By, Phoenix Robertson
Happy Women’s History Month! In honor of Women’s History Month, which is a time to appreciate and learn about the contributions of women all over the world to society, I have decided to rank my top 3 favorite “girl power”-centered kids’ shows that I have watched. Children’s shows are often hard to get right–by get right I mean not be made totally cringey; additionally, shows focused around girl power and women’s empowerment are often also difficult to execute in a tasteful manner that doesn’t just do diversity-for-diversity’s-sake. These shows make it look like a walk in the park. Keep reading for my list of top 3 kids’ girl power shows and sublists that talk about my favorite moments and characters!
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
I cannot express how many times I have watched She-Ra and the Princesses of Power– let’s just say it’s more than I can count– but it is truly a fantastic show. While it is based on the 80s He-Man spinoff series She-Ra: The Princess of Power, this 2018 reboot takes the best parts from the original series and reamplifies areas where the original show came up short. This series was written by ND Stevenson, who was also the writer for the Nimona series.
She-Ra, in my opinion, is the perfect model for girl power and women’s empowerment-focused children’s shows. This marvelous series features strong, independent characters, individuals across the spectrum of gender identities and sexualities, as well as a great deal of racial diversity. She-Ra also does an excellent job of showing that strength and power is more than something that can be judged off of appearance. While She-Ra features the stereotypical “caped crusader look,” tall and muscular, the show also stars heroes of varying body types, which shows young and old viewers alike that anyone can be a hero.
The show centers on She-Ra, also known as Adora, and her fight to preserve the natural magic of Etheria and battle her own ideas about the world that she absorbed during her time as a brainwashed soldier of the Horde, a group of evil doers on Etheria. She fights alongside Princess Glimmer, daughter of Queen Angella and the rebel rouser of the group; Bow, you guessed it, an archer; and a variety of other princesses and heroes from across the enchanting lands, seas, and skies of Etheria. For my She-Ra sublist, I’ve decided to share my favorite characters from the series’ 5 season run. If this show interests you, consider checking out these episodes!
- Seahawk: Seahawk is one of the few male characters in She-Ra, but he is the perfect comedic relief for She-Ra and her team. Seahawk is a sailor, tour guide, and a bard in every sense of the word. His solution to every situation is to talk about the sparkliness of his purple mustache and to sing a quick sea shanty to lighten the mood. Throughout the show, he also formed a close relationship with the Princess of Salineas, Princess Mermista. After hearing Seahawk’s many sea shanties, I became interested in the genre and began to listen to real shanties about the lives of true sailors and was fascinated. It is for this reason that I enjoy the hilarious stylings of the bard of She-Ra, Seahawk.
- Queen Angella: Queen Angella is the mother of one of the most disliked characters in the show, Princess Glimmer, but should be known for being more than just Glimmer-the-loudmouth’s mom. She undergoes a great deal of character transformation throughout her short time on the show. Due to the disappearance and supposed death of her husband King Micah, Angella had to become the one and only ruler of the kingdom of Bright Moon. I admire her strength and level headedness throughout the series, even when she was forced to make difficult decisions that often cost the love of her remaining family members and respect of her friends. She is an excellent representation of what it means to be a leader and to have to deal with a difficult family/home life at the same time.
- Scorpia: One of the most memorable lines of the entire series was, “I’ve had a real challenge of a day!” This quintessential line from She-Ra was said by Scorpia. Scorpia is a soldier in the Horde army and a huge softie. Her character undergoes major changes throughout the course of the show, mostly consisting of Scorpia having to learn that she is more than what she can give to others and that just because you care about someone there is no guarantee that they will ever think of you in the same way. I can distinctly remember the first time I watched She-Ra and saw an episode with Scorpia’s character;I was instantly interested in where her character would go. I love the way she grew over the course of the series and learned to accept herself and others. Her character is definitely one of my favorite animated characters of all time.
