The Care Bears are next

// 16 June 2008

News that a character called Strawberry Shortcake has been given a makeover has been all over the US feminist blogosphere.

It’s been picked up by AfterEllen,, Feministing, Broadsheet… But I just kind of ignored it. I don’t really know who this character is, and there’s only one kind of strawberry shortcake that interests me.

But until I’d read Andi Zeisler’s post at her Bitch magazine blog, I had managed to miss this truely horrific news: the Care Bears are being subjected to the same treatment! (Yes, grumpy -pictured – was my favourite. And, yeah, I’ll tell the internet basically anything.)

No pictures are yet available, and the New York Times (which broke the horrific news) only has this tantalising line:

American Greetings is dusting off another of its lines, the Care Bears, which will return with a fresh look this fall (less belly fat, longer eyelashes)

That’s pretty horrific. I mean, they are the Care Bears – they’re meant to have bellies. Really, I don’t know what to say about this.

Check out the NYT piece for a disturbing list of travesties committed against your favourite ’80s excuse to sell toys – Angelina Ballerina (thinner and more human, less mousy), Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (more muscle, less “attitude”). Notice a theme? As Andi points out:

Strawberry Shortcake is one thing, but bears and mice aren’t supposed to mimic mainstream beauty standards. Or, at least, up until now they weren’t.

(Can I just recommend people do not search for Care Bears on Flickr. Seriously.)

Comments From You

Seph // Posted 17 June 2008 at 1:32 am


*breathes* sorry, needed to get that out of my system.

If I remember rightly, the Care Bears message was all about caring about everyone, making friends etc.

So what’s the new care bears message gonna be? “Care about everyone, unless they’re FAT AND UGLY”??

Helen G // Posted 17 June 2008 at 10:29 am

They’re going to call them the Don’t-Care Bears…

Shinykatie // Posted 17 June 2008 at 10:36 am

Grumpy was my favourite too! In fact, all of the darker blue ones and grey ones (Grams?) were my favourites. Any of the more dismal ones, basically. I was clearly a Morrissey fan just waiting to happen.

Ariel Silvera // Posted 17 June 2008 at 11:06 am

Strawberry Shortcake I never cared much for, but I am not ashamed to say I watched Care Bears and Popples as a kid. Even though they were big merchandising machines just like Transformers, which I was also quite a bit into…

Can’t wait to see what the meeting rooms of American Greetings do to massacre our childhoods.

Jane Purcell // Posted 17 June 2008 at 12:32 pm

I fucking hate The Care Bears. I told my daughter they’d all been run over by a truck.

I also told her that Barney the Dinasour had fallen over a cliff. Pompous, purple twat.

Leigh Woosey // Posted 17 June 2008 at 12:33 pm

Will they project a ‘Negative Body Image Judgemental Stare’ now?

Don’t worry Seph, that’s exactly what I was thinking.

Pfft. No wonder I buy undead cats and Cthulhu dolls for my niece.

Anne Onne // Posted 17 June 2008 at 12:59 pm

I must have missed the care bears thing.

What worried me more was the comments on the Feministing post about the new Strawberry shortcake design. There were a lot of comments about how the new design looks ‘precocious’ and flirty, and I was honestly surprised by that. Commenters ended up seeing sex in a fairly non-explicit pose and appearance. Whilst I’d be the first to admit gendered posing of female characters, I think there’s another underlying issue here.

I mean, aren’t we feminists the ones telling people not to equate girls and women with sex? That girls are not to blame for men leching on them/ That there is no ‘she deduced me with her come-hither kiddy eyes’ excuse? And then, when we’re talking about characters, we go back to the ‘she’s too flirty’ excuse. I know it probably wasn’t intentional, but this kind of personal bias we all have is the most dangerous, because we can’t see it.

There are plenty of good points to make about the effect current beauty standards are having on children’s toys and children, but I can’t help but think that accusing a child character of being a precocious flirt plays into the lolita myth, rather than focusing on the people who designed the character to look and act a certain way. Especially considering we’re not talking about BRATZ here, the reaction is rather unusual.

There’s plenty of critique to make of fictional characters, but since they are a proxy for real people (ie, are semi-representational, and are taken as people in the plot), I think it’s almost as important to not blame characters for how they are portrayed, and focus on the fact that they were consiously designed to look/act a certain way, by people, usually men. A lot of critique I see in fandom of female characters is focused on the female character. She is weak, or she is boring, or she is too girly. But not a thought to who created the character and shaped the plot. A female character isn’t innately anything, tehy are, as male characters, puppets, whereby writers shape their actions.

I think focusing on how she is apparently flirtatious is part of the problem, because we interpret women and even children as coding for sex, and if you look at the picture of the character, she’s hardly pouting and baring cleavage. I think interpreting something like that as flirtatious tells us a lot more about ourselves, and how much society has effed up our minds than about the picture itself.

Evalana // Posted 21 June 2008 at 5:32 am

That article in the Times got a number of things wrong, including that the Care Bears “are getting” a makeover. The revamp happened last year, and episodes of the new series have been airing on CBS on Saturday mornings since last September.

You can check out clips and art on the official website:

SHAKIA // Posted 28 March 2009 at 4:53 pm

just keep them normal this is not good that is the wrong message for kids would you be proud if your daughter wore a minnie skirt and a tight shirt what is next pinky dinky doo NAKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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