BY JOHN CARTER JR
The parallels between fictitious dystopian or utopian works and the real world or society we live in are in abundance across popular culture. Ranging from commentary on social structures and prejudices to the representation of the struggle of oppressed populations, these works have made an important impact on those who consume them.
Cartoon Network has had its share of Dystopian works in its catalog of shows and episodes. Some of these include Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe, John Dilworth’s Courage the Cowardly Dog, or even Pendelton Ward’s Adventure Time. However there is one popular Cartoon Network program that stands above the rest in terms of its excellently executed parallels to the real world. While Craig Mcracken’s The Powerpuff Girls has many parallels to the real world, the Dystopian landscape presented in the episode Speed Demon is representative of what happens when good isn’t around to deter evil.
In today’s Retro Review we will be examining the parallels the three character groups or types presented in this episode represent. These include Evil (Him), Good (The Powerpuff Girls), and finally Society (the Townsville citizens).
First a bit of background on the episode. “Speed Demon” at first appears to be just like any episode with your regular Powerpuff Girls shenanigans, with the girls challenging each other to a race after a day of school. They are racing as they are excited to go on vacation to the Bahamas. They together go so fast that they, logic aside, transport forward in time. They go so far into the future that Him, the egotistical gay coded devil, has taken over Townsville in their years long absence.
Everything is in ruin as Him’s affinity for chaos has decimated the town. Furthermore Him has evolved from his thin corset wearing body into this brolic or muscle bound demonic monstrosity. He is so powerful that the girls cannot defeat him and are forced to speedily fly back to their own time. They decide not to go on the trip as Townsville will always have uprisings of powerful evildoers.
Like mentioned before, this episode concerns what it would be like if Good was not around to deter Evil. If Evil was allowed to fester and grow undisturbed, what would be the outcome and how does this parallel to the real world? First in order to understand these parallels let’s examine Him.
Him is a megalomaniac, an egotistical demon hellbent on destroying the Powerpuff Girls and spreading chaos across the world. His power literally grows based on the fears and chaos that exist in the world. Throughout the series many fans have been bewildered by the fact that three little girls, albeit with superpowers, were able to overthrow or defeat the reality warping demon. However what they don’t take into account is how this is the very facet of his character that perpetuates not only the entertaining struggle in the show but more importantly how it represents the parallel in the world.
This is directly linked to the idea that without the Powerpuff trio (representing the goodside), Him (or evil) is allowed to go rampant. His evil literally grows when the girls don’t interfere. Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” This happens many times in history where someone is in need of help and the good people are blind to the evil occuring or simply absent when horrible actions occur.
On May 26 1991 Jeffery Dahmer approached a young fourteen year old boy named Konerak Sinthasomphone, He took advantage of this boy, violently trepanating the boy’s head, and killing him. However there was a significant chance to save his life. Before Dahmer had violently murdered the boy the police were notified and checked in on Dahmer, they knew there was a boy with him, but didn’t see anything wrong. If a background check had been performed Dahmer would have been proven to have been a convicted child molester.
This instance parallels Him in a very insidious way. Had there been more powerful good guys fighting against villains in Townsville, Him would hold no real threat. If there was enough Heros checking in on villains and doing their due diligence (Like with police officers in the real world) then evil activities would be reduced significantly.
Certainly this isn’t the only case where one’s due diligence would have led to a more positive ending bothe in Townsville and in the case of real world serial killers. Serial killers like John Wayne Gacy, Alieen Wournos, Ted Bundy (especially) and more would have been caught. The same could be said for Townsville villains, and this turns out to be true. There are multiple instances throughout the series where the main antagonist Mojo Jojo is thwarted early by the girls simply crashing through his window and stopping him (morality of surveillance aside). This proves so effective that when the villains all take the day off in the episode Telephonies, the villains Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, and Him take care of the Gang Green Gang (a group of minor villains) prank calling saying that the villains have been doing crimes when they haven’t.
Back to “Speed Demon”, next up is the titular protagonist, the Powerpuff girls. These characters are not only critical to this analysis but specifically critical to the function and progress of Townsville. Now there are multiple continuities featuring Townsville featuring more of Cartoon Network’s popular heroes and villains like FusionFall Retro, but we will focus on the world specifically presented in the episode “Speed Demon.”
In this Dystopian timeline and in the regular timeline (with the exception of Professor Utonium, the girl’s Father and Creator) the Powerpuff Girls are often the only fighter’s for justice that have the real capability of deterring the villains of Townsville. This obviously proves to be an extremely weak and scary balance for these grade school age girls to maintain.
Even the aforementioned Professor Utonium like many of the other citizens of Townsville was not enough to ward off Him. This in particular represents another facet of the parallel. In the real world for many it seems that evil exists cannot be defeated and will perpetually exist. This notion is perpetuated by not only modern beliefs but many of these ideas are found to be incarnated in the form of the good versus evil struggle in many classic religions. In Christianity the depicted consistent battle between God and the Devil is an example of this. It is a real world human belief that is particularly paralleled to the Powerpuff Girls.
The episode quite literally presents a powerful demonic entity facing off against a trinity of morally good beings. However in this case, unlike the christian depiction of God and Satan, The devil is too powerful for this trinity. While this is dissimilar from the Christian belief it does perpetuate the idea that God or, in Townsville’s case, the girls are needed to thwart evil. In fact it is something that is very telling about Christian belief, it is the belief in God that makes him more powerful. The idea that in order for good to overcome evil it is a negation of the source of evil’s (in this case Him’s source of power previously mentioned) power that is required to do so. The Supports the real world parallel concerning the presence of good deterring evil in that it presents how a vast majority of people view the dynamic between these concepts of good and evil.
To draw on this parallel even more we must further analyze society and its mirrored counterpart in that of the Townsville citizens in this post-apocalyptic dystopia. Firstly let’s examine some mainstay’s. Professor Utonium and Ms. Keene are still alive in this timeline and is completely ravenous without the protection of the girls. They are old, frail, and zombie-like. What’s more the girls are unrecognizable to Professor Utonium, who is trying to make a new set of girls presumably to save the town. The other citizens however recognize the girls and begin to blame them for the state of the world. This represents another facet of the initial parallel and further supports it in its connection to the real world. It also happens to be the most tragic.
This idea connects to the Christian real world comparison in that it represents something true about this world, whether you believe in a God or not it is often that acts of heroism are celebrated (and rightly so), However often people on social media when seeing an injustice will often say “prayers” or “Sending prayers” without doing anything in their own power to do something about the situation, let alone pray. There are plenty of people, like the Townsville citizens, who act as bystanders to all of the problems in their world. However this isn’t every person, like Professor Utonium there are real world examples of civilian heros. Ranging from the multiple cases of teachers protecting their students during shootings to the doctors saving peoples lives in the emergency rooms
In conclusion the Dystopian landscape presented in the episode “Speed Demon” is representative of what happens when good isn’t around to deter evil. This is paralleled in many ways to the real world and is seen through different character groups. Real world parallels of Him and villains getting away with their crimes is seen in America’s History with dealing with serial killings. As for the girls, they are paralleled by real world Christian belief and ideation.
Finally Society is portrayed in the form of Townsville civilians and how if they had a more internal focus on control they would be another deterrent to evil. Like the Townsville Narrator would say “And once again the day is saved thanks to the Powerpuff Girls”, (and good people too).