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The Power Puff Girls

  •  In an attempt to attract a more ‘adult’ audience the ‘Powerpuff Girls’ images have been updated in an overly sexualised manner in a recent comic book cover
  • IDW Publishing have argued that the image refresh is more about female empowerment than any attempt to sexualise the cartoon characters
  • However, it’s obvious that this refresh has been used as a pure marketing tool and to appeal to a certain demographic

Everyone is looking for a new way to catch market attention and sell their products, and with corporate media production becoming ever more widely affordable, the opportunities to stand out from the crowd are slimming. Every day we deal with clients, both new and old, who come to us wanting an innovative way to market their business through video. This is precisely what we live for, and are excited when we get to put a great deal of creative influence on a product for a big business that we just know will get the attention we require.

That said, there are limits to the sorts of advertising media that are ethically acceptable, and we were recently disturbed when we read about an advertising campaign for The Powerpuff Girls, that saw one ad company overstepping the boundaries of what is decent.

A Cartoon Network favourite, The Powerpuff Girls is an animated series that has a broad appeal from kids to adults, with smartly written scripts that deliver humour for both generations. Now, however, it seems as if producers are attempting to get more ‘adult’ attention for all the wrong reasons.

In a Facebook post showing the latest cover for Powerpuff Girls Issue 6, American comic book retailer Dennis Barger argues, “are we seriously sexualising pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet?” This in reference to the image below:

The series is about three little girls who have super powers. Not three scantily dressed young teenage girls, boobed and short skirted, who like to pout and look sultry whilst sat on an evil monkey’s face…

Barger, the retailer who brought this to the industry’s attention stated that he would not stock the issue as he was a responsible parent, explaining that, “they are wearing latex bondage-wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong.”

In his opinion this is a pandering to a small “perverted segment” of the comic book community that will consume the cover.

Dirk Wood, a representative of IDW Publishing came out in response to these allegations proffering the explanation that, “[the cover is] more along the lines of ‘female empowerment’ than the kind of thing you guys are thinking about.”

The variant cover was designed to be a collectible item for fans of the series, whilst an alternative followed suit with the original artistry.

Whilst we’re all for re-imagining artistic direction and expanding upon established norms, we can’t help but feel this ‘collector’s item’ is designed to draw in an entirely different audience. It’s easy enough to bandy around the term ‘female empowerment’, but when that becomes the sexualisation of young female characters, which have, up until this point, never demonstrated these characteristics before, it becomes less like ‘female empowerment’, and more of a marketing tool.

IDW can pretend they had no idea what they were doing when they released the cover, but of course they did. Admitting fault admits the worst, and it’s something they will never acknowledge. It’s clear as day to see they were trying to stir the pot, but it seems as if they didn’t realise how deeply they would affect their fan-base.

It is practices like this which really cast a sour shadow over the corporate video production industry and advertising agencies, and, really, those that commissioned the project ought to be held strictly accountable in order to prevent this kind of thing happening again.

Author Charlie Southall

Charlie Southall is the Founder and CEO of Dragonfly, a London based video production and animation company. His work has taken him aceoss the globe, and he has worked with clients like Amazon, Google, Honda, and Sony. Charlie is now a successful businessman – but things could have turned out very different. He started his business on The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme with just a business start-up loan and an unshakeable resolve to follow his passion - videography and animation.

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Dragonfly, a video production company in London.