I like to think that, even as a child, I was realistic about the opportunities the adult world presented to me. When I grew up, I wanted to be a dentist or Enid Blyton. Failing that, I intended to move to LA to pursue a career in Hollywood (I planned to simultaneously pursue Jon Baker, the sensitive, blonde one in the TV cop show Chips ).
But there was one ambition that overrode all others, one that I haven’t entirely abandoned. I wanted to be Wonder Woman.
She was irresistible. It was the mix of compassion and fearlessness; the accessories, which included a Lasso of Truth and bullet-stopping bangles; the theme tune, which managed, unforgettably, to rhyme “satin tights” with “fighting for your rights”. Oh, and those red go-go boots.
I got my first introduction to feminism during those Saturday afternoons over a glass of Ribena and a Custard Cream: Wonder Woman was a bona-fide icon, applauded even by Gloria Steinem. I didn’t know this then, of course – I just liked the way she could stop a tank with her manicured hands. The TV series ran for four years, from 1975 to 1979. And then the character of Diana Prince disappeared from our screens, apart from brief and miserable reprises in a direct-to-DVD movie, a failed pilot for NBC, and now a planned supporting role in the upcoming film Batman vs Superman . Since her demise, the appetite of audiences for superhero stories has exploded. Batman alone has appeared in no fewer than seven live- action films. There have been feature films about Spider-Man , Superman, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men and a handful of lesser superheroes you have probably never even heard of. But if you are paying attention, you will have noticed they all have one thing in common: they are all male.
By comparison, the canon of girl action heroes includes Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (and Halle Berry, but the less said about that, the better); crime-fighting duo Cagney and Lacey (not technically action heroes, but the closest thing the 1980s had to offer) and, later still, Lara Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a dismal line-up.
At seven, my daughter has already noticed that her generation has been short-changed in the ass-kicking female-role-model department. “Why do boys always get to be the star of the show?” she asked me once, in the middle of a Sunday afternoon Harry Potter marathon. “Why doesn’t Hermione get her own movie? And why is Smurfette the only girl Smurf?”
For credible female role models, she and her friends have had to rely on Disney, which rewarded them with Brave ’s Merida and the sibling stars of Frozen , Anna, and Elsa, but also tried to pawn them off with Ariel, who gives up her voice for a man; Rapunzel, who is less a personality than a hairstyle; and Snow White, who might be great if she didn’t spend most of her own movie asleep.
So little girls should thank heavens for the Irish toy manufacturer Arklu, the company behind the Lottie range of dolls, which recognises that a love of pink and the appetite to be a pirate queen or a robot designer are not mutually exclusive. Launched in 2012, Lottie – whose body is based on that of an actual nine-year-old child, rather than the Barbie template of a Playboy model crossed with a giraffe – is already on sale in 15 countries worldwide, and in Ireland through Amazon and independent toy retailers.