Mirror Essay: TOMBOY

Kate Jeddeloh

Pop Culture

Mirror Essay: TOMBOY

Starting from when I was young, I’ve been a tomboy. I always wore my hair in a ponytail, I wore either clothes from the boys section or my brothers hand-me-downs, and I loved to play sports or video games. When I watched TV I always found myself favoring characters who were also tomboys, or girls who had short hair and tomboyish style. However, I never really payed attention to the way they were being portrayed. However, when I look back at the shows that contain tomboy characters, it seems that no matter the age range that the TV show is being aimed towards, tomboy characters usually share similar traits, and many of those traits may be negative, however they are shown in a way that could be seen as humorous and in the end, make for some very likeable characters.

When I thought back to my childhood, one TV show that I often watched was The Powerpuff Girls. The Powerpuff Girls was a cartoon that played on Cartoon Network and was a TV show aimed towards children from ages 6-8. In the show, there were three sisters, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. The three sisters were created by a scientist in his lab to fight crime and protect the citizens of Townsville. Buttercup was my favorite because she was the tough tomboy. I watched an interview of Buttercup on Youtube, and when she was asked what she liked best about being a powerpuff girl, she said that, “I get to use my fists, A LOT!” (“Buttercup Interview – Powerpuff Girls.”). Throughout the video she talks about how much she likes fighting, and when referencing the bad guys she uses names like “chump”, “punching bag”, showing she’s a little bit crass. When the interviewer says how she’s known as the tough one and asks about her sensitive side, she quickly acts tough and the interviewer changes the subject. When asked if she’s worried about getting hurt, she replies,  “Nah!”, continuing to show how tough she is. When the interviewer asked about the rumor that she and a boy on the show were together, she says that actually she and the boy are just good friends and that boys are gross, showing that she is more interested in friendship with other boys rather than love. When you look at her facial expression compared to her two other sister’s expressions, she appeared to be irritated and her hair is the shortest of her sisters, catering to her tomboy image. After watching this interview, I could see how she is always referencing how tough she is and how she loves to fight, trying to keep her strong image. She also refused to talk about her sensitive side, instead she just liked to talk about how tough she is. I remember not wanting to talk about feelings either when I was young because I wanted to seem tough. To this day I still battle with emotional topics because I wish to stay strong and not let other people see my weak side. Throughout the interview, I thought it was interesting how they decided to emphasize how “tough” she is. I remember when I was a young tomboy, I too wanted to prove how tough I was so that I could seem more like a boy as opposed to a girly girl. When she was asked about the boy, she just said that they were friends, and she didn’t have feelings for guys because she thought they were gross. I think because at that age being a tomboy, we kind of think of ourselves as guys so of course we couldn’t like another guy.

When I was in elementary school and middle school, I used to watch the TV show iCarly a lot, and one of the main characters was a tomboy called Sam Puckett. It was a teenage comedy show that was aimed towards kids from ages 8-17 and was about three teenage friends and the goofy adventures they shared together. For this TV show, the tomboy character was represented as a tough girl as well. I watched a Youtube video of some of Sam’s best moments to remind me of her character and how she was represented on the show. I could see that she loves to fight and tries to just be one of the guys. She refused to talk about sensitive topics or cute things; she just wanted to keep up her strong and masculine image. To children, it can be seen that in order to be tough and be like one of the guys, you have to like fighting and you can’t be afraid. Sam wore more masculine clothing like longer shorts and sneakers. She liked to pick on her friend who is a boy, showing she’s tougher and stronger. She was often portrayed as violent and competitive, and refered to people as “dude” and “man”. She didn’t like to be told what to do, and so when people tried to tell her what to do she hurt them. She sometimes acted goofy and quirky and made weird sounds or used funny voices. She didn’t like to respect authority and liked to insult most people other than her best friend Carly. Like Buttercup, Sam too is represented as being tough, strong, and crass, and likes violence and violent things and also didn’t like to respect authority. Although there are many similarities between the two characters, I’d say that Sam is the most common representation of a tomboy. She is always tough and strong, doesn’t like to talk about her feelings, likes to insult people, doesn’t like to respect authority, and wears more boyish clothes. You can see that this is a slightly negative image of a tomboy because she is also represented as sort of a bully. In most of the show, she picks on her friend who is a boy but later in the show when the both of them start to grow up, she tried to be more feminine and then the two of them started dating. This is a typical situation for a teenage tomboy being represented on TV where they begin to have a crush on a boy and want to become more feminine. I relate to this because when I was young all I ever wanted to be was one of the boys, however, once I started to grow up I started liking boys and so I tried to be be more feminine hoping that a boy would eventually like me.

