As another male-led superhero movie (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) hits the big-screen, the dearth of female superheroes is all too apparent. A recent poll, conducted among parents on behalf of toy company on behalf of Arklu, demonstrates a severe lack of female representation in the world of super-powers – at least, as far as the non-comic readers are concerned, anyway.
Now they’re giving their attempt to redress the balance – with their Lottie ‘Superhero Outfit Design Competition’ – one final push before the competion closes next week.
From a selection of the most popular male and female superhero characters, Arklu found four male superhero characters could be identified by 100 per cent of respondents; Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and Hulk. In stark contrast, not one female superhero character could be identified by 100 per cent of respondents. Despite actress Scarlett Johansson’s best attempts in Iron Man 2, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the infamous Black Widow still remains largely unknown to the poll respondents, with a meagre 39.5 per cent recognising the character by name. As, presumably, do most of the female X-Men and the Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm.
In terms of whether a character’s image was perceived to be a ‘positive role model’, more than 67 per cent of respondents did not believe that current female superhero characters pose positive role-models for girls; where a reason was given, 50 per cent cited sexism and sexualisation of female characters, whilst 41.6 per cent cited female superheroes were not well-enough known.
The poll results provide some backing to the position taken by some influential individuals such as American screenwriter, film and television director, Joss Whedon (Toy Story, The Avengers), who last year voiced his point of view, commenting: “Toymakers will tell you they won’t sell enough, and movie people will point to the two terrible superheroine movies that were made and say, ‘You see? It can’t be done’,” he said.
“It’s stupid, and I’m hoping The Hunger Games will lead to a paradigm shift. It’s frustrating to me that I don’t see anybody developing one of these movies.”
Sadly, the view of film executives is also reflected in the position of many TV commissioners. Just ask John McCrea, who pitched the fantastic Warpaint at a US network with co-creator Phil Hester as an animated show similar to Ben 10, only to be told that female lead teen shows “didn’t sell”.
Now, a UK toymaker has taken the matter into their own hands… Girls can be superheroes too! is the rallying call for a global competition being launched by Arklu, who have teamed up with US non-profit organisation, Brave Girls Want, which will see entrants aged 10 and under asked to design a superhero outfit for the Lottie doll.
The Lottie ‘Superhero Outfit Design Competition’ provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for one lucky child to see their design come to life, with the winning superhero outfit being manufactured and made commercially available in Autumn 2014. The winning child will also see their original artwork design, first name, age, city and country on the back of the outfit packaging, in addition to winning the entire range of Lottie dolls, accessories and outfits.
The Lottie doll has been making waves in the toy industry for some time. The French magazine Parents.fr even went so far as to describe the doll, whose outfits include scuba diver, skier, horse rider and pirate, as “Anti Barbie” in one article.
Arguing Lottie is a wholesome antidote to other leading doll brands, the figure has been purposefully designed under expert guidance to both look and dress as a regular child – a childlike body shape, no make-up, jewellery or high-heels. Lottie also has the ability to stand on her own two feet, in both a very literal and metaphorical sense.
Lucie Follett, Creative Director of Arklu, explains “Lottie dolls motto is ‘Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You’ and many of the Lottie dolls explore inspiring, empowering and adventurous themes, so this competition seems a really fantastic way to build on these strong ‘pro girl’ values.
“We know that there is an acknowledged lack of strong female superheroes out there,” she adds, “so this is why we thought a campaign with the message that girls can be superheroes too! is very much needed.”
Entering the competition is very straightforward, although requires parental permission and there are only a few days left to enter: parents and guardians are asked to download a colouring page template from the superhero contest app on the Lottie dolls Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lottiedolls so that kids can use this as a starting point for their design, as well as describing the superpower abilities that their design has. Parents are then required to upload their child’s design onto the superhero contest Facebook app and fill in a form to grant parental permission for their child’s entry to be considered for the competition.
Entries will be judged by a panel including at least one independent panellist member of the Brave Girls Alliance, a think tank of girl empowerment experts and allies, a global group of nonprofit organizations, small businesses, professionals, parents, girls and other individuals who have come together to ask media content creators, large corporations, marketers and retailers to make a commitment to support girls’ empowerment.
Entries will be judged on their creativity and originality, fun and overall ‘kid-appeal’ as well as keeping true to the ‘pro girl’ values that underpin both the Lottie brand and Brave Girls Alliance.
Closing date for entries is 7th May 2014 and the winner will be notified confidentially in May 2014, with the public announcement being made when the winning outfit goes on sale in October 2014 – just in time for the International Day of the Girl.
Melissa Wardy of Brave Girls Alliance says: “The Brave Girls Alliance is proud to support Lottie doll and their campaign that champions girls’ desire to be heroes. The Superhero contest is a great way to bring girls’ voices forward and allows them to show the world their ideas on what a girl superhero should look like and what powers they should possess.”
The campaign has already received support from within the comic community. Sue, who blogs about women in superhero comics at the incredibly popular DC Women Kicking Ass on Tumblr and also maintains Superheroes Are For Girls and This: Moments for Women, is a loud and never-tiring voice for feminism in the cape comics blogosphere, says: “Superheroes are for girls, too. And now with the Lottie doll children can have a female superhero that has realistic body shape. What a wonderful toy.”
Arklu is a young and innovative award-winning toy company with the dynamic team of Lucie Follett and Ian Harkin at the helm.
Since her launch in August 2012, Lottie dolls have become something of a global phenomenon securing the approval of industry experts (winning 19 awards in the US, UK and Canada including three prestigious Oppenheim Portfolio Platinum Awards), child development experts (encouragement quotes), international press coverage and most importantly, positive feedback from the parents and children who love Lottie.
Lottie now sells in 30 countries; the www.lottie.com website appears in 17 language versions, including Chinese, Russian and Japanese.
Given the nature of this competition, now all she needs is her own comic! Are you listening, Immediate Media? Egmont? Titan?
• The Lottie ‘Superhero Outfit Design Competition’ closes on 7th May 2014. Full terms and conditions of the competition are to be found at: www.lottie.com/superhero-outfit-design-competition-terms-conditions/