Next in my continuing series of Disney Junior cartoon reviews is the extremely female-friendly, very much girrl power Doc McStuffins. The basis of the show concerns a little girl who goes by the nickname “Doc” and acts as a doctor to stuffed animals and toys. Doc’s mother is a pediatrician, while her father is (from what we can tell) a stay-at-home dad, and she also has a little brother named Donny. While she treats a variety of different stuffed animals and toys daily, she is accompanied by a standard crew of regular toys, including her stuffed lamb named Lambie, her stuffed dragon named Stuffy, her stuffed hippo and nurse named Hallie, and her stuffed snowman named Chilly. While this show offers a more even split of characters by gender, the calibre of the role models by gender is not at all equitable. For this reason, I give Doc McStuffins 2 out of 5 stars on the gender equity scale.
The main character and namesake of the show is Doc, a little girl of color who provides checkups to stuffed animals and toys, especially when they encounter trouble. Doc is essentially a representation of girl power: strong, smart, kind, loyal—she represents the mentality that girls can be whatever they want to be and do whatever they put their minds to (although I personally prefer the mentality that all children can be and do whatever they put their minds to, but I’m nitpicking). Doc is a great role model for kids because she encourages them to live a healthy lifestyle and to be kind and helpful to their friends, family, and everyone else they encounter.
Of all of Doc’s toys, Lambie could be considered one of the closest to Doc. She is a stuffed lamb dressed as a ballerina. She pretty well embodies stereotypical femininity, from her pink tutu to her recurring role as the princess who needs saving during play time, to her love of dress-up and everything else feminine. Her go-to “treatment” of any broken stuffed animal or toy is a cuddle. She is also generally portrayed as the voice of reason: when other toys are being silly or irrational, she makes sure to bring them back to reality. She is a relatively flawless character, other than the few times she has been impatient and self-centered in dealing with her own “injury” or jealous of the attention another toy received due to their “injury.” Overall, I would describe her as a pedestalized representation of femininity: good, kind, caring, rational, helpful, etc.
Next we have Stuffy, a silly, clumsy stuffed dragon. Overall, he is a good friend and is happy to help Doc and his other friends. However, he is often the brunt of the joke, being clumsy and tripping/falling/running into others, as well as being foolish and requiring regular correction. He often misunderstands or misinterprets words, causing others to laugh at his foolishness while correcting him, and he often tries to represent himself as strong and brave, causing others to laugh at him when he exhibits weakness or fear. It can be said that Stuffy represents a negative caricature of masculinity by feeling compelled to portray himself as strong when he is not, to assert himself as knowledgeable when he is not, and most certainly by his inability to express his feelings without a character like Lambie convincing him that he needs to do so. In addition, the general response to this caricature of masculinity is a good representation of the general opinion of masculinity: when he fails to embody the characteristics that he values, his failures are used to derive humor in the show.
Hallie is a stuffed hippo dressed as a nurse who assists Doc with her patients. She is the embodiment of reliability, managing Doc’s clinic and maintaining her cases. She is always there when Doc needs a hand—often before she even knows she needs it—with her medical devices and the Big Book of Booboos, in which she records her diagnoses. Hallie is also very much an additional voice of reason, often encouraging other toys to let Doc help them when they are scared or otherwise uncooperative. She has exhibited the occasional flaw in the past, once developing an obnoxious ego after learning that she was designed after a hippo with her own television show. However, overall, she is a strong, confident, reliable supporting character.
Our final main character for review is Chilly, the stuffed snowman. Chilly is the token hypochondriac on a television program that centers around medical education. Whenever another toy experiences any sort of problematic symptom, Chilly panics and expresses concern that he has the same symptom. Humor is often derived at his expense as his medical fears are nearly always unfounded, whether he lacks a potentially problematic part (like legs), or most commonly based on the fact that he is not a real snowman—which he often forgets. Chilly represents another negative male caricature as being hyper-aware of his health and the health of others, generally causing him to overreact, sometimes interrupting the in-progress activities of the other toys. This negative caricature centers around foolishness and paranoia, rarely exhibiting traits like strength, confidence, or wisdom.
It can be determined that Doc McStuffins is a show with a primary focus of girrl power female empowerment. Overall, the females are represented in a much more positive light, while the males are generally represented more negatively. The female characters tend to embody positive characteristics like Doc, Lambie, or Hallie, who will reassure and comfort Chilly amid an emotional breakdown; meanwhile, the male characters tend to embody negative characteristics like Stuffy or Chilly, who often behave foolishly and obtusely, requiring the assistance of the empowered and benevolent females. I stated that I would rate Doc McStuffins 2 out of 5 stars for sub-par gender portrayals. While the show fairly equitably represents the sexes, it fairly inequitably portrays them with a general rule of thumb being girls=good and strong while boys=foolish and a source of humor at their expense.
- Disney Review #2: Doc McStuffins - October 19, 2014
- Disney Review #1: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - September 2, 2014
- A response to Chris Gethard - July 2, 2014
I’d be interested to know your thoughts on a show called Time Blazers. It’s about a boy and his two “tour guides to history,” Sam (male) and Jen (female). Sam is a bumbling idiot. 99% of the show’s humor comes from him being clumsy, goofy, or just plain stupid/ignorant about history. Jen is calm, rational, and intelligent. She’s always setting Sam right when he gets his history wrong, and she’s always saving him when he gets into trouble (sometimes trouble Jen directly or indirectly put him in). The show also occasionally bashes the male gender, in general. An episode on historical heroes goes out of its way to highlight negative things about male heroes, like that Hercules had to shovel horse poop and that Robin Hood wasn’t real. When they get to female hero Annie Oakley, they talk all about how she’s strong, empowered, and a fine role model for any young girl (right after they go out of their way to destroy any potential male role models).