When I got into high school, I found myself being more interested in boys and I knew that no boy would like me as long as I was a tough tomboy. So, I started to wear more feminine clothing and lots of makeup and tried to change my personality to be more bubbly and kind to others. The character Darlene Conner from the TV show Roseanne also had a situation like this. To this day I occasionally watch the TV show Roseanne which is a comedy/drama TV show about an American family, and was aimed towards young adults to older adults. Once again, I watched a video on Youtube to brush up on what kind of character Darlene was to see how she was represented. The video started with a clip from when Darlene is in high school and tried to dress more feminine to impress a guy, and talks about how she is such a dork, and tries to get advice from her more feminine sister. In the show she always teased her older sister and younger brother as well as her peers and enjoyed doing so. When she go into high school, she had problems with her guy friends liking her or she liked her guy friends. Eventually, she got a long-time boyfriend who she bullied the most. She was quite rebellious, leaving the house without her parent’s permission. When she was young she often played sports and dressed like a boy, refusing to dress like a girl. In this show, the tomboy character was represented as a more cynical bully character that doesn’t care about anything. Like Buttercup and Sam, she too didn’t like to talk about emotional things; she also liked to bully those around her and was quite crass and used stronger language. She also wore more masculine clothes and doesn’t wear makeup. It’s interesting how in this show too, the tomboy character was represented in a more negative light. Darlene was more cynical than the rest of the girls, but she too was represented as a bully. The younger version of her was how I was when I was younger, always playing sports and wearing boys clothes and trying to act tough, but as I grew older I tried to take a more positive path.

For Buttercup from The Powerpuff Girls, the creator made the assumption that tomboys are violent, and don’t like to talk about cute subjects or emotional subjects, and has no interest in boys. Some might see that tomboys are just trouble and they are too violent, creating a negative image for tomboys. Others might see them as being cool and strong and tough. I too didn’t like to be emotional however I still loved cute things and animals. One thing though, is I always had crushes on my guy friends, I was never really grossed out with them; they were more grossed out by me because I was a tomboy. By having a character such as Buttercup, it creates a character that girls can try to relate to. It could relay a positive image in the way to make women strong and not be afraid, however it can create a negative image in the way that tomboys could just be bullies.

For Sam Puckett from iCarly, the creator showed the assumption that tomboys are bullies, they love to be violent and pick on other people, they don’t like to talk about emotional things, they are quirky, they dress more boyishly, they have an appetite, don’t like being told what to do, and they are athletic. Some viewers might get the idea that tomboys are just mean and aren’t good to be around. Other viewers might see her as fun and might be a person to look up to or be friends with. I think Sam is a good representation of a tomboy however I don’t like the bullying aspect of her behavior. She had good style for a tomboy, she was weird and quirky which is good, she was strong, she didn’t like to be told what to do, and she had an appetite, all of which are things I can relate too. The TV show gained a lot of popularity and Sam was one of the main characters so although she was a sort of bully, she was still likeable. The only problem with this though, is that it condones bullying behavior which is not good.

For Darlene from Roseanne, the creator showed a tomboy as being a sporty girl who wore boys clothes when she was young and having only guy friends. Though once she started going through puberty started to develop feelings for her guy friends, tried to become more feminine, but eventually became a more angsty cynical person who gets joy out of making fun of other people. I totally relate to the young Darlene in the way that I was always playing sports like basketball, I always wore boy clothes and I usually had a ponytail. Once I went into middle school and was going through puberty I too started to have crushes on the boys around me and I tried to be more feminine too. However just like every other tomboy who I looked at, she too became more like a bully by always making fun of and teasing those around her. One thing that was more unique about her, though, is the fact that she became more angsty and cynical. The nice thing about watching Darlene in the show though also showed her through many stages of her life so you can see how her character as a tomboy changes as she gets older.

From looking at all three examples, I can see that tomboys are portrayed as being tough, kind of mean, and aren’t prone to talking about their feelings. The common image of a tomboy is usually a younger girl who likes to play sports, has either short hair or a ponytail, and a girl who likes to be tough and be one with the boys. One thing that shocked me the most though was that all three examples were portrayed as being rude bullies which I had never noticed when I watched the shows when I was younger. In conclusion, no matter what the age a program is being aimed towards, tomboy characters usually share similar traits, and many of those traits may be negative such as bullying other people, however they are shown in a way that could be seen as humorous and in the end, make for some very likeable characters.

Works Cited

“Best Moments of Darlene and Becky Conner [3/3].” YouTube. YouTube, 07 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

“Buttercup Interview – Powerpuff Girls.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Mar. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

“ICarly.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

“Jennette McCurdy’s Best Icarly Moments.” YouTube. YouTube, 08 Aug. 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

“The Powerpuff Girls.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

“Roseanne.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 16

This entry was posted in Winter 2014 by katejeddeloh. Bookmark the permalink.

About katejeddeloh

I am a senior majoring in Japanese and International Studies. I love Asian culture (Japanese and Korean in particular). I like Japanese and Korean music as well as hip-hop and R&B. I like cooking, watching TV, and hanging out with friends.

5 thoughts on “Mirror Essay: TOMBOY

  1. Hey! Your paper was very interesting and really had me engaged from beginning to end. I also watched The Powerpuff Girls and iCarly when I was younger and I agree that tomboys are seen as tough and strong girls. Both Buttercup and Sam were my favorite characters as well, because I related to them the best. From first to sixth grade, I was a tomboy. I played basketball and volleyball, I wore basketball shorts and a tee shirt everywhere I went, and I put my hair in a low ponytail. Then when I started to show more interest in boys I started to dress more feminine as well. Being able to relate to your paper is probably why I really enjoyed it so much, but it also has more components to it that makes it even more enjoyable to read. It was very well-organized, it was very easy to understand your argument, and you gave great examples. Overall, your Mirror Essay was great and I’m glad I read it! 🙂

  2. HI!
    i had the privilege to peer review your paper the other week and I really like it. I love how you were able to condense your information to clearly explain the tomboy essence of each character.
    -Heather

  3. Hi Kate,

    I definitely was able to connect with this, as a kid I was a tomboy for sure! I had way more male friends then female. I always was able to keep up with the guys in sports and liked to do more outdoorsy things then anything else. I agree that it’s really interesting to see from your essay, that these tomboy characters really are all portrayed as bullies! I can see why they can connect both being strong and tough with bullying, but I think they are generalizing a lot in the shows. Not every girl who likes to do more “boyish” things are bullies! Once, I started growing up though I did start to become more feminine, but still to this day I don’t put makeup on. I liked this essay a lot and I agree with a lot of the things you said. 🙂

    • The whole aspect of the tomboy being a bully seems to have a lot of implications about gender roles. It seems that the aggressive behavior associated with bullying will make someone come off as more masculine. Therefore, a tomboy character may trail off into bullying while roughhousing. It could also in a way be a subtle form of discouragement for young girls to get too into boyish interests, considering that pushing people around is of course a negative aspect of masculinity and often tagged to a tomboy. It can make it seem like girls who are into boyish activities may also act a little too mean as a downside.

      • Wow, I didn’t notice, the now kind of obvious implication you stated. The popular culture media that shows tomboys as bullies, really do imply and discourage young girls from participating in the societal idea of “boyish interests”. Thank you for pointing that out. It really goes to show you how much influence the popular culture media has on young individual ideas of what’s “right” and “wrong” for their gender to participate in. It’s sad when young girls (and boys) can get swayed on what they like to do, when they watch shows that view some aspects of what they like, to be morally wrong.

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