When it comes to finding a strong female role model, you can’t go wrong with looking at female characters in cartoons. Sure, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is cool. But can you really picture her in a fist fight with Shego or swinging around a lightsaber? Actually, we just did, and that mental image is amazing.
But when your favorite hero lives in the world of animation, there’s no limit to what she can do or the life she can lead. From Kim Possible to the Powerpuff Girls, we looked back at our favorite animated TV series and pulled out the greatest role models to inspire the next generation.
Whatever the one after “Z” is.
20 Badass Female Characters in Cartoons
1. Kim Possible, Kim Possible
Let’s start the ball rolling with the girl who can do anything — Disney Channel’s Kim Possible. She’s the head cheerleader of her high school, knows 16 different styles of Kung Fu, and is famous for saving the world from would-be evil masterminds.
We’d say “career goals,” but Kim does all her world-saving for free. Maybe there are tax benefits?
2. Velma Dinkley, Scooby Doo
Velma solves mysteries in an oversized orange turtleneck and is arguably one the smartest member of the gang. Because, while Scooby and Shaggy may get all the attention, if a ghost is terrorizing your amusement park, Velma Dinkley is the one you want on the case.
3. Katara, Avatar The Last Airbender
Most people get embarrassed when they sweat too much. Not Katara. This girl manipulates water so well she once used her own sweat to slice through prison bars and escape. Who knew “sweating profusely” was a special skill we wanted?
4. Suki, Avatar The Last Airbender
Even without superpowers, Suki swims through oceans in full body armor, tosses men like they’re poker chips, and beats the bad guys up before the folks with powers can.
We know who we want on our triathlon team. You’re invited too if you bring the granola bars. And stop bringing Bruce Wayne to parties.
5. Pinkie Pie, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Don’t be fooled by her innocent look. This pink pony breaks the fourth wall better than Deadpool! Don’t believe us? Then check out the Deathbattle: Deadpool vs. Pinkie Pie battle below where Pinkie Pie uses a YouTube pop-up ad to block the Merc With A Mouth’s attacks.
This is before stopping the fight entirely by introducing him to a heavenly “cherry-changa.” Friendliness is a superpower, too. We’ll finish this thought once we return from getting balloons tattooed on our behinds.
6. Bubbles, Buttercup, and Blossom, The Powerpuff Girls
These three girls have a list of powers that would make Superman feel inadequate. We’re all impressed by Buttercup’s fierce fighting prowess and Blossom’s leadership skills — but we’re particularly jealous of Bubbles’ power to speak more than one language.
Saving the world is great, but first, Duolingo.
7. Lana Kane, Archer
Lana may spend her work days trying to actually complete a mission while surrounded by narcissistic womanizers like, well, mainly just her on-again off-again partner/boyfriend Sterling Archer and her hapless ex Cyril. But she knows how to burn him by ridiculing his relationship with their mothers or comparing their planning skills to Wile E. Coyote’s. And save the day.
She may not be the scientist her parents wanted her to be, but she definitely earned her PhD in snark. Is it too late for us to change our major?
8. Lucy van Pelt, Charlie Brown
There’s something admirable about a girl who becomes a child psychiatrist… while still a child. Lucy may be the cause of most of Charlie Brown’s trauma (is she ever going to let him kick that football?), but she’s always willing to help him work through his issues for a nickel.
Terrible friend? Sure. But still more affordable than most shrinks.
9. Aeon Flux, Aeon Flux
James Bond has nothing on this sexy dominatrix secret agent who’s out to destroy a police state run by her archenemy/lover Trevor Goodchild.
Granted, Flux’s mission might be impossible and never-ending. But if you’re looking for something to replace your regular fix of dystopian TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld, that gives this Peter Chung creation another a selling point.
10. Wonder Woman, Justice League
Seriously, when you’re a statuesque Amazonian princess, do you need a secret identity? Superman may hide his awesomeness behind a pair of glasses, but Wonder Woman has no problem punching evil in the face 24/7 and showing girls it’s always best to be yourself.
Unless being yourself actually involves punching people in the face. That’s what pillows are for. Or the MMA club down the street.
11. Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn
This eco-terrorist might be out to save plants by obliterating humanity, but she still has a soft spot for the people she loves. Oh, and she promises to spare her favorite pasta place when she rules the world.
12. Marge Simpson, The Simpsons
Sure, she’s got a gambling problem and a criminal record a mile long — but any woman who can parent Bart Simpson and television’s biggest man-child Homer deserves to be in the running for “Mother of the Year.”
Plus, anyone who can pull off that blue hairdo for over thirty years deserves some respect. And then a new hairstylist.
13. Leela, Futurama
Leela spent years believing her one giant eye meant she was an alien from a distant planet. Later, she discovered she’s the least-mutated sewer mutant on Earth. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to see if our double-jointed elbows grant us citizenship on Krypton or entrance into the X-Men.
14. Gwen Tennyson, Ben-10
Upon learning she was an energy being who could cast magical spells, Gwen Tennyson joined the intergalactic peace keeping force, The Plumbers, and began protecting our universe from threats.
Can she also protect our bathroom sink from hairballs? Just asking. Or desperately pleading, really.
15. April O’Neil, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Ninja Turtles Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael might be named after Renaissance artists, but it’s their human friend April O’Neil who’s the real Renaissance woman.
Depending on the cartoon, April’s been a reporter, computer programmer, scientist, psychic, and even a ninja warrior. And we thought selling hand-made pet toys on Etsy made us special. When will the lies stop, mom?!
16. Ahsoka Tano, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The former apprentice of Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano used what her master taught her to slice off half of Darth Vader’s helmet in battle. You know Vader had to be a little proud to see how far his Padawan had come — right before he bolted to get his spare inhaler.
17. Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon
Sure, she’s an accident-prone, underachieving crybaby, but when Usagi Tsukino becomes Sailor Moon, she’s a badass accident-prone, underachieving crybaby.
The girl beat one of her first villains by crying so hard the soundwaves let her disintegrate him. When “crying real hard” is your primary weapon, even your archenemy will think twice before skinning your knees. She’s onto something.
18. Cheetara, Thundercats
Did you know at least 81 families named their daughters “Cheetara” in the 1980s after the super-fast Thundercat? Dozens of other girls received variations of the name, like “Shetara” and “Chitara.”
We sent that information to our first-born son Cheetos, but we’re still getting the cold shoulder.
19. Raven, Teen Titans
Goth looks good on Teen Titan Raven who inherited the ability to blast bad guys with dark magic from her father, the cosmic demon Trigon. Meanwhile, acid reflux was the most powerful thing our dad passed on to us.
20. Tinker Bell, Peter Pan
She may not be a Disney princess, but no one can say Tinker Bell isn’t one of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time. She’s sass and magic AF. And, in her series of animated films, Tink shows she can build gadgets and machines better than the A-Team’s Mr. T.
We’re still waiting for Disney to let her head their STEM program.
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