Artwork by Julio Salgado
Intro by Mia McKenzie
So, a couple of weeks ago, there was this link going around that depicts certain 90s cartoon characters “taking on” New York fashion week in trendy outfits. Among them are Lisa Simpson and Daria. When I saw this, the first thing I thought was, Ugh. Lisa Simpson, proud feminist with so much to say about gender roles, body shaming and capitalism, drawn in this hyper-thin, rich girl way? Why, baby Jesus? Why? My friends had the same question, plus not-so-thrilled reactions to Daria. You know Daria, who once said, …”edgy” occurs when middle-brow, middle-aged profiteers are looking to suck the energy–not to mention spending money–out of the “youth culture”? Yep, that Daria is depicted in overpriced clothes, standing in front of a Mercedes dealership. Yuck.
Well, my friends and I try to be creative while we’re trashing things, so we started thinking about the cartoon characters of our childhoods (and beyond) and the ways in which their almost-always benign political characteristics lend so well to product placement and other corporate fuckery (which is the entire point of them, obvi; Lisa’s feminism is a rarity). And we wondered…how could we parody them in a way that both poked fun at their original product-placement-readiness (or in some cases their fucked-upness–see Rallo) while also making a point about growing up and becoming who we, and our friends and communities, became (hint: we are not NY fashion models)? Well, here’s what we came up with:
Lisa Simpson and Daria
bio by Tina Vasquez
Lisa Simpson and Daria Morgendorffer met by way of an alumni group through their mutual alma mater: Smith College. Once, after the Feminism & Media conference, they had one too many cocktails and ended up kissing in a Marriott Hotel hallway, but no weirdness ensued. Their shared love of dismantling patriarchy, smashing mainstream beauty standards, and using their middleclass, cisgender, heterosexual, white girl privilege to fuck shit up from inside was strong enough to push past the awkward aftermath. Morgendorffer works as a writing instructor with San Francisco’s 826 Valencia and Simpson is a women’s studies professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In their free time, they collaborate on their zine Cat Fancy. Both women are still processing what they learned from #solidarityisforwhitewomen.
Jazmine DuBois (The Boondocks)
bio by Mia McKenzie
Jazmine left Woodcrest, Illinois to go to college at age seventeen. Much to her father’s chagrin, she chose a historically black institution, in hopes of undoing some of the anti-black brainwashing she was victim to in her parents’ house. At college, she majored in music and embraced black militancy, which made her friend Huey Freeman very proud. Jazmine didn’t care, though, because she also found black womanism and stopped giving a shit what Huey thinks of her. She is not here for his or any man’s approval. She dropped out junior year to go on tour with her hip-hop-funk band, “Smashing Misogynoir,” and never looked back. She’s a social justice activist, a professional kickboxer, and a mom.
Dora the Explorer
bio by Tina Vasquez
Growing up, Dora became accustomed to her abuelitas and tias, even her own mom, pinching her chubby cheeks, patting her round little belly, simultaneously adoring her “baby fat” while also lamenting its existence. Dora had body issues for the bulk of her childhood, but in high school something snapped and she said Fuck. This. Shit. It was around this time that Dora began exploring other women’s bodies. Hearing her partner whisper, “You’re so fucking sexy” as they messed around in the girl’s locker room did wonders for her self-esteem. When her cousin Diego came out as undocumented after high school, organizing around the Dream Act, Dora was inspired by his movement work and began her journey as a queer, fat, femme activist. Using only her blog and camera, Dora fights fat phobia by showcasing the beauty of her cis and trans sisters – curves, dimples, stretch marks, and all. Dora also does queer porn, appearing in the latest installment of Courtney Trouble’s Lesbian Curves with April Flores. It was awesome.
Maya and Mickie (Maya and Miguel)
bio by Reyna Wrath and Tina Vasquez.
