One of the most popular American animated TV programs of the late 90’s and early 2000’s was The Powerpuff Girls. The show was created by animator Craig McCracken for Cartoon Network. Officially ending in March 2005, it continues to be loved by many. The show centers around three super powered sisters Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, who regularly fight the forces of evil in the City of Townsville. Professor Utonium accidentally created the three super powered sisters in a lab.
“Sugar,” “Spice”, and “Everything Nice” were the ingredients used to create the perfect little girls. Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to his concoction, Chemical X. The three girls are decidedly different, and the show allows them to be empowered through their varied strengths but each girl has the power of flight, super-speed, super-strength, super-hearing, heat and X-ray vision. Add cuteness and the Powerpuff Girls were born. Blossom became the self-proclaimed leader of the trio, Bubbles became known as the cute one, and Buttercup was regarded the toughest one.
In a world with predominantly male superheroes, the Powerpuff Girls provided children with some of the only female superheroes on television. Not only were the Powerpuff Girls extremely popular characters amongst children and adults alike, they also became feminist icons. They showed that girls can do anything boys can do, and that girls can be powerful heroes. Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men, and Blossom displays this best.
There are several episodes which represented Blossom’s feminist actions. There was one episode where the girls were excluded from a group of superheroes, a group the Powerpuff Girls idolized, called the The Association of World Super Men. The girls were excluded solely based on the fact that they are girls and told that being a superhero is a job for “men” not “little girls.” Instead of becoming violent towards them, Blossom convinces her sisters to “let it go” and leave peacefully. In addition, she tells them their opinions are not worth it, and it is what they think of themselves is what matters most. Later on in the episode, a monster attacks the superhero team and defeats them. Under Blossoms command, the girls assist the heroes and defeat the monster, once again proving that they were much stronger than the male heroes.
In another episode the girls encounter a female villain known as Femme Fatale. Femme Fatale is a bank robber and master thief, who resents men and hypocritically claims feminist arguments to justify her crimes. Femme acts this way despite not knowing the most basic facts about the woman she claims to be honoring with her thefts. As a result of this when Blossom and her sisters capture her she swindles them, explaining how she stands for “feminism,” and convinces the girls that sending her to jail would be a blow for all womankind and that they’re on the wrong side. However, after the Powerpuff Girls see all the chaos that Femme Fatale has caused they questions that they have might have made a mistake. They then do some research on feminism and realism and come to the conclusion that what Femme Fatale is standing for is not feminism. They then jail her and explain to Femme Fatale that feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights, and what she is doing is in no way helping women.
The Powerpuff Girls were a refreshing iteration of super-heroism in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Rather than the typical tough vs. sexy binary, which most other female heroes are categorized, The Powerpuff Girls represented a paradigm shift in our understanding of the way female power can be represented, and with a new Powerpuff Girls reboot on its way hopefully a new generation will be empowered.