12 Throwback Feminist Cartoon Characters That Inspired Your Feminist Awakening
Charlotte Pickles, The Rugrats, 1991-2004
Clad in a power suit, Angelica’s CEO mother is the subliminal feminist message in your childhood, that formed you into the boss you are today. Especially with lines like this:
Spinelli, Recess, 1997-2001
Unwilling to abide by the oppressive social norms of the middle school majority, Ashley Spinelli is the fiercely loyal muscle of her diverse clique. Spinelli is tough, but complex, and still completely feminine, but on her own terms. She even refuses to go by her first name, Ashely, in order to disassociate herself with the vapid “mean girl” clique comprised of all Ashleys. Spinelli taught us budding feminists to be tough, and believe in ourselves.
The Powerpuff Girls, The Powerpuff Girls, 1998-2005
Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup were wee little personifications on what it meant to be a girl. They also kicked ass, protected their single father, and thwarted evil. Though the girls were made of the cliched sugar, spice, and everything nice, the show itself made sure gender norms were questioned, parodied, and broken.
Turunga Leela, Futurama 1999-2003 on Fox, Comedy Central 2008-2013
Leela, is the beautiful, one-eyed, powerhouse captain of the Planet Express ship. She’s a fighter, a competent leader, and often saving her mostly male crew from danger. Though she is a fighter, she is also a wanna-be lover, but is often fawned over by idiots. She is an animal rights activist and admittedly has identity issues due to her hazy past.
Helga Pataki, Hey Arnold! 1996-2004
We all feel like a Helga sometimes. We love to question authority and sometimes we have trouble expressing ourselves. Helga challenges gender norms and is true to herself, even when she puberty was constantly shaping and re-shaping who exactly she was.
Reggie Rocket, Rocket Power, 1999-2004
Reggie Rocket did all of the “xtreme” sports just as good, or better than her all male crew. She is a smart athlete that, in several episodes showed that her talents didn’t come overnight. She was my athletic role model, for sure.
Penny Proud, The Proud Family 2001-2005
A 14-year-old girl who is not only a straight A student but also writes for the school newspaper and played on the football team to show that girls could be just as good. She also comes from a family where her father is budding entrepreneur, and her mother is the breadwinner.
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider Video Game Series, 1996–
More than just a female India Jones, Lara Croft has a fully realized backstory, and kickass moves to match. She can leap over chasms and shoot two guns at once. She needs all these skills and more to explore ruins and search for priceless relics, all while baddies try to kill her. Lara is a survivor, and does it all with adventurer chic.
Loopy, Life With Loopy/Kablam, 1996-2000
Life with Loopy, a stop-motion sketch in the show Kablam, starred 12-year-old Larry who recants the adventures of his imaginative younger sister Lupicia aka Loopy. Not only is Loopy, clever and unique. She is also rebellious and inquisitive. She was constantly questioning the world around her, and when she wasn’t satisfied, interpreted it for herself.
Bunnie “Rabbot” D’Coolette, Sonic The Hedgehog, first appearance 1993
Bunnie has a rather complex storyline in the sonic the Hedgehog universe. She was a normal anthropomorphized rabbit until her early teens, when the evil Dr. Robotnik kidnapped her and “robiticized” her legs and left arm. What drew me to Bunnie was that she was sassy, sexy, and strong. She had super strength due to her robotics and was the muscle of the group. Growing up, I was thrilled to finally see a “muscle” character be a female, and to also have the emotional strength to deal with her difficult past, and her transition into her robotic body.
Jasmine, Aladdin, 1992
Jasmine was the Disney princess who wanted to be in charge of her own destiny. She also gave us the line “I am not a prize to be won!” That pretty much changed everything (at least for me)
Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons 1989–
Lisa was my first feminist idol, and definitely was the trailblazer. The Simpsons is a show rooted in its social commentary, and satire. However, it’s in the clever and creative writing that really makes all these lessons stick. The season 4 episode “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” is an essential watch. I am privileged to have seen this growing up:
All hail the lizard queen!
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