For an industry populated by creative types, the entertainment world sure is obsessed with remakes, and no one seems to be indulging in this reboot business more than TV executives. Downton Abbey, Dallas, Dr. Who, Hawaii Five-O, Bionic Woman, and 90210 are all examples of shows with recycled concepts that have received the green-light in the past few years – with many more to come. While remakes may not be the most imaginative of endeavors a studio could undertake, they’re mostly pretty fun. They’re a chance to revisit decades past, rehash some familiar themes, relive the good bits of the shows we loved, and maybe improve upon some of the stuff we didn’t.
I actually love remakes. I like when new directors get to take a stab at a cast of characters, when new writers get their hands on an old plot. I relished the juicy, slick update of 90210, and find the period dress and talk of Downton Abbey fascinating. But what I didn’t realize while watching the Wilsons and the Crawleys stumble through life was that the best reboot of them all was yet to come: The Powerpuff Girls. That’s right. In January, your favourite crime fighting kindergarteners became the subjects of the latest TV remake on Cartoon Network. Downton may give us a taste of the post-Edwardian era, and 90210 may retain the tacky, shiny glaze of the ’90s, but The Powerpuff Girls brings us back to the magical era of GIRL POWER.
Although, it seems that era didn’t end so much as evolve, and The Powerpuff Girls were part of that evolution. At the time of its launch in 1998, the show occupied an interesting spot in young women’s entertainment. As a quick-witted show about clever, strong, self-sufficient kids, it was kind of ahead of it’s time a little bit; it led the pack of the more sophisticated kids’ cartoons that would follow (Fairly Odd Parents, Phineas and Ferb), but it was also decidedly feminine; decidedly feminist. It arrived on the pop culture scene towards the end of the rah-rah, leopard print, girl group, pop song wave of the Girl Power movement, but ahead of the whole Dove Beauty, body-positive, Photoshop-aware, media-critical, Millennial wave of Girl Power. It embodied bits and pieces of both those eras – the girly, exuberant fun of the former, the ardent message of strength and independence of the latter – without strictly belonging to either. Sure, Powerpuff Girls was just cartoon; but it was also indicative of a shift in the feminist narrative of kids’ media.
If we fast forward back to the present and take a look at TV Land as a whole, it seems like things are getting more feminist by the day. Visibility of women is way up, with myriad female characters being portrayed on shows like Scandal, Nashville, Orange is the New Black, American Horror Story, and Girls. Women are being given valuable, crucial roles – women who are fascinating and boring, strong and weak, happy and unhappy, saintly and flawed… they’re all there. At this rate, it can’t be a fluke. The Millennial Girl Power era is definitely still going strong, and Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup are back to monopolize on it; back to teach another generation of young girls about the power of individual strength.
Because if I had to peg one thing that Millennial feminism is about, it’s individual strength – and, most importantly, honouring that strength. Powerpuff Girls is the perfect billboard for this message because it personifies the idea that every girl has something unique about her that makes her powerful. That “Chemical X” quality. For these superhero girls, their individual strengths are mega muscles, laser beam eyes, and the ability to fly; for other girls, it’s a talent for scoring goals in soccer, a deep compassion for animals, or a knack for doing impressions of their teachers. Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup each have their own things, too, further reinforcing this idea of individual strengths: Bubbles proves that being girly and being tough are not mutually exclusive; Buttercup advocates for keeping a cool, logical head under pressure; Buttercup hides a tender core under ballsy bravado. The girls are all different, but what matters is that they accept their individuality and relish the power it gives them to create good in the world. An important message for any Millennial girl to receive.
But really, there are no age limits to The Powerpuff Girls. Every woman, no matter her stage in life, can understand the importance of being confident in her strengths, and of using her powers for the good of others. Yes, The Powerpuff Girls are feminism, and feminism is ageless. So if anyone asks why you’re binge-watch cartoons all afternoon, tell them it’s all in the name of feminism!
You can catch the Powerpuff reboot here, or start watching the original series from the pilot here. And please, do tell – what’s your personal “Chemical X”?
Hannah McIlveen is a freelance graphic designer and TV-obsessed writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. She grew up riding horses and reading Roald Dahl books, got an art degree, and then spent the next several years moving around the country and watching television. Her greatest goals in life are to write good stuff, produce a web series, build a house with her husband, and have six cats at once. Hannah has contributed to BitchMagazine.org and is a staff blogger for the soon-to-launch TeenSized.com. She also writes her own daily blog, Click Watch Write. Hannah can be accosted on Twitter @ClickWatchWrite.