90's nostalgia classic The Powerpuff Girls has recently been rebooted with a new series currently airing. At first, many people were upset with the changes that come with reboots, such as a change in the cast or in the art style. But now, a recent episode has sparked outrage over something, somewhat different.
One of the recent episodes, entitled Horn Sweet Horn, opens up with Bubbles obsessing over seeing a unicorn during a school trip to the zoo. After being ridiculed by her classmates for her naïveté (considering this is a show where magic humans can be made out of condiments... it's basically that talking dog insulting religion on Family Guy all over again), she and her sisters bump into a talking pony named Donnie, who wants to be a unicorn, even wearing a prosthetic stick on his head to work as his missing horn.
Bubbles convinces him to undergo surgery, via their professor/father's technology, to help him become a real unicorn. The procedure goes horribly wrong and mutates Donnie into a giant rabbit-like creature, who now lays waste to the town in revenge. Eventually, though, the day is saved by a bunch of unicorns who magically change Donnie back to normal, and reveal that he was a unicorn all along (his mane was hiding his horn the whole time). I think that was meant to explain why he can talk. Sure, the girls had a talking dog in the original cartoon, and Bubbles could already speak to animals, but that is a conversation for another day.
What does this mean?
Now, if this was done a decade ago, it would all probably have been chalked up to be a parallel to general plastic surgery, and the intended message of not changing yourself to be something you are not, because whatever you already are is good enough, probably would not have offended anyone. The fact is, however, in today's day and age, the transgender community, and more specifically the transsexual community – who desire medical treatments to properly have the body they identify with – have become more prominent.
The comparisons between their lives and the plot of this episode have not gone unnoticed, leading the show to be accused of transphobia.
And while we are on the subject, I am also sure that using unicorns for the story, who are often made out to be a symbol of the LGBTQ community, probably is not doing the show any favors with the criticism, either.
These accusations have become more than a bit common on social media, including people of the transgender community, and many prominent voices, such as the publication Harlot Magazine.
Is it all warranted? I want to give the episode credit. They don't exactly say that undergoing medical procedures to change yourself is sometimes okay, which I think is what people wanted to hear, but they don't go the obvious route with Donnie accepting that being a talking horse is already okay, and that he does not have to change himself. He wanted to be a unicorn, and he already was one.
He just wanted to be what he already was. Whether he wanted to change himself is kind of a moot point. I am not saying that the parallels are not there, it's just that it isn't an exact replica of the situation, and probably does not deserve a complete comparison. Honestly, this reminds me less of the plight of a trans person, and more of David Reimer, but with a happy ending and no sadistic doctors.
Could they have been more sensitive to the subject matter? Of course, maybe add a line saying that even a horse wearing a fake horn was good enough to be a unicorn, but either way, it is all just symbolism. Anything dealing with transformation is bound to have symbolic undertones, and this situation just seems to be an accidental implication that I have to admit, people might being reading too much into this time. And this is coming from someone who does not take jokes made at people's expenses lightly. #Television