Blog post #11 – Smart Women in Animation
Girls with brains aren’t exactly common in the animation world, but they pop up now and again. For this blog post I’d like to focus on a few.
From the show Scooby Doo in all its various forms. Velma is part of a mystery solving group that included a beatnik and a very large, cowardly Great Dane. She is full of information regarding ciphers, ghosts, witchcraft, and other random, esoteric topics that enable her to solve some of the bizarre mysteries they come across.
Penny is the niece of Inspector Gadget, of the same show name. She’s really the reason her uncle is successful. She and her dog Brain run around behind his back, secretly helping him out with the use of her special computerized book. I SO wanted that book when I was little and now I realize that I have it right here in my hands, right now. Wow. I win.
Gadget is actually a mouse, part of a team of ‘Rescue Rangers’ along with Chip and Dale of Disney fame. She tinkers. A lot. This girl can craft the most awesome mechanical objects from the most random things, like MacGuyver. She’s rather oblivious to what’s going on in the rest of the world, but really, the rest of her team is so wacky it’s a wonder they manage to rescue ANYBODY.
I always thought of Daria as more cynical than smart, but was assured by my husband that she was always tops in her classes. AND cynical. And then he said, ‘If you were an animated character, you’d be her.’ I wonder what he meant by that?
Jeanette is a Chipette, created to more or less be a female counterpart to Simon Seville of Alvin and the Chipmunks. She’s nerdy AND clumsy, but warm hearted. She totally rocked the 80’s styles, though.
Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusk
The brainy one in the anime Cowboy Bebop. Yes, she’s a girl. She’s a genius at computers, hacking, and probably flying ships and building, too. Her ‘genius’ makes her completely incomprehensible to other people, both in her speech and her actions, which fall right into bizarre. She pretty much lives in her own little world. She’s part of a team of bounty hunters that probably have bounties ON them out in space.
Do you see a theme above? Notice the presence of glasses or goggles, the clothing styles, the general awkwardness. Of all of these, Penny is probably the most well-adjusted of these girls, and SHE has an uncle that needs mechanical maintenance. However, she’s totally asexual. Nothing girly about her. Edward, too, has had all femininity stripped from her character. She could be a young boy, and is often confused for one in the show. Apparently, in the animation world, if you’re a female character, you can be smart, or you can be beautiful, but not both. Still, it’s nice for young girls to be exposed to these animated girls that DO play with things other than dolls, and it’s show them it’s OK for them to be interested in computers, science, and books. After all, it’s these girls who save the day/solve the mystery at the end of the show. However, it makes you feel like you have to make a choice: brains OR beauty.
The list for the rest of the entertainment world is actually much smaller. (Please note I’m only listing what I know, so these are mainly the most obvious.) Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series would have fallen into this list, likely right at the top. Other additions might include Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory, Abby Sciuto from NCIS, and Kaylee Frye from Firefly. Of these, only Kaylee manages to get brains and beauty without being too weird, but that’s mainly because of Joss Whedon’s unusual yet admirable approach to female characters.
It’s a stereotype and an exaggeration, but effective in helping the audience get to know the character quickly. Oh, she’s wearing glasses and mismatched socks, she MUST be smart. I’m not sure whether to be annoyed at the presentation of such a character or relieved that there’s so many of them out there.