Internet Outrage Of The Day: Gender-Based Spider-Man Toys At McDonald's

There must be some sort of internet bet to see who can make the biggest mountain out of the smallest molehill. The latest nontroversy? McDonald's, the fast food burger chain best known for causing childhood obesity and scalding people with lava-hot coffee, has introduced a line of toys tying into the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2. Sounds pretty innocuous, I know, until you learn that the toys have are being marketed to Boys and Girls separately. Check out the images here.

Image from hm.toysaffair.com
Image from hm.toysaffair.com
Popular comics blog ComicsAlliance posted a rather short-sighted response to the revelation of the toys. In their defense, they did recognize a valid counter argument concerning the toys however their main beef with them is that they perpetuate the divide between genders. I find this not only to be ridiculous but also just brow-beating for the sake of being angry.

Am I the only one that considers this a win?

McDonald's has, for years, been pretty much adamant that boys and girls be treated differently. From the time the started offering different gender based toys, they've pretty much been completely different licenses; Ninja Turtles/Furby. Strawberry Shortcake/Hexbug. Skylanders/My Little Pony. But now they are recognizing that little girls like Spider-Man and are actively marketing to such. Does it really matter that half of the toys they are giving out are glittery pink and purple? Can't we just take away that McDonald's is sending the message that it's OK to like this stuff?

If I took my daughter to McDonald's and she wanted the little pink clutch with Spider-Man's face on it then goddamn it, she's getting the clutch. If she said to me "Daddy, I want the Spider-Man mask," then guess what? I would request the mask. No where in the McDonald's toy guideline does it specify that girl's have to have the pink toys. Yet reading the Comics Alliance post I linked to earlier, one would think that's exactly the case.

Take this for example: A cosplayer designs a Boba Fett themed ballgown.

From Fashionably Geek
Impressive, right? Takes a lot of talent and imagination to do that. The dress is hailed as "fancy" and "elegant".

Meanwhile, McDonald's plasters a Spider-Man logo on a clutch purse and some bracelets and the internet flips the fuck out. Aren't these two things sending the same message? That pop culture heroes can appeal to both males and females and still maintain their charm.

Yes, the dress is an extension of someone's hard work and creativity while McDonald's is looking for cheap toys they can give away with cheaper hamburgers, but in the end, the message is the same. If that pink headband gets a little girl interested in Spider-Man, opening doors to other forms of pop culture, isn't that all that matters?

This reminds of the petition on Change.org a few years ago which called for a boycott of LEGO over their creation of the "LEGO Friends" line, a pink and purple masterpiece of Polly Pocket looking LEGO figures that was marketed to young girls. (The ridiculousness of such a petition caused me to completely boycott Change.org but that's another story entirely.) The purpose behind the boycott was to bring to light the gender bias in marketing, quoting the LEGO CEO Vig Knudstorp as saying "We want to reach the other 50%." I never saw it as LEGO pigeon-holing girls as pink junkies. Parents have always been free to continue purchasing the Ninjago, Chima, and Star Wars building sets that flooded the market. But what LEGO did was give the public choices. Were there girls out there that never looked twice at a LEGO set because they didn't find them appealing? I'd put money on it. Did the Friends line draw them into the fold and give them something different? I'd say yes considering LEGO was able to expand the line to include Disney Princesses. Like Nerf with it's Rebelle line. Nothing says you have to buy them if your little girl likes Nerf guns but it gives the consumer a choice.

Is there a gender bias in marketing? Yes, without a doubt. It's in every Target and Wal-Mart...and not just in the toy aisles. It's in JC Penny's, Macy's, and Sears. Toys isn't the only industry that markets to genders. Clothing stores are divided by departments: Girl's, Boy's, Men's, Women's. Where's the Change.org petition to stop that? Hell, there are even stores that sell exclusively to gender. Mandee and Joyce Leslie spring to mind. Men's Wearhouse? It's right there in the goddamn name! But if someone opened a toy store that sells only "boy's toys"...? Sweet Christ, the internet would explode on itself!

The problem isn't that McDonald's is marketing toys to boys and girls individually; the problem is that there are people who still believe in a gender divide and cater to that. And by people I don't mean toy makers. I mean parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Is it right? That's not for me to decide. They're allowed to raise their children however they want, just as you're allowed to raise your's how you want. You don't want your kid playing with a sparkly Spider-Man notepad or Ben 10 nail polish? Don't buy it. Get them the Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot. But don't shame a little girl for liking vibrant pinks and purple sparkles. And don't blame McDonald's for making toys that cater to that. After all, giving their track record, it's surprising that the "girl toy" for this promotion isn't Lalaloopsy or something.

