Many of the fictional characters I recall from my childhood come from the cartoons I used to watch (and still do, in some cases!). I’m willing to bet that’s true for many people from my generation, circa 1995 – 2000. I loved anything in which the hero could kick the villain’s butt at least twice per episode, and nothing appealed to me more than a catchy theme tune.
For those of us who were raised on the ass-kicking antics of Kim Possible, the magical mysteries of Mona the Vampire and the wild world of Eliza Thornberry, there’s a whole host of awesome cartoon women we can relate to. For this list, I’ve selected 5 Cartoon Feminists whose influence goes way beyond Saturday morning TV.
1. Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)
What, you thought I wouldn’t go for the obvious? Lisa just had to be on this list. She’s a vegetarian, environmentalist, feminist and bookworm. I think everybody can identify with Lisa – her struggle for self-acceptance is a common theme in The Simpsons. She tries exceptionally hard to be popular, changing her style in an attempt to fit in, but eventually she learns that she is perfect the way she is. She also teaches an important lesson about the feminist movement itself – she sometimes berates Marge for being a stay-at-home mother and for fulfilling a traditional gender role. However, Marge demonstrates that she is no less empowered than Lisa herself and she supports her daughter in her quest for identity (so three cheers for Marge Simpson too!).
2. Velma Dinkley (The Scooby Doo franchise)
I’m not counting that horrendous scene in the live action film Scooby Doo: Monsters Unleashed where they make Velma look “hot”. I know Sarah Michelle Gellar is in it; it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.
But if we hearken to the Velma of old – the Velma Dinkley who rocked a turtleneck jumper, was not ashamed of her brain and was the mastermind behind Mystery Inc. – we find a woman who was comfortable in her own skin. It’s a consistent theme in every incarnation of Velma. She was inquisitive, fearless and intelligent, outsmarting the crooks like it was her job (or, at least, a hobby she was passionate about). Let’s face it: everybody had a Scooby Doo character with whom they identified, and Velma was my favourite. Sometimes she was nervous and lacked confidence – I remember a scene in Scooby Doo and the Legend of the Vampire when Velma has to sing on stage and she has terrible stage-fright – but she never failed to pull through and stand up for what was right. Go Team Velma!
3. Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)
Okay, this one is kind of cheating. I never watched Daria as I was too young, so I’ve only started watching it recently. However, I love it already and Daria is my misanthropic heroine. You might wonder how I can consider someone so unenthusiastic a role model, but Daria is just being realistic! She knows the system and she understands how it enforces privilege and inequality; this is a key aspect of feminism. Her bond of sisterhood with her best friend Jane Lane is one we can all relate to (this is a great clip of them: x). Daria and Jane can see that there is something wrong with the way society judges people. As Daria says, “… there is something intrinsically wrong with that system, and I have dedicated myself to changing it.”
4. Princess Bubblegum (Adventure Time)
Adventure Time is something I’ve experienced alongside my brother. I wish I had access to shows like Steven Universe and Regular Show when I was little. We’re living in the golden age of cartoons. PB is not only the ruler of the Candy Kingdom – I think that technically makes her queen? – but also a skilled scientist. She’s very pink and very girly, a perfect demonstration that women are multi-faceted; we don’t have to sacrifice any aspect of ourselves or fit into a neat box.
She’s kind and compassionate; however, PB gets the job done and she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. The programme’s creators have also discussed her relationship with Marceline the Vampire Queen (another excellent character!), so PB is also a potential force for good in the fight for more LGBTQIAP+ representation in children’s media. She expresses an interest in both Finn and Marceline to an extent, leading me to interpret her as bisexual/biromantic. It would be a great step if the crew took the same stance as Steven Universe and included the relationship within the show.
5. Captain Amelia (Treasure Planet)
This one is cheating too, as Treasure Planet is a Disney film, not a kids’ cartoon. That said, it’s a totally underrated film and I have a lovely feeling of nostalgia when I think about it. It’s a sci-fi adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, full of steampunk costumes and vehicles.
Captain Amelia is one of my favourite Disney characters. She’s the captain of the RLS Legacy, leading a predominantly male crew. She takes absolutely no shit from anybody. She’s witty, acerbic and intelligent; you can’t help but love her. (Also, she’s voiced by Emma Thompson, so that’s a major plus!) She does get a love interest – Dr Delbert Doppler – but it doesn’t feel forced (and they have adorable cat-dog hybrid babies).
So there you have it – 5 animated women who had an impact on me! Please like and share on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ if you enjoyed this article! Let me know in the comments if there are any cartoon women who influenced you in a positive way or who gave you a confidence boost! 🙂