The Powerpuff Girls was one of the staples of my childhood TV schedule. I loved the idea of a group of girl superheroes that could save the day. Not only were they girls, they were in kindergarten and young enough that I could relate to them on a deeper level. They were young girls who dealt with normal kid stuff during the day but were still able to kick the butts of monsters and super villains that threatened their city. The three main characters had diverse personalities and it was common for the audience to see themselves in at least one of them.
In an attempt to make the perfect little girl, Professor Utonium mixed sugar, spice, and everything nice in his science lab. During the process, he accidentally spills a chemical into the mix called Chemical X that gives the girls superpowers such as flight, x-ray vision, and super strength.
Blossom is the leader of the group and her signature colors are pink and red. She’s quick-witted rational but can sometimes be bossy and overbearing. Buttercup is the muscle of the group and her color is green. She’s the tomboy who’s always ready to fight but often runs completely on instinct instead of sticking to the plan or thinking about the situation first. Last but not least is Bubbles, the sweet and “bubbly” one who wears blue and pigtails. She can let her emotions and positive outlook cloud her judgment and she’s often perceived as weak and airheaded.
The perception of Bubbles always felt unfair because she was the Powerpuff girl I identified with most. I shared her sense of kindness and love for animals. Bubbles would carry around a stuffed octopus named Octi in the same way I carried around a stuffed doll named Pinky. Just like Bubbles, I was always the first to cry when something upset me or made me sad and I also felt underestimated by my peers because of my seemingly submissive personality.
The development of her character speaks to the childhood fears of growing up. Childish things like crying and playing with dolls are acceptable up to a certain age but one of the important aspects of the show is watching the girls as they grow up. Even though they are super powered, they are not immune to the life experiences of a normal human child. Along with physical monsters, they face things like school, sibling relationships, bullying, and crushes. As kids grow up, playing with dolls and crying become unacceptable. Instead of changing to fit this idea of what it means to be strong, Bubbles remains true to herself and she finds her own strength in her sensitivity. She’s just as strong as her sisters and the Powerpuff Girls team cannot function at full capacity without her.
Bubbles has a unique dilemma of being underestimated by the people around her even though she’s shown to be on an equal playing field as the rest of her team. These aspects of her character show a rejection of the idea that feminine things and expressing emotion are inherently weak or inferior. Bubbles is consistently seen as weak because she’s cute. She wears pigtails whereas the other two Powerpuff Girls wear their hair down. She has a higher pitched voice in comparison with the other girls as well. She chooses to spend her free time coloring and playing with stuffed animals as opposed to reading or playing dodgeball. Her sisters often tease her because of her interests.
We see the underestimating of Bubbles in action in an episode from the first season titled Bubblevicious. In this episode, the Powerpuff Girls are training in a virtual reality chamber with The Professor. While Blossom and Buttercup are given higher difficulty levels, The Professor and the rest of the Powerpuff Girls purposefully turn down the difficulty when it’s Bubbles’ turn because they don’t think that she can handle fighting giant virtual monsters on her own. As a result, she ends up going on a solo rage-induced rampage throughout the episode to prove that she’s just as hardcore as they are. At her low point, Mojo Jojo, their recurring villain, kidnaps her. Just as she’s about to break into tears, she ends up beating him all by herself, earning validation from her sisters when they come to save her.
Seeing a sensitive character be equally as strong as her peers helped me come to terms with my own sensitivity. I hated myself for crying in emotionally heightened situations and seeing Bubbles comforted me, letting me know that it was ok to cry sometimes. Later on, I built on this idea and learned that not only was it ok but it was healthy and a valid way to express my uncomfortable and complicated emotions. Bubbles was a character that not only I, but all the other kids who were labeled as crybabies could relate to.
Author: Danielle Fraser
Editor: Han Angus