Me? I'm just happy that a monolithic corporation like McDonald's is finally sending the message to little girls that it's OK to like super heroes. That's a step in the right direction.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Marvel's Mastery of Continuity

I think I've put off writing this long enough. It's been about, oh, three weeks since Captain America: The Winter Soldier hit the theaters and even if you haven't seen the movie, if you're a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or have been on the internet at any point these past few weeks, then you kind of know how the movie ends. With that in mind, there will be SPOILERS here. If you've managed to avoid them for this long, then I don't want to be the guy that breaks your streak.

And really, I don't even want to review The Winter Soldier. Yeah, it was a kickass movie. Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie were totally on point as Winter Soldier and Falcon. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow got a lot more depth. The political intrigue angle mirrored the real-world threats of NSA spying and drone strikes. It was a damn near perfect film. There's my review.

In actuality, I really just want to focus on Marvel's knack for continuity.

This is no surprise to anyone who reads comics books. Marvel has a rich history with characters, spanning in excess of fifty years. For the most part, those decades of story-telling still affect the characters today. Spider-Man's biggest influence in fighting crime is his perceived penance for his Uncle's death...in 1962. Marvel has always done a great job of laying the groundwork for characterization and making it matter, with a few exceptions of ret-conning here and there. And they're bringing that skill to their Cinematic Universe.

Back in November, Marvel's Thor: The Dark World opened and with it came a tie-in to their small-screen narrative Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Basically it was a way to say "Hey, your favorite show is going to cross-over with this big-time movie so make sure you buy your ticket before Tuesday 8 PM, 7 Central". All it was, though, was the team cleaning up Thor's mess and Peter MacNicol as an ancient, angry deity. It was...substandard at best. So when they announced the same thing happening around the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the eye-rolling could be heard 'round the world.

Thankfully, Marvel took a gamble, one that I feel paid off. At the end of The Winter Soldier, we find Captain America and Black Widow learning that Hydra has been infiltrating the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the 1980s. They release the information to the internet, as well as all of the organizations other dirty little secrets, crippling the agency.

Well, something like that and bound to affect a show called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And it did. Far more than I expected.

By tying the show so closely to the movies, Marvel has invariably made the Cinematic Universe a parallel to their comics universe (or 616 for your comic geeks). It's basically what comic folks, like me, have been clamoring for since the show premiered. Sure, it and the movies have been linked since their inception, with Coulson leading the team and Fury and Hill both making appearances. But short of that, they've both seemed to exist on their own accord. But now that the ripples made by the films have actually been shown to affect the show and (hopefully at some point) vice versa, Marvel has a deep, imaginative playground that fans can get lost in.

Even this guy became more interesting.
The Marvel films have become the highest-grossing series of all time, raking in $2.5 billion and rising. Supposedly Marvel has their movies planned out through 2028, according to hints by studio president Kevin Feige. Yet viewership for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to drop even with the Winter Soldier tie-in. Eventually AoS needs to prop itself up and become a necessary cog in the Cinematic wheel. It can't live off of the scraps the film tosses it every now and then. And so far, that's all it's been doing. Yes, the show took a drastic change in direction because of it, but if it wants to actually matter in the long run, it needs to lead an offensive. I've given it a lot of shit since it debuted in September because of how it meandered without much of a focus. At this point, the focus needs to be on building it's own audience.

And the guy that talks to birds? Strangely, bad ass.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really needs to find a way to kick things up. Like, I don't know, introducing a few characters that will make a movie appearance; I keep mentioning Carol Danvers, of Captain Marvel fame, because she's a perfect example. A military woman in a military drama. It works and fans would love it. If the actress that plays Carol (once the part is cast) got a three-episode deal for AoS before appearing on the big screen, I feel that it would draw viewers. It doesn't always need to be the other way around; not everyone is going to see Captain Marvel in the movies and start planning their Tuesday nights accordingly. Yet you can whet viewer's appetites with how Carol became Captain Marvel in AoS and not have to waste the big-screen time on the origin story.

By the end of it, though, all that matters is that Marvel continue to leverage the synergy they created between their movies and television shows. They've taken some big risks, and I haven't even mentioned the series soon to premiere on Netflix. They are scoring touchdowns all over the place and I really hope they keep it up.
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