• Wed, Jan 29 - 5:30 pm ET

Let’s Keep The Powerpuff Girls As Girls, Mmkay?

powerpuff-girls-controversy

I loved the Powerpuff Girls when I was in middle school. They premiered in 1998, which was the year I was twelve years old. I was a little too old for cartoons, but my friends and I seemed to think the Powerpuff Girls had a brand of cute, funny and slightly-ironic girl power that we were ok with liking, even as tweens.

Apparently, the Powerpuff Girls I loved are terribly outdated. The Powerpuff Girls are in comic books now….and they’re sexy. Like, really sexy. Gone are the cute spunky cartoon girls who kind of looked like bumblebees, and in their places are women with breasts in shiny dresses, on the cover of the subscription variant cover for Powerpuff Girls #6. Ok, so it’s only ONE comic book, but it’s causing a big brouhaha.

According to The Mary Sue, the controversy started when:

…comics retailer Dennis Barger Jr., owner of Detroit’s Wonderworld Comics, called IDW out on Facebook for “taking grade school girls and sexualizing them as way older… they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong… especially on an ALL AGES kids book marketed for children.”

The comic book company responded right away, saying:

That was actually a Cartoon Network mandated cover, by an artist of their choosing. I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of “female empowerment” than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. We love making comics for kids, and always want them to be appropriate. For what it’s worth, CN has been a great partner in that regard… I know an 8 year old and 10 year old really well, and always look at these kinds of things through their eyes… Half of the employees have kids here, and we pride ourselves in making comics they’ll enjoy and not give them a warped view of the world (except, you know, in a good way). Anyway, I certainly see your points, and we’ll be sensitive to these things, as I think we mostly have been.

That’s nice. But how could anyone look at that cover above and think it’s appropriate for all ages of children, that it’s about “female empowerment” rather than, well, appearances and sexiness? It’s not like the Powerpuff Girls were already depicted as grown woman…they were made into grown women for this particular cover.

Other people complained, and the Cartoon Network decided to pull the cover. But then, the artist, Mimi Yoon, got a little snippy on Facebook in regards to the controversy. She reportedly said, “one opinionated dog barks (i’m fine with that)… and the rest of the pack barks ‘pretending’ to know what they’re barking about (hate those idiots)… tsk tsk tsk,” as well as ”I find all of the accusations for my Powerpuff Girls image sexualizing minors not only ridiculous but also embarrassing for the accusers.” Then she linked to pictures of Dennis Barger Jr, the original person who’d raised questions about the cover, at a strip club.

While I understand the impulse of Mimi Yoon to defend her work, I fail to understand how anyone could see that Powerpuff Girl cover art and think it’s appropriate for both characters that are supposed to be children and consumers that are supposed to be children (I’ll add that posting compromising pictures of someone, no matter how righteous your anger, is pretty immature). It’s one thing to update characters and redesign them according to your style and your tastes, but it’s another thing to give them boobs and tiny dresses, even if they are supposed to be 22 years old now, according to their creator Craig McCracken‘s timeline, as some people argued in favor of the cover.

Call me a stick in the mud or closeminded or hell, even puritanical. But I say let’s keep the Powerpuff Girls as freaking girls.

Photo: Dennis L. Barger on Facebook

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  • Kelly

    So, if I dressed exactly like that I wouldn’t be appropriate for all ages? Would I be arrested if I went out in public? Do you really consider that an obscene way for a 22 year old to dress?

    • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Beff

      I don’t think anyone here would object to a real woman wearing what she wants – the issue is selling this as role models to young girls, and the increasing trend that formerly cute and child-like figures are more and more sexualized. See also Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, and even My Little Pony (“Equestria Girls”). It’s fine to be a sexy woman but I think it’s not fine to tell girls that this is the way everyone of value looks.

    • Romylove

      My Little Pony Equestria Girls is /not/ sexualized. Can we start with the fact that all of the main characters in the regular MLP are all adults? Out of school and everything! Rarity even owns her own business! What an entrepreneur!

