Of Clan TV, pink puppies and other simple things

One year. This week is just one year since the Grupo de Crianza Mujeres 4C’s- Pino Montano and the Asociación de Mujeres Supervivientes (Sevilla) filed a complaint with the RTVE Audience Ombudsman and the Observatorio de Imagen de las Mujeres (Ministry of Equality) denouncing the sexist content inherent in several of the series broadcast by Clan TV.

We are talking specifically about cartoon programs such as Robocar Poli, Super Wings (the only one that, to this day, is not being broadcast), Patrulla Canina and Bob Esponja, spaces where the female figures do not even represent 15-25% of the total number of characters, being them also, most of the time, secondary images that dress in pink and that are psychologically defined by their affability, their cordiality and even, weakness in their character.

The entrance song of one of these series, Robocar Poli, is eloquent in this sense when it speaks of “Amber, smart, kind and helpful” next to “Poli, a hero without equal”, or “Roy, brave, strong and very legal”. And what explanation does TVE give for such pettiness? (These feminists complain about everything, hey). Well, there is nothing to worry about, we should be calm because, indeed, they recognize that they are “clichés”, but, as Yago Fandiño (Director of Children’s Content at RTVE) said with the security and calm that comes from knowing you are doing the right thing, “in communication, all are clichés”, my dears.

And as this is so, and there is nothing the public broadcaster can do about it (not even not buying these series or broadcasting them), the best thing they can do is to plant a generous ration of stereotypes on the children. So, let’s go with a pink dog, a helpful little car and a teenage whale with heart-shaped lips, among others… But let everyone know that they will never be the protagonists.

And, of course, it is not about “demonizing a girl who likes pink”, as objected from the program RTVE Responde in December 2020. After all, the influence exerted by television is minimal in the behavior of minors (qAnd how can we think that a girl can identify with a character of the same sex/gender to whom others deny the possibility of standing out or shining with her own light if it is not next to her peers? Isn’t it, by all means, crazy?

Gentlemen of the TV, I explain it to you as if you were 5-year-old children: when girls grow up seeing themselves as minority characters, secondary and whose actions are dispensable in the stories in which they appear, they end up getting used to it and it won’t seem strange for them not to be visible in politics, in the business world or in sports. And that, those of us who fight for something else every day, don’t like it so much anymore?

So, unless it is a “very serious case” of sexism, it seems that they don’t withdraw any series. And I’m sure more than one of you is wondering how TVE measures the degree of discrimination… Can we find content that is just a little sexist? Just a little racist? A little homophobic? How serious is the underrepresentation of women in children’s programmes and the identification of girls with their female counterparts that only perpetuate roles?

And, given that some of these series are only somewhat sexist or that they sometimes include clichés “not very fortunate” (as Fandiño acknowledged at the time), but that some of them come from Asian societies “with a different rhythm to ours”, why are they bought? Why does everyone’s money continue to be spent on them? Could it be that public television in this country, even though it has the flag of working directly with the Women’s Image Observatory (collapsed, moreover, and with little capacity for action), has not yet taken seriously the fact of producing or programming systematically taking into account the gender perspective?

As for Robocar Poli, which the channel stopped broadcasting after receiving the complaint (we don’t know if it was because they had already programmed it that way), it must be said that last Sunday we were able to see it on the screen again? And what about SpongeBob SquarePants, one of the highlights of Clan’s prime time? Well, it’s better to forget about it. What this series represents in terms of “parody of society” (essential for a 7 year old child to know the ins and outs of neo-capitalist exploitation, of course, but not gender exploitation) is already enough reason not to remove it from the grid. It’s a pity that among the recurring leitmotifs of the charismatic waiter of the “crabburgers”, social justice for women gets so little attention.

Three years ago, TVE apologized to the audience when two contestants of Operación Triunfo crapped on the Falange. What is it that makes then that in cases like this one the people in charge of the public channel not only do not apologize, but continue trying to downplay the matter? Well, simply, it seems that their priority is not to work in a transversal way gender equality and that the still high tolerance of this society to audiovisual products with sexist content is still, unfortunately, the tonic. If these series were to be withdrawn”, Fandiño concludes, “we would be going against the interests of the citizens” (not a typo, no, it’s just a supreme capital “O”). A great truism, of course, as we all know that those who hold privileges (thank you, friends of the Marca forum, for making it so obvious), rarely get used to losing them.

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