The release of a major superhero movie is pretty much always accompanied by a fast food tie-in. Even the relatively complex, morally challenging Dark Knight had that pizza with triple pepperoni from Dominos, so it's pretty obvious that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is going to be going all out. And they have, with a promotional tie-in with McDonald's that includes Happy Meal toys. The thing is, the ASM2 Happy Meal toys come in two distinct forms: Cars, masks and action figures for the boys, and bracelets, purses and journals for the girls. You know, for their feelings.

You're f**kin' up, McD's.



McDonald's and their penchant for gendered toys is nothing new -- it's pretty rare that they don't have two sets of Happy Meal toys going at any given time -- but it's been a while since I've seen the formula applied to the same franchise. Seeing the sharp contrast between the "boys" Spider-Man Toys and the "girls" set, based on the same property, brings the weirdness of the whole thing out.

There is, however, an argument in favor of the toys, one that I first heard with regards to the LEGO Friends set, a hot pink "girly" version of everyone's favorite (pretty much gender-neutral) building blocks. It went like this: While the sets were clearly marketed as being "For Girls," with an emphasis on cute puppies, hair salons, and friendship, the actual sets weren't really targeting the kids. They were targeting the parents, encouraging them to pick something up for girls that would be a sort of gateway toy, for parents who wouldn't have otherwise bought little girls sets that were based on Star Wars, superheroes or fire trucks. It's an interesting argument, and it's certainly true that toy commercials have conditioned kids to separate the stuff they like into the old blue-is-for-boys, pink-is-for-girls categories without even knowing it, and that girls as a market have been pretty traditionally underserved by superheroes. If the goal here is to give little girls a way to express their love of Spider-Man in a way that their stodgy parents won't frown on, then that's something we can get behind.

That said, there's a pretty big problem that you can see just from looking at the toys that goes beyond just the stereotypes at play. Boys get cars and girls get fashion, yes, but while girls get Spider-Man themed purses, bracelets and stickers, boys get the Spider-Man mask. The subtle -- or maybe not so subtle, considering how much this comes up in this industry -- is that girls can like superheroes, but boys can be superheroes.

It's worth noting that the TV commercial for the ASM 2 Happy Meals features a boy and girl boy both equally web-swinging and stealing each other's food (which is weird, Happy Meals are like four bucks, you can just get two), but the toys don't really reinforce that. Instead, they drop kids into those same limiting stereotypes that show up everywhere.

But hey, at least this is an isolated incident, right? It's not like there's going to be an equally weird divide with next month's toys, focusing specifically on categorizing something that appeals to boys and girls equally as being "for boys" while girls get some kind of bizarre stereotype toy, right?



You're f**kin' up, McD's.