Top Seven Most Deliciously Amazing Lady Cartoons Ever

24 Nov

I’m glad some people got a kick out of last week’s list of Top Seven Worst Cartoon Ladies, because now it’s time for the sequel.

A solid female character in animation is hard to find.  If you are able to extract their likes and dislikes from their gender (they like shopping BECAUSE THEY’RE GIRLS!  They hate getting messy BECAUSE THEY’RE GIRLS!) you’re still stuck with having to make them look ‘cute’ or ‘sexy’, and have a role beyond Love Interest or Nagging Psychobitch.  These seven characters all have a degree of depth and thoughtfulness in their creation.  Their qualities came first, and their gender second.

Let’s get rolling, shall we?

7.  Dora The Explorer:  Love or hate Dora, you have to admit that she is a pretty stellar example for young girls.  She’s bright, she’s friendly, she’s willing to scrape her knees and get dirty, and she sticks to her guns in the face of adversity.  And by adversity I mean cunning foxes who steal her monkey’s sandwiches, or whatever.  I put Dora at seventh on this list because her redesign to appeal to an ‘older’ crowd makes me cry tears of rage.  She went from clever adventurer to mall-haunting pre-teen overnight.  Oh, Dora of yore!  How I miss thee!

Dora, before and after. Now she solves mysteries, like Which Boy Is The Cutest Boy?

6.  Gretchen and Spinelli from Recess:  Recess is a show that centers around schoolyard stereotypes.  In the main cast, we have the Fat Sensitive Kid, the Mischievous Kid, the Smart Kid, the Tough Kid, the Sporty Kid, and the Awkward Wimpy Kid Who Is Only Occasionally Useful.  The charm of a show like Recess is that the kids realize their labels, and regard them with a resigned sort of malice.  I’ve picked Gretchen and Spinelli out here because really, out of those main cast members I’ve mentioned, which are the girls?  Guesses?  Guesses?  Gretchen and Spinelli were created as schoolyard archetypes, not as schoolgirl archetypes, and that I can appreciate.

It's a veritable Who's Who of unfair labeling!

5.  Kim Possible:  Much like an aged version of a Powerpuff Girl, Kim Possible saves the world before curfew, trying to do her homework and get a date along the way.  Kim is in every way a girl’s girl.  She idolizes a clothing chain.  She gets embarrassed in front of boys.  She hates her little brothers and uses the Puppydog Pout to get something she wants.  The reason I’m including her on this list is that Kim likes what she likes…because she likes it.  Too often animators will create a character that is supposed to exemplify a Successful Modern Woman.  She’s smart!  She’s capable!  She owns her feminity, and yet, she is completely defined by societal expectations and all of the males around her.  Kim defines herself, and while she has the normal teenage tendency to worry about what other’s think of her, it doesn’t shape her life.

You guys, this plays on the Disney channel at 10:30 PST. Why haven't you watched this, you guys?

4.  Gadget from Rescue Rangers:  Some…times!  Some…crimes!  Go slipping through the cracks, but these…two!  Gum…shoes!  Are picking up the slack, there’s no case too big, no case too small!  If you need help just call…Gadget, apparently.  Rescue Rangers centers around some rodents who solve mysteries.  It’s pretty simple.  The titular characters receive most of the credit, serious Chip and goofy Dale, but every kid who watches that show knows that Gadget is the real hero.  It’s always Gadget who makes the machines that get them out of trouble, Gadget who sees through the scam, Gadget who crafts the master plan to solve the crime.  And you know what’s appealing about Gadget?  They don’t try to hide her brilliance behind a (heh heh) mousey facade.  She is just a genius.  No glasses.  No gimmick.  No social awkwardness.  All of the things that are typically associated with the smart girl are conspicuously absent, and they let her play the hero just as much as the boys do, even if the show is named after them.  It’s a nice change of pace.

Aaugh, Gadget. Why does Google have so many fanarts of you having sex with power tools??

3.  Gosalyn from Darkwing Duck:  Gosalyn, put simply, is a kid.  She’s not a smart kid, or a dumb kid, or an athletic kid, or a sensitive kid, or a tough kid, or a wimpy kid.  She’s just a kid who lives with her dad, who happens to be a Bruce Wayne-esque fly-by-night  crimefighter.  Sometimes she worries about him, sometimes she wants to join in on the fun, but at the end of the day, she’s just…well.  She’s a kid.  The simplicity of her character without relying on overused tropes is what gets Gosalyn on my list.  It’s not easy to craft a character that doesn’t rely on a stereotype that we are already familiar with, while still making her appealing and instantly familiar.  She could ride in my sidecar anyday.

Why is it always ducks? What does Disney have with ducks? People don't even like ducks that much.

