Before the new Powerpuff Girls came out, my children were interested in seeing the original. As one who enjoyed the original, I obliged them with said request through the magic of Netflix. Here are a few things I learned watching the show now as a Dad with my own kids.
1. There is Not a Lot of Topical Humor
One of the things that struck me about Animaniacs which makes it less accessible for my kids was all the 90s topical humor. The original episodes of Powerpuff Girls hold up a bit better in no small part because there was less of it. There were some references, but mostly to older pop culture some of which was going to be over kid’s heads even in the 90s when the show first aired. In the end, the Powerpuff Girls was focused on a fake city called Townsville and by focusing smaller on this area it kept to a much better plot. Part of what is making the reboot of the Powerpuff Girls less good is all the forced topical and meme references. They’re trying too hard. The original knew when to insert one and when not to, to keep the characters and the action moving.
2. Ms. Bellum Should be Mayor
The Mayor of Townsville is grossly incompetent. If it wasn’t for the Powerpuff Girls living there and Ms. Sara Bellum being a capable assistant, the town would have collapsed years ago. She is smart, clever, and more than capable of handling herself as seen in an actual battle one episode with the girls are incapacitated. Bellum is more than capable and a strong, independent woman. Yes, she’s also portrayed as beautiful and an object of desire from multiple male characters on-screen. Yet, she’s not a token female, she fights back against those who wish to objectify her, and her role shows that she’s not merely a character who exists as “eye-candy.” She’s incredibly helpful and really the brains behind managing Townsville. If I lived in Townsville, I’d vote for her for Mayor. Then again, if I lived in Townsville – I’d move. That place isn’t a safe place to raise your kids! All that said, I’m disappointed to see Bellum excluded from the Powerpuff Girl reboot.
3. The Show is Rather Violent
The original included a lot of fight scenes. The Powerpuff Girls did not shy away from combat situations. Unlike the reboot, instead of seeing slow motion punches for almost everything – you see all the strikes. You see the outcome of the fights too, as we see Mojo Jojo in the above screenshot brutally beaten in an encounter with the Powerpuff Girls. While cartoonish, the violence is still real and shows actual consequences of the fight sequences. Instead of an enemy merely blowing up or disappearing into the ether, enemies who are beaten are shown as…beaten. When the Powerpuff Girls get hurt, they are shown actually hurt. Violence has real consequences and I can respect them for actually showing that on-screen.
All in all, the show still holds up. It’s not the greatest piece of television – but it’s fun action scenes with strong female characters who are both feminine and powerful, without being sexualized. I can appreciate a cartoon like that.