Star vs. The Forces of Evil
Star Butterfly is about the most girl-power character I can imagine. She’s a 15-year-old girl, who just so happens to be a princess from another universe, who firmly believes in the power of being yourself and is equipped with a magical wand that allows her to summon anything from her imagination. She is accompanied by her best friend, well, best Earth friend, Marco Diaz on her adventures to save Earth, Mewni, and any other worlds she encounters from evil, some sparkle along the way. This show lasted for 4 seasons and premiered on Disney XD.
This show does, of course, an excellent job of presenting strong female leads and emphasizing that “girls can do everything!” idea, but it also does very well with presenting difficult family dynamics. Throughout the course of the show, Star struggles to understand and come to terms with her relationship with her mother, the Queen of Mewni, Moon Butterfly. The two are always at odds and have a difficult time trying to learn how to have a healthy relationship with the other. Star also struggles with the idea forced upon her by many of the citizens of Mewni and her family members that she must be exactly like every princess that came before her, studious, orderly, and perfectly proper. Towards the end of the series Star and Queen Moon are able to bridge the gap in their relationship and learn what a mother-daughter relationship looks like for them and that it’s ok to be different than your predecessors.
The whole “it’s ok to be different” idea is one that is often played over and over again in children’s television, often to the point of the audience saying, “oh my gosh, we get it!”, but this is for a reason. There is still a great deal of stigma in the children’s television industry around being anything other than the socially acceptable version of “different,” but many different identities and individuals often get excluded from the screen. Star Butterfly isn’t the perfect example of what it means to be different and to be widely rebuked for being yourself. She is different in a palatable and marketable way; of course she is, she’s a television show character. However, what this series does well is that it opens the door to future discussions about there being more to life than uniformity. The series features various characters, mostly later on in its run, that stretch the audience’s ideas of what it means to be accepted and acceptable. The significance of Star’s character in this is that she is able to be different enough to be relatable to her intended audience: young girls When she does and says different things, these ideas and statements can be accepted as legitimate ideas. Star experiences the world in a unique way that teaches her audience the joy in being different and the joys that can be found in accepting others, which I think is very important.
For my Star sublist, I’ve decided to share my top 3 favorite episodes from the series’ long run. I remember when I was first watching the show how overwhelming it felt to have so many episodes and so much lore that I needed to understand to be able to fully enjoy the show, but I’m definitely glad that I was able to watch the show in its entirety to be able to absorb all of the information and content. After watching the show these are my favorite episodes from the series.
- “Blood Moon Ball” (episode 8, season 1): The “Blood Moon Ball” is one of the most popular episodes of Star vs. The Forces of Evil and is definitely one of the best. This episode isn’t particularly deep or special; it’s your average prom-esque episode of a kid’s show. It’s cute, it’s simple, and it shows the characters in their best formal wear. I appreciate this episode because of its simplicity.
- “Naysaya” (episode 13, season 2): “Naysaya” follows Marco, Star’s best friend, on his quest to ask out the girl of his dreams, Jackie Lynn Thomas. When Marco remembers that Star can use magic, he decides to get some help in gathering the courage he needs. When this magical help backfires, Marco ends up with a small head growing out of his neck that calls itself “Naysaya.” For the remainder of the episode, whenever Marco tries to speak, the Naysaya voices his insecurities and most embarrassing thoughts. Marco has to learn to understand and come to terms with his insecurities in order to overcome the Naysaya. This is a great episode about self-acceptance and a comedic magical mishap.
- “The Ponyhead Show!” (episode 6, season 4): “The Ponyhead Show” showcases Star Butterfly’s family’s struggle to accept those that are different from them. The episode pays special focus on the Butterflys’ struggle to accept their ancestor and previous ruler of Mewni, Eclipsa, who married a monster. By many magical means, Eclipsa is resurrected and is allowed to give a speech to the citizens of Mewni. To represent her differences from the rest of her family, Eclipsa gives her speech in the form of a song, where she says that she understands that everyone may not understand her life choices, but her life is hers and her choices are hers to make. I really appreciated this sentiment.
