Since turning 26, I’ve become a big ball of nostalgia. I find myself saying, “when I was your age” or “we didn’t have that when I was in school” or my favorite “how do you not know who that is?!”
Thank goodness for Netflix, TeenNick and I can’t believe this but HULU. (Yes, I hated Hulu for some time but I recently cave and started my non-commercial membership, and it’s addicting, to say the least). I freaked out when I saw they have both the new and classic Powerpuff Girls episodes. Yes, this is my childhood, and after watching Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers on the big screen back to back, I was happy to delve deeper into my nine-year-old self and watch some of my favorite episodes. I decided to try out the reboot, and I was ready to hate it. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it (Except the theme song, I love the original).
I’ve already geeked out over these magical little girls before, (check out my fan-girl anime and feminism episode of The Feminist Tea Party ) if you must know, I’m a total Blossom with a hint of Buttercup. These girls join Charmed, Totally Spies, Buffy and of course the Harry Potter gang as some of my favorite trios. The Powerpuff Girls and similar shows like Totally Spies and Sailor Moon because the female characters are feminine and fierce. They don’t compromise their love of pink to be tough and they still wear dresses and bows while being kick-ass. I love this because it defies gender norms and stereotypes that lead to sexist talk. I speak more on this issue on my Stop Talking Sexist.
This is the topic for the Powerpuff Girls‘ episode Once Upon a Townsville (S1.E17) where a damsel in distress keeps putting herself in danger waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her. She cries out for him over and over as the Powerpuff Girls swoop in just in time, every time. The girls naturally seem annoyed at the Princess for being the stereotypical damsel and tell her she can rescue herself and that no prince will come to her aid. The princess tells them that is in her nature to like dresses, like to sign and talk to animals and to be rescued by a prince. At a glance, the episode seems like typical “Feminist propaganda”. The Powerpuff Girls are portrayed as evolved, independent and strong characters we should all aim to be. The princess represents an antiquated way of thinking and showcases all the signs of whom we as modern women shouldn’t be.
What caught me by surprise was the climatic scene where the princess takes a stand. She rips off her dress and defeats the dragon without the help of the Powerpuffs.
The audience as well as the Girls, are to be delighted that the ‘weak’ princess finally took the hint and became independent. However, she surprises us all when she, in turn, reveals to be upset, not only at the prince who never shows (later revealed because he rather plays video games) but at the Powerpuff Girls for rescuing her and not respecting her individual choice. She confesses she is independent, smart and can kick-ass if she wants too. However, she also admits to liking being a princess and uncovering another princess’ dress underneath her garment, she declares that the girls didn’t respect her any more than the lazy prince.
Princess: And that goes for you three too! You guys didn’t respect me for who I was in the first place. I like being a princess and wearing frilly dresses and singing in the forest. I don’t really like punching stuff.
Buttercup: Ugh Blasphemy!
Princess: It’s time for me to live my own life!
Blossom: Yeah, perhaps we misjudged her
Bubbles: Guys, is it okay if I like frilly dresses and punching baddies, too?
Blossom: Of course!
She proceeds – in Daenerys-like fashion – to ride off into the sunset on her dragon. A smile crosses my face. This is modern feminism.
The episode could have ended with the Girls’ rap about being independent (not my favorite of the episode). However, it takes it a step further, sure, some may have been confused by the message like this Youtuber, but it’s very clear that the episode plays with the stereotypical dichotomy of female characters ad women in society. Though The Powerpuff Girls, in general, portray this (having three very different girls all who are independent and kick ass in their own way), the episode shines a light on the issue with a modern twist.
Having a choice, a voice and the agency to stand for one’s convictions is modern feminism. This can be applied to issues such as at the prejudice against women who wear a hijab and presuming they are oppressed without acknowledging their own opinion on the matter. For this reason, intersectional feminism sets apart from other types of feminism as one is not only inclusive but one that respects every person’s lifestyle while still promoting equal right for all. When the princess says, “you guys didn’t respect me in the first place” that’s the episode’s turning point. Sometimes, the judgment towards women come from other women. It’s important to give advice and be there if someone is involved in suicidal behavior like the princess’ dangerous attempts to get noticed, but it’s also essential not to impose your own beliefs on to others.
Let’s remember this Powerpuff episode when we as feminists judge other women for their own choices especially those we believe to be antiquated or playing into a gender role. Let’s also do this for the young men too. If someone likes to sing, wear a dress and the color pink, these qualities should not be gender specific nor should they be associated with weakness.
A thus, the day is saved thanks to intersectional feminism!