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WTF Happened to Gwen Tennyson???


Speaking of feminism....

What did they do to Ben 10's cousin Gwen in Ben 10 Alien Force?

In the Cartoon Network show Ben 10, Ben's 10-year-old cousin Gwen Tennyson,was bigger, smarter, braver and spunkier Ben. He had the Omnitrix, the fancy watch-like device that turned him into one of 10 alien life forms, but Gwen could hold her own.

The newest incarnation of the show is Ben 10: Alien Force, set 5 years later when Ben and Gwen are 15. Ben, as you can see below, looks pretty much the same.

He has a more complicated Omnitirix that has a larger number of aliens for him to transform into, but basically, Ben makes the transition from 10-year-old to teenager with few changes – a better haircut and less mischief in his grin.

Alas, poor Gwen! At 15, Gwen is no longer spunkier, smarter or braver than Ben.

No longer carrot red, her hair has mellowed to more palatable auburn. She can still arch those eyebrows, but at 15, the gesture conveys ennui rather than the skepticism.

She’s a Barbie doll figure with a tiny waist, delicate hands, and no influence whatsoever on the boys she hangs with -- Ben and their new friend, the hulking, obnoxious Kevin Levin (Gwen's quasi-boyfriend).

As Gwen ages, the magical power she has inherited from her alien grandmothers grow stronger.
Conversely, her physical power -- and the force of her personality and intellect -- have waned.

Ten-year-old Gwen is Ben's equal in size and courage.

As a teenager, however, Gwen is conspicuously more subdued that Ben and Kevin. It's a cartoon demonstration of the thesis of In A Different Voice, Carol Gilligan's groundbreaking 1982 book about the loss of confidence and certainty that befalls girls in adolescence.

Fifteen-year-old Gwen is still a fighter, but she's no longer a leader. Passivity has replaced her spunk and confidence.

The change in Gwen is exemplified best in Episode 5, "All that Glitters," in which, Gwen falls for another Plumber's kid, an apparent Sir Galahad named Mike Morningstar.

Some dialogue:
Kevin: (yelling at Gwen) Okay, what is up with you? You've been ignoring me ever since we got here, you were lousy in the fight, and now you're just acting goofy.
Gwen: Why are you pretending to care? (walks away with Mike) Later!

More dialogue:
Ben: It was my fault. I was in such a hurry to build our team, I ignored the danger. If I'm going to be a good leader, I'm going to need to show better judgement.
Kevin: If you're going to be a good leader, you need to stop sounding like such a jerk.
Gwen: Kevin!
Ben: No, that's okay. He's right. I'm a jerk.

The question of who will lead these three provides ongoing tension in most episodes. Sadly, no one ever suggests that it should be Gwen, not even Gwen herself.

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Ben 10, Ben 10 Alien Force and all images are the property of Cartoon Network.

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