      Equestria Girls is a humanoid, teenaged, high school version of the regular ponies. Oh my god! They have /breasts/! Call the Million Moms! Newsflash, most girls have hit puberty by that age, and therefore most have breasts. The scandal, I know.

      Yes, the skirts are short, but that’s not necessarily sexual in and of itself. Calm the f down.

    • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Beff

      They’re a bunch of lithe ponygirls in mini-skirts where they used to be chubby bug-eyed horses – how is that not comparatively sexualized?

      I think I was fairly calm in my first post and not too terribly in need of calming the f down, but you sound kinda worked up at someone casting aspersions on your teenage mutant entrepreneurial ponies.

    • Romylove

      Chubby and bug eyed? Wow. They’re ponies. They are neither. Their eyes are characteristic of the SD style of animation, as with the PPG (also created by Lauren Faust). What’s next? Complaining about how the ponies are completely naked most of the time? How Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Cadance are modeling an “unhealthy, unattainable” body image to the other ponies? I’m going to assume here that you don’t actually watch the show, judging by your comments.

    • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Beff

      That was supposed to say “big-eyed”, but okay:

      http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Applejack.jpg

      I’ve seen both the old-old show and much of FIM. The ponies are cute! They don’t need to be drawn as six identically-figured idealized body types for little girls to enjoy and identify with them.

    • Kheldarson

      No, but they have to be done that way to sell toys that fit the Barbie mold. And we all know that’s what “Equestria Girls” was about.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      I can see reddit is missing a brony. You’re wasting your time here.

    • Kay_Sue

      TIL: Some people take My Little Pony waaaaaaaaaay seriously.

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      Powerpuff Girls was created by Craig McCracken, who also did Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. MLP:FiM creative director Lauren Faust worked on both those shows and is actually married to McCracken, but she’s not the creator of PPG.

      I like MLP:FiM and think it’s the cutest thing ever. I do think it went downhill after Faust left and I did not enjoy season 3 as much as the previous two.

      That said, I still think Equestria Girls is effing stupid. Turning a bunch of ponies into Monster High-esque miniskirted high school kids to sell a bunch of ponygirl dolls is dumb. I was disappointed. Also, Faust has a credit on it as “series creator” because she created the original FiM series on which it is based, but I’ve seen nothing that indicates she actually worked on it.

    • Kat

      You can’t possibly believe there’s no issue here. First, why turn the ponies into humans anyway? Why couldn’t there be teen ponies? Second, when I was 22, I definitely didn’t dress like this every day. I don’t know anyone else who dressed this way every day. I didn’t — and didn’t know anyone with — a so-called perfect body either. This isn’t about boobs. Show me one female superhero who doesn’t look like this and I’ll eat my frickin’ hat. Sorry, I better “calm the f down.”

    • pixie

      I think it was only a one-time thing, experiment. It involved an alternate universe where there were humans instead of ponies, that’s why they were people instead of ponies, and only one of them went to the other universe. The rest just happened to be parallel human versions. I don’t think it showed in the ads, but they’re not humans for the whole movie. I agree the body types could (should) have varied more with the main characters, but what they’re wearing isn’t super inappropriate.
      Not trying to change your opinion about the movie, just explaining the human instead of pony thing :)

  • Véronique Houde

    God, I feel like if someone were to make me wear a latex skin-tight dress with high socks, I would feel the opposite of empowered in my femininity… :S How in the world does that even make sense? That the best way to feel empowered is to dress sexy? Are all sexily dressed women empowered super heroes?

    And, so what if a man likes naked girls for himself, but not for his 8 year old daughter who is completely obsessed with these adorable balls of yarn that sound exactly like little girls but also do awesome stuff like put bad guys in jail?

  • keelhaulrose

    Why is it when men try to display ‘female empowerment’ the women are always dressed like a teenaged boy’s fantasy? Women can’t be empowered unless they’re one good breeze away from flashing everyone?