2.  Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender:  I could take almost anyone from Avatar and point to them as a model for outstanding character development, but Azula is here for a very specific reason: she is a crazy bitch.  She is a crazy bitch with fire powers and mommy issues, and she will eff you up the a, if you so much as look at her funny when she’s got her crazy hat on.  I’m a big fan of villains.  It’s tough to make a villain who doesn’t seem like a moustache-twirling Dick Dastardly or a hulking inferno of unspecified fury.  Villains need motivations too, you guys!  Something has to make them interesting, and worth our time.  With lady villains, it is almost always sexuality.  She’s evil!  What else is evil?  Uhh, sex?  Yeah.  Sex is evil.  So let’s make her very sexy and she can even make untoward advances at the disinterested protagonist!  Sounds like a plan.  Gladly, Azula doesn’t rely on these things to make her a stellar baddie.  From the start of the series, her intentions are clear.  She’s not evil, necessarily.  She just went round the bend several years ago, and never came back.  Good for her.

She will grind your bones up and wear the powder on her face like a fine foundation. AWESOME.

1.  My number one choice for awesome lady cartoon comes from a classic conundrum: how to make girls funny.  Sometimes they just aren’t, and that’s okay.  The same things that are hilarious coming from a man may not induce the same belly-laughs from a chick.  Some female comedians have resorted to giving up their girliness to get a more masculine sense of humor, but I don’t think that’s necessary.  A gal can be funny in a skirt.  A purple skirt.  With a yellow sweater, and bows on her ears:

I think I still have a sweater like that.

Babs Bunny was created as one of the two main characters of the Warner Brothers’ hit, Tiny Toons.  The animators noticed a significant underrepresentation of ladies in the original Looney Tunes, and so when its ‘sequel’ began, they decide to split the character of Bugs Bunny into two halves.  The male half, Buster Bunny, contains all of Bugs’ sly charisma and mischievous smooth-talking mannerisms.  The female half, Babs, got all the screwball humor, and I couldn’t be happier about that.  Babs is a tornado of comedy, constantly lampooning the other characters in the show, doing spot-on impressions of pop-culture icons, or just inserting a quick, 1930’s era one-liner into the mix.  Unlike her counterpart, the loathable Lola Bunny, Babs can go toe to toe with her male companions and come out with the top joke.  She’s zany, over-the-top, and endlessly appealing.

All while wearing a skirt.  Who’d-a thunk it?


Posted by on November 24, 2009 in Uncategorized


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17 responses to “Top Seven Most Deliciously Amazing Lady Cartoons Ever

  1. Vanessa

    November 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I wrote at one point about the Dora transformation. It makes me sad even though I’m way too old to truly care about her. Every time we get a normal-sized, smart, spunky girl role model, they have to make her more “marketable” by turning her skinny and more bimbo-y (and now we know this goes for cartoons AND people).

  2. Jacob Peterson

    November 24, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I’m sorry…. I really really disagree with a lot of your choices…. But then again…. I’m a guy. So maybe that’s why. I’m dissapointed that the girls still have to be sexy…. I mean…. Cruella DeVille is pretty kick ass to be honest.

    • Jessica

      November 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm

      Haha, disagreeing is a-ok! Cruella DeVille is a good one, but I was trying to focus on television-style cartoons. Although I guess there WAS that crappy 101 Dalmations animated series!

      One could actually make arguments on both sides for Cruella. She is on the one hand a classic nagger who controls the men around her with money rather than any real sense of charisma or power. On the other hand she can be seen as commentary on the clothing industry. She’s this withered, ugly woman who is driven literally insane by the desire to be beautiful.

      You should tell me your other ones! I’m curious!

  3. Michael M.

    November 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I’m surprised by the choice of Azula. There are so any great female characters in that show, and Azula seems kind of the least of them. I would have chosen Suki, but that’s just me.

    Also these posts from have inspired me to do similar lists for female characters in videogames.

    • Jessica

      November 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm

      That’s great! I look forward to reading it!

      I chose Azula over Suki for two reasons…one, I think Suki is a fun character, but she isn’t as interesting as Azula. She seems very ‘normal’ for a kabuki-style ninja girl. Two, I wanted to discuss a villain, and Azula is the best lady-villain I can think if in modern cartoons!

  4. ck

    November 24, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    What do you think of Dot, the Warner Sister from Animaniacs? Based on your critera (“a degree of depth and thoughtfulness in their creation. Their qualities came first, and their gender second”), it seems that she would fit into this list pretty well.

    • Jessica

      November 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm

      I considered her for the list, honestly. She’s voiced by Tress MacNeille, who I have a lot of respect for, and who tends to voice some really great characters.

