They are sometimes referred to as the "identity character". Like you are supposed to identify with them. But does anybody? Or do we just put up with them so we can get some animated action here and there?
Identity Characters are not Very Identifiable
Who are these bland goody 2 shoes boy characters aimed at?
They can't really be aimed at real boys. No real boy wants to be "good" or normal. Most boys want to be bad. They want to be tough, they want to get away with stuff, they want to skip school, they want to be cool, funny or whatever - anything but middle of the road and bland or good!
Grown up society tries to make us bland (especially today) but most kids are humanity in the raw, and all very different.
Girls like bad boys better than good boys too.
Good boys who are normal, first of all don't really exist in the real world.
The closest thing we have to that are sissies, and not too many people in middle America want to be sissies.
Yet good sissy boys are really common in animated cartoons, and those are the characters that we are supposed to be identifying with.
I don't know about you, but I find that strange and contrary to being "normal". Normal people want adventure, excitement, surprises and charisma from their heroes and celebrities.
So who the heck are these characters aimed at?
Moms Want Boys To Be Good Upstanding Citizens
And they should. That's their job. But it's our job as entertainers to undermine the Moms! Humans need balance. A pure good person won't have any friends when he grows up. He'll be too damn boring.
Walt Disney aimed at Moms, knowing that they would "drag the men in", including the boys. He must have thought - like Marc Deckter does, that shaded protagonists would turn people away-which I find to be an incredible theory completely unsupported by history! I'll put up his "Defense Of Bland" next.
Many animation producers -and animators themselves- still believe this theory, probably not because they've thought a lot about it, but because all animated features have bland characters and that's what they are used to so they just keep doing it by rote.
If you give someone not very creative a job running a creative department, what's the first thing he will do? Take out anything that's creative and unique. Not because he is responsible or a good business person, but because conservative people in charge fear talent and imagination.
To them we are witches that need to be bound up and squeezed just hard enough to let a tiny bit of magic ooze out...but not toooo much or all the screaming demons of fun and imagination and joy will come charging out to destroy them!
What is "Family Entertainment"?
Christian TV shows are the most extreme example of these kinds of shows and many people watch them just to laugh at them. Because it's fun to be bad.
Family sitcoms like "Leave It To Beaver" or "The Partridge Family" are sort of like that too, but not anywhere near as extremely boring as the characters in "family" animated cartoons. Live action characters can't help but have some uniqueness, just because it's almost impossible to be completely average in reality.
Every real person is different. Only in animation can everyone be right in the middle. But what a strange goal for animation.
Most animators insist they are "caricaturing reality", when to my eyes, they seem to be doing the exact opposite, they are taking out the interesting things from life, rather than using the immense potential of our art to draw attention to them and enjoy them to the fullest.