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Powerpuff Stuff

The re-vamped heroes still have their Mojo (Jojo).

By Entertainment


illustration by Jarad Solomon

The feminist utopia of my dreams is a place where everyone eats candy while discussing critical theory and their theoretical girl crushes on Laura Mulvey. In this fantasy world, these conversations are punctuated by girl bands who sing about cartoons and cartoons about girl bands.

Today, my dream came one step closer to a reality when it was announced that Seattle-based band Tacocat recorded the theme song, “Who’s Got the Power,” for the 2016 Powerpuff Girls reboot, which is set to air this April on Cartoon Network.

“The Powerpuff Girls” originally aired on Cartoon Network from 1998 to 2005. The series followed three super sisters,  Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, as they fought crime and more often than not, sexism in the city of Townsville. In the original series, the villains were scheming and outlandish as is  characteristic of the superhero genre; their number one nemesis was Mojo Jojo — a green monkey with his brain encased in a plexiglass helmet.

The 2000 soundtrack to “The Powerpuff Girls” featured tracks by Devo and Dressy Bessy. Shonen Knife even let the Powerpuff Girls crash the video for “Buttercup (I’m a Supergirl).” An indie band with a gnarly beach goth slant and punchy, Riot Grrrl-esque lyrics may seem like an unlikely pick to provide a theme song for a children’s cartoon series. But the vibrant, snarly, feminist ethos of Tacocat pairs perfectly with the spunk of a re-vamped Blossom, Bubbles,
and Buttercup. Even the album covers for Tacocat projects are candy-colored dreams. 

The title of the band’s 2014 release “NVM” is spelled out in gumballs; it’s an aesthetic choice that’s nearly as visually satisfying as three streaks of turqouise, lime, and pink shooting across the city of Townsville. Tacocat’s overall energy is a familiar combination of sugar, spice, and a little something extra.

Whereas the Powerpuff Girls derive their edge from an unspecified chemical X, Tacocat derives their fierce energy from cutting basslines similar to those on early Ramones tracks. Their raw energy, coupled with the the gleeful odes to rad ladies in tracks like “Sk8 Witches” and the upcoming “Horse Grrrls” make them the perfect soundtrack for, per the lyrics in “Who’s Got the Power,” “kicking butt before bedtime.”

Cartoon reboots are tricky to navigate; it’s tough to maintain the original integrity of a series while appealing to a new generation of fans. Even the animation style of “The Powerpuff Girls” 2016 reboot features thinner lines more reminiscent of current Cartoon Network favorite “Adventure Time.” Cartoon Network also hired three new voice actors to take on the roles of Blossom (Amanda Leighton), Bubbles (Kristen Li), and Buttercup (Natalie Palamides), as a new executive producer. The Powerpuff Girls even upgraded their trusty hot pink landline to a shiny
pink smartphone.

It’s easy to wonder whether today’s kids will be as inspired to fight crime and stick together as the kids of the early 2000s. There is a Spice Girls-level of relatability to Blossom and the gang. Even though they can fly and they spend significant portions of their days fighting evil monkeys, fans can still find ways to relate. Whether they’re inspired to take charge like Blossom, kick ass like Buttercup, or occupy the duality of being gentle and tough like Bubbles, fans are presented with multifaceted, strong, female characters who know how to support their town and each other. Though each Powerpuff does have one defining characteristic, it doesn’t mean they are flat characters.

In the first clip of the 2016 reboot, the Powerpuff Girls are battling a force even more sinister than Mojo Jojo: a men’s rights activist who wants Townsville to get back to its “manly roots.” In a sly nod to the sexism that perpetuates the cartoon industry, show runners swapped an evil laugh for a neckbeard.

It’s brilliant — even more so when the bearded-bro taunts Buttercup saying, “Go play with your dollies, princess,” and she explodes screaming, “Don’t call me princess,” punctuating each word with a punch before grabbing him by his scruffy beard and hurling him off into the distance. It’s a moment of pure feminist fury, one that is more impactful in 46 seconds than the hour and 58 minutes of lukewarm homogenized “just be yourself” drivel that Universal attempted to pass off as a “Jem and the Holograms” reboot. Watching Buttercup’s red-faced unfiltered rage is a welcome sight; a reminder that girls can be tough. Though our culture stresses unity and togetherness as signifiers of feminist fortitude, sometimes it’s okay to just get mad.

It is with little to no irony that I will happily cite the Powerpuff Girls as the figureheads for my first primordial encounters with feminist discourse. So I am admittedly slightly jealous that today’s kids get brand new “Powerpuff Girls” complete with a theme song by a feminist surf-punk band. But my jealousy is tempered by the fact that a whole new generation of kids will learn how to kick ass and stick together while cultivating a solid taste in music beyond “Wheels on the Bus.”

“The Powerpuff Girls” will premiere in April on Cartoon Network. Tacocat’s new album “LostTime” will be released on April 1 via Hardly Art.

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