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Action figures, dolls and cartoons are an ubiquitous part of the childhood of most people within the U.S., with various individuals owning/ watching some variation of these aspects of popular culture in one form or another. Based on various studies of childhood development children actually looked up to and tried to emulate the attitudes and characteristics of the cartoons they saw on television.
When examining past and current trends in cartoons, action figures and dolls a rather strange phenomenon was noticed wherein over the years since the 1980s action figures and cartoon heroes took on greater degrees of musculature and size resulting in almost freakishly large heroes as compared to their counterparts prior to the 1980s. Even dolls for girls took on greater degrees of overtly sexual characteristics with emphasis being placed on looks, sexuality and fashion.
While most individuals merely categorized this as a changing trend which was a direct result of the shifting nature of popular culture it must be noted that such changes had a distinct impact on the mannerisms, attitudes and manner in which children believed they should act and mature into. Studies examining the resulting developmental characteristics of children who grew up prior to the overly muscular and sexual trend of the 1980s showed nearly opposite developmental beliefs compared to children who grew up during and after the 1980s trend.
It was noted that male children who grew up during and after the trend developed the notion that being overly muscular was normal and a state to develop into. It was a notion that was completely at odds with the idea of children who grew up prior to the trend who believed an average non-muscular physique was normal and what should be attained.
This particular difference was also noted in female children who believed that the overtly sexual style and concentration on appearance, fashion and sexuality was what they needed to become in order to be considered normal as compared to the popular notions among children prior to the 1980s which showcased a vastly different and more conservative view on what was considered normal.
What must be understood is that the resulting cultural impact of the change in the depiction of toys and cartoon heroes into either overly muscular or overly sexual characters was noted as being one of the reasons behind the prevalence of various individual behavioral characteristics today such as the belief that looking muscular will make a person popular, that overly sexualized clothing is normal and that violence is a regular aspect of life.
While it may be true that such characteristics do not define a majority of the population it is still prevalent in large percentages with various studies confirming that one of the reasons behind their prevalence is their connection to the trend mentioned throughout this paper that began in the 1980s and continues to this day.
Another aspect to take into consideration were the various methods in which gender roles were established at the time of the trend. It was noted that while various cartoons and toys for young girls did place an emphasis on sexuality with toys today possessing even greater levels than they did before, they also placed emphasis on various aspects related to female independence and the importance for girls to become independent from relying on men.
Cartoons and action figures geared towards young boys on the other hand gave a more traditional version of gender roles wherein women were often portrayed as needing saving and being dependent on men resulting in the development of the early onset idea that women are inherently in need of and are dependent on the help of a man.
These differing portrayals could be considered one of the reasons behind the apparent split in attitudes between men and women characterized during the early 1990s to the present wherein differing ideas existed between perceived responsibilities and gender roles as noted by various studies examining behavioral and thought characteristics of adolescents at the time.