Adventure Time is one of the most iconic Cartoon Network shows to ever grace the airways. The show aired for a total of 8 years and was created by Pendelton Ward and was also worked on by the creator of another iconic series, Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar. The show follows the life of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human in the Land of Ooo, saving the land’s many princesses from the evil Ice King. The series quickly gained a great deal of fame for its creative art style, adorable songs, and large repertoire of characters from its near 300-episode run.
This is the only show on this list that isn’t centered around female leads, but I still think that it does an exceptional job of showing women in power and that being a woman in a leadership role doesn’t mean you have to compromise who you are. It is often the case that in order to be successful or viewed with an air of respect in leadership roles, women feel they need to be less feminine and change who they are. This is because in various domains, women are often forced into becoming someone they are not in order to succeed. Princess Bubblegum, the main heroine of Adventure Time, is a perfect example of not compromising who you are to hold a certain position. Bubblegum, or “Peebs” as she is often called, represents being authentically yourself no matter what situation you find yourself in. I think we should all strive to be a bit more like Bubblegum.
In honor of the many strong female characters in Adventure Time, I’m going to list my favorite songs sung by arguably one of the strongest characters in the series, the one, the only, Marceline the Vampire Queen, who is also an amazing bass player.
- “Everything Stays”: Marceline sings this song in response to reflecting on the bleakness of her life and how difficult it has been for her to exist for thousands of years. Throughout her life, she had to deal with an absent father, a dead mother, a world apocalypse, various identity crises, and her only remaining caretaker slowly going insane. This song is short and sweet and gives a great metaphorical overview of Marceline’s character and background.
- “Remember You”: Once again, another sad Marceline song. This one is a duet between Marceline and the Ice King, who was previously a perfectly kind and sane man who helped Marceline a great deal after her mother’s death. The lyrics in this song are statements written by Ice King in his letters to Marceline while he slowly lost his sanity due to having to use a magical crown to be able to protect her from the dangers of the world. In the present, while the song is being sung, Ice King has no recollection of helping Marceline, as he has been completely drained by the power of the crown that gives him the ice powers that keep him alive in his old age.
- “Woke Up”: This song has a very different vibe than the others that I have talked about so far. “Woke Up” is supposed to be closer to a rock song than a slow and emotional ballad. This rockin’ tune talks about Marceline’s emotions concerning the relationship she is in with her girlfriend Princess Bubblegum and how controlled and restricted she feels. Bubblegum and Marceline have vastly different personas, which are semi-accurately portrayed by the art designs of their characters. Bubblegum is pink and bright, and as a scientist and leader of a kingdom, she has a great deal of responsibility over others and feels the need to lead a controlled life. Her backstory of being tricked and manipulated by her family, explains why she always feels called to call the shots. Marceline’s character is dark and aggressive, often expressing her feelings of distrust and frustration with the world around her, but her backstory proves that she can learn to be a kind and trusting person. The two characters are perfect foils for one another, and this song demonstrates how difficult to contend with that can be.
The shows listed above are just a few of my personal favorite girl power children’s shows. If you are interested in investigating other television series be sure to check out some of the following:
- Steven Universe
- Doc McStuffins
- The Owl House
- Sofia the First
- Dino Dana
- Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- The Legend of Korra
- DC Super Hero Girls
- The Powerpuff Girls
- Craig of the Creek
Thank you for reading this article, and I hope that it has inspired you to check out some of these shows. Celebrating women and their accomplishments and contributions should not be reserved for just one month out of the year, and the same is true for the achievements of the black communities, Hispanic and Latinx communities, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and the LGBTQIA+ communities, who are so often confined to one month out of the year. In light of this information, I encourage you to seek out media and information that highlights the contributions of often marginalized communities to combat this phenomenon, because, like the characters in these hit girl power series have so often taught us, together we can change the world!