's longevity (especially works that become popular with a completely different demographic than intended). The demographic of a work failing to match the heavily gendered marketing has resulted in works being prematurely canceled.


Compare to Misaimed Marketing and Audience Shift.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Although it wasn't aimed at a specific gender, the merchandise for Osomatsu-san is almost exclusively marketed towards young women.
  • Zig-Zagged with Digimon. Unlike many examples, a few of the female characters did get toys, but only the androgynous or masculine looking ones like Garudamon or Taomon got any of the good ones (and even then, the toy commercials would only show the male Digimon), with the more overly girly Digimon like Lillymon and Angewomon only getting cheap crappy toys, if any at all. With the exception of Pocket Culumon, none of the commercials ever showed girls playing with any of the toys. Kari was also the only 02 character not to get a Digivice toy, for the crime of... being the color pink. Starting with Digimon Adventure tri. this was averted, as the marketing became gender neutral and the female characters finally got more merch.

     Films — Animation 
  • Disney Animated Canon films are aimed at a general audience. Their merchandise? Not so much. While gender neutral Disney merchandise exists, a good chunk of it is aimed at female audiences (especially little girls). This reached its peak when the Disney Princess line was created. Almost all Disney films starring royalty (even Aladdin, where Jasmine is a secondary character) get pinned under the line and end up with mostly girl-aimed merchandise.
  • Pixar merchandise is mostly aimed to boys, even when their audiences include both boys and girls equally. Some notable examples are Cars and Toy Story series, whose toys are aimed at boys only. Brave' is an exception, with Merida being lumped in with the Disney Princesses despite not being part of the Disney canon.

     Films — Live Action 
  • The Force Awakens: Despite the lead character being female, merchandising for the movie completely ignored her existence and focused on the male characters. This led to the popular #WheresRey hashtag, and to calls to boycott licensed toys unless the toy line included a Rey figure.
  • There was a backlash when the toys based on the family-targeted films The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron were released because there was no action figure for Black Widow (the only female member of the team). Notably, in the latter film, she rides a motorcycle and uses Captain America's shield in conjunction with it, but all the toys had Cap riding the bike himself.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Cited reasoning from the creator states that this was why Tower Prep was canceled. The creator said that it was mostly made as a gender-neutral show, but apparently was being more favorable by girls more than boys, which is what the marketing didn't want to happen.

     Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros. is a gender-neutral franchise, but a large amount of Mario merchandise gets put in the "boy's" aisle, Princess Peach merchandise being the exception. This was a reason given for making Tetris a pack-in game for the original Game Boy over Super Mario Land, since Nintendo didn't want the console to be viewed as exclusively a "boy's toy."
  • Similar to the Super Mario Bros. example above, Sonic the Hedgehog is aimed at both genders and includes a cast of female characters (Amy Rose is obvious). Half of the merchandising is marketed with and to young boys, probably because a blue hedgehog with an attitude and robots fit in the "boy's" section. The female characters are more likely to appear in the gender-neutral merchandise, most are to appeal to the adult Periphery Demographic.
  • Splatoon:
    • Of the three manga made for the series, the two shonen series (Sankichi Hinodeya's manga and Ikasu Kids 4-koma Fest) promote the male inklings over the female ones despite having Gender Equal Ensembles: Team Blue is split down the middle but is led by the male Goggles, while Hitto is typically accompanied by Maika. The only one that doesn't follow this pattern, fittingly, is the Honobono Squids manga that runs in the general-audience Weekly Famitsu.
    • For a unisex series that uses the female inklings as the default and has very prominent female NPCs, this is surprisingly averted with the non-manga merchandise. The heavy focus on unisex fashion and music in the game might be behind it.
  • Zig-zagged with Pokémon:
    • On one side, most of the manga are predominantly aimed at boys. Pokémon Adventures is considered kodomomuke but it is rather shonen-leaning. There's only been one shoujo manga. The anime on the other hand is firmly kodomo, with elements that appeal to both female and male fans.
    • Game merchandise tends to be gender neutral. There is also plenty of merchandise aimed at boys and girls, of different ages.
  • Atelier is for a gender neutral audience, and most games have a Gender-Equal Ensemble or even a Cast Full of Pretty Boys. In fact, a survey revealed most players are women. Despite this, most of The Merch seems targeted towards a male demographic, with things like scantily-clad figures and fanservicey art prints that make the series look more like a Bishojo Series.
  • Starting in The New '10s, most of The Merch for the gender-neutral Tales Series became more geared towards women, consisting mainly of bishonen goods.
  • Kirby remains gender-neutral even with its Sugar Bowl aesthetic, though most of its merch skews towards older women with goods like accessories, makeup and plush toys.
  • Mega Man (Classic) is a gender-neutral series, but—possibly because the main character is a blue robot—almost all merchandise for it ends up in the boys' section (merchandise featuring Roll being an exception). The same holds true for any animated adaptations that use the classic series as a base, like the 1990s series and Mega Man: Fully Charged, as well as later spinoffs like Mega Man X and Mega Man Battle Network.
  • In Japan, Yo-Kai Watch is a unisex franchise. In America, however, marketing treats it as a "boy's series". Most clothes, even adult-aimed ones, are aimed at males. The original female protagonist, Katie, is barely advertised (including Nate being on the front cover of Yo-kai Watch but not Katie, unlike the Japanese cover which didn't feature humans) and her Yo-Kai Watch has never been exported outside of Japan. Even a shoujo manga starring Katie was never translated, while the more unisex manga starring Nate was.

     Western Animation