The idea of cartoons is that they are fictional, mythical, and, more often than not, not normal. From tiny kids with supernatural powers to a talking dog and a conjoined cat and dog, these cartoons have become quite a hit given their un-relatable nature. However, in the early 2000s, a Nickelodeon gem was created by Emily Kapnek, who is also the creator of Parks and Recreation. As an answer to the question “why animation didn’t tell any stories that felt more grounded and true to life”, Kapnek started creating a story that focused on characters with immense development over the series, that changed and went through pre-teen and teen issues.
As Told By Ginger is a cartoon that focuses on an awkward protagonist, Ginger Foutley, with a close knitted circle of three best friends. Almost all the characters are going through different issues and challenges, and as they navigate through life, they learn from their mistakes and grow up. Thus, this is a cartoon that is timeless and is relatable, even today.
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Middle School and High School issues
Quite frequently, TV shows and cartoons tend to exaggerate or take a comical turn on middle school and high school issues that children go through as “mere drama”. Even if there are relatable shows on teen life, they are almost always live-action TV shows and films. As Told By Ginger can be regarded as a rare situation where these issues are portrayed by allowing different characters to emphasize on them, by sharing their personal stories without trivializing them. The creator of the show, Emily Kapnek, gives the reason for this relatable feature, “A lot of Ginger’s stories were borrowed from my childhood, and the childhoods of the people working on the show. I identified with her a lot.”
For example, Dodie Bishop’s loyalty, urge to be popular and the strong feelings of friendships are definitely emotions that many pre-teens and teens go through. In one particular episode we see Dodie becoming jealous when Courtney grows closer to Ginger, and in another episode we see her reacting similarly when Ginger and Darren become closer as their relationship grows. While these events may seem trivial to many adults, for teens and pre-teens, these are life-changing moments. Additionally, the diverse backgrounds from which the characters come from exposes them to different experiences. In one incident, this is illustrated through Macie Lightfoot’s childish and geeky nature, which seemingly stems from her parents’ lack of attention to her.
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Brilliant Character Development Arcs
Another feature that allows the audience to connect with As Told By Ginger is the development of the characters. The characters start off with many flaws. Some, like Courtney, are tone-deaf to the issues that middle class families go through, as she comes from a well-off background. Her superfluous lifestyle makes her famous, and thus, she starts off as someone who can be insensitive unintentionally, and who is a bad judge of character. However, as she grows and her family goes bankrupt, she becomes a better person, who understands what it is like to lead a “normal” life. Another example would be the protagonist, Ginger. Ginger goes through a huge change, as she starts off as an invisible student in school, but becomes the school’s President as the story progresses. Furthermore, unlike most cartoons, we are able to see grown-up versions of the characters.
This particular cartoon is flooding with some important life lessons. From the beginning of the series, one thing that we can all applaud is the portrayal of Ginger’s family. Unlike most cartoons that illustrate a typical “complete” family that adheres to social norms, the Foutley family consists of the super-cool Lois “Lola” Foutley. Lois might be a single parent, but she is definitely one of the best cartoon parents you will come across in cartoon history, simply because she is close enough to be her children’s best friend, while also having a good grasp over the disciplinarian nature expected from a parent. The series’ focus on Lois’ balancing of work and her parental role shows how she breaks barriers. The cartoon also shows that it is ok to be weird and awkward. Ginger and her friends, regardless of the side-eyes they get, try to stay true to themselves by being “their most authentic selves”.
As Told By Ginger is undoubtedly an underrated cartoon that came from Nickelodeon. It deserves to be showcased again simply because of its very relatable nature and its ability to allow teens and pre-teens to know it is ok to be themselves.