Team Pick: Your Favorite Childhood Cartoon Characters Grew Up Radically Cool, Just Like You

Have you guys seen the amazing slice of heaven Tina Vasquez, Mia McKenzie, Julio Salgado and Reyna Wrath posted at Black Girl Dangerous yesterday? “Unfit For Product Placement: Radicalizing the Cartoon Characters Of Our Childhoods” is my absolute favorite thing on the internet right now. (And that’s saying a lot, since we’re doing our best to fill the internet with sandwiches today. But this Black Girl Dangerous article is next level, fulfillment of childhood dreams awesome.)

Here’s the setup: a couple weeks ago, there was this Swagger New York article going around showing certain 90s cartoon characters as stereotypically tall, thin, rich “it girls” dressed in DVF, Rodarte, Marc Jacobs, etc. to “take on” New York fashion week/sell the public on capitalist consumerism and traditional beauty ideals. McKenzie and friends took one disgusted look at the images and wondered: “how could we parody them in a way that both poked fun at their original product-placement-readiness while also making a point about growing up and becoming who we, and our friends and communities, became (hint: we are not NY fashion models)?”

Results were spectacular.

Daria and Lisa as grownups, crumpling and stomping on women's mags

Grown up Daria and Lisa share a love of dismantling patriarchy, smashing mainstream beauty standards, and using their middleclass, cisgender, heterosexual, white girl privilege to fuck shit up from inside .

In their alternate reimagining, grown up Dora the Explorer became a queer, fat femme activist who appeared in a queer porn film with April Flores. Orange Blossom became an artist and boi dandy who prefers the pronoun “ze.” And Susie Carmichael came out in her twenties and works to create safe spaces for QTPOC .

 I know!

The writing is fantastic. The art is spot on.  And the stories of our favorite childhood cartoon characters grew up are sheer perfection.

So what are you still doing hanging around here, weirdos? Go read it!

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Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Brooklyn. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair.

Laura has written 66 articles for us.

13 Comments

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    I loved this piece, and that my fav childhood cartoon characters could grow up to be cool radical activists, but I thought the way they wrote about Mickie was problematic. All the other characters are advocates and activists, but Mickie is “radical” just because she’s trans? Mickie coming out as trans should just be her being herself. I get that the writers were trying to be inclusive, but it seems pretty tokenizing just to throw a trans narrative into the mix. Trans people are tokenzied in so many queer spaces. I think it’s important to remember that the “cool-ification” of trans people by cis people can be a form of exoticization. Here Mickie’s story is reduced to her body and her transition while the other characters (even her sister) get badass activisty lives. I really wished the writers including a few lines to give Mickie more agency, like “Mickie moved to the city with her sister, where she works at a local LGBT clinic providing low-cost healthcare to other trans women. In her spare, she manages a blog for trans latinas to write about the intersections of their identities and deconstruct cissexism and transmisogyny, and takes care of her two cats.” Or something like that.

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      Yeah I feel this! Pretty torn about it actually, since back on the first hand, I almost NEVER see fictional representations of trans women, especially trans women of color, who get to actually be respected and radicalized, in stuff like this. But on the other hand yeah, all of this.

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      Mickie is actually one of FOUR characters who are not organizers. And the idea that coming out as trans in a conservative catholic Latino family isn’t a radical act–well, tell that to the trans Latina who penned Mickie’s story.

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        I don’t know this person’s story or your story, but no, I don’t think the act of coming out is inherently radical. I think it’s a big deal and she deserves respect for being who she is and telling her family that, but to say that it’s radical is the same rhetoric as saying that it’s brave to come out. It is what it is. It can personally feel great to live your life as you want to, but additional labels of judgment, even if they’re meant to be positive just aren’t really needed and can sometimes come across as condescending.

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        Hey Mia, I think your assumption is that being queer or trans is a radical act, because it means you are non-normative and that your identities fuck with the normative systems. And ok cool, if the writer of this piece feels that way about her experiences, totally fine and more power to her. But that doesn’t mean all trans latinas feel that way or would agree that their trans status is something radical. It’s problematic to project that on other people, because there are tons of queer and trans people who reject that definition of radical (esp those who reject the way that type of thinking stems from academics who theorize about trans people, usually without an acknowledgment that trans people are actual real people), as well as tons of queer and trans people who are normative in other ways and fine with that, or think being trans is normal, or don’t think much about their sexuality or trans status at all. I get that this is all about the fake life of a fake cartoon character, but it is kinda alienating for people who are queer and/or trans and don’t see themselves as you see them.

