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20 years later, 'The Powerpuff Girls' still breaking stereotypes

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MUMBAI: Home-grown animation is finally finding its way to Indian kids’ TV channels but the fact remains that most of the cartoons are predominantly male-oriented. Whether it is a storyline revolving around boys or about a male protagonist, the number of stories about girls is limited. Indian channels are replete with examples such as Chhota Bheem, Pokemon, Doraemon, and Popeye (wherein Olive Oyl is constantly in the need of being rescued).

One show, which has been the bastion of Cartoon Network (CN) for more than two decades, is The Powerpuff Girls. Produced by Cartoon Network Studios with Nick Jennings as executive producer and Bob Boyle as co-executive producer; it has earned more than $2.5 billion in retail sales in its lifetime. The cartoon was dubbed in various languages such as Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Finnish and Danish.

It was in 1995 when the heroic girls got their first animation showcase on a programme called What a Cartoon! Only in 1998 did The Powerpuff Girls get taken seriously with the final episode concluding on 25 March 2005. Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup weren’t merely cartoons but an image of women empowerment to every girl on the planet. The popularity soared among girls who could finally connect with avatars that represented their inner ambitions of making the world a better place.

Come February, the network is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the global rollout of new episodes, events and products that will continue till 2019. The fourth sister, Bliss, will also return throughout the year.

In most shows around that time, and even now, male characters were given the more masculine qualities like strength, valour, courage and the tag of being the ‘rescuer’ while the females were restricted to roles of the humble daughter or girlfriend or a side character (Misty in Pokemon, Shizuka in Doraemon). The transformed world hasn’t impacted these characters from being named as ‘all-time favourites’. The vast differences in the personality traits between the strong, funny, deceitful, greedy, smart, charming male characters against the humble, soft-spoken, dependent female characters frame the plot of these shows.

Today efforts are being made to show female characters without the sexism implicit of earlier times. The cases in point are Merida from Brave, Princess Elsa from Frozen and Princess Riley from Inside OutKim Possible was also a groundbreaking show aired in 2002-2007 that showed the life and adventures of a teenage girl.

Kids imitate what they see and especially characters they fall in love with. These early-age behaviours mould their adulthood as well, making it a strong case for producers to create a balance and indulge in enforced role-reversal.

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