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Hey!  Don’t you call Buttercup a lesbian!

An incredibly geeky essay by Yay Ninja Bob

“Buttercup is not a lesbian !!! This is a piece of shit . Sorry . But i disagreee !”
Your weird. gay is when a boy like a boy, and lesbian is when a girl likes a girl.”
-looks for a gun- -finds one- -shoots creator of this vid.”

That last one’s my favorite.  I love Chihuahuas.

From these wonderful gems, to more lengthy, detailed private messages explaining to me how this whole “gay” thing works, I’m constantly getting some sort of version of “Hey!  Don’t you call Buttercup a lesbian!” directed at me.   But I can’t complain.  For every flame, negative comment, bashing review, and crazed piece of hate mail, I receive ten times the positive feedback.  For every angry death threat themed letter, I get a heartwarming “hey your writing has inspired me/helped me/pulled me out of the closet/etc” letter that brings me to pitiful tears.  I am so grateful for this.   I get more support than hate, and that’s why I keep writing.

But why?  Why the hostility?  I certainly write all three of the Powerpuff Girls as lesbians, but calling Buttercup gay is literally the only one who starts a shit storm.  Why is that?

The most common, and more rational of arguments is:  “It’s stereotyping to think a tomboy is automatically a lesbian.”  A complicated statement.  I’ll explore it later, along with a few more common critiques I’ve received.

First, a little history of my fan fiction career:

I write Powerpuff Girls fan fiction.  I know, right?  I started when I was twelve, and I’ve never really looked back.  Writing has always been my most favorite hobby, and being a crazed fangirl for everything I love, fan fiction is naturally my most favorite thing to write.  I started as a kid in the Powerpuff Girls fandom, but eventually moved on to other fandoms (Lord of the Rings, Invader Zim, Harry Potter, South Park) and have had three different Fanfiction.Net accounts.

When I was starting my first year in college, I began to feel nostalgic about a lot of things, and I found myself once again in the Powerpuff Girls section on Fanfiction.Net.  Being very much on that thrilling high feeling of “Yes!  Look at me!  Gay and out of the closet!  Freedom!  At long last, I’m free!” that one gets after coming out, I thought it’d be fun to find some good old femslash to read.  The show’s centered on three girls, how hard is it to imagine one of them might grow up to be gay?  Besides, most of what I could see on the main page were romances centered around “all grown up” versions of my beloved super heroes.  There had to be at least ONE L-Word version of this popular “Townsville High” plot being recirculated again and again.  “You’ll definitely find one on that Buttercup!” my college roommate at the time joked.

So I looked.  …And I looked.  …Hmm.  Nothing.  I shared my findings with a fellow fan fiction friend and asked him to give it a try.  I challenged him to find me anything.  ANYTHING GAY, PLEASE.  When he found nothing, it was clear to me what my next mission in fan fiction would be.

Gay Powerpuff Girls.  It must be done!

Buttercup as Butch

Okay, okay.  Let’s drop the whole “lesbian” thing for a moment, and focus simply on gender, and gender expression.  We can all agree that Buttercup is not a fan of anything girly. You all remember these types of little girls, right?  Or maybe you were one yourself. She was the little girl playing in dirt with GI Joes and toy cars.  She’s that child you have to force to wear a dress on picture day, and that little girl you’d never EVER catch wearing pink, and if you DID catch one of these tomboys doing anything “girly” they’d hold you down and threaten to spit in your mouth if you ever spoke of what you just saw to anyone ever! (OK, that might have been my first gay love when I look back on this)  On this, we can all agree:  Buttercup is not a girly girl.

In the heterosexual world, we call this a “tomboy.”  In the gay world, we call it “butch.”  Some tomboys stay tomboys.  Some tomboys grow out of their boyish ways and discover an appreciation for the girly things in life.  And then there are the tomboys who stay tomboys, but also discover that they are attracted to women.  And these fine women have graduated from an adorable tomboy to the rare and beautiful butch.

Okay.  Back to lesbians.

I love butches.  Oh yes, I do.  Most would label me as a femme, and call me “one of those role-playing lesbians.”  I guess I am.  I just can’t resist a cute butch!  I imagine that if I were straight, I’d probably be into that whole “bad boy” thing.  I guess I still am, but with girls.  Give me tattoos, piercings, and anything rebellious, and I’m in heaven.  I also love strength and dominance.  Yes to pussy, but a big NO to wussies.  And just the very look of a butch girl—androgyny is such a middle-finger to society, it’s an immediate way to grab my attention.  ‘Cause, you know.  I’m all about sticking it to the man.   So naturally, the type of woman I usually connect best with is a butch lesbian.

