Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Powerpuff Girls: Super heroine Infantilization

Last week in class we discussed how super heroines are often infantilized, as such with Kitty Pryde in “Days of Future Past”. From her conservative costume, to her clueless, “cutesy” facial expressions, Kitty evokes sympathy from her fellow X-men. However, because of this she is also babied and viewed as weaker. Another example of infantilized super heroines is the Powerpuff Girls.
Upon further research, I discovered that the author had originally named the Powerpuff Girls the “Whoopass Girls”. However, the title was changed to better suit the audience of young girls. I personally would have enjoyed the latter title more because it describes their powers and abilities to fight evil a bit more accurately. Though I do find the current title cute and endearing, it does to some extent give them less credit than they deserve. In fact, it’s hard to say that this is the only thing that does so. From the doll-like limbs to the cute voices to the big, round eyes, the Powerpuff Girls are the definition of infantilization in super heroines.
In the video clip attached, Mojo Jojo has an ingenious plan to build a machine to turn the Powerpuff Girls into giantesses. By being so big, the Powerpuff Girls can’t help but destruct anything they touch. The episode features them unknowingly breaking buildings and telephone wires. Their clueless expressions and emotional reactions make them seem even more helpless and incapable. In the end, the problem can only be solved by the Professor stepping in to fix the machine that turned them into giants. Without the aid of an older, male figure, the girls would have been rendered helpless despite their supernatural powers.
This is seen a lot in comic books. Though super heroines are not necessarily school-age children like the Powerpuff Girls, they are still treated like they are the ones who need to be saved. Whether it be a love interest or a fellow team member, it seems as if men are always the ones to swoop in and save the day.


  1. Although I agree with everything you said, I feel the need to point out that Kitty Pryde kicked BUTT, & and because of her, the future mutant genocide was avoided!

    Also, I was a big fan of the PPGirls growing up, and as far as I can remember, they saved the Prof many, many times without help from an older male figure. In fact, if my memory serves, they defeated an evil Prof in one episode?. And the vast majority of the villains were male.

    Perhaps this cutesy appearance is to give these villains false confidence, and easily catch them off guard. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism. Or perhaps their unique proportions are simply due to the fact that they were created from a chemical explosion, and never developed properly.

    Irrelevant shout-out to the Rowdy Rough Boys & the Boogey-Man! Those were my favorite episodes :)

  2. I think there also needs to be mention of the target audience for this show. I completely agree that the PPGirls are infantilized, but they are meant to connect with really young girls. Even though I watched Buffy as a child, most kids didn't watch super adult shows that challenge stereotypes. This was still a villain superhero fight show actually directed towards girls instead of boys.

    Yes the girls are not made to look badass, but I think there is still an important message given that a little girl can be a hero too. They don't have to be a guy or even super grown up. The PPGirls are heroes now and they can be too. Even though it may not be done in the best way, it's a good message to send.


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