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Small Wonder aired without any intention of incurring anyone's wrath, but from the get-go it rankled one very loud and powerful group. Feminists bristled at the very notion of Vicki, seeing her as the quintessential Stepford "Daddy's princess"; pretty, proper, subservient, and eternally child-like. Their "fan mail" absolutely scorned Vicki with proclamations like "Better Damned Than Dainty!", and the SW staff grazed reports ranging from teen sisters fighting their Small Wonder-viewing brothers to turn the channel to one Grand Rapids High School 1988 elections rally where a brown paper bag crayoned as Vicki was burned in effigy. That Vicki was so snubbed by teens and twenty-anythings wasn't missed by Metromedia or the advertisers, since Small Wonder's female demographics petered after age 10 and surged after 30. Breaking Vicki out of pinafores in the second season didn't do much to soothe ill feelings out there, and one of the impulses in creating Vicki-mocking Vanessa had much to do with allaying this.
The irony hidden in the female demographics was a unspoken psychosexual contradiction since the show kept high ratings among older women and especially mothers. By the mail, you got the sense that quite a few moms (to be reviewed in another Keyhole feature) and aunts and grandmoms out there do deeply fancy Norman Rockwell-type daughters and granddaughters curtsying in lacy dresses instead of being scruffy tomboys in sweatshirts and Reeboks. While the down-and-dirty aggressive woman and tomboys are the icons of a healthy and vibrant female today, it's an popular image that belies a quiet Middle-America traditionalism longing for long lost charm and graces when girls were a little gentler, courteous and more mannered. Even today boys (to be reviewed in another feature) in every age group tend to initially gravitate toward the "frillier" and "feminine" female than the Jordache type that halfway emulates male mannerisms and grooming, and that Vicki was very popular among male viewers across all age groups, including fathers (who REALLY infuriated them!, to be reviewed in another feature) rankled many feminist who saw Vicki's appeal as just an reaffirmation of "archaic" chauvinistic attitudes. That the media as a whole shied profiling the show's success (even featuring cartoon reviews over it) was likely facilitated by not a little feminist PC politics.
But what probably most fed this hostility was the realization that one of the powerful segments of the population had an unswerving high viewership percentile; senior citizens (to be reviewed in another feature), to whom Vicki recalled a more romantic 1940s-1950s image of girlhood that wasn't exactly flattering to kids of today. Moreover, this group was tickled enough by Vicki's effect to contend cheerfully, and all too soberly, that they'd happily open wallets for a real-life V.I.C.I. Even worse for feminists, speculative marketing research by venture capital groups confirm (as they had for the television production) that girls in Vicki's likeness (after 4- to 5-year-olds, which are too small to perform most adult tasks) was the choice image for a domestic robot. In lieu of this, were feminists right in condemning the "demeaning, antiquated fantasy female" Vicki was supposedly broadcasting to younger and elder minds? To me, that's a curious assertion when pound-for-pound, boys in the 1940s and 1950s had far higher regard for their classmates in dirndls and pinafores and rarely, if ever, tossed lewd words or swore about them, much less openly at them.
Do males really harbor a wish that all girls and women were "dumb" and docile as Vicki, or do they simply find her quaint, denimless, non-unisexness refreshingly different and shamelessly cute apart from intellect and equality? But it was seniors who forwarded the most provocative insights why Vicki was hated so. Maybe rather than feminists being "right" is that they were unjust, as they were reviling pageant participants as sterile air-headed Barbie dolls. One such young lady went on to graduate from a top Christian college after a difficult gutsy role for which her career paid a dear price, despite Hollywood managers and producers and casting agents attesting to her superlative talents.