Every so often, one of my posts can trigger a long and in depth discussion. I love when this happens. Most recently, my post titled “On The Importance of Advisement” was reposted to Reddit, and a fascinating conversation unfolded in the comments. You can read the comment thread here.
Occasionally when this happens, however, I get to experience the joy of seeing something through another’s eyes and changing opinions. And that has happened here. So with that in mind (and my affinity for alliteration), I feel like this would make a great Follow-up Friday post. But I warn you now, dear reader. This might be a long one.
So, in my original post I spoke about the problematic issues of the episode, specifically the scene where the Powerpuff Girls meet Donny. What is important to note is that I was viewing this episode through a lense of fear. Fear of how the episode might be perceived by a cisgendered person who has not had much interaction with the trans community. My original opinion was that, viewed by the hypothetical individual above, Buttercup’s behavior might be seen as acceptable, since it was never addressed as inappropriate.
However. I failed to view this episode through the eyes of a young trans person growing up, and the message of affirmation and empowerment hidden in plain sight. Through discussion with several individuals on Reddit, I was able to attain a new view and appreciation of this episode. So, let’s dive right in.
As mentioned before, the episode begins with Bubbles meeting Donny. Blossom and Buttercup show up to collect Bubbles for the bus and meet Donny as well. Buttercup’s behavior here is still troubling. However, I would like to point out that it is an accurate representation of the kind of invalidation and transphobic behavior many of us encounter on a daily basis, and as uncomfortable as it is, I do believe it is important to show the challenges that the trans community faces as a whole.
After this scene, Bubbles takes Donny to the Professor to have him turned into a “real” unicorn by way of a procedure of sorts (the transmogrifier ray). Before agreeing to use the ray, Professor Utonium asks Donny if this is what he really wants to do. Donny gives an emphatic yes, proclaiming, “This is going to be the best day of my life!” The Professor then agrees, but not before giving Donny a large stack of documents detailing all the possible side-effects and outcomes. Donny signs the document, without even reading it and jumps into the chair.
The Professor charges up the transmogrifier ray and fires, leaving Donny with….rabbit ears? Hmm…that doesn’t seem quite right. But the Professor did say there could be risks and side-effects, if only Donny had read the entire document.
Donny’s changes continue to progress, growing more and more monstrous. Large muscles, sharp teeth, warts and all. Donny becomes very upset and storms out of the labratory. “I hate science!” As Donny starts running through Townsville causing terror and mayhem, he begins to grow more and more distraught, and clearly self-hating. By the time Bubbles catches up to him, Donny has taken the Mayor hostage on a rooftop and calls himself a freak. Bubbles tries to calm him by saying he’s not a freak and that, “In your heart you know you’re a real life unicorn!” Donny rebuts this by angrily saying, “No! In my heart, I know I’m a monster!” Donny then hits Bubbles, sending her flying into a wall, knocking her unconscious for a minute.
At this moment, Donny begins to snap out of it. “Oh no! What have I done!?” He begins to back away, horrified of his actions, before slipping and falling off the top of the building.
Phew. Let’s pause here and break this down, cause a lot just happened here, and there’s a lot to understand.
First of all, let’s go back to the procedure. This is an important scene that I really didn’t have much issue with originally, because through the lense of fear that I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t much that was problematic. However, looking at this scene now through the eyes of a young trans person, there is a lot to learn here and a very important message: “Don’t rush into things. Take your time, and understand what you’re doing.” Like Professor Utonium says in the show, “This is your body, and it’s a serious choice.” Because transition is a SERIOUS choice. And for many of us, it’s a choice made out of necessity, which is why it’s so important to understand what it is we’re getting into.
After the procedure goes wrong, Donny gets very upset and rushes out of the labratory. As Reddit user Boltizar commented, “Now what I see this as is Donny not looking into transitioning and taking any means necessary. Something goes wrong and he has deep regrets due to his rushed approach and taking the wrong path. It’s like a detransitioner going TERF.” Which is another important lesson to take away here. Sometimes, there are people who regret transitioning and choose to detransition. This can happen by realizing that transitioning makes you more uncomfortable and choosing not to. Sometimes, it’s because you were unprepared for the results. For Donny, I think of it as the latter.
After terrorizing Townsville and taking the Mayor hostage, Donny calls himself a monster and hurts his friend in the process. This is yet another important lesson here about gender dysphoria. Dysphoria is awful. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, and sometimes when you’re so down and depressed about yourself like that, you do stupid things. Mean and hurtful things. The lesson here is that, even though dysphoria is a powerful and horrible feeling, it’s important to remember that you are not a monster. Because when it begins to subside and you finally calm down, you may realize you’ve done something awful or hurt your friends in some way. (If you’d like to learn more about dysphoria, please listen to this episode of my podcast.)
After all this, Donny is saved in a brilliant ray of light by a group of unicorns! Donny, having been returned to normal by the power of unicorn magic apologizes to Bubbles for how he acted, and Bubbles apologizes for pushing him to get the procedure done. This is an important moment in the episode, because it has a lesson for both trans youth, and allies. For trans youth, this speaks volumes about the importance of group support and finding a group of peers. For Donny, he needed to find a group of other unicorns to help him get where he needed to be. For transgender people, it’s important to find those who have transitioned before you, as well as do your own research.
For allies, the message is different, but no less important. As an ally, you have a unique ability to truly help a queer friend, be they trans, gay, what-have-you. But, it is very important to note that your support should never be driven or overshadowed by your ego. It’s important to support transgender friends if they feel they need procedures and surgeries to find happiness. But it’s just as important to help them feel comfortable in their own bodies and feel recognized as they identify, regardless of what they look like.
All in all, I’d have to say that my opinion on this episode has changed. I think this was a powerful episode, and there were a lot of positives to take away here. However, I still feel like this episode was not without a few problematic instances.
The biggest issue that remains is that Buttercup’s behavior was never addressed. It is important to show the adversity that transgender people face, but it is also important to note that it is not acceptable behavior.
However, this episode had a lot of empowering and affirming messages for trans youth, as
well as words of caution. “Don’t jump into transition without fully understanding what it means.” “Don’t try to do it alone. You don’t have to.” “Don’t let your dysphoria get the better of you.” “Your identity is real and valid.” “Defend your identity.” “You don’t need surgeries to be yourself.”
Furthermore, the original goal of this post was to point out the need for advisement on sensitive issues and topics. But there’s another lesson to learn, that I fell victim to myself. It is important to look at the whole picture, and not let ourselves become jaded. This episode had it’s share of problematic moments, but I was too focused on how this episode could be used to justify hate, I missed all the ways it could be used to empower trans youth. Advisement is important. But so is keeping an open mind.
So there we have it. My full and updated thoughts and opinions on this episode of The Powerpuff Girls. I hope that this was a good read and that you stuck with me until the end, dear reader. I know it was a long one. If you’d like, please feel free to leave comments and feedback. I’d love to know your thoughts on the matter as well.