I do con­fess to watch­ing a few kids’ shows. I’ve men­tioned before that I’m a reg­u­lar viewer of Grim Adventures; I’ve also found Foster’s Home to be enter­tain­ing (though Bloo can truly get to be too much to take some­times) and I’m famil­iar with Avatar, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron and Ben 10.

Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon offer dif­fer­ent fla­vors of pro­gram­ming. The stuff on CN seems, at times, to be a lot more edgy, intended per­haps to appeal to an older, more mature or “devel­oped” audi­ence,* at least once it gets into the later-​​evening fare, while a lot of the later lineup on Nickelodeon seems to be inane teen-​​centric com­edy that is as deriv­a­tive as it is tired. So I gen­er­ally grav­i­tate to CN more than Nick.

This means, how­ever, that I get sub­jected to {shud­der} com­mer­cials aimed at chil­dren … and Mattel done went and pushed one of my buttons.

It’s long been my con­tention that if I ever had a daugh­ter, she would be weird. She’d have a full com­ple­ment of Legos, prob­a­bly a lot of Capsela, no EZ-​​Bake ovens, no insipid lit­tle dol­lies that pee or poop or cry, and no — absolutely no — inadequacy-​​implanting Barbies. The Barbies she would have would include Nuclear Physicist Barbie, Radio Astronomer Barbie and the ever-​​popular Lesbian Activist Barbie.

Lately, it seems that Bratz have rat­tled Barbie a lit­tle. Mattel is crank­ing out Diva Barbies now — which are more or less what you’d expect them to be, sans the exclusively-​​gay-​​male fan base (uness one includes the occa­sional boy who prefers Barbies). The inanity is suf­fi­cient to make almost any­one queasy, but what really got me nau­se­ated was the Pom-​​Pom Diva line.

I shit you not — and the com­mer­cial run is just revolt­ing. They’ve bor­rowed from iPod’s animated-​​dancer sil­hou­ette look to open the ad, where­upon you see the typ­i­cal scenes of girls play­ing joy­ously with Barbies — every­one vis­i­ble done up in pom-​​line out­fits — along with a sung cho­rus that reminds us, repeat­edly, that “it’s fun to be a pom-​​pom diva!”**

Now I’m sure there’s got to be some sort of protest to the effect that pom girls serve a pur­pose, namely flip­ping, fly­ing and look­ing spunky for var­i­ous sports events. But let’s con­sider a cou­ple of anecdotes.

1. The Pop Warner crowd here fea­tures, of course, a dozen or so dif­fer­ent teams — and each team has its own pom sec­tion. In some cases, there are more pom girls than players.

2. Last year the high school band was per­form­ing superbly, and I went to see a few of their acts. One was pre­ceded by a demon­stra­tion from the cheer­lead­ers, who used cards with let­ters on them to spell the school’s ini­tials. The final girl, who was hold­ing the S (for school), was proudly dis­play­ing the card … turned side­ways.

In the first anec­dote, the solu­tion is obvi­ous. Form a girls’ ath­letic league. It doesn’t have to be foot­ball; it can be soc­cer, if there are too many con­cerns about tack­ling and such.

In the sec­ond anec­dote, there is no solu­tion; we’re sim­ply see­ing the nat­ural result of a girl being told, for years, that things such as brainz and book-​​larnin don’t amount to any­thing as long as you got the lookz and the moovz.

Which is great until you hit 30 and your ass drops and your tits start to sag.

My point here is that pom-​​pom girls might indeed serve a pur­pose — how­ever, no girl should ever grow up think­ing that her pur­pose is to be a pom-​​pom girl. That is a shal­low, point­less goal, since there are con­sid­er­ably more ful­fill­ing ends to pur­sue, and much longer-​​term plans that gen­er­ally have to be made in order to have a gen­uinely pleas­ing life. And the prob­lem that I have should be trans­par­ent: By mar­ket­ing, glo­ri­fy­ing and com­mer­cial­iz­ing the vapid obses­sion with cheer­lead­ing, Mattel is doing noth­ing but help­ing cre­ate yet another gen­er­a­tion of mind­less bimbos.

One can respond, accu­rately, that Mattel is sim­ply respond­ing to what the con­sumers want. The rejoin­der is that doesn’t make it right. Thousands — dare I sug­gest mil­lions — of par­ents are per­fectly happy rais­ing girls who want to be in a fluffy gown just like Bridal Dress Barbie, who dream of being onstage per­form­ing like Diva Barbie, and who aspire to noth­ing more than being on the cheer­lead­ing squad like Pom-​​Pom Barbie.

Shame on them. Shame on every sin­gle one of them.

The fac­tors here are all the same: They make women out to be, in essence, worth only what their attrac­tive­ness (as defined by nar­row and more-​​or-​​less male-​​centric norms) can manage.

With Bridal Barbie, girls are taught that the only rea­son they exist is to marry a man and there­fore Become Fulfilled As A Woman. With Diva Barbie, girls learn that chant­ing insipid lyrics to cynically-​​written for­mu­laic beats while dress­ing provoca­tively onstage is the Path to Happiness.

And with Pom-​​Pom Barbie, girls learn that the place for them is on the side­lines, stay­ing right the hell away from any com­pet­i­tive behav­ior … lest they decide, later in life, to Challenge the Phallocracy.

If this is life in Barbie Heaven, then I’m afraid Lucifer and I agree on this one: Non serviam.

And boys, if I ever do have a daugh­ter, you can be absolutely cer­tain she’ll be bright, self-​​assured, phys­i­cally capa­ble … and pos­sessed of a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. You’re wel­come to date her in between her physics and cal­cu­lus classes, and maybe even cheer her on at the hockey games.

But be assured that the first moment she gets a sense from you that her posi­tion is to walk two steps behind you or say yes, dear to your every whim, she’s gonna toss your ass right where it belongs: In the garbage, with all the Barbies.

====

* I’m very famil­iar with [adult swim] — I have com­plete ATHF, Harvey Birdman, Robot Chicken and Venture Brothers DVD col­lec­tions — but am not refer­ring to their pro­gram­ming here.

** UPDATE: The line is actu­ally “It’s cool to be a pom-​​pom diva.” That is not an improvement.

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