Shezow in full flight.
Channel Ten is home to some of the most socially regressive television in the country. A big hello to The Bolt Report, The Biggest Loser and MasterChef. But for once it's on the cutting edge of promoting progressive social change with its cartoon SheZow.
SheZow follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy, Guy Hamdon, who finds a magic ring that belonged to his dead Aunt Agnes. When he wears the ring he transforms into female superhero SheZow.
The show, which was funded by Film Victoria and Channel Ten, along with a Canadian backer, was picked up in June by US children's network The Hub. And it's causing quite a kerfuffle.
One Million Moms, an offshoot of the American Families Association, has the show and the network firmly in its sights. In a letter to its supporters, One Million Moms warns parents that the "superhero character will confuse kids".
Now, with a name like "One Million Moms" you would think that its members would have some experience with children. But the suggestion that a boy who turns into girl will confuse children suggests that they have never met a human child.
For example, my daughter regularly watches Peppa Pig — a show that features a walking, talking pig and its nuclear family (go figure) doing such things as going to school, shopping and driving cars.
While our house could often be confused with a pigsty, I'm quite sure that my three-year-old does not think she is a pig. Rather than being confused, my daughter takes it in her stride. No confusion whatsoever.
And if One Million Moms thinks that a boy turning into a girl might be confusing to children, then what must it think of Spider-Man? Here's a young man who dresses in spandex and swings around the city like a spider. And then there's Batman; a billionaire playboy who dresses up as a bat to become a vigilante.
And what's better? Watching a boy who turns into a girl and saves the world, or a man who turns into an inarticulate, green, steroided Hulk with anger management issues?
I suspect the real reason why One Million Moms finds SheZow confronting isn't so much that SheZow is transgender, but that the show features a girl saving the world.
As the organisation goes on to explain in its letter calling for action: "Children desire to be just like superheroes and will mimic a superhero's every action, even to the point of dressing up in costumes to resemble the characters as much as possible. It won't be long before little boys are saying, 'I want to be a girl, so I can help people and save the world!”'
A little boy wanting to be a girl to save the world! Won't somebody please think of the children?
For years, little girls have aspired to be male characters and dress like male characters, or female versions of male superheroes (see Batgirl, Supergirl, Spider-Woman), and organisations such as One Million Moms have barely uttered a whisper. But when a boy aspires to be a courageous girl, well, get out the placards.
SheZow's creator Obie Scott Wade has denied any agenda. In an interview with pop culture website Nerdist, Wade said: "I just set out to make a comedy. Commenting on gender roles was never my goal. I just wanted to make a TV show that I'd imagined as a kid."
No doubt he did, but we shouldn't underplay the potentially positive role that such shows as SheZow can play.
Comics and cartoons have a long history of championing progressive social change. For example, Marvel's X-Men comics coincided with the emergence of the US civil rights movement in the 1960s, and both the comics and the films regularly tackle themes of diversity and acceptance of difference.
The comics and films feature transgender, bisexual and gay characters. Earlier this year, Marvel featured a same-sex marriage as X-Man Northstar married his partner Kyle Jinadu. More recently, DC re-imagined Green Lantern as a gay man.
SheZow is firmly in the tradition of ground-breaking, socially progressive cartoons that work because they're fun and kids like them.
A big thank-you to One Million Moms for raising the profile of this little show. I'll be sure to look out for it in the TV schedule.
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com