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          It isn’t about how I see anyone. I didn’t write it. It’s about the writer’s right to tell the story she wants to tell. It’s not for you to police her story as “not radical enough.” That’s all I have to say.

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          Hey Mia,
          I think it’s fair for you to say that you didn’t write it so it’s the author’s perspective, but it’s not fair for you to say that Lauren’s trying to police the story and the author’s experience. Saying so means you didn’t read Lauren’s comment very well. I would hope that you understand how the way one story is represented (especially online) can speak to a lot more than just that person’s experience. Honestly, you’re coming across as really defensive and rude when it seems like everyone who’s commented just wanted to have a conversation with you but you shut everyone’s critiques down. I know reading comments online is often advised against but all these comments seem really constructive and rather than use them to inform future work, you just got angry and curt. I hope if you write something along these lines in the future that you take into consideration the well thought out comments people have taken time to write. There’s always more to learn, especially when it comes to intersectional feminism.

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    The Powerpuff Girls:

    Professor Utonium blamed “Chemical X” for the fact that all three of his superpowered progeny turned out to be queer, but Blossom quickly set him straight (pardon the pun). She had majored in Gender Studies at Townsville U. partly to better understand her brother Buttercup’s transition. But a funny thing happened: it was at an Allies meeting at T.U. where Blossom met the girl of her dreams — or rather, re-met her. Princess Morbucks, Blossom’s spoiled rival, had come to recognize her privilege and decided to get involved in social justice. Which Blossom found…well, pretty sexy. Meanwhile, Bubbles, volunteering abroad, underwent a similar self-discovery, falling head-over-heels for a suave Spanish senorita. And Buttercup, sassy and confident as always, was making his way through the ranks of the Townsville radical queer leadership, smashing the patriarchy and breaking hearts along the way.

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    This really frustrated me. It seemed that all the characters lost their original personality and ended up being stereotypes of the Queer Uniforms.

    Of course the genderqueer character is a boi dandy – no such thing as genderqueer non-dandies or genderqueer non-bois or genderqueer people with a relatively conventional look.

    Of course it’s Audre Lorde – because no one else has ever written about race and feminism, ever.

    Of course the Latino character only discovers his undocumented status in college – because he couldn’t have been grappling with being undocumented from day 1, or been an international student or on a work visa, or migrated outside the US and dealing with not quite fitting in anywhere.

    Everyone’s a gender and sexuality activist – because there are no other causes to support, ever, and if you’re not a radical activist you are not being a good queer.

    Lisa’a a passionate vegetarian who also plays the saxaphone. Why couldn’t she be part of a band that plays at community events, or start a blog on vegetarian cooking for the broke artist, or teach people how to play music?

    The current incarnation of Orange Blossom runs a store. Why couldn’t she run a cooperative, perhaps showcasing the work of local artists? Or get really involved in social enterprise, maybe even micro-lending?

    Dora loves exploring! Why couldn’t she host her own travel show, or lead tours of queer volunteers, or do an interview series for Lonely Planet’s TV arm?

    If we’re supposed to be ‘radical queers’ why can’t we radically imagine how else we could be, rather than throwing in the same tired stereotypes that are interchangable?

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      I get most of your comments but what’s wrong with everyone becoming a gender and sexuality activist? That’s kind of the point of the art series, and being a gender and sexuality activist doesn’t mean you can’t be an activist for other things, too.

      In fact, the series clearly states that most of the characters advocate for other movements. Dora works against fatphobia, Orange Blossom’s store benefits other cartoons of color, Diego is active in the migrant workers’ rights movement, Rallo works in the prison abolitionist movement, Susie works with People’s Community Medics and Jazmine’s involved in black womanism. Actually, that means that almost ALL of the characters they profiled (with the exception of Daria and Lisa, which they commented on) are involved in movements other than gender and sexuality.

      I think it was also the point for them to lose their original personalities, because that was a commentary on how these characters (with the exception of Daria and Lisa, again) are cast to be as unoffensive and neutral as possible.

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