So, when I decided to start portraying the girls as lesbians in my writings, I favored Buttercup.  Because if she were gay, she’d definitely be butch!   And who are the best lesbians? Pshh.   Butches.  Plus, as a writer, you write from experience.  Having only two relationships at this point in my life, and both being with butch lesbians, it was the easiest way to stretch my writing muscles and write a classic femme-butch love story.

And so it begins:  HOW DARE YOU CALL BC A LEZBO!!

Wait.  What?

I NEVER imagined the response I would get from this.  Yes, I understood that slapping “gay” on anything automatically puts you on the shit list for a lot of readers.  I get that.  I’ve gotten it in a lot of other fandoms I’ve written for, but this?  Literally everything I got was specifically about Buttercup.  I was shocked.  I honestly thought they’d have a bigger problem with Bubbles being portrayed as a lesbian, if anything.

I don’t have time to go through every little anti-gay-Buttercup argument EVER.  Frankly, I can’t remember them all.  So here’s the Top 3 reasons for this OUTRAGE that I’ve found.  Usually, they all sorta stem from these three in one way or another.

1)  Buttercup’s my favorite.

I learned quickly that during my absence from the Powerpuff Girl fandom, Buttercup had become quite the favorite amongst fans.  So I wasn’t just calling anyone gay.  I was calling their beloved Buttercup gay.


Well, you know what else is personal?  Assuming that “gay” would somehow by a character flaw.  I just said she liked girls.  Seriously.  Calm down.  Just because someone else draws or writes her in a way that’s not to your taste, it should not affect how you chose to remember or honor this character.

2)  What about “Buttercrush.”

Ugh.  Buttercrush.  Every lesbian-Buttercup-fan’s cringe worthy moment of the show.  But honestly, it’s easy to ignore.  The damn bitch says two words in the whole episode!!  That’s not the smart-mouthed bad ass, we’ve all come to know and love!  She’s sassy and quick.  Not silent, and… dare I say it… weak.

I’ve always felt this episode was an early screw-up on the writers’ side.  It happens a lot on TV shows.  Season 1 is a rough draft, and most writers/directors/creators of TV shows admit that they feel like they get a better handle on WHO characters are by about season 3.

Do I know this is the case for the Powerpuff Girls for sure?  Nah, of course not.  Is it what I personally believe?  Yeah.

Dropping the whole “lesbian” thing for a moment, it’s still SO out of character to have her say NOTHING the entire episode save for girlish giggles and at the very end, “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry? Wtf.  Isn’t there an entire episode centered around Buttercup being UNABLE TO APOLOGIZE??

Anywho.  I prefer that this episode just went away forever, but that’s impossible.  So let’s also keep in mind that at 5-years-old… you don’t quite have a handle on you sexuality yet.  Gay or straight.  That’s a part of growing up!  Is every lesbian a gold-star lesbian? (Meaning never been with a man)  No!  Does that make them any less of a lesbian?  No!  Personally, I was the little weirdo who thought boys were icky icky from the start.  But most lesbians I’ve known admit to having one or two boyfriends in their lives before figuring things out.

Let’s be real.  Straight is the norm!  Society is constantly reminding little girls that they should like little boys.  It’s easy for a girl to get confused.  So even if Buttercup had a crush on Ace, at five… it doesn’t automatically make her exempt from lesbianism.

3)  Why does the tomboy have to be gay?  What a stereotype!

I get it.  No one likes stereotypes.   To most heterosexuals, calling Buttercup gay is an automatic stereotype.  But believe me.  BELIEVE ME!!  Believe me when I say that in the gay world, Buttercup being gay is a common FACT.

Before you get all crazy, we understand that it’s not an “actual” fact, but we mean a more common and shared belief and because it is SO common and SO easily agreed upon, it has been adopted by the LGBT community as fact.  NO.  NOT REALLY.  BUT YES.

I can’t speak for every gay person on the planet, but having worked at a university LGBT center for two years, volunteered plenty at LGBT events and functions, been around lots and lots of gay people… when they first meet me, one fact they learn about me quickly is:  “WOW!  YOU REALLY LIKE THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, DON’T YOU?!”

