How Kim Possible Showed A Generation Of Girls It Is OK To Be Girly And Strong

Amelia Emberwing
Animation Disney
Animation Disney

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She’s your basic average girl, and she’s here to save the world, and quite honestly that’s the entire point. Kim Possible came into a generation of young girls’ lives in a time when we were finally starting to see more women getting to be their own heroes. Kim easily joined the ranks of the Buffy Summers’ and Xena Warrior Princesses of the world, but with one key difference: She didn’t have superpowers, or an inherent gift that would give her a leg up on her opponents. Kim Possible was equipped with gumption, a can-do attitude, and a killer back handspring.

And the show overall defied a trope by starring a character who could be vulnerable, while also heroic — and Kim Possible (which you can watch now on Disney+) inspired a generation of girls it is OK to be girly and strong in just a few of these ways …

So Not The Drama

While Kim was saving the world, she was also trying to survive high school just like the rest of us. There was something kind of validating to seeing a hero like her take on a horde of villains from Henchmen ‘R Us with ease, but struggling to navigate through the complications of high school. The series tackled a myriad of teen issues, ranging from schoolwork all the way to bullying. There were even several instances where cute-as-a-button Kim Possible struggled with her looks and the idea that a boy she liked might not be into her. Even though Kim was clearly gorgeous, the relatability of the self-doubt while trying to navigate the complicated social contract that was high school was a balm to teenage girls everywhere.

Never Be Normal! That’s the Ron Stoppable Motto!

There were a lot of factors that made Kim Possible Disney’s longest running Disney Channel Original (until it was ousted by Phineas and Ferb years later), but Kim’s team was definitely one of the more important ones. Kim was a lot of things all on her own. She’s equipped with a large amount of smarts, plenty of charisma, and the technical ability to take down any opponent, but she never could have saved the world as many times as she did without her incomparable support system.

Heading comms, gadgets, hacking needs, mission assignments and the maintaining of Kim’s website (a critical tool for any teen hero) was Wade Load. It feels important to note here that Wade’s, um, ten. Teen heroes need pre-teen geniuses: confirmed. Kim’s family also played an important, albeit sometimes frustrating, role in her success, but no one was more important to the Possible team than best friend and eventual boyfriend Ron Stoppable.

Ron and his infamous naked mole rat, Rufus, don’t just make up a critical part of Kim’s team—they also show a different side of the high school/hero experience. Where Kim’s confident and capable, Ron’s awkward and often a little bumbling. With that in mind, it’s important to note that neither of those things ever stop Ron from helping out, whether it’s by accidentally saving the day or just being a support to his best friend.

Don’t Stop to Tell Her the Plan!

So many shows focusing on girl power give us a competent female protagonist and call it good. Though it’s done with good intentions, it doesn’t do much when it comes to showing that women are capable of both complex emotions and doing great good or great evil. Enter Kim Possible’s Shego. Despite being a sidekick for Dr Drakken, Shego’s basically Kim’s only worthy adversary. Drakken frequently gets wrapped up in his own hubris (an entertaining commentary all on its own), while Shego handles all of the heavy lifting.

Shego’s origin story also happens to be a fun slap in the face to the trope of a woman being tough because she had a bunch of brothers to make her that way. After getting her start as a member of a family superhero team with her four annoying brothers, the villainess ultimately decides to try her hand at evil. Turns out she is very, very good at it.

So What’s The Sitch?

Though it aired during a time where information and fan conversations travelled a little slower, there was still concern that the show wouldn’t hold solid ratings due to what was viewed as “appealing to female audiences.” The show ended up being one of the highest rated Disney Channel Originals in history. At no point did it change course on its intent to be a female driven show, but it still garnered a strong viewership from young women and young men alike.

When the Strong Female Character™ started entering narratives, many writers found it difficult to find balance between being feminine and being tough. Mostly because there was no balance at all. For a while there, the trope was a tough, unfeeling, clean-faced brawler who just happened to be missing a y chromosome. While those types of characters have a place, the trope eventually starting doing more damage than good.

Now, there are female characters who escaped that trope. Princess Leia’s been rocking it since the seventies, after all! But there was something special about seeing a young girl who was both girly and strong by way of Kim Possible. She was the pretty girl, but she wasn’t the mean girl. She was strong, but she also cried from time to time. The addition of characters like Shego and Bonnie Rockwaller also showed off that women don’t just come in one flavor. Kim Possible might not have been the first to do it, but she was the one who was doing it for a certain demographic. Illustrating well-rounded women is important for all age groups, but it’s especially important to the young girls who grew up watching the series.

Kim Possible was unwaveringly female. In being so, it grew into one of The Disney Channel’s most nostalgic powerhouses. That nostalgia doesn’t just drive the desire for new content, like Disney’s recent live-action adaptation of the series. It also inspires the women who grew up with the show (and who may or may not still watch it on the regular to this day) to show other girls, both young and old, just exactly what the sitch is. And you can watch her adventures now on Disney +.

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Amelia Emberwing
Survives on a steady IV of caffeine, rants, pixie dust and fangirling. Will probably sass you.