    • Kheldarson

      Amen to this. I actually had to defriend a person on FB over this. Apparently women can’t be superheroes unless they’re well-endowed and curvy. As a geek girl, I get tired of that. I don’t have those curves; I don’t have that mind-set. There are so few girls I can look up to in the mainstream comics, and, ironically (sadly?), a lot of those are becoming overly sexualized too.

    • Tom Maker

      Yep, god knows all of the men heroes are weak, thin and ugly. Sam and Dean on Supernatural? The Beast? Any male Vampire?! Thor??
      Captain America? Dang it girls, the men look “hot” too so chill the heck out

    • Kheldarson

      Peter Parker: wiry, a bit geeky (with glasses, flannel, etc.) (granted, this is often artist dependent)

      Reed Richards: Older, scrawny, definitely geeky (often with glasses and lab coat)

      The Punisher: Big, bad, ugly (as a person and often in design).

      The Thing: a rock creature.

      Deadpool: His skin is cancer.

      Heck, even Wolverine gets some harsh looks more often than not.

      Now, name me a female super who’s less than a C cup and doesn’t have an hourglass shape. Challenge: No teens or under.

      Here’s the biggest issue with your declaration of the men looking “hot”: the male supers were not designed with women in mind. They were designed to appeal to a male audience, with a show of masculinity. That’s why you get more variations on male looks and body types (skinny, wiry, big, bulky) than you do women (because women only need T&A, right?)

      And just because the current comic movies have some admittedly nice-looking guys does not excuse the entire history of comics. Nor does it excuse the fact that despite Hollywood acknowledging the female audience, the comic book industry itself does not.

    • Tom Maker

      I agree….to a point. The new Peter Parker is ripped and muscular. Reed Richards is sexy older man – in great shape. The Punisher is “mean” but in great shape…muscles rippling. Um,a the Thing is Hot….yea yea, he is the Thing, you win this one. Deadpool….agree. Wolverine?? I would say ripped and hot too.
      Anyway, I just think all Superheros are “superhero looking” and do not and should not have “normal body types”

    • Kheldarson

      Please note that you focused on a prime note of masculinity: their muscles. This is not necessarily a prime draw for all women. That’s why the argument of the men looking “hot” is rather flawed: female sexuality when it comes to visual cues is far more varied than male sexuality. So I’m more attracted to Peter Parker, particularly when his geeky nature is played up, but the Punisher, even when he’s not as muscular, is never attractive.

      And that’s kind of the point: these covers, the design decisions, even storyline decisions (Batgirl can’t marry her partner? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/batwoman-dc-comics-gay-marriage_n_3873508.html ), all point to the idea of masculinity is based on action (become fit, save the world, be the hero) but women have to naturally be something (be pretty, save the world, be the heroine).

      Also, why can’t we have “normal body types”? Is there something wrong with the way we all normally look?

    • Guest

      Are any of those characters marked primarily to young children? Are they meant to be young children themselves? I don’t think so.

    • OO

      i feel the fact the artist was a woman invalidates your opinion, at least in this case. it does speak to your assumptions in a general sense

    • keelhaulrose

      That’s like saying because Scarlet Johanson turned around and stuck her ass out on the Avengers poster I can’t complain about Hollywood sexualizing female ‘superheroes’. She did it voluntarily, after all.
      Or I can’t complain about Axe showing that even the most career-driven, intelligent woman won’t turn into Super-Slut at the spray of their stinky cologne because a woman helped design/cast/shoot that ad, and a woman chose to play the part of Professor-turned-Super-Slut.
      Your assumption is that a woman cannot objectify another woman, and in that you have completely failed in your argument. Women objectify themselves and each other all time time. They do it all the time, just listen to women talking about other women in the media for five minutes. You don’t hear them talking about mentally preparing for a role, they talk about something physical. A woman in the media is judged by her ability to look good in a skimpy outfit. They put the Black Widow into an outfit that wouldn’t allow someone in real life to actually kick ass because it looks good, they don’t give a damn about making sure Iron Man looks good from behind. They think that the way to sell something is to put women in skimpy clothes on it, because men will want it, and women will go along for the ride because they want to be like that.

