When it comes to television I don’t put too many restrictions on what Jack watches. Unless of course it’s waaay over his head or too scary (for example, he won’t be watching Paranorman for a few years now). I was pretty excited when The Powerpuff Girls popped up on Netflix instant streaming one day. He wanted to check it out so we turned it on. He proceeded to devour the show.
About a week ago we watched an episode called Equal Fights. I remembered the character of Femme Fatale being discussed a bit on Tumblr but couldn’t remember exactly what was being said. I looked it up and as usual people were pissed about it. I read one blog that defended the episode, but all the rest weren’t terribly positive. Some even went as far to say that the episode was “horrifically sexist and anitfeminist.” To those I say, watch the episode again. But this time don’t focus on the fact that she’s a “feminist” (because she’s not, actually). Focus on what she’s saying and doing.
Here’s the main thing about Femme Fatale, she is a villain. Villain’s will say and do anything to get what they want. What makes Femme Fatale worse is that she’s an extremist. She’s taken feminism, which is about equal treatment, and turned it into something else. Femme Fatale is not a feminist who wants equal treatment. She’s a woman who thinks she is better than anyone. It’s not about women being better than men, it’s about her. Everything she says to the Powerpuff Girls is a manipulation, an attempt to control them. Isn’t that what villains do to the heroes? They try to trick them, trap them, manipulate them, beat them. It’s what every villain attempts to do in each episode. But because the writers have taken a belief, given it to an inherently selfish villain and taken it this extreme, it tends to make people very uncomfortable.
I realize that what Femme Fatale represents is a negative stereotype. But let’s face facts, stereotypes exist for a reason. There are people out in the world that take feminism to this level; the level where women rule over/are better than men. But that doesn’t mean that every feminist behaves the same way. While the extremists exist so too does the feminist who simply wants to be treated equally. There are differing opinions all over the place. There are some Christians who are pro life and some who are pro choice. Some people are Democrats, others Republican, others Libertarian and any other political party in between. It’s unfair to say all feminists/politicians/lawyers/what have you, are the same. Because there are no two people who are exactly identical. Just because I call myself a feminist doesn’t mean I’m anything like Femme Fatale.
What many of those negative reviewers left out was the end of the episode when Sarah Bellum and many of the other women in the Townsville community confront the girls about what Femme Fatale really is, a villain who is stealing and has to go to jail. A villain who deserves to be treated as all the other villains regardless of her gender.
Do I think this was a huge issue for a cartoon to dive into? Absolutely. Do I think they nailed it with this episode? Well no, it was a noble try. But I think what people get too hung up on is the fact that a feminist is a villain and because they share some the same beliefs that Femme Fatale holds, that makes them uneasy. However, I’m not going to let one character ruin the whole series for me!
There’s so much to love about The Powerpuff Girls! I love that each girl is different and that’s ok, even celebrated. Blossom shows that it’s possible to be a strong leader and a girl. Bubbles is the epitome of a cute girly girl but she can still kick ass. Buttercup lets everyone know that you don’t have to be girly to be a girl. The Professor shows that women aren’t the only ones who know how to clean house and make it a home. The show pushes social norms around a lot and I like that. Lastly, most episodes have really wonderful morals. Morals I’m glad to be talking about with my son.
Overall I think a lot of people read too deeply into cartoons sometimes. Especially ones you watched as a child. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the theory about Papa Smurf and Smurfette “smurfing” around, which is where all the “smurfing” Smurfs came from.
I know a lot of cartoons have deeper meanings (Powerpuff Girls has quite a few) and I know kids aren’t stupid. I have one that shows me that every day. I just get sick of hearing about all the conspiracy theories. It just makes you sound like all those nutso parents who accused the purple Teletubby of making their kids gay, in short like a crazy person.
Do we read too much into cartoon characters? Why do some people make such a big deal about one character and not another? Tell me in the comments!
Tumblr blogs I read for this post:
The one that defended the episode: http://fyeahcontroversialcharacters.tumblr.com/post/49371348421/defense-of-femme-fatale-and-the-episode-equal-fights