Kirkland E (2010) The politics of Powerpuff: Putting the ‘girl’ into ‘girl power’. Animation: An interdisciplinary journal, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1-16
This article investigates how the children’s TV programme The Powerpuff Girls engages with the 1990s popular and political discourse of ‘girl power’ and how this causes identity formations outside white middle-class heterosexual girlhood to be both marginalised (and vilified) in the TV show. Taking an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach to animation and children’s media, Kirkland also examines The Powerpuff Girls in relation to children’s television, superhero comics, animated films and television cartoons, specifically in terms of the representation and construction of gender, race and sexuality.
Underpinned by a close examination of the TV show in terms of narratives of generational conflict, the presence of children’s everyday culture, and child empowerment, the article builds on the theoretical approach that Kirkland developed in his PhD that critically examined the intergenerational politics of family and children’s films. By drawing attention to the blurring of adult and child agency in this TV show, Kirkland shows how the subversive reversal of power structures inherent in these age formations compromises the political dimensions of the progressive feminist ideology the show seeks to express.
A version of this paper was presented in March 2008 at the 9th Global Conference on Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness, Salzburg, Austria, in the form of 'Fighting Crime and the Forces of Evil: Cartoons, ideology and The Powerpuff Girls'. This was subsequently published in 2009 as ‘Animating “The Forces of Evil”: The politics of The Powerpuff Girls’ (2009) in Charlene P. E. Burns (Ed.) Mis/Representing Evil: Evil in an interdisciplinary key.