When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

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When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Jabroniville » Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:00 am

I'm not judging, mind you- Ugly Male Protagonists have been a thing for ages. But it seems like this has become a very big thing, very recently.

Helga on Hey Arnold! was a hugely-ugly character, and the #2 or 3 main on the show, but that was ages ago and the trend wasn't so big back then. Adventure Time used some very blank-faced women with no figures, but the fanbase still lusted after them.

Was... Steven Universe a big thing with that? I notice all three female leads are pretty ugtastic- weird faces, odd lips, pointy noses- some of them are "Ugly Cute" in a way. I suppose.

Gravity Falls had goofy-looking twins as the main characters, but the "Cool Girl" coworker at the Mystery Shack was drawn as a standard Attractive Cartoon Lady (albeit in the modern-day "Bean Head" animation style).

Star vs. the Forces of Evil draws the protagonist as looking quite odd- I think that's the style of the show. More bean-head stuff.

I think a big bug up the ass of people about She-Ra was a similar method of turning the main character into a rather plain-looking teenager instead of the Barbie Doll from the '80s cartoon. Now, both sides of course got into it, with one side IMMEDIATELY hating on it and searching for things to be pissed off about, and the other crowd immediately coming to its defense and "well it's Woke so now we HAVE to watch it and gush about it" being a huge sentiment. But I find the "Ugly Female Protagonist" thing to be growing.

Marvel Comics in particular has REALLY dived into it. Practically in love with Squirrel Girl and shoving her down people's throats. I cracked wise about Black Mariah, a fat Luke Cage villain, being PERFECT for modern Marvel and of course she was the protagonist of one book for a big- nothing more "Modern Marvel" than a big, fat minority female.

Is it the nature of modern animation, which is somewhat limited compared to what it used to be? Like, the character designs had to be simplified and so we're left with everyone having kind of ugly or plain faces? I know the popular-to-bash "CalArts Style" is notorious for the "Bean-head" look, and that might be part of it. Or is it an actual agenda? Like "looks don't = everything, and we're not all here for your faps" kind of thing? I feel like the growing female influence in both comics and animation (which used to be nearly 100% male, but trainees in the industry have been increasingly female for years) is a big part of it, too. Sort of like plain girls drawing what plain GUYS have been drawing for their own gender for years- the plucky, plain underdogs in a world that ignores them.

I'm wondering now if Lady Gaga wasn't a big part of this- a woman with a nice body but a REALLY ugly face, and a very big penchant for "Accept what you are!", I could see her leading a storm of this kind of thing.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by FuzzyBoots » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:37 pm

I think it's just a particular art style for the most part.
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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Chris Brady » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:23 am

It's because that in Western Animation, there's a cabal of people who were introduced via Pendleton Ward and Adventure Time, who have taken over most of the industry.

See, back when Adventure Time was a thing, Mr. Ward started to hire friends and people on Twitter. And since then it's the same incestuous circle of animators with the right politics and knowing the right people.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by squirrelly-sama » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:17 am

Most of those examples aren't really... ugly I'd say. With the exception of Helga where most of the cast was rather specifically drawn to be seen as unattractive in a way that would be easy to see even if the character was more realistic and not as stylized. This was part of the charm of the series since it depicted the rough and ugly inner city and the people that live there, most of which aren't really attractive or even average looking. So you have bulbus noses, chubbiness, unibrows, etc and characters pointing out that the exaggerated features shown are actually indicative of how the character really does look rather than just a stylistic choice like how arnold is called "Football head" meaning that in real life he'd probably have a small forehead, small chin, and strong cheek bones which is a combination of traits I have seen real life.

most of the characters you mentioned aren't really "ugly" to me in a way that'd I'd even see as stylistic ugly cute art. Heck, to me most of the female characters from comics prior to the late 90s were funny looking with very pronounced noses, huge lips, and MASSIVE cheek bones

Like, look at this image of wonder woman:
Image
The added detail on the nose and cheeks makes her look like Michael Jackson. And her Chin is bigger than the mans.

