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See Jane? Not as much in children's media as you might think

Posted by Laura Franzini  November 26, 2012 01:55 PM

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Though women make up 66 percent of the global workforce and half the world's population, they have yet to gain such presence in the entertainment world.

According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 17 percent of characters in children's media are female, and most females portrayed in movies and television shows are missing from critical occupational sectors.

In response to this lack of representation and portrayals of female characters, Hero 4 Hire Creative, an animation company in Newton Centre, is joining Academy Award-winning actor Davis and her non-profit organization to launch See Jane, a national public awareness campaign.

After Hero 4 Hire founder Evan Sussman saw Davis speak at a PBS producer's summit in Washington D.C. two years ago, he wanted to find a way to help her organization, which works within the entertainment industry to raise awareness about gender inequality and poor representation of girls and women in children's media, and to encourage the creation of positive portrayals of girls.

Hero 4 Hire conceptualized and produced a public service announcement called "If She Can See It, She Can Be It."

The announcement is animated and pays homage to the popular 1940s Dick and Jane book series. It portrays young girls--Janes--who can grow up to be pirates, astronauts, cowgirls, or anything they want to be, rather than the stereotypical, crying victims.

Hero 4 Hire's executive producer, Allison Dressler Kramer, who has extensive experience in animation working for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, said there is a natural instinct to make more characters male, because it is still such a prominent trend in contemporary entertainment.

"We wanted to do a direct message that Jane needs to be seen in order for this to change," Kramer, 33, said.

Kramer said the Institute's research and the public service announcement taught the team to step back and look at the big picture, which has led them to change or neutralize the genders of characters in other projects that tended to favor boys.

"Evan and I both have young daughters, so it's really important for us because we do see it; we do watch a lot of children's television," Kramer said of changing the sexist phenomenon.

Davis launched her Institute in response to her own observations while watching children's entertainment with her young daughter. The Institute's research has confirmed the disparity she observed, led by the statistic highlighted in the announcement that only one female character exists for every three male characters in family films.

"We'd like to assume today that the marginalization and invisibility of female characters, especially in entertainment made specifically for children, would be long gone--a relic of the past," Davis said in a press release. "Unfortunately, the reality is that gender stereotypes remain deeply entrenched in today's entertainment."

Kramer said animation was a natural fit for the public service announcement, which took more than a year to complete, since the majority of children's media and movies nowadays are animated.

The announcement was shown last week at a symposium Davis held in Los Angeles, which Kramer and Sussman attended. Kramer said it was viewed by about 400 heavy-hitters in the entertainment industry.

Hero 4 Hire Creative was founded in 2008 and, according to Kramer, produces more than 50 projects a year, working with freelance designers and animators. It produces a web series for PBS called "Fizzy's Lunch Lab," as well as commercials for ad agencies, promos for television networks, and videos for individual corporations.

For more information about the See Jane campaign and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, visit

Laura Franzini can be reached at

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