Bunny the 'Bad' Powerpuff Girl Is Good and Townsville Is Neoliberal Scum
We stan a prison abolitionist.
In honor of Weed Week, we present "Put That in Your Pipe," a column focused on subjects to contemplate while high.
Some people never get over their first heartbreak. They see it in the eyes of every new date, they fall asleep reliving every agonizing moment, and they dwell on it when they’re under the influence until all their friends are like, "Jesus, we get it!" As a Pisces, I can’t deny that I’m emotional and tend to dramatize the past. As a millennial woman, I can’t deny that I will never know heartbreak like I did when we lost Bunny the Powerpuff Girl.
"Twisted Sister"—a season two episode of The Powerpuff Girls and relic of pop culture history that will forever be seared into my brain—is extremely sad. It is a sad story, starring a sad character on a sad journey, who meets a sad ending in a sad departure from the show’s typically un-sad arc. It is a topic that I frequently revisit when I am stoned; one that lends itself to falling down Wiki-holes, combing through forums, or rambling to your friends.
In the episode, our three Powerpuff Girls—Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup—are exhausted by the impossible balancing act of being the sole (kindergarten-aged) protectors of a city constantly under attack by giant monsters AND the daughters of a professor who assigns them a laundry-list of chores.
Overworked and not unionized, the Powerpuff Girls’ sense of moral obligation traps them in a conundrum from which they believe the only escape is to create an additional Powerpuff to take on their unreasonable workload. (Real workers know this is a fallacy; more Puffs would only mean that they’d be given even more work than they already have.) So in an effort to make a new Powerpuff, the girls recreate the infamous recipe.
Professor Utonium—a man on a mission to "create the perfect little girls" for some weird and unquestioned reason—mixed sugar, spice, and everything he deemed nice (ice cream, rainbows, flowers, bunnies, etc). But he accidentally added a mystery ingredient called Chemical X and made the Powerpuff Girls: "perfect little girls" with superpowers.
In their DIY recipe, the girls use artificial sweetener when they can’t find sugar, dirt and twigs instead of spices, and their own interpretation of "everything nice" which includes lizards (nice), books (also nice), and art (extremely nice). After adding Chemical X, the mixture explodes and from the smoke emerges a girl approximately three times the size of the other Puffs, with a purple dress, brown ponytail, and a single tooth poking out from her smile. The show diverges from its usual animation style to do a grotesque, Ren & Stimpy-esque close-up of her more shocking qualities (namely body hair).
The girls name her Bunny.
The ever-annoying Blossom is the first to dump all of her problems on her new sister: "It’s your job to fly around and keep Townsville safe from crime!" Buttercup tells Bunny to "beat’em up" and Bubbles says to "throw them in jail." "Understand?" they ask her. Bunny nods, and flies off to fight crime while her fake ally sisters kick back and enjoy a languid summer afternoon.
But something extraordinary happens when Bunny goes out to fight crime: She sees cops pointing guns at unarmed, kneeling robbers and correctly assumes that the police officers are bad guys abusing their power. Bunny, a prison abolitionist, overthrows the over-armed police force, releasing the prisoners and imprisoning the officers.
As an 11-year-old girl raised in a "never call the cops" house, I found Bunny beguiling. The ethics of the world from her point of view were not far off from that of a child; Bunny saw the world with new eyes rather than through the lens of Professor Utonium or the Mayor of Townsville like the other girls did. Just as we saw the innocence of children in Bunny, we saw the cruelty of children in the other Powerpuff Girls.
When Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup see Bunny on the news, they go after her and—rather than talk through their problem as they had in a number of past episodes—immediately scold her. "Bunny do good" she rejoices to her sisters. "No, Bunny do bad!" they scream back.
"You’re supposed to stop crime, not help start it. I guess you’re not cut out to be a Powerpuff Girl after all," that bitch Blossom says.
A sobbing Bunny flies away while the other Powerpuff Girls fight the criminals she released from jail. They call out for help and—in a move that showed more integrity than anything the other girls did—she returns to punch all the bad men away. After she’s done fighting, Bunny’s body starts to wiggle, gurgle, and eventually explodes. Her last words are, "Bunny do good."
Terrible Blossom hypothesizes that Bunny was unstable to begin with. Bubbles responds, "She was good after all. We were the ones who were bad." The 10-minute episode then cuts to its end credits, where the crying narrator says, "It’s so sad I can’t take it. For the first and final time, the day is saved, thanks to Powerpuff Bunny."
I was left broken, heart and head heavy with unanswered questions.
Did anyone ever learn Bunny’s origin—especially Professor Utonium? Bunny’s life was so short and tragic that I can’t imagine how the weight of her story untold would impact the other three Powerpuff Girls. How did they reckon with this experiment-gone-wrong—did anyone help these kindergarten-aged children grapple with their Victor Frankenstein-caliber lesson in mortality? Or did Bunny, our queen with more radical ethics than all of Townsville, remain an invisible girl?
More importantly, Bunny left me questioning what it meant to be a Powerpuff Girl. Why should she be any less of a "perfect little girl" because she was made with sweetener instead of sugar? Can’t the girls’ idea of "everything nice" be different and still true?
The Powerpuff Girls are servants of the state, sacrificing their lives to fight monsters and working with authority. But Bunny shattered and overthrew this questionable model of justice, which in turn caused all of us young viewers to question what it means to be a girl—and what it means to be a hero.