During a recent fit of nostalgia, I found myself hunched over a laptop with my twenty-something housemates, enjoying an episode of Rugrats. Between laughs and guffaws, I rediscovered my mixed feelings towards the feisty, funny, rude, manipulative toddler overlord that is Angelica Pickles, a character I loved to hate during my childhood.
Our household binge on ‘90s kids’ TV reached beyond Rugrats; we also revisited Arthur and Angela Anaconda. During this return to childhood favourites, I had a strange realisation. Arthur’s stuck up and selfish Muffy Crosswire, a stuck-up and selfish monkey, and Angela Anaconda’s Nanette Manoir, a snob with a penchant for all things French, make Angelica far from a lone figure in the land of kids’ television. All three characters are young, rich, female bullies.
Is it just me, or is this a strange stereotype?
I can understand the thinking behind a lot of other familiar figures on kids’ TV: the goofy main character, the loyal best friend, the stern but loving parent, and the distant, vaguely menacing school principal. They probably reflect, to some extent, the average primary schooler’s own experiences. But a well-to-do, female five-year-old with a Machiavellian streak? I certainly don’t remember anyone fitting this mould during my schooling.
Angelica and Muffy remain TV fixtures (though the removal of Angela Anaconda from TV listings means Mademoiselle Manoir is accessible only via YouTube). Research (and consultation with my younger cousins) reveals that the pair have since been joined on TV screens by a number of other wealthy female bullies, in both human and animal form. There’s Suzi in Camp Lakebottom, Pacifica Northwest in Gravity Falls, and the aptly-named fillies Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
These characters aren’t evil villains but they do exploit their peers and classmates without concern for the consequences. They demonstrate behaviours to avoid: they're selfish, bratty, aloof and shallow. Of course, teaching kids of both genders that these traits are negative is probably a good thing. What’s concerning is the fact that these qualities seem to be linked to females — and females from wealthy backgrounds, particularly — far more often than to males.