Honestly Ugly females was more a problem in 90 and 2000s animation than it is now, but at least the new simplistic style makes them more ugly cute if they're supposed to be ugly at all. honestly if feels more like the "ugly" they're trying to push is not actually ugly but things like their fashion sense with their hair dos, hipster clothes, and androgynousness. the only really ugly trait that seems to get pushed often is being fat, which honestly seems like a terrible message to send rather than just being accepting of ugly people since obesity is a real problem with actual health issues associated with it.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Ares » Thu Apr 04, 2019 5:39 pm

I think the "Ugly Female Protagonist" thing, at least with animation, has more to do with the recent shift in animation styles. For the longest time, most TV animation tended to look like animated comic book characters. The art was simplified for animation but easily recognizable as human approximations. Generally speaking, the more exaggerated you made the features, the more cartoony and less serious you took the characters.

The more recent animation style tends to avoid more traditional styles in favor of more overtly cartoony, likely to save money. Design wise they tend to resemble the very lowest budget days of Hana-Barbera, being very simple shapes that take a lot of the humanity out of characters. It also helps to give each animated series its own 'feel', whereas a lot of 80s cartoons had very similar looks. So it's partially cost saving, partially branding, and also partially just because a lot of them come from the same place: CalArts.

In some cases it's also likely to move away from what is considered "traditional standards of beauty", IE, people that are actually in shape. It's just easier to make people feel better about themselves if you tell them "you can be healthy at any size" instead of being honest and saying "your lifestyle is slowly killing you and you'll be lucky to live past 40". Now, there is a difference between someone who doesn't have abs and someone who is 100 pounds overweight. There's also a reason the military has health requirements, because people who depend on you in a stress situation don't want you to die of a heart attack during combat. Part of it is that for the kind of thing we want our heroes to do, they should be in athletic shape, and part of it is that we generally prefer the people in the media we consume to be aesthetically pleasing. Put those together and you get something that flies in the face of the body positivity movement,

Which brings us to She-Ra.

I will be the first to admit that fans of older properties tend to view their particular fandom through Nostalgia Colored Glasses, and that re-imaginings can bring a lot of criticism from fans of the original work. At the same time, once you put something out into the world, you open yourself up to criticism. And if you're making something based on an existing property, you are actively inviting comparisons to the original work.

Because here's the thing: if the new She-Ra cartoon had not called itself She-Ra, and had been its own series billing itself as an homage to 80s action cartoons with their own twist, then it would have been judged entirely on its own merits. People likely would have had similar issues with it, but it would have been something doing their own thing, much like Steven Universe or Adventure time.

By trying to do something with an existing property, you are deliberately trying to take advantage of its existing fanbase and name recognition. You're relying on the fact that the franchise already has a built in fanbase and some degree of popularity to give your creation a leg up. By doing that, you have a responsibility to previous versions of the franchise and the fanbase to treat the property with respect, because what you're playing with is not your original creation. It's something you've been entrusted with by the original creators and people who have some degree of investment in the franchise already.

You are, in effect, playing with someone else's toys.

So when images of the new She-Ra came out, a lot of fans didn't care for the art style or the fact that She-Ra had been de-aged down to 13 year old girl. The original She-Ra after all had a more traditional art style and been a woman in her late teens/early 20s. And to be fair, some of the people making the criticisms were just trolls looking to make someone angry, while others are the type of fan who will accept nothing less than a 100% faithful adaptation of their fandom, which just isn't possible. But at least as many, if not more, were people who just genuinely didn't care for the changes being made.

What the new She-Ra staff and supporters shot back with tended to be along the lines of "you're just mad because you can't fap to the character anymore", "why are you getting so upset over a kids cartoon", "this show isn't made for you", so on and so forth. The creative staff being entirely women was used as a way to deflect criticism because of diversity (despite an all women team ironically being the opposite of diverse), as well as their intention to include things like body positivity and various LGBTQ elements. In another bit of irony, the same people who were calling it "just a kids show" and complaining about men having sexual fantasies about the now 13 year old She-Ra were saying how important the show was for showcasing a romance between She-Ra and Catra, as well as similar elements. Apparently its okay to sexualize 13 year old girls if they're lesbians, at which point the show is important now.

