Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Ballad of Trixie Tang

                Perhaps the saddest thing about The Fairly OddParents is its wasted feministic potential. In regards to the cast as a whole, the most sensible of a surprisingly wide female cast are Wanda and Timmy’s mother, two similar characters from different worlds. You also have female peers to Timmy, and they can be the most aggravating. Depressingly, what could make for rich, deeply appealing characterization instead serve as creatures of the plot. They only exist to interact as false love interests and play to the completely misguided misery-as-comedy angle.

                One particularly egregious example is Trixie Tang, a rich, popular, beautiful girl. In theory, this character could work as a superficial love interest for our protagonist, because she is beautiful. Such a dynamic almost comes into play, albeit slightly clichéd – an ugly duckling named Tootie crushing on Timmy. Her backstory could enable this conceit to work, but the show clearly isn’t interested in developing it. The two girls seldom appear together, and rather Trixie Tang is only utilized as, in a sense “Forbidden Fruit”. She lures Timmy in, enables a wish in an effort to impress her, and the supposed comedic payoff is in Timmy bombing hard.

                Wait, what?

                Yeah, this show has ambitions for generating comedy from misery and Trixie Tang is only one of the many problems with that. A running gag revolving around someone always failing at impressing a peer he/she likes is not an inherently bad idea. In fact, it is a standard in many a cartoon show. But the thing about your Doug Funnies, Dipper Pineses, or even your Mordecais is that a cartoon guy would usually struggle to get the girl because he is too shy. Timmy is not shy, in fact he is often quite determined to impress Trixie. This dynamic more has Johnny Bravo ambitions to it in a guy asking for trouble. It is already tricky to pull this off with a child character, and it simply does not work for Timmy. To understand why would require its own entry, but suffice it to say the misery as comedy angle clashes big time with Timmy’s role in relating to the child watching at home.

                It doesn’t help matters that Trixie really lacks any real personality. But in one episode, season two’s “The Boy Who Would Be Queen” there are good seeds for one planted. Timmy wishes himself into a girl and manages to bond with Trixie over both boy stuff and girl stuff alike. This was not only a good lesson defying gender stereotypes (unlike other shows), but this also established potentially good character traits for Trixie as a closet tomboy. It’s just too bad that these traits were never brought up again after, only serving the “Forbidden Fruit” formula of this one episode.

                And on one last note, let me mention that this same show established a character only for the sake of cheap parodies of The Godfather. And yet somehow, he was meant to be taken seriously as Wanda’s father. This has totally convinced me that the writers were actively trying to make the kids watching dumber.

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