Eli and Liza are addicted to Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, a kid’s show on Nickelodeon — and with reason. The art direction’s fabulous and the stories are fun. One of the characters, Widget, is always making the something-or-other 3000, a habit that Eli has picked up. “Look, dad!” he says, brandishing a tinkertoy creation. “My Robot Walker 3000!”
It’s possible I’ve become addicted to it, too, because I’ve found myself thinking about it far more than I probably should. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how the show handles gender.
Take a look at the first season’s theme.
As shown in this picture, there are three main characters: Walden, Wubbzy, and Widget. Walden reads as male, with his deeper semi-Australian voice and his ties and all. Widget is clearly female, which is awesome — she’s a tinkerer and a builder, and plays against the male engineer stereotype.
Wubbzy is more ambiguous. He’s identified in the theme song as a he, and he does like kickety-kick ball, but he’s not overtly color-coded like Walden and Widget. He mainly reads as a young kid, though everyone undoubtedly defaults to thinking of him as male.
Now here’s the theme for Season 2.
You may have noticed Daizy has been shoehorned into the theme.
Daizy likes to grow flowers. She’s often en pointe. She enjoys dressing up and sewing. Her favorite phrase is “lavender lollipops!” In one episode she finds a uni-horn whom she names Princess.
She could not be more of a stereotypical little girl if she spent every episode playing with dolls.
I couldn’t find any information about why Daizy was added to the lineup, so what follows is rampant speculation. But I imagine the creators or the network wanted to add a character that they thought young girls would identify more strongly with. Widget, despite being super-awesome, comes across as more of an adult than Wubbzy, and Wubbzy, by virtue of our society’s defaults, is male. So they added a character “for girls”.
So why is she a girl turned up to 11? Wubbzy doesn’t embody every boy stereotype; why must Daizy be a super girly girl? This strikes me as being along the same lines as Marvel’s attempts to pitch comic books to women. “Chicks like dress-up, right? And ponies? We’ve got to have a pony in there.”
Liza and Eli won’t notice any of this, not overtly. But they’ll absorb it, and it’ll got woven into their default view of the world. How excited should Liza be that Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! has created a character for her to identify with, only to barely squeeze her into the opening theme and to make her Wubbzy’s sidekick who, oh yes, happens to really like him?