PowerPuff GIRLSSS!! I can say this with certainty that the wave of nostalgia would have swept over you as soon as you read the caption. PowerPuff Girls- first broadcasted in 1998 –has been one of our favourite childhood memories. However, as a media literate individual, I realised that it is no different than shows that reinforces the typical stereotypes surrounding body image, gender roles, and the conventional expectations of women by society. While recalling certain episodes, I realise how the underlying message of the show was buried under certain characters, from the main leads to the villains.
'Sugar, spice and everything nice. These were the ingredients that a perfect little girl is made up of’ described Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup’s characters whose responsibility lied ironically with the male dominant figure, Professor Utonium. The implication of what a perfect girl looks like is so problematic in itself since it reinforces the idea that little girls must remain sweet, while maintaining their sexual attitude to be ideal in a society. Moreover, the fact that PowerPuff girls would not do anything without the orders of Professor or Mayor-both male figures- hints towards the prevalent male dominance in our society. Why couldn’t they be shown under the supervision of a woman, or a woman depicted as an authoritarian figure?
We see an overly sexualized depiction of another character Miss Bellum, the Mayor’s secretary. Her tight red suit on her unrealistic hourglass figure, her curvy legs, and a visible cleavage not only represents the ideal body standards, but also normalizes the objectification of women when viewed from the male gaze. The fact that we, as viewers, never got to see her face shows how a woman’s abilities are undermined by focusing more on her body and sex appeal. It also leads us to notice that no matter how capable a woman is deemed to be, she is always shown under the subservience of men, who is Mayor in this case. This not only leaves Miss Bellum as a highly sexualized character, but also destroys her credibility as a character.
Upon further speculation, one would also recognize a sense of homophobia in the portrayal of Him’s character, the demonic villain in the show. Despite him forgoing traditional masculinity through his stripper boots and lingerie, he is named a masculine pronoun which is definitely an unfair play on homosexuals. The fact that the producers of PowerPuff Girls chose a homosexual to be shown as a villain and the demonization of him reinforces the homophobic elements already prevalent in our society.
In another instance, we have an example of how producers use clothing to portray particular characteristics. Ima Goodlady, Professor’s ex, is shown wearing modest pastel coloured clothes when she is a nice character but depicted as wearing revealing clothes when she is an evil woman. The implication is that a woman who is confident in her sexuality and feminine traits is a bad woman.
PowerPuff Girls does not fail to be my favorite cartoon show if seen from an entertainment perspective. However, as a media literate student, one would definitely recognize how these stereotypes are instilled in us since our childhood.