  • pixie

    I loved the powerpuff girls when I was a kid. I think I was like 7 when they came out. I was also stoked that Bubbles, the blonde, wore blue instead of pink, so if I wanted to dress like her, I wouldn’t have to wear pink (which I hated at the time).

  • Terry Teague SF

    Be thankful we don’t have the enforcement of Rule #34

  • Kheldarson

    Part of the issue is that this is a comic book, and those are still considered the realm of, well, teenage boys. And it’s a hard fight to change the industry’s–and their current target audience’s–mind on this being a problem. I will say that IDW is one of the better publisher’s out there for their part. ‘Course I could be slightly biased since they publish all the geekier stuff anyway >.>

    I’ll also say I have a bit more of a problem with their facial look than their outfits. The normal eyes just don’t look right on them. But that’s me.

    Also, for anybody interested in a different variation on the PPG and the rest of the 90′s CN lineup, I recommend this comic: http://ppg.snafu-comics.com/index.php?comic_id=0. I’d also recommend its cousin/sequel but it’s a bit closer to the mature side.

  • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Beff

    The sexification aside, I’m astonished that the artist managed to make the faces here even less differentiable than the originals, which were just a pair of three intersecting circles and one curved line on a big circle. Way to art, lady.

  • LadyClodia

    What do you mean by “too old for cartoons?” Hah! My husband and I happily watched The Powerpuff Girls and we were in college. I know we watched more cartoons than other TV at that time.
    I understand the idea behind the art, but it seems more like fanart to me than something sanctioned by the network even though it was. It would have probably been better received if they had drawn them older and used real clothes that evoked their old costumes instead. The Powerpuff Girls’ normal costumes are great because they totally seem like superhero outfits for 6 year olds, but there’s no reason they would continue to wear the same thing as they got older. There are so many other directions that the artist could have taken this idea in that would have been awesome.
    I also get that the artist didn’t like the criticism of her work, but it was completely out of line for her to try to publicly shame her main critic.

    • Kheldarson

      Buttercup in a green karate gi. That’s would’ve been badass.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Bubbles in the kick ass japanese schoolgirl costume (long skirt one) and Blossom as a fiery haired celtic warrior?
      CAN WE GET A KICKSTARTER FUND GOING?! =P

    • Mystik Spiral

      Umm… I was 26 when they came out and I watched (and loved) them…

      *Hides in shame and embarrassment*

    • LadyClodia

      Hey, no shame or embarrassment! I’ve always loved cartoons, and always will. I watch a lot of cartoons with my boys, but my husband and I still watch some by ourselves too!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol I was watching the Animaniacs there the other day and there are SO MANY innuendos that go over the kids heads haha

    • LadyClodia

      Oh yeah! Even as a teenager watching The Animaniacs I didn’t get everything, hehe. I love The Animaniacs and luckily my boys like watching it too!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I think the “Fingerprints/Finger Prince” scene is my favourite

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty
    • Mystik Spiral

      Animaniacs are awesome!

  • airbones

    How does being an adult at a strip club full of other adults invalidate this guy’s opinion that the cover art does not accurately depict children and is not appropriate for children?

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      If anything, it verifies that he knows and can recognize inappropriate outfits. He has lots of experience. He’s been researching.

    • airbones

      Research is important!

  • Kay_Sue

    If this is the PPG, and the attached image is now the My Little Pony line up, my childhood is officially ruined. Just sayin’.

    • Romylove

      That’s Equestria Girls, not regular My Little Pony. And both shows were created by Lauren Faust. Both are awesome.

