If representation is important, then give us a Bliss who isn’t the result of an irresponsible white man.
I was a little late on the news of “the new Black Powerpuff Girl.” I am one of the slightly older Millennials who preferred the old version, and my one time attempt to watch the reboot was regrettable—it was an episode about Bubbles winning tickets to see this three-piece boy band who casually appropriated Black/Latinx gestures and dances, and was reminiscent of N’Sync. Sufficiently put off, I shoved this reboot out of my mind while occasionally peeking at Teen Titans Go! (which is sometimes funny but practically ruined the dark, angsty Raven, but that’s a discussion for another day).
So imagine my surprise when, a couple of days ago, I see news about a Black Powerpuff Girl. By surprise I mean, curiosity mingled with apprehension. As I learned more about Blisstina “Bliss” Francesca Francia Mariam Alicia Utonium, it wasn’t the name that struck me, nor her hippiness—characteristics mentioned in this short piece posted on Black Nerd Problems—no, what struck me was how eerily familiar Bliss’s story seemed, and how it seemed to parallel the experiences of BI/WOC with this and other European countries medical/scientific institutions.
BI/WOC bodies have routinely been exploited for the greater gains of scientific progress. That Professor Utonium would just casually file Bliss away and never mention her was quite possibly the most abhorrent part of this story for me. The shattered bottles of other abandoned experiments carelessly strewn around his laboratory seem to convey that he really considers Bliss and others to be necessary collateral damage. This short clip of her back story shows that the writers tried very hard to make us sympathize with the Professor and centers his emotions: “I assumed the worst,” he claimed after one of Bliss’s tantrums blew up the house.
The fact that Bliss was discarded and forgotten (omitted) by The Professor, mirrors what tends to happen to BI/WOC in medical and scientific institutions—we are the first, botched and easily discarded experiments—we are collateral damage. Once they are done with us they (white/male scientists) take everything they learned at our expense to create a better version—the white perfect Powerpuff girls.
There’s a lot of misogynoir floating around in comment sections about this character including claims that “SJWs” influenced the decision to add a character of color to fill diversity quotas. Comments about her body, and comments that Cartoon Network is full of “liberal brainwashing” were among the few distasteful comments I peeped while mining YouTube for clips. The fact that Bliss’s powers spiraled out of control at any strong emotion has a faint ring of femmephobia, and the fact that Professor Utonium made no move to fix something like that is sus. Small children have very strong emotions and he made no move to remedy the situation he created.
We are supposed to empathize with this mad scientist who created a little girl as part of an attempt to outdo his scientific rival but wasn’t prepared to be an actual parent. He assumed. He didn’t even bother to look for her. Bliss is a superpowered girl. Did he really believe that she perished in that explosion, yet he miraculously survived? Was he really so daft that he could not have come up with a way to help her control her powers? After all, he created her. Was it not his responsibility to ensure that she had the best life possible? Instead he labeled her dangerous and imperfect, a condition that was his fault, and rendered her an invisible afterthought.
Black women and girls shouldn’t be invisible afterthoughts, if representation is important, then give us a Bliss who isn’t the result of an irresponsible white man.