Equality From 80s Cartoons
This Internalize Equality post comes to you from Tabatha Bourguignon, who joins us twice a month for our Supernatural Roundtables. Give her a warm welcome!
When I was about 7 years old, I had a sticker book. Getting a new sheet of “puffy” stickers was about the most exciting thing I could imagine. I had an amazing collection; everything from unicorns to rainbows to hearts and arrows – my sticker albums were legendary (at least in my mind). They were such a big deal in fact, that they over-ranked Archie comics. No small feat. (I shudder to think how many stickers my mother must have cleaned up during my sticker book years; I’d ask her, but I think it would probably send her into some sort of post-traumatic, sticker-induced rage.)
One day, I received a special package from my Nanny, who was a wonderful woman that introduced me to things that would, over our short time together, become some of my favourite things as a child (Oh who am I kidding? To this day they’re some of my favourite things!). There were books, two My Little Ponys, and various little trinkets. Nanny wouldn’t be Nanny if she didn’t pay homage to the Sticker Collection, so nestled in that package was the stack of puffy stickers I could always count on. This time, however, among those sheets – which I can still clearly remember the smell of – was a sheet of stickers of a character I’d never seen before: Strawberry Shortcake.
I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, so I missed out on a lot of the popular cartoons of the 1980’s. (I was 21 years old before I ever saw an episode of Scooby Doo, to give you an example of my almost-cartoonless childhood.) Shortly after I was introduced to her sticker form, I discovered that on Saturday mornings somewhere between the Care Bears and Teddy Ruxpin, Strawberry was broadcasting into my living room. Strawberry Shortcake (and her cat Custard) began introducing themselves into my young life.
I was a smart girl. I started reading when I was 2, and I was far ahead of my peers in school by the time it came around. I was a girl who read dictionaries and volumes of the encyclopedia when I ran out of books. I once locked myself in a bedroom and read “Fright Night” while my brother and I had a babysitter, because I knew my mother wouldn’t approve of my choice of novels. I was smart, and well read – and nerdy. I was also a chubby kid who was sick a lot. I didn’t feel as though there was a place in the world for smart girls – especially chubby smart girls.
Imagine my surprise when I “met” Strawberry Shortcake! Here was a girl who loved animals, her life, and her friends. She went on wild adventures and handled conflicts with The Peculiar Purple Pie Man with both emotion and absolute genius. The more I watched, the more I fell in love; Strawberry Shortcake was a Smart Girl, and that was okay! Better yet, Strawberry was, for lack of a better word, plump. And that too was okay.
I often think back and smile at the little girl who developed a new obsession with all things Shortcake. More puffy stickers, early Saturday morning cartoons, pencils, lunchboxes, backpacks…everything must be Shortcake! In fact, for my 8th birthday, my mother had a beautiful cake made for me – back in the days when specialty cakes simply were not part of the normal routine for my family. I have no idea how much it cost, but that cake almost didn’t get cut, as I could hardly bear the thought of destroying its beauty.
Strawberry Shortcake is an unlikely ‘hero’ for teaching someone how to think of themselves differently, I admit. For me, however, Strawberry was the world. I was good enough. I was smart enough. I was pretty enough. I mattered. It was okay if I wasn’t the kid who won everything; I had a good heart, good friends, and I knew that no matter what was thrown my way, I could figure it out. I moved away from Astro Boy and Inspector Gadget, and even the male-based Smurfs. I had a girl in my corner for the first time ever – and she was like me.
And us Smart Girls? We were just fine.
Tab Bourgiugnon didn’t choose the Geek Life; the Geek Life chose her. Thanks to a husband and two kids who regularly bombard her, she’s got a never-ending supply of interesting and geeky things to think about. In her grown-up life she’s a word-and-media slayer, and regularly engrosses herself in all things marketing. Tab lends her insight to our bi-monthly Supernatural Roundtables! You can find Tab on Twitter (@tab_b).