The new show and its creators tend to criticize and mock the original series quite a bit. To be fair, the old show wasn't Avatar: The Last Airbender, but the new show is arguably not any better or in a position to judge. It's also being extremely disrespectful to the people who created the property they're currently making money off of. They complain about the old voice actors, the old designs, alleging that She-Ra was just He-Man with boobs, etc. And Larry DiTillio, one of She-Ra's actual creators passed away, the new staff couldn't be bothered to even acknowledge his passing.

It's effectively like someone coming over, asking to play with your toys, and then not only re-painting the stuff you loan them, they start making fun of you and how you use to play with said toys. And then call you some pretty horrible stuff if you disagree with them. It's understandable why some fans don't like being treated this way, or feel that something they had some investment in is being twisted to be a soap box for someone else's ideals.

Accusations of sexism come off as silly when you consider that the people who designed She-Ra's look were women, that both He-Man and She-Ra had a female showrunner, that Filmation itself was a pretty diverse group, and that She-Ra managed to appeal to both boys and girls.

Basically, the new She-Ra show is pretty much a guide for how NOT to adapt something with an existing fanbase. The adaptation is so different as to essentially be it in name only, it isn't really any better than the original product, it actively alienates fans of the original, often while being disrespectful to the original, etc. And again, if this had been it's own unique property, none of this controversy would exist. Which is part of the point: the controversy was likely intentionally engineered because it got clicks and media attention. It really does feel like there wasn't any confidence in creating their own original show, so they took something pre-existing and twisted it to suit there needs, allowing them some inherit rewards with less risk.

So if the New She-Ra is a bad example of this kind of adaption, what's a good example?

I'd go with the 2002 Masters of the Universe series. This one managed to be both faithful to the original show, intentionally homaging and paying respect to themes and ideas the original presented, while also doing its own thing and successfully updating the property. Good voice work, great animation, generally solid stories, and they managed to get fans of the original show to embrace it rather than hate it. It's amazing how a good adaptation can get new fans while also keeping the originals happy.

Sadly that series ended thanks to mishandling of the action figures and executive meddling, but overall, it showed how this kind of adaptation should be done.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by squirrelly-sama » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:29 pm

I feel the thunder cats and Voltron where pretty good reboots, while they vastly changed the series they were working with they were pretty respectful and made sure to actually write good stories and characters.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Ares » Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:32 am

I never saw the new Voltron, but I heard mostly good things about it. The ThunderCats reboot looked good, had some interesting concepts, but it really dragged on at times and some of the story decisions were just odd.

There was a story about these paper mages who were defending people who traveled through a forest, but at war with the forest beast that had taught them paper magic. Turns out the paper mages had a factory putting out paper and creating pollution. Now, the paper mages were doing good work, but overdoing things and harming the environment. The spirit beast was right to defend his forest, but never attempted diplomacy, going straight for the violent solution.

Now, to me the solution would be to have the ThunderCats have to defeat them both, get them talking, and make them compromise. Have the spirit work with the paper mages to rebuild their factory, make it eco friendly, and work with them to defend people so they don't need so much paper. Then have the paper mages replant the trees they cut down and work on a recycling solution.

Instead, the paper mages are just beaten up and told they were in the wrong because industry bad.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by squirrelly-sama » Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:30 am

Yeah, it's always annoyed me that a "yo, you shouldn't fuck the enviroment" message has to come with "industry and big business bad!- says the multinational conglomerate" attached to it. The moral has been regurgitated to death by this point and one of the things I really hate is how in the past few decades nuance in many morals that are usually already accepted just keeps fading away even though those are the ones that need the nuance the most. In all these years how is it that the Lorax, which is probably the book that helped start to teach the moral, is the only one that actually gives it respect as a complex issue?

