Top Five Cartoons with Strong Female Role Models for Kids

Where are the Strong Female Role Models in Kid’s Cartoons?

This was a hard list to put together. You would think with all the cartoons out there marketed to children one could find a few good ones for girls. Not so much. My list of fifteen quickly became what I imagined to be a more manageable list of ten, and then a disillusioned list of five. My simple writing assignment became a five am quest in search of something, anything to bring to the table.

It seems that wherever I looked there were plenty of female characters, all in skimpy outfits, not too bright, only aspiring to be saved by a prince, or started out nerdy and was saved by being made beautiful. Of course they needed saving and of course it was a man/boy who had to do it. Good God in the morning! The least they could do is let them wear colors other than pastels. There is nothing wrong with little girls wanting to be pretty, or wanting romance. However, to make it sound that this is all they can ever aspire to want is wrong and wasteful.

I would say that Wonder Woman from the Justice League was the closest thing to a traditional super hero that was marketed to girls in cartoon form in the last century, but she was still clothes deficient. Honestly, lasso and bracelets aside, how comfortable could fighting crime really be if you are constantly worried that your strapless push-up bra is going fail if you bend over? The newer comics are cool though. Not for little girls, but the big ones might enjoy them.

And the next would be the X-Men ladies, like Storm and Jean Grey and Rouge. However, these are not stories that are appropriate for small children.

I quickly learned that Disney must have something against girls being strong and capable and able to take care of themselves. I guess I knew that, not being a great fan of Disney for that reason, but this project really brought it home. Even with a strong story like Pocahontas and Mulan, they wussed out the leads. The stories are so very different from reality that I just don’t feel I can list them. I mean really far from reality. The only thing that wasn’t changed was location and names. That is not to say that Disney animated movies aren’t entertaining or appropriate for children. They just don’t show women in the best light all the time. That pretty much takes care of Disney, except for a couple of exceptions. Here is the assembled list of Five.

One: Kim Possible. (Disney channel 2002-2007. 86 episodes) Kim Possible and her sidekick Ron Stoppable are part of an international crime fighting duo. She is smart, athletic, clothed and still a cheerleader. She falls into the Buffy category of strong female leads, but I kind of like that. It doesn’t make pretty and intelligence mutually exclusive. The show is well written and funny for adults, with tons of guest voices like Ricardo Montalban, Gary Cole, Nicole Sullivan, Elliot Gould and Patrick Warburton. This is my top pick and you can find it on DVD for purchase, at least through season three. Oddly enough their has been little merchandising from Disney for Kim Possible. Instead, they canceled it, shelved it and seem to be trying to forget about it. You can find a lot of the episodes on line though, not that I am endorsing any sort of Internet piracy. There is a Kim Possible Movie, called Kim Possible the Movie: So the Drama, released by Disney in 2005, which is also available for purchase.

Two: Animaniacs: (Warner Brothers cartoon running from 1993-1998) Dot Warner is funny, smart, sarcastic and a well rounded character in a show that is well written, often musical, funny for kids and totally appropriate in the cartoon world for any age. A whole array of shorts from Pinky and the Brain as well as Dot, Yakko and Wakko Warner can be found on YouTube, but you can also buy the series. Well worth it, very funny and well written brought to you by Steven Spielberg of all people.

Three: Gargoyles: (Disney Channel series, 1994-1996) This is another Disney cancellation. Starring Keith David as Goliath, this incredibly smartly written show brings the past into the present with Gargoyles and a lady cop, Eliza Maza, played by Salli Richardson-Whitfield. Set in New York, the character of Eliza has to protect and teach the Gargoyles as they try to find their way through magic, deceit and crime. It also has voice work done by Ed Asner, Johnathon Frakes, John Ryes Davies, Marina Sirtis and Clancy Brown. Seasons One and Two are available on DVD.