      Dot and Babs Bunny are honestly relatively interchangeable. I chose Babs over Dot because Babs was consciously given the less feminine quality of a popular, well-known character and she rocks it. Dot also has that same degree of zaniness that’s popular in the Warner Bros. cartoons, but it is mostly because she is a ‘toon’ in general. It doesn’t really differentiate her from her zany brothers. 🙂

      Hehe, that’s a good question! I could talk a lot about that.

  5. rubybastille

    November 24, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Kevin and I are watching the TMNT movie and we have been talking about how awesome April is. She’s a history/archaeology student with a sweet job at a museum, she’s a ninja, and she’s in a relationship in a normal, uncrazy way. (Kevin adds that she’s a total hottie.) Is she in the cartoon much? Is she only awesome in the movie version?

    • Jessica

      November 24, 2009 at 10:02 pm

      She is pretty awesome all the way round. She IS just a little bit whiny in the 2003 series, and there is the sad fact that Donatello totally has teh hots for her and she is like “HA HA HA THAT IS SO GROSSS” but besides that she is pretty cool. In the original comics, and in the 2003 cartoon she is a scientist, actually, which is pretty cool!


      • rubybastille

        November 25, 2009 at 10:08 am

        It was on TV! Hence the Ben 10 ads.

  6. amanda

    November 27, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Ok, I’m sure I went off on the Dora redesign at some point (probably on Vanessa’s blog, heyyyyyy!), but I honestly don’t think it’s that bad. In fact, I don’t think it’s bad at all.

    I find it a little disingenuous to think that just because Dora grew her hair out and found a shirt that fit she doesn’t find exploring nearly as fun as, well, whatever it is 7 year-old girls do. You could totally go exploring in that outfit — then again, I can and have gone hiking in a maxi dress and gladiator sandals, so what do I know from sensible outdoorswear?

    My point about Dora? Her wardrobe may have been updated and her bowl cut grown out, but she is still an explorer, wearing age-appropriate exploring clothes. She doesn’t need to be dressed like an androgynous tom-boy to go out on walkies with her obnoxious backpack.

  7. Rory

    November 28, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I want to start by expressing my appreciation for allowing me a forum in which to finally express my almost-overwhelming sadness. I know this is somewhat accidental – Top Seven Most Deliciously Amazing Lady Cartoons Ever just happens to mention an “updated” character, so I use it as my big excuse – but, I just had to say it somewhere…

    I feel really upset by the new Angelina Ballerina.

    They have taken the quaint mouseling who loves to dance, and wants to be a famous ballerina, and given her a CGI upgrade, turning her into the mouse-what-did-Fame-Acadamy. Gone is Helen Craig’s beautiful artwork – the English village, Miss Lilly and the cast of Cheddar-wherever, the Pinkpaws twins, and Alice’s accent. Bye-bye, the mother and daughter teaming of Judi Dench and Finty Williams. Oh, deep, deep woe…

    I haven’t mentioned my grief to our five-year-old daughter – simply choked back the tears and wondered whether Katharine Holabird is regretting handing the rights over to The Corporation. Our daughter asked why they were doing all this singing, and questioned that Polly was now a little boy, but she still wanted to see the clips we had found several times over. I wanted to scream at the computer, and have a tantrum, but I didn’t think that would do her any favours at all.

    Well, I can’t say I have got it off my chest – it will still be a knife-stab every time it comes on the telly, when it finally does get to these shores – but, I do thank you once again, and hope you don’t mind me my five minutes.


    • Jessica

      November 28, 2009 at 1:04 am

      Haha, oh, Rory! You are officially my favorite.

      I appreciate righteous indignation at children’s entertainment anywhere I can get it. I have not had the pleasure of seeing the Angelina Ballerina cartoons (I am aware of the beautifully illustrated books though) and I only hope that the old version is available on DVD somewhere.

      Stupid CGI! It’s a wonderful tool and can make some really beautiful features, but its overuse is really a sin.

  8. Jared

    February 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I hate Dora. She should be removed from everything. She is just another aspect of idiot tree huggers to force their mexican loving agenda down our throats. Little American kids don’t need to be learning spanish. Watch Sesame Street and learn english.

  9. Squirrelly

    March 20, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Wow awesome! I just happened here searching for some cartoon picks, so thought I’d read the list. Scrolling down to #1 I started to see the pink ear and purple bow, and knew who that had to be! 🙂 I have to agree. I loved Babs from when I first started watching TTA. And even with the tons of other shows since then, including many I enjoy a lot, no other character has yet been able to knock her out of that #1 spot for me as well. And yes, Tress definitely does a great job bringing her characters to life.


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