Monday, March 24, 2014

Open letter to Universal's Islands Of Adventure.

To Whom It May Concern,

I recently enjoyed a stay in Orlando, during which time I had the pleasure of visiting Universal’s Islands of Adventure. My friends and I had a wonderful vacation, and thought your park employees were helpful and polite, the park was clean and accessible, and the rides were all great fun. To give you an idea of your particular customer type in this case, we’re all around thirty years old, and are engineers, social workers, doctors, and website developers.

Again, overall, we had a great time in your park. The only part of the experience that didn’t live up to our high expectations of your park was the merchandising in the Marvel Superhero Island. This was the section of the park I was most looking forward to, as I love comics, attend conventions, and thoroughly enjoy Marvel’s contributions in particular within the genre. I was all set to purchase a t-shirt as my souvenir, but ended up leaving the park disappointed due to the terrible content on your ladies’ shirts.

Shirt #1: I [heart] MEN IN UNIFORM
A picture of Captain America, and a sentiment professing my love for uniformed men. What if I’m in the military? What if I identify with the Cap more than I swoon over his patriotic duds?

Again, making me into the swooning type. This assumes the only reason I enjoy comics is because I have romantic designs on the main characters. Humor, art, action, themes of good triumphing over evil? Nah, I just want to make out with Wolverine.

Shirt #3: I [heart] SURFER DUDES
The Silver Surfer, and, much like Shirt #1, a sentiment that makes me seem like I’m a girl standing on a beach, admiring the prowess of a boy. I surf; I do not just stand on the beach like a googly-eyed dame. A men’s shirt would more likely include a statement comparing their talents: “I Catch Bigger Waves Than The Silver Surfer,” etc.

Ironman. Is this shirt implying he’s my boyfriend? That I wish he was my boyfriend? Or comparing my actual boyfriend’s abs to Ironman’s? Because honestly, my husband has a bit of a beer belly, and I’m in quite good shape. I would have bought this shirt if it said something about my abs. But instead it makes the wearer appear as if the thing she prides herself most on is the fact that she’s dating a guy who’s hot.

This one is on the list because of a technicality. Ladies’ Night refers to an event designed for women (which your gift shop certainly wasn’t), and often one where we get in free, or for a discount. It’s for us. It is our night. Which requires an apostrophe denoting possession. The t-shirt you sell advertises a night of multiple ladies, not a night for ladies. Sounds like an event that would be more at home on a men’s shirt. (I’m not all that upset about this one—it’s a common mistake, and I only noticed it because the other shirts had made me question every piece of merchandise in your stores aimed at women.)

I ended up buying the only female-cut shirt that didn’t frankly offend me: a red one with the Avengers logo on it.

In a world increasingly driven by female purchase power, and a recent turn from worshipping the jocks of the world to worshipping the geeks (see The Big Bang Theory, the comparative popularity of Loki the nerd over Thor the jock, and the nerd-cred of the alter-egos of both Spiderman and Superman), you shouldn't pigeon-hole us as a group of giggling girls who only saw Captain America because Chris Evans took his shirt off--aim your merchandise at celebrating intelligent female Marvel Comics fans. 

Dr. Libby Putnam 

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