The Powerpuff Girls' Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup weren't just "sugar, spice and everything nice" — they kicked ass, battled stereotypes and gave adversaries (and audiences) free lessons in Feminism 101.
But while this year's reboot of the series is still serving up the same themes of female empowerment, a recent episode may have taken a misstep when writers introduced a plot line involving Donny, a horse who wants to become a unicorn but — oops! — turns into a monster instead.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the show's executive producer Nick Jennings said they hoped to use Donny's character to tackle questions of identity. Though Jennings doesn't say the episode deals with transgender identity in particular, the implication seems rather clear.
Jennings said, "He has to go through a transformation to become a unicorn and so it's a whole [episode that asks], 'What are you on the inside? What are you on the outside? How do you identify yourself? How do people see you?' There's a lot of subtext in that."
According to Pink News, in the show Donny says, "I may not have a horn but I do have a heart, and in that heart I know I'm a beautiful unicorn!" When the Professor uses his "transmogrifying" ray to turn Donny into a unicorn, things don't go as planned and Donny becomes an evil monster — a dubious message, indeed.
Despite the series' track record, The Powerpuff Girls has missed the mark before. In 2000, a character named Bunny was introduced after the girls create a fourth Powerpuff Girl to help save the town. The girls accidentally mix in a wrong chemical causing Bunny to come out with the same powers as Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup but with a hunchback, a snaggle tooth and physical and mental "abnormalities" that get in the way of her crime-fighting abilities. At the end of the episode, she explodes in a flash of light.
At the end of this episode, the "Unicorn Coalition Alliance Brigade Headquarters" helps Donny go back to his original self and he finds out he was a unicorn all along.
How's that for mixed messages?
Check out a clip from the episode below: