Cartoon Graveyard: Malibu Stacy And The Order Of The Phoenix

August 6, 2009


Previously on Cartoon Graveyard, we discussed Stripperella, a hamfisted attempt to appeal to a male audience.  This week, thanks to a little magic trick I call “Recording a Saturday Morning Cartoon At Random,” we have on the docket a hamfisted attempt to appeal to a young female audience.  As a result, I hereby arbitrarily dub this Gender Studies Couple Of Weeks here at Cartoon Graveyard.  As you know, anything involving the phrase “(Blank) In The Media” can easily be read as “How The Media Screws Up (Blank),” so don’t expect to come out of this feeling good about TV.  You have been warned.  If you could picture someone standing immediately behind you hollering “MALE GAZE!” every couple of minutes, that would help.

First, let’s talk demography (and the crowd goes wild).  The TV viewing audience has been sliced and diced nearly to oblivion, to the point that shows will soon be designed to appeal to individual people.  No, wait, that sounds awesome.  Anyway, the segments are sacrosanct, and attempts to cross them are risky indeed.  Our subject today rushes in where marketers fear to tread with the tried-and-true method of cliché merging.  What do young girls like?  They like fairies.  What do somewhat older girls like?  They like hypermaterialism and disingenuous empowerment slogans. From this manipulative melange we get Winx Club.

Title: Winx Club
Network: CW
Premise: What if the Harry Potter books were written by the guy that invented Bratz dolls?

I recently discovered the value in reviewing stuff without any research beforehand: it makes it that much more fun to try to figure out what the hell’s going on from a single episode.  Here’s what I’ve gleaned: there is a school in something called “The Eight Realms,” which I’m hoping means they get to go to Jotunheim at some point, that teaches fairies how to do magic.  There’s also one for witches, whose only difference seems to be a vague malevolence and a propensity for Cryptkeeper-caliber puns, and a school for heroic boys.  Did I mention they’re all single-sex student bodies?  Heh heh, yeah.

The protagonist seems to be a transplant from Earth trying to learn how to do magic, which I think is what the word “Winx” refers to, since people keep yelling about how they do or do not have it.  It’s evidently a talent one is born with, and also a metaphor for this “girl power” I keep hearing about from commercials for notebooks and whatnot. She hangs out with a group of largely interchangeable fellow students (things I’ve learned from cartoons: blonde = shallow, British = smart) and repeatedly clashes with three witch students who want a ring one of the others has for some reason.  Again, I’m not putting in much effort at deciphering this.  The episode I watched has as its plot that most reliable source of cartoon shenanigans, a school dance.  Protagonist Blandy McBlanderson frets about not doing magic very well, buying a dress, and meeting hunky boy Blandrew FitzBlandington.  Nothing new here.  One telling bit of dialogue: “Why can’t we just make an outfit with magic?” Why indeed?  Because you’re here to sell dolls, missy, and nothing gets the acquisitive horde hotter than a five-minute musical shopping montage of you all trying dresses on your identical, dangerously thin frames.

So, can the fairies just pop in from fairy school to go shopping on Earth?  Or is it some kind of fairy mall?  Because if it’s Earth, we could work out some pretty awesome trade deals.  Sure, you can hang out at Saks.  But we get one wish for every hour you’re there.  No questions asked.  This is a gold mine waiting to happen, and I urge the President to normalize trade relations with Fairyland.

(waves wand) Anorexia nervosa!

(waves wand) Anorexia nervosa!

Anyway, meanwhile the three witch girls plot to ruin the dance and steal the Ring of MacGuffin by enchanting the party gifts to make everyone puke.  This would pass without comment as an actually pretty ingenious prank were it not that their teacher praises it as particularly diabolical, making me think that their standard of ultimate villainy seems to be Bill Murray in Meatballs.  Naturally Blandy catches wind of the plan and enlists her friends to stop it via some extremely lame magic.  Bada bing, bada boom, everything’s fine and Blandy and Blandrew have a lovely time at the dance.

This is as good a time as any to point out that watching this made me extremely happy to be male.  Now, I’m perfectly aware that marketers exploit such lines as gender, age, and race to push products while (perhaps inadvertently) reinforcing those often-arbitrary societal divisions.  That’s a given.  But I’m very thankful that the things people assume I like due to my sex are genuinely awesome.  Robots.  Sword fights.  Spaceships.  Those are empirically great things.  So I can sit back and watch, say, robots swordfighting in space and think “This was made with definite, reductive assumptions about my interests and buying habits in place, but I don’t care because it is entertaining nonetheless.” But I can easily imagine a girl watching the interminable spectacle of fairies trying on dresses and thinking “This was made with definite, reductive assumptions about my interests and buying habits in place, and I care because it is boring as shit.” Tough luck, ladies.  Lose one of those X chromosomes and you coulda gone to the Hero School.

But ultimately that’s not the reason Winx Club sucks.  Oh, did I not mention it sucks?  I really should have.  No, the true reason is that the show is incredibly amaterish.  It’s like watching one of those YouTube cartoons made in MS Paint by little girls that David makes us watch because he enjoys mocking the dreams of children, albeit one with some competent animators. There is no sense of timing whatsoever.  Lines of dialogue follow one another rapid-fire as if the speakers are holding separate conversations and not listening to each other.  Scene transitions seem to take place randomly, before the action of the last scene has really ended.  The plot is very simple, yet scenes are rushed through, I guess to make room for more shopping.  And it seems as if the writers spent all their creativity on coming up with the phrase “Aberzombie and Witch,” since the plot receives about four times the exposition it needs.  At one point, a subplot seems to appear (a girl is asked to sing at the dance) and then abruptly disappears.  Although come to think of it, I’m really not all that upset about that.

But perhaps I’m being too hard on Winx Club. After all, there’s a reason it seems like all the dialogue was hastily dubbed from another language: it was. Turns out the show is actually Italian and was imported by the CW, which is unusual for them in that it’s not a show about Japanese kids throwing magic cards at each other and yelling. But that’s really no excuse for rushed dubbing and lazy writing. How lazy, you ask?  I close with a final, verbatim quote.

“Oh, no way, it’s those witches!”

Final Judgment: Remember girls, Believe In Yourself (TM) and one day you, too, can be more excited about a sale at a clothing store than about having MAGIC POWERS AND FUCKING WINGS.



  1. It’s not as though I derive any specific pleasure out of crushing little girls’ dreams, it’s just that their dreams are ugly and wrong and should be destroyed.

    I mean look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3ANRu4MTVo

  2. I just want to let you know how distressed I am, now that I know this show exists.

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