Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Five Favourite 1980s Cartoon Females

[Cross-posted from my LiveJournal.]

1. Rebel, activist, and all-round sexy, sassy heroine ("And now for my tight-wire act!"):


I remember how my friend Melissa had a She-Ra costume--sword, belt, helmet (is that what you'd call it?) I would've loved to have had one of my own, to look like She-Ra as well as act like her. What little girl wouldn't want to be like She-Ra? She embodied independence, resourcefulness, and intelligence. And she had a horse! Wonder Woman can keep her stupid plane!

I may not have had the costume, but I had She-Ra, Frosta, Sweet Bee, Entrapta, and Double Trouble dolls; my sister's Castaspella, Catra, Glimmer, Queen Angella, and Peekablue dolls; a couple of the horses; the Crystal Castle; and a very vivid imagination at my disposal.
Does knowing, as an adult, that the whole television series, created by Mattel, was essentially a marketing ploy for action figures taint my love for the She-Ra character and the rest of the strong, resourceful (even if they were evil) women of She-Ra: Princess of Power? A little, honestly. I blame this kind of exploitation of female empowerment for commercial gain for my new-found cynicism.

But cynicism is one thing. Nostalgia is another. And I still have many fond memories of She-Ra: Princess of Power, the characters, the dolls, and the many hours of inspired play when I was every bit the rebel, activist, and all-round sexy, sassy heroine as She-Ra.


Lest you immediately think I loved Jem when I invoke the cartoon of the same name, let me say this: while Lou Grant might hate spunk, little girls don't. Jem and The Holograms were not spunky. (Though, admittedly, I totally dug Aja's electric blue, only-in-a-cartoon-world angular-cut hair.) The Misfits were spunky and oh-so-rock! And Roxy was my favourite of the lot.

Roxy had the coolest white hair--I actually used to put Johnson's baby powder in my hair so I could look like Roxy!--and I coveted that one-sleeved (which was 3/4 in length) royal purple sweater (why does it look black in that clip?)
The Jem series, like She-Ra: Princess of Power, was one big ploy for hocking merchandise. But what glorious merchandise it was--the dolls came with cassettes featuring songs from the cartoon bands! Of course, I had a Roxy doll (and later a Jetta doll, too); and Jem-themed book, and a Jem board game (Concert Clash) that came with a tape full of clips of The Misfits' and The Holograms' songs.

But I never got into the Jem series as much as I did with She-Ra, partly because I wasn't allowed to. My mom was less than impressed with the way the characters in the series acted--far from the heroism, self-reliance and camaraderie exhibited by She-Ra, the Rebellion, and even the Horde.

Whereas I looked to She-Ra: Princess of Power for role models, Roxy and her fellow Jem characters were never allowed to become more than childhood fashion icons.

3. Cheetarah (Thundercats):

She totally held her own in a group of guys (I can relate to this even more as an adult than I did as a child!), and she did it all with bitchin' hair and with glam eye shadow even Gene Simmons would envy!

4. Rainbow Brite:

Sigh. Why must so many of my favourite childhood cartoons be marketing tools?
Anyway, I don't recall why I loved Rainbow so much. I just know that I did. Maybe it was because she simplistically represented all that was warm and vivid and good in my six-year-old mind? There was something about Rainbow that was just so--reassuring. (EDIT: Maybe it was, in part, that Rainbow Brite did all the things she did even though she was just a kid like me?)

I had Rainbow Brite and Patty O'Green dolls/sprites, and my sister had LaLa Orange, Canary Yellow and Red Butler dolls/sprites. Unlike my sister, I had no desire to own any of the male dolls. In hindsight, though, I wonder why I never asked for Boy Blue. If only to keep Patty O'Green company--she had SUCH a crush on him! If remember rightly, though, he was more into Rainbow. Anyway... I also had some Rainbow Brite storybooks, which came with a record to which you'd read along; a couple puzzles; and a Rainbow Brite lunchbox. As an adult, I even have a Rainbow Brite t-shirt.

The dress-up theme continues here. Except there were never actually any costumes. Both my sister and I would have our mother draw a single purple star on our left cheeks. And we'd go out in public--to the grocery store, supermarket, et cetera--like that: normal clothes, Rainbow Brite star.

5. Strawberry Shortcake, who also happens to be one of my favourite redheads:

I have the same problem with Strawberry as I do with Rainbow Brite: I can't quite put my finger on what it was about her that I loved so much.
Whatever it was, it warranted my owning a couple dolls (Strawberry Shortcake and Orange Blossom); a couple games (a Strawberry Shortcake bingo/domino/memory card set); a movie (Strawberry Shortcake: Housewarming Surprise); a birthday card or ten (not surprising, given that Strawberry Shortcake was originally conceived for greeting cards produce by American Greetings); et cetera. I also think that I may have had a pair of Strawberry Shortcake pajamas, but I'm not quite sure...

What I am sure of is my Strawberry Shortcake saturation back in the early to mid 1980s. Apparently, though, I wasn't alone:

At least I can say that I never had the cereal! Sugary cereals were verboten in my house. It was oatmeal or cream of wheat--both which I love to this day--for me!


Anonymous said...

I loved all 5 too!
Total marketing vehicles, but somehow it doesn't seem as bad as the commercialism today. Sure, Jem and the Holograms weren't as cool as She-Ra, but Jerrica did have her own company and charitable foundation, and they made music on their terms. Better role models than today's skanky Bratz girls.

Kerri said...

I loved all of those, but my favourite was Strawberry Shortcake! My mom told me that she the only reason I wanted the dolls was for the toy animals that came along with them. Ha! I also loved the Hugga Bunch!! I had this to ) that I got at Taco Bell!! Ohh and the Snorkles and one of my favourite toys were Puffalumps!! I LOVED THE 80's. Why can't that decade come back???

Anonymous said...

I miss the 80s, although I do blame He-Man for my homosexuality ;p

Merry Christmas!


Natalie said...

Skylar: I got the first volume of She-Ra: Princess of Power on DVD for Christmas, and as I go through all the episodes, I can't help getting excited about the day when I'll be able to show the series to children of my own! I mean, they even have an episode on free speech!

Kerri: I had a Hugg-a-Bunch doll, too: Bubbles and Sudsy (Sudsy was Bubbles' baby. Or whatever they called it.) My parents gave Mer and I each a doll when Alex was born to try to stave off any sibling rivalry--they told us that Alex gave us the dolls! And I remember you being the Puff-a-lump queen!

Jae: I don't think you could find a better person to blame! She-Ra's SO much cooler, though. And a (belated) Merry Christmas to you, too!