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An Ode to Pucca (and those like her)

I was watching cartoons, because I’m a well-adjusted adult and I can watch whatever I want—and I found this great little show that I just fell in love with and had to tell everyone I know.

So I put it on the internet.

My Ode to Pucca:

How I love thee, let me count the ways.

I definitely love you more than Garu, your ninja love who can never get the best of you.

I love the quirky, simple style of your short episodes.

I love your supporting cast, some of whom require more explanation—stick figure people: who are they? Why are they? Santa Claus: why is he in your little Japanese village?

I love the episode where you dressed up like Garu and beat up his nemesis.

In fact, I love how you always win because you’re never a damsel in distress, not because you stay out of trouble, but because you never rely on someone else to help you out of it.

I love that you’re a non-verbal character but not a voiceless one. You may not use words to make yourself heard, but we know how you feel by how you act and what you do. Because voiceless does not equal powerless. Other characters may speak enough dialog to fill a book *cough*Bella Swan*cough* but volumes of verbal diarrhea do not a powerful character make.

You are always the master of your fate; you go out and get things you want and you make your voice heard without words. You are a rare bird in the menagerie of cartoon princesses and young adult fiction heroines who say plenty and do nothing. You say nothing and do everything and your actions say enough to make you the kind of character we should be paying attention to.

When you fight battles, you win them. You go after what you want with all your heart and you protect the ones you care about—especially Garu. You protect Garu so well he doesn’t even realize he was ever in danger.

You are the type of female character we should be creating more of in bulk. You are the kind of girl we all wish we could be. Not an Anastasia Steele, who makes bad choices and knows she is making a vast number of mistakes, but chooses to go right ahead and make them anyway. Not a Katniss Everdeen, who starts the Hunger Games series as a powerful and independent character but finishes the series as a pawn in the game she started. Not like Catherine Earnshaw, who was so easily swayed by beautiful manners to abandon her friend, or Tess Durbeyfield, the sacrificial victim of society’s norms, or Sleeping Beauty, or—dare I say—the latest incarnation of Lois Lane in Man of Steel.

We need more like you, Pucca, or like Elastigirl in The Incredibles or Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, or Mulan.

It frustrates me more than I can articulate when I see books like 50 shades of junk or its stunningly poor inspiration, Twilight become popular with massive audiences of women because in this day and age we should know better than to accept these shallow, unsympathetic, powerless and foolish representations of womanhood. Nor should we then throw them into the spotlight and pile them with acclaim. We can’t even protest innocence, or blame patriarchy because these books were written by women!

And they’ve been consumed by women who really ought to know better and should be teaching their daughters not to accept some milquetoast “heroine” who can’t make a decision and who meekly follows the guidance of an unstable and abusive male without questioning him or thinking of her own safety.

It’s even worse when I see self-published teenage authors who have written—brace yourselves, now—even more terrible examples of lame female characters, mostly as protagonists of ill-conceived fantasy novels. Someone has failed these young authors. Someone somewhere was tasked with proofreading and editing these books and they neglected to point out the frailties of not only the shakily-constructed plot, but also the lack of agency by the female protagonist. Or maybe the author, in a massive delusion of grandeur, published their magnum opus with—gasp—no proofreading at all!

Look here, my young padawans, there is a basic test you can use to determine whether or not you have created a character with a truly lamentable lack of agency. You don’t even need another person’s help, if you’re certain that your manuscript is stuff of such brilliance that it could unhinge the mind of the mere plebeians around you. It’s called the “hamburger test.”

If you go through your massive Word document and use the lovely “find/replace” tool to replace every instance of your character’s name with that of a common food item, and after reading your newly edited text, you find that the narrative structure is hardly disturbed at all by the change, then congratulations! You have failed entirely to create even a decent character. One could almost say you have sculpted Galatea and failed to pray that Venus would bring her to life. Thus, she remains a stiff and immobile object, pushed about and manipulated by her circumstances and the characters around her.

Now, you have 2 choices: you could publish your novel as is and ignore all that you have learned through the Hamburger test, or you could spare the world from the noxious poison of yet another badly imagined and poorly constructed stereotypical female character created by a woman who probably has enough education to know better. You can spare me one more example of how this isn’t the patriarchy’s fault, it’s ours for accepting and celebrating mediocrity.

You can instead choose to make another Pucca.

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