An interview with SheZow creator Obie Scott Wade
Obie Scott Wade is an American producer, director and award-winning screenwriter. He has written for several TV shows and in 2013, his original animated show SheZow began airing on the Hub Network. The series follows protagonist 12-year-old Guy Hamdon, who upon discovering a superheroine power ring that used to belong to his aunt, puts it on only to find out the ring grants him superpowers, but with a twist. The ring itself, only meant to be worn by a woman, makes it so Guy has to wear a female superhero costume when fighting crime.
The show itself was targeted by online blogs and conservative Christian groups such as One Million Moms, who saw the show as using “crossdressing and transgender individuals as a source of entertainment for children.”
“SheZow is not transgendered. He’s a boy, his gender never changes,” Wade said in an interview with Zap2it. “He’s just trapped in a silly costume. I came up with that as a kid, so no, I don’t think it’s inappropriate.”
As of December 2013, 52 11-minute episodes have been made, which were broadcasted in pairs to make one season. In interviews, Wade has expressed the desire to make a second season. He recently spoke via email with The Omniscient’s Meredith Norman.
-So start off by telling us a little bit about you, (such as your educational background, when did you first know you wanted to start making cartoons, any fun facts, ect.)
I first started coming up with ideas for TV shows and storybooks when I was 5 or 6 years old. I would watch Bewitched and create story lines that featured me in their world. I imagined I was Samantha’s cousin, a genie who came to visit and ended up causing trouble. Later, I would imagine that I was Wonder Woman’s little brother. I’d spin around and transform and run around with her, battling evil. I know. I’m such a geek. I had many costumes and props and played many characters….Other days I was a wizard who made potions out of grass and cow poop in the barn. I grew up in the country where my imagination flourished. I was a consummate daydreamer. Still am. Fast forward to high school where I excelled in theater and video production and my dream of creating TV shows, movies and books grew. At 17, I moved to Hollywood to pursue that dream. And I failed. Badly. I couldn’t get a job to save my life. Finally, I started working as an extra in movies and on TV shows. Then I got my Screen Actors Guild card and did some acting. I took whatever creative job I could get. From writing TV commercials for local cable to coming up with ideas for theme park rides. My first real break in TV was getting hired as a Production Assistant (the lowest job in Hollywood) at a kid’s TV production company. There I began sharing my ideas with the head of the company and was eventually hired as a writer. Since then I’ve written a lot of things for TV like Baby Looney Tunes, Zatch Bell and Julius & Friends with Paul Frank. But it wasn’t always easy. In Hollywood, jobs come and go like the tide. Working as a freelance artist of any kind has a lot of big ups and downs. It’s a lot of trial and error and many people don’t make it. For every success story you hear about, there are countless others who don’t survive.
– Your cartoon has been bathed in controversy since it’s conception. Websites such as http://onemillionmoms.com/ and other websites have tried to keep children from watching the show, claiming it could “pollute their minds.” How does it make you feel when you hear something like this?
In all honesty I was completely shocked and caught off guard by the controversy. It does however make me feel as if perhaps I’ve created something timely that sits on the cutting edge of sociocultural evolution.
-Do they have any reason to justify it? While I disagree with them I do respect their right to an opinion. Their main fear about the show is that it will make their kid gay or trans. If their kid is gay or trans, I feel badly for the kid because they’re obviously living in a home of intolerance. If their kid is not gay or trans (and there’s a big difference between the two) SheZow is certainly not going to make them gay or trans. TV doesn’t’ have the power to do that. If TV did have the power to change peoples’ sexual orientation or gender identity, all gay people would be straight and all trans folk would be cis [not trans, ed.] because historically most TV characters are straight and adhere to a strict gender binary. What TV can do is present diverse role models with which all variety of people can identify, learn from, love and laugh with.
– When I first heard about SheZow, it was through Tumblr. Do you find it interesting that your show, (supposedly aimed at kids ages 5-11) has gained such a following of teenagers and young adults?
SheZow is a comedy designed for kids 6-11 and it certainly has gained a broader following. The show has garnered every type of comment you can imagine, ranging from absolutely negative to totally positive. I have been accused of being the devil and I’ve been praised as a genius for creating a new kind of hero. I’ve had death threats from angry adults and letters of admiration and support from beautiful children who love the show. Of course, I prefer the latter. I’ve even received letters from people telling me that SheZow saved their life. And if I saved or improved even one life with a cartoon, then mission accomplished. I am grateful for the opportunity.
– Do you feel like cartoons can have a lasting impact on children?
Oh, yes. Absolutely. People love the cartoons they grew up with. Whenever I meet young adults who grew up watching Baby Looney Tunes, they instantly get excited and begin retelling me the stories that I oh-so-lovingly wrote for them. I pour my heart and soul into my work and when people love it I’m elated. Today’s kids who are watching SheZow run around saying “You go girl!” will always remember that.
– SheZow makes an excellent point in proving girls can be just as strong as the boys. Would you consider SheZow a feminist cartoon?
SheZow is one of those rare shows onto which everyone projects their own beliefs. For some it is a feminist show. For others it’s about gender fluidity. For many it’s a hilarious parody of superhero tropes. For me, it’s about Kid-Power. It’s about a goofy daydreamer who is unprepared to be a super celebrity. That’s why so many episodes are about SheZow breaking the rules and experiencing superhero side effects. I wanted to explore the workings of being super and the many challenges a hero faces on a daily basis. The twist being that Guy has to do it while wearing shediculously high heels and a skirt that’s prone to wardrobe malfunctions. It’s meant to be silly and heartfelt and all about growing as a person.