    • Kay_Sue

      I know, but I can’t get past how creepy they look. Seeing them in person was disturbing this Christmas.

    • Romylove

      Have you seen MLP: EG? It’s actually much better than I expected.

    • Kay_Sue

      Unfortunately, neither of my sons are interested in MLP. My only experience with them is having them growing up, so you can imagine my shock at seeing the new line.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I had the unfortunate incident of my best friend, who, god love him is a self-confessed “camp-as-christmas-brony!”
      he sent me a link… i clicked.. it was a MLP interactive porn game…
      I can still taste the soap in my eyeballs.

    • pixie

      I’ll give you that the dolls aren’t the best, but the animation in the movie really isn’t that bad and the story line explains it. And at least they’re meant to be teenagers, I’m guessing around 16ish (again, movie explains this).

      I have no shame watching shows and movies for small children.

    • Kay_Sue

      I know. It’s just the change to my beloved ponies. We had many an adventure together back in the day. *wipes away tear*

    • pixie

      Haha, don’t worry, I know how you feel! I was adamant against watching it until I got really sick and had nothing better to do/ran out of other movies to watch.

  • Romylove

    There was an episode of PPG where the adults got younger and the kids got older (or at least the PPG got older). Blossom had basically the same super curvy, impossibly skinny body that you would normally see on Ms. Sara Bellum (sp?).

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      o my god i remember that!!
      and for the record, i do not approve of the new look for them.
      but PPG is still the first cartoon to feature a transgender character that I can remember! HIM anyone??
      he was so fabulously evil, i loved him! *does a little twirl*

    • LadyClodia

      I remember an episode where the whole town switched bodies, and Blossom was in Ms. Bellum’s body, and Bubbles was the Mayor, and I think Buttercup was the Professor.

  • Elizabeth

    I was trying to make a salient and nuanced point about why allowing women to express their sexuality is okay and explicitly sexualizing characters is not necessarily okay — and that it’s not about these (and other characters) breasts or the amount of skin they show or anything else slut-shamey, but rather the fact that these are drawn in a way that is intended to be sexual and attractive —

    – but then I realized I’ve been looking at this picture for a solid few minutes and I JUST NOW noticed that they’re sitting on top of Mojo Jojo. Yep. I think that just about says it all.

    • pixie

      And I didn’t notice what (who) they were sitting on until I read your comment. Just goes to show how much I was paying attention to the background.

  • Zettai

    I guess I just keep thinking it could be worse, and that I agree that it looks along the lines of fanart. And if there’s ever a perfect PPG fanart+, you have to talk to Bleedman.

    • Kheldarson

      I <3 Bleedman. His setting is just perfect for the CN-verse.

    • Zettai

      I know! I found his work around 2004 and have been reading it regularly since. I don’t know why CN never let him just turn them all into series.

  • TiffinyVillalon

    These Girls can handled a situation in many circumstances.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/115836878@N06/12200840185/

  • Kheldarson

    Also, here’s my accepted head canon of how the PPG look as adults: http://grim.snafu-comics.com/index.php?comic_id=170

    Fair warning, this particular comic is fairly dark, since it’s more based off the Grim Tales of Billy and Mandy, rather than PPG.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      o my god i LOVED Billy and Mandy!!! =D

  • Amelia

    Okay… Blossom is sitting on Mojo Jojo’s face….in an inch long skirt….

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    BUTTERCUP!

    WHAT HAPPENED???

    MY CHILDHOOD IDOL!!

  • Tom Maker

    MMMMMM, I like the new PPG much better. What a bunch of cuties!!

  • Eva Amore

    Every super hero has to grow up someday.

  • flar

    I hate how people use the term “empowerment” to try and get away with women doing… anything.

    they might as well say “no, sucking fourteen dicks and being covered in semen in this childrens show is empowering the female lead”

    the unvierse doesnt work that way, you cant decide that just because you like seeing it… .that it wil lmake women feel empowered.