And so 99 percent of those conversations go like this:

New LGBT acquaintance:  Wow!  You really like the Powerpuff Girls, don’t you?
New LGBT acquaintance:  Buttercup was totally a lesbian!

Honestly, every gay person I’ve met and knows or vaguely remembers who Buttercup was, says something like this to me.  Every fucking one.  Why, you ask?

LGBT are seriously underrepresented in the media.  So when you’ve grown up gay, you tend to grow up with little to NO role models on the TV set, or in your favorite book… whatever.  So that’s when LGBT begin to “adopt” characters as their own.  It’s very commonly practiced.  They’ve done this with Thelma and Louise, Xena: Warrior Princess, Peppermint Patty and Marcy, Bess and George in Nancy Drew!

We become detectives, searching for any clue that perhaps this tomboy on screen or the extra friendly, single "friend" of the protaganist in this book, might just be... gay!  Oh, the joy I feel when I feel like I've unearthed the hidden gem that is an adorable could-be-lesbian.  Nothing compares.  Peppermint Patty and Marcy… clearly lesbians!  COME ON!

Alright, if you demand another source of this practice.  Here’s an excerpt from The Lesbian Menace:  Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life by Sherrie A. Inness, specifically talking about the infamous adopted lesbian couple, Bess and Georgina, from the Nancy Drew fandom:

"Lesbian readers quickly spot Bess and George as lesbians, understanding these unusually close cousins as a butch and femme couple, a duo that has existed in the lesbian community since at least the 1920s.  Few lesbian readers could avoid thinking about George as butch, which tells us why she is frequently their favorite character in these books.  One lesbian, Megan, writes, 'I preferred George to Bess because George was the tomboy like me.'  Another woman comments, 'I always thought that George and Bess were a couple.'  Sarah, who read the Drew books in the late 1970s, writes, 'George was my favorite character, probably just due to her male name and short haircut.  God, was I a tomboy.  Anyhow, I hated Bess.  All I can remember about her was her boyfriend.' Other lesbians comment favorably on George's name and her general appeal as a character.  In order to increase their reading pleasure, these readers are consciously manipulating the text's codes.”

See?  It’s a real thing.  We adopt characters as gay, because we don’t have enough openly gay characters.

And yes, it’s happened to Buttercup.  Specifically for my generation.

Why Buttercup?

We’re back to the stereotype.  But here’s the thing:  Not all tomboys grow up to be lesbians, but a lot of lesbians (butches, femmes, studs, lipsticks, and the I-don’t-do-labels, etc) start off as some version of tomboy.

Even me.  Ten years of ballet, favorite color is pink, dress-up, play house, My Little Ponies, and tea parties… I still had that tomboy in me that made me stick out from the rest of the girls who couldn’t understand why my Barbie doll didn’t have a husband and why she was a hard-working single mom who lived with her cousin, OK??!  I DON’T CARE IF YOU THINK SHE’S UGLY, I’M CHOPPING HER HAIR OFF DAMMIT!

So anyway.  Buttercup becomes the most relatable to many many lesbians.  Not all, but most.  And whether conscious or not, a lot of us adopted her as a gay role model from childhood.

Sorry.  It just kinda happened.

But.  You’re still calling Buttercup gay.  But.. I still disagree!  I KNOW IN MY HEART SHE’S STRAIGHT!  What’s that mean for me???

Nothing.  It means absolutely nothing to you.  This might come as a shocker, but I’m not affiliated with this cartoon in any way.  I’m a fan fiction author.  I’m a fan.  I have no say on anyone’s official sexuality.  No say whatsoever.

I used to take the time to respond to these comments and get dragged into debate after debate on this subject, but I don’t bother any more.  Because there’s no point to it.  You see her as you want, and I’ll see her as I want.  Can’t we all just get along?

But people just can’t seem to let it go.  They must PROVE to me that she’s straight.

It’s never ending.

So over the years, I eventually adapted the response of:  “Buttercup is gay.  Period.”

Why?  Well for one, it evokes the most hilarious of responses.  Two, there’s no point in trying to explain all my theories and all this shit I’ve written here, because they’re not looking for a debate but just to yell their ideas back at me.  It’s exhausting.

But the main reason why I keep it short and sweet, without explanation, saying something like “Sorry, she’s gay, deal with it,” is because of that response I get.  Really.  It has become a fascination of mine.

