Oh dear...I once talked on Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour' about the gender-bias of pre-school animations, citing in particular Underground Ernie's gendered stereotypes. (The interview can be found here if you are interested.) Unfortunately, Cbeebies on BBC1 have just started airing another series featuring trains as characters - 'Chuggington', which appears to be demonstrating some of the same problems. Only three of the ten trains are female and two of them are described thus:
Olwin is an older steam train who is a wound a bit tight. She always runs to schedule and can’t stand being late! She is a sweetheart, though, and loves mothering the young trainees. (It's just that the "little chug-a-chugs" find her caring ways a little too much, sometimes.)
Zephie is a young scissor-lift trolley. Unlike the other chuggers, she can spin round and scissor up and down in excitement. She is flighty, giggly, girly and fun. She knows when it's time to get to work, too.
Only one of the three female trains appears to escape stereotypes:
Koko is a fearless passenger engine built for high speed. She loves to explore and have adventures, and to challenge her friends to a dare or a race. Although her spirit might get her into mischief, she is always well-meaning and knows when to apologise.
With reports that the programme is scheduled to be shown in 100 countries and is to be linked to a range of toys, we can be sure that this is yet another objectionable programme, with gendered sterotyping that is completely unsuitable for a 21st century pre-school audience, which will become embedded in young children's popular culture with little critique.