Attention fans of feminism and kids media!!!! Nickelodeon is debuted a new series called….. Bella and the Bulldogs!! I realize that as the Plot Culture authority on all things kids media, this may not interest everyone but…. I am so excited!!!
Bella and the Bulldogs is a series about a cheerleader who joins the football team at school as the new Quarterback. Not only is this a story that has been happening in real life in America ( Such as the lovely Mary Kate Smith http://www.today.com/news/homecoming-queen-mary-kate-smith-also-stars-her-high-schools-1D80152270) but its great to see more examples of girls who can be both feminine and strong.
Society has a tendency to equate all forms of femininity with weakness, and thus “strong” female characters are often lauded for the aspects of their character that align more with the ideals of masculinity. Its great to see a young female character who is both traditionally “girly” and physically and mentally strong.
This is particularly exciting because this show is in the Pre-teen media market, a market characterized by moral oriented programming and pre-teen dreams of success. Series such as Hannah Montana and Step It Up on the Disney front and iCarly on the Nickelodeon front have typified that desire for adult success through pursuits in singing, dancing, and online fame. There is anything inherently wrong with any of those pursuits, but all of them fall within the socially accepted mores of gender politics. I’m not ready to put all of my eggy hopes into the Bella and the Bulldogs’ proverbial basket, as I am sure many of the episodes will probably mine the “but she’s a girl and girl’s are DIFFERENT” trope for comedy. However, it is refreshing to see a series where the envelope of acceptable feminine behavior and interests is being so clearly pushed.
Girls still have to prove themselves, outside of mere physical ability, to play football with the boys. This is happening all over America. In some cases parents and friends have had to start online petitions going to make league officials change official policies to allow girls to even try out. Football is a cornerstone of American culture, one that has been summarily closed off to women for a very long time. Not to knock powder puff football, but it isn’t taken quite as seriously, and no one gets scholarships or a multi-billion dollar industry out of it. Which is sadly par for the course with much of the women’s sports industry.
Despite the calls that women are too ‘delicate’ to play football and that their bodies ‘are too weak to handle the impact and injuries,’ women around the country are challenging this the best way they know how, by not listening and by doing what they love.
What’s interesting is that while these naysayers are quick to point out the damage of a tackle (while wearing full on padding and a helmet) they don’t seem to realize that their preferred female sport, cheerleading, is just as – if not more- dangerous.
Cheerleading and Football are neck and neck in the “most likely to break your body” sports category. While it seems that no one can quite agree which one is more dangerous, some saying that more football players are injured but others pointing out that cheerleading injuries are more likely to be catastrophic, with injuries beyond the standard twisted knees and broken ankles such as broken necks, paralysis, and even death. I think it’s fair to say that both sports are extremely dangerous. And frankly, I’d rather be tossed around in full padding and a helmet than in nothing but a skirted uniform.
In conclusion, its great to see a show about girls engaging in sports, a sweaty “manly” activity, and I have high hopes that this series will inspire young girls to think beyond the accepted ideas of girlhood and explore what they truly enjoy, be that cheerleading, football, or both.