Call Buttercup gay on a forum, YouTube, Fanfiction.net, tumblr… wherever.  Go ahead.  Do it.  Whether you believe it or not, try and celebrate her as gay.  I’m not saying to go up to a hardcore AcexButtercup or ButchxButtercup fan and taunt them with gayness.  I’m saying to just try and say it openly, in a positive manner.  Don’t even say it definitively.  Say something like:  “Wouldn’t it be cool if Buttercup had a girlfriend on the show?”

Go ahead.  See what you get.  I promise you, it will BLOW YOUR MIND.  The behavior you will witness will amaze you, sadden you, and amuse you all at once.

Because most of what you will get is anger.  Outrage.

Why?  Why does what I have to say about this character offend you SO MUCH?  Why is gay offensive?  Really, if you’re getting so enraged by what someone on the Internet has said about a fictional, cartoon character, then my advice is to begin some soul searching.  Because you shouldn’t be that angry.  Again, I’m not talking about the jerks who go and start trouble.  I’m talking about the gay-Buttercup fans who are minding their own fucking business.  You have no right to “correct “ them.    You’re just a fan.  Just like them.

So if you find yourself enraged by Gay!Buttercup, here’s some tips:

  1. Breathe.  It’s OK.  The world has not ended.

  2. What goes on in my crazy head, does not, in any way, affect what goes on in your own crazy head.  You see her as straight?  Good for you.  Not affecting me, and what I write should not threaten you, either.

  3. Cannon-wise:  They’re five-years-old.  Their sexuality is non-existent at this point.  For all we know, Buttercup could grow up to be a fucking unicorn.  So just keep in mind that your head-cannon of heterosexual Buttercup will never EVER be threatened, unless Cartoon Network decides otherwise.

  4. You’re in the majority.  Celebrate.

  5. Gay is OK.  And if you have dispute with this, there is no helping you.

  6. Move on.

Last word on Butches in the media:

"Butches fail to fulfill heterosexual ideas about what is attractive and sexually appealing in women, and therefore, at least up to the present, mass-market lesbian films have been carefully crafted to include lesbians who could be as desirable to heterosexuals as to homosexuals." -- The Lesbian Menace:  Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life by Sherrie A. Inness

Sorry to quote from this again, but I picked it up for that Nancy Drew reference, and remembered how awesome it is.

Anyways.  I really wish that we could have some positive gay characters for kids growing up.  With the potential of the Powerpuff Girls being renewed, I would LOVE for Buttercup’s character to continue being role model for gay youth.  Because they relate to her, and she’s kick ass.  I’m not saying to define her as GAY, but to keep her rather undefined.  That way, everyone’s happy.

We need more positive, butch role models. Whether you like it or not, in the LGBT community, we’ve adopted her.  And we love her.  So don’t be offended, but rather proud of your favorite little Powerpuff!  Because whether you’ve realized so or not, she’s helped countless little girls feel just a little less out of place, and a little more represented.

When I was about ten or eleven, my friends dared this snot-faced little boy to sneak up behind me at recess and kiss me.  I was horrified.  I was then ridiculed for not liking it.  “What do you mean you don’t like boys?  What’s wrong with you?”  I’d come to hear that a lot over the years before realizing that it’s called being gay.

And then baby Bobby went home and watched her favorite show, The Powerpuff Girls.  On today’s episode, it ends with Buttercup being forced to kiss a Rowdyruff Boy.  She spits and glares in response.  And all though Bubbles was my favorite, having one of the Powerpuff Girls react the same why I had was all I needed.  I didn’t feel embarassed at all anymore.  One of the Powerpuff Girls hates kissing boys, too!  And somehow, that’s all the reassurance a kid needs.

So know that when I call Buttercup gay, it comes from love.

I don’t hate her.

I’m not trying to bash her character or bash you.

I’m not trying to turn her into something that she’s not.

I’m celebrating her.

 …In a really, really gay way.


Jan. 26th, 2014 10:45 pm (UTC)
omg this post is so great and I have so many thoughts but I'll try and keep it concise!

