We’ve been able to see media evolve in so many ways in the past twenty years, especially when it comes to animated shows. No longer do we disregard them as being just for children, we now have many examples of shows that illustrate the best of humanity and what we’re capable of feeling and achieving. But long before shows like Steven Universe were on the market, there was one show that illustrated the power of feminism and self-identity, while rarely resorting to the clichéd and eye-rolling way of discussing these topics. With a female lead that was equal parts capable and endearing, this show helped to shape a generation of sensitive and unique young women, and new audiences should be introduced to it as well. Of course, I’m talking about Nickelodeon’s short-lived As Told By Ginger.
As Told By Ginger was a very important show to me, because it was one of the first shows that reaffirmed the power of feminism, friendship, and the female protagonist. The title character, Ginger Foutley, navigates the tumultuous world of middle (and later, high school) politics while searching for her own identity. Ginger, in many ways, represented the potential that many young girls desperately needed from mainstream television.
In the beginning of the show, the tone is quickly set. Ginger is someone that the audience naturally relates to – she’s equally confident and insecure, normalizing the often-tricky journey that is navigating multiple identities at once. She longs to fit in and be among the popular crowd, but also values the friendships of those already in her life. Her headstrong and sometimes impulsive nature can lead to these parts of her clashing. A vital example is in “Love with a Proper Transfer Student,” when her loyalty to her best friend Dodie, and her crush on another student, leave her at a crossroads.
In juxtaposition to other shows at the time, As Told By Ginger is filled with cast members that are just as complex and multifaceted as Ginger herself. Her best friends – Dodie, Macie, and Darren – all wrestle with their own quirks and desires within the social hierarchy of Sheltered Shrubs and Lucky Junior High. We even see the inner circle of Lucky Junior High struggle with the question of identity on occasion – Courtney Grippling, the resident Queen Bee, defies the shallow and spoiled stereotypes that often come with a popular girl title. She’s seen as being quite loyal and surprisingly wise in times of crisis when she needs to be. Even Courtney’s best friend, and Ginger’s “archenemy” Miranda Killgallen shows the audience moments of snark leveled with almost taboo sensitivity in private moments with those she holds close.
To me, the real meat of the series came in the often-overlooked Lucky High School arc. Ginger and her friends begin to not only drift apart, but find themselves at ends with each other. From this circumstance, we really begin to see how Ginger defines herself with her own desires and thoughts at the forefront, without so much influence from those around her. In this sense, I found myself being the most connected to Ginger as a heroine because her journey to self-discovery was one that closely resembled my own.
As Told by Ginger is a prototype feminist show, at a time when many of us didn’t know we needed it. Ginger and her friends are capable, endearing, and sentimental in ways that remind us of our own inner circle in our lives. And though the show tackles topics that may seem very “teen angst-y” in the way that other shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation were, As Told By Ginger is unique in the way that it centralizes and normalizes a girl’s experiences as our center of action. Ginger Foutley teaches us so much about inner power and feminism without explicitly saying so, and that makes it a show that even newer audiences can appreciate.