My son loves Paw Patrol. Heck, I love Paw Patrol. I love the theme song. I love the characters. I love reading into every episode in a way that is probably unhealthy (it’s a Canadian show and they seem to face off against an eagle on a regular basis…).
But for as great as the show is, it falls into the same trap as every other cartoon/toy line: a baffling refusal to embrace female characters.
The main Paw Patrol team consists of Chase, Marshall, Rubble, Rocky, Zuma, and Skye, all led by the human, Ryder. Each member of the team is associated with a type of vehicle or job, and each has their own color from the rainbow. For those who don’t know:
Chase wears blue and he’s the police dog.
Marshall wears red and he’s the firefighter/EMT dog.
Rubble wears yellow and he’s the construction pup.
Rocky wears green and drives a recycling truck.
Zuma wears orange and has a hovercraft, the only water vehicle.
Skye wears pink and flies a helicopter.
Oh, and they all have catch phrases, some of which rhyme.
If you look at that list, you can probably guess the gender of each of those dogs. Only one of them is female and, of course, she has to wear pink. I suppose the fact that she’s not the baking dog is something.
This bothered me when we first started watching the show, but they eventually introduced a new pup, Everest, who, as you might imagine, is the mountain climbing dog. Oh, and Everest is, in fact, a girl. Her color is kind of purple to round out the ROY G BIV of it all.
But Everest isn’t part of the main team, so she only shows up periodically. Still, at least the writers were aware of the fact that only having one girl was a problem.
It was apparently a different kind of problem for the people who make Paw Patrol merchandise.
Their problem was having icky girl (or two) in the mix.
We got my son underwear for Christmas because we’re in the potty training phase. His underwear features every character of the Paw Patrol…except for Skye (and Everest, for that matter). One pair has a head shot of every pup but Skye, but features a paw print where another picture would/could be. So it’s not even a matter of math.
Nicole actually bought our son a bottle that featured the Paw Patrol. He saw it in a store and wanted it. It’s pink. It has Skye and Everest on it. That kind of leads me to believe that the addition of Everest was just so they could branch out into making products for girls as well as boys, when the reality is that it shouldn’t matter.
I pointed out the gender bias in Paw Patrol to the mother of one of Sam’s friends and she was not happy about it, although she had never noticed. And I think that’s telling. I think that a lot of people don’t notice, particularly when it comes to toys for toddlers.
Sure, people were rightfully up in arms when there was no Rey action figure after The Force Awakenings was released, but a big reason for that is that adults were buying the toys, and adults were certainly watching the movie. To some extent, we don’t really expect such behavior from the people who produce shows for young children.
My son also loves Blaze and the Monster Machines, which features exactly one female truck, whose die cast figure is the hardest to find and, because of this, is also the most expensive. She is also featured in the fewest adventures, which is all the more sad given that the show is focused on STEM, a field that women are regularly barred from.
My son also loves Cars. The average person would probably have a hard time even naming one of the female cars in either of those movies. The third movies, at least, seems to promise a new, prominent female character.
It’s funny: the one time a debate about pink toys and my son came up, it was my wife who was hesitant. He received a gift of a toy that he already had, but the one he had was pink. My wife wondered if we should keep the new one (which wasn’t pink) and get rid of the old one. They were identical in every other way. We kept the pink one.
But it’s so ingrained in all of us, even those delightful Canadians who produce Paw Patrol.
For International Women’s Day this year, my son and I both wore red.
Maybe that’s how it gets better.