by Kasiemobi Udo-okoye
March is Women’s History Month, the perfect time to celebrate women, real and fictional, who have inspired us and sparked our imaginations. But you don’t have to be a Wonder Woman or a Furiosa to inspire others — inspiration can come in even the smallest packages, so let’s take some time to celebrate the young girls whose animated escapades teach us a thing or two about facing fears, embracing challenges, and being ourselves.
4.) Maggie from Maggie and the Ferocious Beast
Maggie is an intrepid 5-year-old who conjures up an imaginary world where she and her friends Hamilton Hocks and Ferocious Beast play and have adventures. Maggie has a creative spirit that makes her a fearless explorer and a clever problem-solver. Whether it’s figuring out how to get a new friend’s elephant-sized carrot out of the ground, or helping a pair of entrepreneurial chickens fix their broken delivery truck, Maggie steps in with cheery confidence and puts her nimble brain to work. But the best thing about Maggie is the world she’s built. Every fantastical facet of Nowhere Land emerges from Maggie’s mind, and it’s obvious that she has imagination for days. The giant yellow Beast with three horns and red polka dots, the talking sweater-wearing pig, the River of Dreams and mountains made of cheese; she’s invented everything we see in the show, and it’s a delight to see her revel in her imagination and shape her own world. Go, Maggie!
3.) Lillian DeVille from Rugrats Go Wild
Lillian (“Lil”) is not talked about nearly enough in the canon of feminist critique — which I think is an outrage! It might be because Lillian’s feminist mojo sometimes flies under the radar. She makes it look effortless. I know what you’re thinking: She’s a toddler. But toddler or no, I think we can all agree that Lillian is true to herself. She embraces a love of bugs, dirt, adventure, and functional playwear that makes her an inspiration. It never occurs to her to worry about keeping up with the bouncing, diaper-filling antics of the Rugrats boys. The only downside to Lil is that we don’t get enough of her. Spin-off, anyone?
2.) Eliza from Rugrats Go Wild
Eliza Thornberry is the younger daughter of the globe-trekking Thornberry family. Her parents are nature documentary filmmakers, but Eliza Thornberry takes their wild spirit one step further. With the help of her intelligent pet chimp Darwin, she often sets out to assist or meet countless kinds of animals — because Eliza can talk to them. Not only is she fearless and adventurous, Eliza Thornberry was a grade-A geek in a time before that was cool and marketable. From her giant glasses and braces to her love of bugs and bears, she boldly embraced all the things that made her awkward and weird. Eliza didn’t just embrace the outdoors, she dove into it headfirst (sometimes literally). She’s a role model for curiosity, exploration, and embracing strange new experiences. Who wouldn’t want that for their kid — or themselves?
1.) Penny from Inspector Gadget
The show may have been named Inspector Gadget, but we all know Penny was the real hero. Using gadgets and the help of her canine sidekick, Brain, Penny secretly solved tough cases and foiled evil plots while her hapless Uncle Gadget bumbled in and out of danger. Penny is the pinch hitter of pinch hitters. In the contest for World’s Greatest Detective, Penny Gadget could seriously give Batman a run for his money. (I neither admit nor deny that I may already be writing that fanfic crossover; but the world needs that crime-fighting team). As a semi-adult, tax-paying, non-animated woman, I can readily admit that I have been in many life situations that Penny Gadget could undoubtedly handle better than I could. Penny is smart, strong, and almost supernaturally observant. In fact, the more I think about it, Penny may be an actual superhero. Whether it’s unraveling evil schemes or getting her uncle out of scrapes, Penny handles it with a confidence and can-do attitude that’s a great model for any kid (or adult) to follow. Penny for President, my compatriots! Make America great again!
These girls may be small, but they pack a big punch. Who are some of your favorite animated heroines?