Four: Scooby Doo: (1969 more or less to present. Current incarnation on Cartoon Network) Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Daphne could not possibly fit into this category. She sort of does and so does Velma. Both are members of a weird crime fighting unit that travels around in a van. While Daphne doesn’t seem as smart as Velma, being pretty and all, she is still part of a team, and Velma is not only smart but brave, and not being pretty shouldn’t be a deterrent. Look, I really had to dig for this list, and over all, I like Scooby Doo.

Five: The Last Airbender: (Nickelodeon, 2005-2008, 60 episodes) Like the comics, one of the three main characters is a teen age girl, Katara, who finds it her role to ensure that the Last Airbender, Aang, learns to use his powers and lives to save the world from the Fire Nation. She is strong, intelligent, interesting and the show also has many side female characters that are the same. It is well written and while I don’t particularly like the style of animation, it’s pretty good. Some cartoon violence, like the comics, puts the female characters in positions that require them to be strong. It’s not Strawberry Shortcake.

Honorable mentions:

Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.

Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts

Miss Piggy, from Jim Hensons the Muppets. Not a cartoon, but I love that pig.

Cartoon shows NEVER to be shown to little girls.

Power Puff Girls. May the show’s creators be eaten by weasels. Angry weasels. And yes, before you ask, I have watched the show. I was told this was going to be on the list of programming for girl role models. I won’t get into it, as it would just raise my blood pressure, but no. Not at all. Not even a little bit. The trans-gender villains, had to be a villain, makes the whole thing even worse. How many wrong stereo types can be perpetuated by one show? They really pushed the envelope on that one.

The Smurfs. The only female character in that show was Smurfette, who was created to lure the other smurfs away into the clutches of evil, and then just became a weird little bit of background noise.

*Factual dates and such can be found on IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base.

Other little things to watch:

http://cinemaroll.com/fantasy/five-fantasy-movies-for-kids/

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19 Responses to “Top Five Cartoons with Strong Female Role Models for Kids”
  1. Camilla Strand says:

    Can I just mention, Fraggle Rock. I was watching it the other day, and the two female characters are well developed, funny and adventurous. A wiinner in my book for women in cartoon!

  2. Annie Hintsala says:

    Ummm….except they’re puppets.

  3. Calare says:

    Annie, good write up.
    The only cartoon I kind of liked with a strong female lead is Tutenstein, which is probably not for little kids, I don’t know. I haven’t watched it in years, but way back when, the girl was smart, the mummy/boy/king was self absorbed and needed to be rescued by HER, and it was entertaining.
    I too am tired of seeing women/girls be worth something when the man/boy shows up, and her hair is perfect. Seriously? Still?

  4. Mark Gordon Brown says:

    I always preferred Jane Lane from daria

  5. Ima Vee says:

    Of all the characters you stated, I love Kim Possible and Mulan… For me, they’re the best…

    Nice share.. :D

  6. Ken says:

    why not power puff? they had determination, strong teamwork, and are looked upon by the other characters as saviors, Heros.

  7. @Ken,
    there are so many tings wrong with that, I’m not sure where to start. There power didn’t come from intelligence, or anything they gained themselves. They were created with the power of ‘cute’ and they didn’t have their power without it. They sounded and acted like idiots in mini-skirts. Little girls are more than idiots in mini-skirts, and any power they have isn’t given to them by their Dad from the power of ‘cute’.i could pick the show apart and give you pages of what’s wrong with it, but why? If you like the show, it wouldn’t matter. And thats fine. Hopefully you will never spawn any little girls.

  8. m says:

    Sailor Moon is totally great. It has a wide range of appeal.

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  10. deedee says:

    juniper lee! she fights demons with the help of her badass grandmother. fillmore — the title character is a boy but his partner ingrid is the smartest kid in the school and is a complete equal. it’s a kid’s cop show, they solve crimes in their school. how about recess? two stong girls in the friend group.

