Tomboys, 'Annedroids' and the new normal

Feasey, R (2022) 'Tomboys, 'Annedroids' and the new normal.' In: Dymond, E.J, Harrison, J and Wells, H, eds. Reclaiming the tomboy: the body, representation, and identity. Lexington Books, Lanham, pp. 135-158. ISBN 9781793622945

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A myriad of children’s animations include a tomboy in their otherwise predictable character biographies, be it Mulan (Mulan 1998), Edith (Despicable Me 2010), Merida (Brave 2012), or Wyldstyle (The Lego Movie 2014) on the big screen; or Buttercup (The Powerpuff Girls 1998–2005, 2016–2019), Dora (Dora the Explorer 2000–2015) or Rainbow Dash (My Little Pony: Friendship in Magic 2010–2020) in contemporary popular programming. However, these girls tend to be singled out for their sartorial efforts, mannerisms, and interests as they negotiate traditional codes of femininity and push the boundaries of acceptable girlhood to include strength and rebellion over and above coquettishness, pastel palettes, and subversive niceness. What these animated girls, be they anthropomorphic or otherwise, have in common, is that they stand out as exceptional . . . they are the tomboy amidst an otherwise predictable backdrop of gendered clothing, traits, and mannerisms. And although it is routinely animation that can push the boundaries of appropriate sex, gender, family, and social codes, this chapter will suggest that it is children’s live-action programming that presents the most progressive take on the contemporary tomboy. Building on its animated predecessors, the live-action Amazon original, Annedroids (2014–2017) presents the tomboy as a routine, accepted, and, indeed, ordinary iteration of girlhood. Eleven-year-old Anne/Addison Holley is the central protagonist, and, based on appearance (dungarees and unkempt hair), interests (science, engineering, and making mechanical companions) and bedroom culture (robots alongside florals), she is presented as the show’s tomboy lead. Anne is a very smart girl in a junkyard world, taking a seat amidst a growing friendship group that carefully introduces the program’s young audience to different ways of performing gender, removed from judgment or hierarchy. Annedroids presents the tomboy, not as the exception that proves the more predictable feminine rule, but as a mainstream depiction of contemporary girlhood. The characters, be they girls, boys, men, women, or robotic creations, play with science, gender, and sartorial choices. Annedroids has perhaps unsurprisingly won the Parents Choice Gold Award and received eleven daytime Emmy nominations. After all, the program presents a variety of warm and welcoming family units, gives valuable screen time to a diverse multi-generational cast, and brings STEM subjects into popular children’s entertainment. Such diversity provides the backdrop to the show’s mainstream tomboy. The Annedroids tomboy is rarely singled out or asked to justify her gendered self, and as such, the program can be seen to be presenting its whip-smart and tech-savvy tomboy as just another way of experiencing girlhood: as the new normal.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 13:12
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 13:14
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