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Ares » Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:59 am

squirrelly-sama wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:30 am
Yeah, it's always annoyed me that a "yo, you shouldn't fuck the enviroment" message has to come with "industry and big business bad!- says the multinational conglomerate" attached to it. The moral has been regurgitated to death by this point and one of the things I really hate is how in the past few decades nuance in many morals that are usually already accepted just keeps fading away even though those are the ones that need the nuance the most. In all these years how is it that the Lorax, which is probably the book that helped start to teach the moral, is the only one that actually gives it respect as a complex issue?
Because Dr. Seuss actually knew how to tell stories to kids with good messages and morals that were entertaining yet never talked down to them.

I mean, I don't know anyone besides the cartoonishly evil or wanna-be edgelords who would say "fuck the environment" . . . well, there's China as well . . . but most rational people realize we've only got and are taking steps to minimize environmental damage, as well as clean it up. Industrialization isn't bad in and of itself, and it's hypocritical for a show to paint the issue in simple good versus bad, especially when the only reason the show exists is because of technology and industry. It's sad when Captain Planet is more nuanced than a show put out in 2011.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by FuzzyBoots » Sat Apr 06, 2019 4:33 am

squirrelly-sama wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:30 am
Yeah, it's always annoyed me that a "yo, you shouldn't fuck the enviroment" message has to come with "industry and big business bad!- says the multinational conglomerate" attached to it. The moral has been regurgitated to death by this point and one of the things I really hate is how in the past few decades nuance in many morals that are usually already accepted just keeps fading away even though those are the ones that need the nuance the most. In all these years how is it that the Lorax, which is probably the book that helped start to teach the moral, is the only one that actually gives it respect as a complex issue?
Eh, some of it is that it was never meant to be more than simple. Geissel did a better job conveying the message in a handful of pages than Captain Planet did in seasons. Some of it is that it's reasonably clear that the Oncelers could have managed to profit on their industry if they'd farmed sustainably, and it's shown that they are redeemable once they realize their error.
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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by squirrelly-sama » Sun Apr 07, 2019 4:49 pm

You know, if you think about it modern western animation style has regressed back towards the old Fleicher era of animation in the 20s and 30s. With large heads, simple but expressive faces, and bendy noodle limbs with large appendages at the end that makes them easier to see and animate. They used to do that to make it easier and faster to animate things back when you had to do all that stuff by hand and it'd take forever, but once the medium started to get going and the rotoscope started to make life like animation more feasable it slowly disappeared over time, especially as technology evolved. By the time they moved passed needing to hand draw everything it shouldn't have reappeared ever again except as an homage to classic animation.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Chris Brady » Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:58 am

About 2009, with All New, All Different Marvel, where they started pushing their political agenda pieces.

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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Egyptoid » Sat Jul 27, 2019 12:36 pm

I like this thread. is it a blessing or a curse that there is no "like" function here....
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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Poodle » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:08 am

I read comics and watch movies to get away from reality, not have some politically correct pseudo-reality forced down my throat. I know it is perpetuating ugly=bad pretty=good (unless you are a woman when sexy can also equal evil).

I guess the question is where does it stop. "Look out Pollution man. It is EnviroPCwoman-man. She/he has come to end our evil corporate scheme of exploiting 3rd world countries."
"Look out capitalistlackey-boy. Her/his heavy-load bearing solar-powered mobility scooter is heading right for you." CRASH BANG.
"Quick Pollution man use your heteronormative taunt power."
"Hey you, the Fat woman in the gimpmobile, why don't you get your fat ass back to macdonalds and have another 10 delicious American hamburgers."
ENViroPCwoman-man-"REEEEEEEEEEE..... " (explodes in to small fatty portions).
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Re: When did "Ugly Female Protagonists" become such a thing?

Post by Doctor Malsyn » Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:47 pm

I shouldn't have snickered, but I did nonetheless.
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