Lara Croft and Jessica Rabbit

Why is it that guys can become obsessed with cartoon women, but to my knowledge, no woman has ever gone bananas over a cartoon guy? There’s no moment quite like the first one where you overhear some guys going on at length about how hot some woman is, then realize they’re talking about Jessica Rabbit. I mean, what the hell is that?

I like men, and I think that if women were the dominant gender, and men were second class, all the prejudice and issues we have would simply be reversed, not eradicated. But this is one of those rare issues where I find myself wondering is there something deeply wrong with the Y-chromosome? I know these are just stock material for fantasies, but why would you prefer a cartoon fantasy babe to a real live fantasy babe? Or maybe it’s a way of objectifying an object instead of objectifying a real woman? See how hard I’m trying to find a non-scary explanation for this? :D

Comments

  1. Nialla says

    As a female, there have been some male animated characters I have crushed over, but it’s usually about the voice actor’s voice. I’m an Accent Ho, I can’t help it.

    But men are more visual, so I guess it makes sense that’s what they go for, no matter that it’s animated cleavage and not real cleavage. The animated version can defy gravity forever. ;)

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Don’t get me started on the fascination with big breasts, or I’ll have to whip out that quote from Young Riders, about how God gave women breasts so that they could see which men mistook them for “wet nurses”, and thereby separate the “wheat from the chaff”. :D

  3. sbg says

    I had a super wicked crush on one of the GI Joe guys. He looked really good in his cartoon cammos. Nice cartoon butt.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    So maybe the problem isn’t men – maybe it’s just they haven’t created enough sexy cartoon guys to bring in drooling women on any serious scale?

    I gotta admit, Nialla’s comments about voices got me thinking about a few men whose voices could go a long way toward making a cartoon character sexy.

  5. Ifritah says

    I get crushes on anime guys all the time. Ryouga and Kunou from Ranma 1/2? Mmmm.

    I agree with the accent thing too. Michael Lyndsey does the voice of Yuu on Marmalade Boy and it made that man quite sexy.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    Okay, I stand corrected. The issue is not that women aren’t potentially attracted to cartoon men – it’s that no one’s trying to build up super-sexy cartoon men to attract us in droves, so there are scattered crushes here and there, but not really any solid cult icons like Lara or Jessica.

    Come to think of it, I’ve known a few girls who described a decent-sized crush on Gambit from the cartoon of the X-men.

  7. Sheryl says

    Actually, if you follow anime and manga, an awful lot of the male characters are deliberately designed to be physically attractive to women, voice actors notwithstanding. Take pretty much all the male characters in Descendants of Darkness (Yami no Matsuei), or characters like Sesshoumaru in Inuyasha and Roy Mustang on Full Metal Alchemist. The writers of some manga have gone on record that they deliberately designed a male character *physically* to attract women, often teenage girls in particular. And believe you me, these characters are very attractive. A lot of anime and manga even has slashy hints in it, and again, it’s aimed at attracting female readers/viewers, along with gay males if they can get them.

    However, not all the “beautiful boys” are hinted to be gay, and many of them behave contrary to the stereotypes usually associated with them. One can’t look at a beautiful male character and make a snap judgement. You’ve got to watch his behavior for a while and pretty soon you’re hooked no matter which way he swings. *G*

    This kind of character design is not generally the case with Western animation and comics, although it sneaks in occasionally. Lots of women are still obsessed with Shane Gooseman from Galaxy Rangers (a Clint Eastwood he-man character deliberately designed to appeal to both genders). Not to mention characters like Race Bannon on Jonny Quest.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the social acceptability of animation and comics. There are manga and anime targeted at all ages and preferences in Japan. In the West it’s still usually dismissed as “kid stuff.” Girls get the Disney-esque princess stuff (although that’s improved over the years) aimed at them, while boys get the video games targeted at them. Don’t ask me why Japan is more open and accepting than the West about cartoons as adult entertainment. One would think it would be the reverse.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve had crushes on animated characters myself, and occassionally still do, even though I’m now in my 40s. It’s just a matter of watching the *right* animation. *G*

  8. Sheryl says

    Would like to add, if you don’t think any cartoon characters have women obsessing over them in droves, you need to take a look at the animation and comics categories over on fanfiction.net, particularly for anime and manga. Tons of fic is written about cartoon characters, and tons of it is shippy and/or slashy, both of which are (in my experience) signs that girls are obsessing over male cartoon characters.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Would like to add, if you don’t think any cartoon characters have women obsessing over them in droves, you need to take a look at the animation and comics categories over on fanfiction.net, particularly for anime and manga.

    I do understand what you’re saying here. :)

    By my comment about droves, what I meant was that we don’t seem to have any very mainstream male cartoon characters designed explicitly to attract female viewers in the same way as Lara and Jessica have been designed to draw in the boys. My guess is that it’s because mainstream cartoon sponsors aren’t interested in marketing products to women. Lara Croft sells scads of video games. What are the guys on X-men going to get women buying?

    Anime, on the other hand, is a niche market to begin with, so it’s to their advantage to court the niche audience, such as women and gay men. If I understand correctly, anyway.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with anime crushes.

  10. Sheryl says

    Well, anime and manga are a niche market in the US (not unlike sci-fi, when you think about it), but they’re Major Marketing in Japan. It’s everywhere, and covers the whole spectrum from G-rated for little kids to hard core and seriously twisted pron. (if anyone’s going to give it a shot, I recommend some research first, to avoid nasty surprises.) So I think we need to localize this discussion to primarily the West (if that’s already been done, I apologize).

    Again, I think the main problem is that Western cartoon characters are considered kid stuff, so the products churned out tend to be aimed at kids (I include teens in this category), and unfortunately, because they’re aimed at kids they end up being pigeon-holed into the standard stereotypes that the people making decisions think kids want.

    However, around here the big chain bookstores (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks) all have *huge* manga sections. Manga is really starting to take off in the US, so expect some changes. Actually, there already have been changes to the comics and cartoon worlds. A lot have changed their art styles to be more like manga/anime, to appeal to their audiences, who tend to be anime-aware. *G*

    A lot of modern comics are also quite adult now. I’ve seen young women obsessing over characters like Wolverine and Gambit (to use your X-Men example). Wolverine is, in fact, the “break out” character you’re looking for. He’s *huge* with both young men and young women, and has been almost since his inception. He’s got it all: over the top violence, over the top angst, and excessive hotness. *G*

    There are entire web communities devoted to the worship of cartoon characters. It may not be on the 9 o’clock news, but it exists the same way that sci-fi fandom exists online.

    In fact, the comics market as it is can’t survive without the adult readers, since the youngsters aren’t reading comics much anymore. Comics that you may have read as a kid are no longer suitable for the 10 year old crowd. They changed along with their primary audience.

    To go back to video games, unfortunately your average game programmer started out as a 20-something male, and there haven’t been as many gains by women in that particular arena as others. (The pernicious cycle strikes here: the games don’t appeal to many women, so fewer are going to want to create games…) Get more women programmers involved in game design, and you might see some shifts. Like everything else, that will happen slowly. The 20-something males who started as grunt programmers are now designers and managers, and making the decisions about what to market, even if there are women grunt programmers around. And female marketing droids are just as likely to pigeon-hole things as their male counterparts, if they think that’s where the Almight Buck resides. Maybe in another decade or two there will start to be visible shifts, when the generation of younger women who like anime and comics starts to have some power.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    There’s been no specific localizing of this discussion, but my general perspective is one of critiquing Hollywood and the US tv-film industry. Yes, cartoons here are almost exclusively considered kids’ stuff in the US, but then teenage boys are generally considered the most important market to advertise to. Manga may sell a ton of DVD’s in the US, but will it ever be plopped on TV in its current state? My guess is that -like sci-fi – it would be forced to customize itself to appeal mainly to teenage boys to satisfy network sponsors. And maybe exclusively to teenage boys, since boys tend to be more responsive to programming that their girlfriends, sisters and parents “don’t get”.

    As you said, Wolverine could be the first exception to the rule. But we’ll have to see whether marketers have enough sense to capitalize on it.

    I like the idea of getting more female game programmers. When I first wrote this article, the only animated character I could remember remotely thinking I could ever have a crush on was Gabriel Knight. :D Like you said, it’ll take some time to make significant shifts, because the ol’ boys’ network is in place. But it’ll be interesting to watch.

  12. Sheryl says

    If you’d like to see anime (anime = cartoon, manga = comic book or graphic novel) in its current state, including occasional unedited nudity and language, check out the AZN network sometime. This network aired Descendants of Darkness three times, completely unedited, including the male villain’s fascination with the male protagonist, and his shadowy rape of the protagonist’s male sidekick. It’s heavy into short arcs and character relationships. I don’t find it surprising at all that this show has a large female following, or has a lot of slash written for it. *G* Sadly, the English dub didn’t do the series justice. Many of the shows and movies AZN airs aren’t to my personal taste, but I’ve recommended a few of them to friends.

    For slightly edited versions, check out Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. At first glance shows like InuYasha and FullMetal Alchemist look like silly fantasy kid stuff, but they’re not (especially FMA). For stuff aimed primarily at adults, check out Cowboy Bebop (aimed straight at males with a hot babe who is not afraid to use guns, but the truest actual *science fiction* — as opposed to sci-fi or space fantasy — that I’ve seen on TV in years), Samurai Champloo (a very eclectic show) or Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (good cyberpunk most of the time. Although it does include a hot babe, she’s also the star and could change to a male cyber-body anytime she wanted. *G*) These last three were not made with women viewers in mind, but they are all story-arc and character-relationship heavy, which is a nice change from US/Canadian action shows.

  13. firebird says

    Hey, I’m coming to this discussion a little late, but I can’t help wondering if the attraction to female cartoon characters could have any thing to do with the writing of the characters?

    My best friend always jokes that he has a crush on KimPossible. Other than that I know he liked Catwoman a lot when he was into Batman. What’s the similarity? They’re both strong and graceful, Catwoman because she’s related to, well, cats (and she wears black leather all the time, go figure) and KimPossible because she leaps all over the screen like only a cartoon can do. Both are strong and in control of themselves and their relationships.

    I’m not up on cartoons, but are the cartoon men are prone to have crushes on because of animated looks or because of animated character?

    Also, it’s my impression from my guy friends that voices are very important to them – they’ll inform you from time to time that you just wouldn’t understand because you’re a girl, but that person’s voice was all the person needed. :-) Do they maybe choose the voice actors for cartoons more carefully than the voices of live-action actors?

    Just some thoughts.
    Firebird

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    Firebird, you’re back! :D

    Also, it’s my impression from my guy friends that voices are very important to them – they’ll inform you from time to time that you just wouldn’t understand because you’re a girl, but that person’s voice was all the person needed.

    This is interesting, because I’m extremely tuned into voices. I’ve noticed over the years that when a really attractive actor just doesn’t do anything for me, it’s inevitably his voice that’s not cutting it. And a really good voice will raise an actor from nice-looking to *drool* for me (Michael Shanks comes to mind – I don’t find him all that beautiful, but that voice… gah…).

    With cartoons, they generally would pick people with better voices than they’d require for on-screen acting, since you’re not going to have the prettiness or the good acting to make up for a less than fabulous voice.

  15. firebird says

    Yup, I’m back. I missed you guys but was so busy I just kept not finding time for the internet.

    Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say, but didn’t say as succintly as you were able to do. :-) One of the guys I was picturing when I wrote that actually has a lovely voice (ack! I just typed “loverly voice” – aka, the Lemony Snickets movie bad guy), but I don’t find him attractive for other reasons. Sometimes I notice his voice when I talk to him on the phone. It’s weird how voices can say different things about people than their appearances. But yeah, I think that voices probably have more to do with liking or not liking cartoon characters.

    Hey, I’ve been watching Smallville with a couple of guy friends. I’m only up to the 2nd episode of season 2, and I think the show is close to season 5, but do you want a review so far? I hadn’t really thought about it until I was reading here last night, but there are some interesting things about the show to talk about.

    Firebird

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