If you’re new to the world of modern children’s television, it’s easy to fall back on the traditional female characters: Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, etc. They’re classic and they’re heartwarming for us women who grew up with these movies, but they can be…antiquated…in certain aspects. They’re certainly fun for role playing and dress-up, but what about the parents searching for an up-to-date role model for little girls that isn’t decades old? And what about television shows?
There aren’t too many strong, modern female TV cartoon characters for little girls to look up to — especially ones that don’t focus around fashion and beauty. In my opinion, Disney has done an admirable job at taking their newer “princesses” — Tiana from Princess and the Frog and Merida from Brave, for instance — and shifting the focus from fair, delicate beauty and damsel-like behavior to a strong work ethic and non-traditional pursuits and goals. Tiana might be my favorite princess yet: a girl with a go-getter attitude who is willing to work for what she wants — even after marrying her (not wealthy) prince. She doesn’t need anyone to save her — just an opportunity to build the life she’s dreamed of with her own two hands.
Yet beyond the world of princess movies, there’s a little television cartoon that’s capturing the hearts of toddlers and parents alike. There’s no discussion about appearances or gender roles. There’s no blatant “girl power” message, besides her being a quick-thinking, helpful, and kind person. There’s no talk of marriage or expectations beyond being a kid — and her African American roots aren’t brought up once.
Her name is Doc McStuffins.
Doc McStuffins is a little girl who lives with her successful and loving doctor mom and her nurturing stay-at-home dad. (It’s not an issue that her mom works and her dad stays at home — they are both portrayed as good, quality parents.) She’s a smart girl with a positive attitude, and she has a special talent: she’s the best toy doctor around. When she steps into her clinic, the toys and stuffed animals come alive, helping her diagnose broken toys.
My son has been enamored with Doc McStuffins since the day he saw her. Why?
Imagination. Toys. Magic.
Doc McStuffins is the only reason he doesn’t cry when he goes to the doctor anymore. (“I think he has magic in his stethoscope,” he’ll say.) He sings all of the songs, and I swear he’s gentler with his toys because of her.
The New York Times wrote an entire profile on the show, praising it for its positive role model for little black girls, but I’d argue that she’s a positive role model for all children — boys, girls, black, white, and green. Yes, I love the fact that my son looks up to a little girl as a model for good. I also love that there’s no question of her ethnicity — the more exposure to diversity, the more normal it is for everyone. But I love her more for her inner character, not her gender or skin color.
In a world where female television cartoons are often watered down or added as side-kicks — and especially non-white cartoons — Doc McStuffins fills a much needed void without explanation. She’s sweet, nurturing, affectionate, and — above all — smart as a whip. She uses her brain, not her looks, and she’s emulating another strong female character: her mother.
I can’t wait for my son to open his new Doc McStuffins doll on Christmas (girl toy, girl shmoy).
Do you love her as much as I do?