Remember the Powerpuff Girls short “Schoolhouse Rocked”? That was the one where a truant officer named Mr. Wednesday (an obvious parody of Joe Friday from Dragnet voiced by Gregg Berger) shanghais the Gang Green Gang and places them in Pokey Oaks Kindergarten, the classroom of the Powerpuff Girls, and things go as well as you’d expect. At the end of the short, when Wednesday collects the beaten up Gang at the end of the day, Miss Keane beans Wednesday with a dodge ball, and tells the triumphant Girls that Mr. Wednesday has taught them all a valuable lesson. Bubbles says this:
To which Miss Keane replies “No, never turn your back in a dodge ball game!” Cue end-of-episode cartoon laughter.
A funny short, but that line about education didn’t quite work for me. Not the line itself, but who delivered it. Why was Bubbles given that line? It was funny, but it was way too intellectual a thing for Bubbles to say. Blossom is the smart one, the academically advanced one; she should have said that. The writers only gave that line to Bubbles because Bubbles is the fan favorite character. I know this comes off as sour grapes because Blossom is my personal favorite Powerpuff Girl, but it’s not that (well, not entirely); the line just seemed out of character for Bubbles and it seemed like she only got the line due to her popularity with fans and nothing else.
I’ve seen this happen elsewhere: when then President George H.W. Bush gave his now infamous speech about how Americans needed to be “more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons“, the Simpsons writers naturally responded to this in-episode; they showed the family watching the Bush speech on TV and had Bart say:
Again, a good clever line, but once again it was too clever for a character like Bart to say. To me, that seemed like the perfect Lisa line. She’s the smart one. But Lisa could never crack wise, oh no no no. It’s gotta be Bart, ’cause he’s the one who was adorning T-shirts and bumper stickers all across America.
Yet another example of this occurred during Bugs Bunny’s 50th birthday. Warner Brothers came out with a commemorative magazine celebrating the occasion which featured other cartoon characters paying tribute to Bugs. One of Matt Groening’s contributions was a drawing of the Simpsons all holding up a banner reading “HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, BUGS!” with Bart adding the pithy comment, “Do you know how much that is in bunny years?” Again, a clever quip, but again, too smart for Bart. I doubt realistically that Bart even knows how much that is in bunny years. That also seemed more appropriate for Lisa to say; even during the characters’ tenure in the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, when both characters were more or less equally bratty, it was always implied that Lisa was the smarter of the two; but by this time the nation was in the grips of Bart-Mania, so he got to say all the clever lines, whether they were suited for him or not.
I guess it’s true what they say: