My kids get almost all of their entertainment from the Internet — and it’s fun to see the variety of things they find! Probably the most charming made-for-YouTube show they’ve discovered is Battle for Dream Island. BfDI is a reality show (sort-of — it’s a cartoon) where twenty contestants have been competing for the past two years over who will win Dream Island. Each month the audience has the opportunity to vote one contestant out of the running:
One remarkable thing about the show is the treatment of gender. If you look at the twenty original contestants, you probably can’t tell which ones are boys and which ones are girls, can you? Yet exactly half are male and half are female.
The characters aren’t entirely free of gender-typical behavior (I’d be surprised if they were), but the thing I love is that there’s such a variety of personalities that neither gender is reduced to a stereotype. And I doubly love that they didn’t feel the need to put standard gender markers (eg. big hair, lips, and eyelashes) on the female characters the way cartoons almost always seem to do.
These sorts of gender markers — especially on cartoon species and cartoon inanimate objects where they don’t make sense — serve to divide the world into two categories: ordinary and girl. BfDI does a fantastic job of illustrating that the “ordinary” category can include both male and female characters.
Also, BfDI is a fun and clever show in general. It’s not one of those standard kids’ formula cartoons that parents can hardly stand to watch. The situations are varied and funny, and since the artists know that kids will pause on particular frames, they sometimes throw in amusing details that are only visible for a few seconds:
Naturally, I think there’s a connection: Shows that just repeat the standard formulas frequently just stick with the stereotypes that fit into the formulas, whereas shows that are original often break free of standard expectations in lots of different ways.
The show is currently in its very last round of voting (after a nearly two-year run), and now you can vote here for which of the three finalists wins! (Voting ends December 10, 2011.) I’m campaigning for Leafy — I like her breezy confidence and I think she’s the funniest character on the show. But please go vote for any of the last three contestants (Leafy, Firey, or Bubble) because they won’t do another season unless they get at least 1000 votes. I can’t wait to see what jacknjellify comes up with next!