I absolutely am guilty of the 3rd argument, particularly in my earlier to middle years of being a PpG fan, and I realized later that a lot of that is a knee-jerk reaction to young girls who are into non-girly things immediately being classified as lesbians, as if there is no other possible way you could be into sports or cars because those are *dude* things. But that gets into much bigger, more complicated issues of societal gender norms, and eventually I realized it's kind of unfair to make that argument because there SO. FEW. LESBIANS. ON TV. I mean, gay representation is on the upswing and much more improved than it was a few years ago, but it's hardly on equal terms with the hetero-norm that is much more widely represented (and also complicated, as you mentioned, by lesbians being presented in such a dude!fantasy way - I remember watching a Bones ep where a female character shared a kiss with an ex-gf and while it was a hot kiss, the whole time I was watching it I thought "This shot is only in here to give dudes boners over two hot women kissing"). Again, too complicated to get into, we could go on for days.

The bottom line is there is no reason Buttercup can't or shouldn't be portrayed as a lesbian, no matter how rationally one can argue your 3rd point. The LGBT community needs to have characters like Buttercup that they can relate to as well. Being that this is fandom, there's no reason multiple interpretations of her character can't exist. Buuuut that leads us back to Point 1...

People don't want their "favorite" to be gay because "favorite" in fandom usually translates to "character who I most identify with." And so when they see a gay depiction of their "favorite" character, they take personal offense to it and get defensive, because HEY THEY'RE (I'M) NOT GAY HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT THEM (ME)?!?! Identity plays such a huge part in fandom, but self-awareness not so much. Their fervent love for the character makes it near-impossible for them to divorce the character from the self - their personal self, that is. (Again, once again there are bigger issues we could get into here, i.e., why someone would react so negatively to their fave (themself) being identified by others as gay, because despite our slow-ass movement towards being a more progressive country being gay still holds so many negative connotations in our society, BUT THAT IS FOR ANOTHER DAY AND THIS IS ALREADY A VERY LONG COMMENT.)

Also, Point 2! Because while I personally love that ep for the rare vulnerable!Buttercup that is portrayed, I am REALLY not a fan of how Ace/Buttercup shippers latch onto that as a foundation for what I perceive as a pretty poorly-constructed relationship between the two characters. (I realize I am a huge hypocrite, considering what my ship of choice, but 99% of my complaints with Ace/Buttercup are the same complaints that I have about how RrB/PpG is handled in this fandom. busterella is pretty much the only Ace/Buttercup shipper who has presented the pairing in a way that doesn't make me want to tear my hair out.) For exactly all the reasons you mentioned. (SHE'S FIVE. FIVE YEARS OLD. WHY WOULD SHE STILL BE INTO DICKS (both figurative and literal) TEN OR TWENTY YEARS LATER, SERIOUSLY. I'M NOT SURE WHY THIS IS SO DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND.) Not to mention sexuality, for many people, is fluid, and one episode is hardly grounds for who any one character is going to being *IN TRU LUB* with for the rest of their life. (again, /hypocrite) Buuuuut who am I kidding, this is fandom and we kind of thrive on that shit.

jesus this wound up being a long comment. HIIIIIII
Jan. 28th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
Lol. Hiiii!

No worries about the length, haha. I didn't mean for this post to go on this long either. It's a complicated issue and it's hard to keep it short and simple, I guess. xD

"Being that this is fandom, there's no reason multiple interpretations of her character can't exist."

God, I wish more people would realize this. But on the opposite side, I too, am guilty of giving a suspicious, raised eye-brow whenever I come across a fic where she's in a heterosexual relationship. But, I've seen it done well, and I can't deny that it's not impossible.

"And so when they see a gay depiction of their "favorite" character, they take personal offense to it and get defensive, because HEY THEY'RE (I'M) NOT GAY HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT THEM (ME)?!?!"

LOL. Yeah. This was definitely the strangest and most difficult reaction for me to wrap my head around. I guess because I've never really had that problem myself? I probably still don't even fully understand it, to be honest. Hopefully, as "gay" becomes less of a taboo, people's attitudes and sensitivity over this will improve. HOPEFULLY.

And yeah, I can't lie about Buttercrush. I just never liked the episode, haha. Except that it has the Gangreen Gang, because they're my favorite homies. <3 But I know part of my dislike probably stems from my Gay-Buttercup biased brain. My girlfriend jokes that if all the girls were real people and were grown up and in married, heterosexual relationships, that my delusional self would probably be like: "PSSHHH. JUST A PHASE. THEY LIKE GIRLS." Haha. I don't think I'm that extreme, but who knows. MAYBE I AM.

"Buuuuut who am I kidding, this is fandom and we kind of thrive on that shit."

Ha! Yes, indeed we do. :B

Anywho. Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this ranty post! I very much enjoyed reading your feedbacks. :)

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