The XX Factor

Return of the Powerpuff Girls

Girl power

Warner Bros./Cartoon Network

For nerdy ladies like myself, pop culture options can be a little depressing. Superhero movies focus on guys in capes—and if we’re lucky, Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit. In comics, women look like porn stars or Barbie dolls. And Super Best Friends Forever, the adorable series of shorts about teen girl superheroes by animator Lauren Faust, came to an end last year.

But hope springs eternal, and today brought two particularly promising pieces of news. The Powerpuff Girls, those adorable, pint-sized crime fighters who made their home on the Cartoon Network for six seasons, are returning from an eight-year hiatus with an animated special that will feature Ringo Starr. And CN also announced that, for the first time ever, it’s giving a woman a show of her own: Rebecca Sugar will be running Steven Universe, about the junior member of a crime-fighting team.

It’s true that cartoons don’t have the reach, much less the budgets of giant tentpole action franchises. But that can actually make them more fun, liberating them from commercial pressure—and therefore from convention. The Powerpuffs—little girls named Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup—never had to deal with the clinging costumes of grown-up superheroines or the conventional superhero story beats, which tend to be awfully grim. Instead, the show focused on what it means to be both young and to have big responsibilities, what it’s like to build your relationship with your sisters, and made the argument that there’s no contradiction between sugar, spice, everything nice and power.

Now I’m hoping that, with Steven Universe, Sugar will give us another first: a superhero story where men and women actually get to be friends.