  11. Eden says:

    Hey I love the powerpuff girls! Yes they were created from sugar, spice and everything nice (has nothing to do with cuteness or looks at all) but the clumsy professor dropped a bottle of CHEMICAL X!! In there so THAT gave them superpowers… Why a grown man was trying to create little girls in his basement is a whole other story. The powerpuff girls are all different, strong characters and they kick some bad boy ass!! Sounds to me like you only watched one episode, with Him (the devil character) and decided to judge it from that…

  12. @Eden.
    No, you have a warped idea of what a strong woman is. A strong character wouldn’t have to speak in baby voices or rely on being cute to get them out of anything. Also, even if the cross dressing devil was only in one episode (which he wasn’t) that would put paid to the whole show right there. Talk about evil stereo types. Whats wrong with a little intelligence instead of kicking boy ass with their super high pitched voices? No, my opinion stands. They should not be watched by ANYBODY, let along impressionable young girls. I mean, look what they did to Eden…

  13. Julia says:

    First of all, there was no reason to attack Eden or Ken and if you’re going to resort to logical fallacies I don’t need to waste my time with this. Nevertheless, I go on. I very much disagree with you about the Powerpuff Girls. They didn’t rely on being cute to get out of things, they beat up their enemies. Especially Buttercup, who didn’t exactly enjoy being cute, but instead was a violent sonofagun. They sounded like idiots because that’s how the majority of children’s cartoon characters sound. Of course they speak in baby voices; they’re little girls. They don’t run around solving crimes or doing math equations because they’re super heroes, they just don’t do that. Instead, they put bad guys in prison, and what’s wrong with looking nice while doing so? Also, when children see Him, they just think he’s weird, not that he’s a transvestite. Yeah, it may be a stereotype, but kids just don’t see that. It goes right over their heads, so how can it brainwash them?

  14. Julia, I am not attacking anyone. I am rebutting. There is a difference. An attack is a beer bottle to the head in a back alley. A rebuttle is an answering argument to a difference of opinion.
    The powerpuff girls reinforce stereotypes by reinforcing stereotypes. Those things are stereotypes in our culture because, wrong or not, they have become ingrained into our social structure. Girls have to speak in baby voices (no, they don’t, actually most don’t). Men in dresses look weird and are the bad guys (that completely depends on culture). The Violent sonofagun has to be a redhead (what?) and the only way to solve problems when being a ’superhero’ is to beat up the bad guys. Really? Girls can be way, way, way, way, way, way, way more than that show portrays them, and I think its sad that so many people think that this is what little girls should strive to be. Baby talking, cutsie, homophobic bullies.

  15. jess says:

    What about rainbow dash? My Little Ponies is such a hit in my house hold.
    the plot is refreshing. the characters have personality traits that can be seen in them selves or people around them. the characters grow and we get to watch them learn. we each have our favorite including my son. its a modest show that dosent just suck your brain out with innuendo and farting boogers. its girlish which is good because were talking about girls here. there are plenty of male ponies doing guy stuff in the back ground and fhen there is sweet spike. there are no swords to weld just situations to overcome.

  16. Hi Jess,
    Yeah, I think My Little Ponies is a great show, we watch it as well, but they aren’t people or even people like. They are ponies, and I was talking more along the lines of actual people, little girls who could be little girls and do not just cutsie things, but things that are sometimes thought of as just little boy things, like playing ball or fishing, or doing yard work, etc. I would say I like “Jane and the Dragon”, not an American show, but one I have caught in the last couple of years and I would certainly add it to the list.

  17. casey says:

    I really like word girl!

  18. Mark2000 says:

    I agree with you, Annie. Power Puff Girls is not an appropriate girl power show. I enjoyed it in college and thought it might be good for my daughter. Fortunately I rescreened it first. The pilot episode features the most blatant succubus character disguised as a perfect 50’s housewife the professor can’t resist. Both sides of her were gross and not something I’d want my girl to watch. I’m getting the sense that wasn’t a one off mistake in judgement.

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