It Doesn’t Matter If You Love Him or Capital H-I-M: Just Put Your Claws Up

by Maggie Weeks-Foy

Him, a supervillain in The Powerpuff Girls, was one of the first plausibly gender-nonconforming monsters to grace the animated screen. A devil with high, high heels, an effeminate voice, and an adoration for his rubber duck, Quackers, Him strikes fear into the hearts of little kids, not only through his love of pure evil, but through his unabashed expression of a sexuality that differs from the norm.

In The Powerpuff Girls, Professor Utonium, a slightly misguidedbut by no means madscientist, attempts to make three perfect, little girls. However, as seen during the show’s title sequence, he accidentally adds Chemical X to the formula. This black liquid gives the three girls super powers: karate chopping limbs; occasional heat rays shooting from big, bulbous eyes; and some serious passion for fighting crime in Townsville. The redheaded Blossom, the giggly Bubbles, and the tomboyish Buttercup battle various monsters from the rifle wielding Fuzzy Lumpkins to the small-crime Gangreen Gang to the horrendous Him.

Him’s typical appearance features thigh-high boots, a red frilly skirt matched with a cinching black waist belt, a frilled neck piece and, perhaps his most defining characteristic, snapping lobster claws. A similar outfit couldn’t be found at your local H&M store or Macy’s in the mall. Him’s outfit is decidedly him. However, it raises the eyebrows of mainstream culture. A children’s show character dressed in women’s clothing! Scandalous. Horrifying. Monstrous. According to David Punter and Glennis Byron’s entry entitled The Monster in the encyclopedia of The Gothic, “Hybrid forms that exceed and disrupt those systems of classification through which cultures organize experience, monsters problematize binary thinking and demand a rethinking of the boundaries and concepts of normality” (264). In other words, combining two separate, differentiating, seemingly unmerge-able characteristics, causes the viewer a sense of discomfort. Him strikes the viewer as uncanny through his manly form and effeminate voice and clothing, his human features and his lobster claws, and, perhaps, his implied comment on society’s negative view of the abnormal.

In “Telephonies,” Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, fighting crime and the forces of evil, burst into Him’s room. The Gangreen Gang begins the episode by making small-scale prank calls to various citizens of Townsville, asking residents about their fridges and breathing heavily into the receiver. These prank calls get out of hand, however, when the gang breaks into the Mayor’s office and use the hotline to call our little heroines. The Gangreen Gang impersonate the Mayor’s voice and cause The Powerpuff Girls to believe that Him, and various other villains, are sending Townsville higher on the crime-rate scale than ever before. Investigating one such call, the super girls screech in with fingerless fists raised, only to find Him doing aerobics, pinwheeling his legs in green leg warmers and a blue miniskirt, his goatee in an impeccable curl that would rival Superman’s one fallen lock. In this episode, Him was found innocent of any evildoing. Yet, he is still cast as one of the villains in this episode, and, due to his appearance, he is still a monster to many children watching the show..

Him appears in various other episodes more demonstrative of his monstrosity. In “Octi Evil,” he takes over Bubbles’s favorite stuffed Octopus, aptly named Octi. Speaking through the toy, Him persuades Bubbles to set Buttercup and Blossom against each other, making them question who should be the leader of the group. For the duration of the episode, Buttercup and Blossom argue. This shows how Him has earned his position as the ultimate evil. Many villains can wreak havoc, but it takes a true monster to tear apart sisters.

His breaking of physical binaries causes the narrator to define Him in “Octi Evil” as “a villain so evil, so sinister, so horribly vile that even the utterance of his name strikes fear into the hearts of men!” The Powerpuff Girls’s portrayal of the devil as an androgynous character is a commentary on how society views those who step out of sync with the norm. It appears that, according to the television show, those who step over strict, societal lines are immoral. Him is considered the ultimate evil in the show, not simply because of his actions, but because of his blatant refusal to follow gender stereotypes.

 

Works Cited

“Octi Evil.” The Powerpuff Girls, story boarded by Kevin Kaliher, created by Craig

McCracken, Hanna-Barbera Productions and Cartoon Network Studios, 1998.

Punter, David and Glennis Byron. “The Monster.” The Gothic, edited by David Punter and Glennis Byron, 2005, pp. 263-7.

“Telephonies.” The Powerpuff Girls, story boarded by Clayton Morrow, created by Craig

McCracken, Hanna-Barbera Productions and Cartoon Network Studios, 1998.

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