There was always something that felt off about living as a boy, like the soul was out of sync with the physical body. This understanding helped Miguel transition into Mickie. Mickie’s parents had high expectations for their son, expecting him to one day marry a woman, start a family, and carry on the family name. Seeing their son dress in women’s clothing was both a shock and disappointment. As far back as he could remember (before “he” identified as “she”), Mickie was always femme, just too afraid to tell those around her that the pronouns they had grown accustomed to did not match who she was inside. Mickie’s parents now have two daughters, with Maya being the twin sister assailant who helped Mickie feel comfortable expressing herself as a gender non-conforming trans womyn of color. As a Chicana poet working as a waitress to afford the apartment she shares with Mickie, Maya knows the pain of disappointing her parents, though on a much smaller scale. They wanted her to be a wife, mother, and doctor; instead she’s a self-identified slut poet who breaks out into hives at the thought of marriage and babies. Together, as siblings, they challenge the heteronormative patriarchal familial structure deeply ingrained in their family. They also spend a lot of time fighting over dresses and dancing to La Santa Cecilia.
Orange Blossom (Strawberry Shortcake)
bio by Mia McKenzie
Orange Blossom got conscious while sitting in the berry patch listening to Strawberry Shortcake drone on about her white-girl feelings for the bazillionth time. Chile snapped. Ze was like, “Jesus, do I even exist? I mean, is every goddam thing about you, Strawberry, like, all the time? I can’t believe I followed you here from the city. I was an artist. I had a life. The hell was I thinking??” Ze left the berry patch shortly thereafter. Back in the city, ze started a new art project centralizing the stories of cartoon characters of color called, “Not Your Sidekick,” and came out as a boi dandy. Ze’s single, if y’all wanna holler.
Diego (Go, Diego, Go)
bio by Julio Salgado
During his junior year in high school, Diego found out that he was actually undocumented. Because his parents had moved to a state where undocumented students have to pay out-of-state tuition for college, his dreams to become a veterinarian quickly vanished. Instead, he got a job at a fast food place in the hopes to save enough money for at least one class at a community college. But life in a state with extreme anti-migrant lives became too much for him. He began to deal with depression and took to drinking. One day he got pulled over by the cops and was arrested for a DUI and placed on deportation procedures. After a couple of pro-migrant organizations with foundation money turned their back on him and didn’t want to help fight his deportation case for fear of damaging the perfect DREAMer narrative, an undocumented-led grassroots group spread the news about his case and Diego managed to be able to stay in the country. Ever since then, Diego has been very active in the migrant rights movement and making sure that cases like his don’t continue to get ignored.
Rallo (The Cleveland Show)
bio by Mia McKenzie
In high school, Rallo fell in love with a girl who loved Audre Lorde. At first, he was just pretending to be into it in hopes of getting laid, but he was halfway through Zami when something changed. He realized he had it all wrong, that all of Seth McFarlane’s racist, misogynist caricaturing had made him into a damn fool. He hacked into the database that stored every stupid ass stereotypical bit of dialogue he’d ever been forced to utter and deleted it. Then he replaced it with the entire text of Sister Outsider. He’s a way better person now. He’s a prison abolitionist, he volunteers as an abortion clinic escort, and he runs a small org that provides black feminist books for racially stereotyped black male cartoon characters. “Audre Lorde changed my life,” says Rallo. “I want to give everyone that chance.”
Susie Carmichael (Rugrats)
bio by Mia McKenzie
Susie knew she was queer in 1993 when she watched the first episode of Living Single and saw Queen Latifah wearing that vest. She didn’t come out until her twenties, though, when she fell in love with another black femme (Jackie from Cyberchase) and moved with her to Oakland, where the two of them run an urban farm. She had a falling out with Angelica Pickles over her inability to recognize her white privilege and they didn’t talk for a couple of years. Eventually, Angelica got her shit together, started reading Black Girl Dangerous, apologized for her behavior, and they’re cool now. Susie spends most of her time preparing the farm to be a safe haven for QTPOC when capitalism finally falls and motherfuckers go berserk, and volunteering for People’s Community Medics. She documents her progress with both on her tumblr.
This artist received an honorarium for his work. SUPPORT BGD’s writers and artists and help amplify the voices of marginalized people!
Julio Salgado is a queer Mexican-born artist who grew up in Long Beach, California. Salgado uses his art to empower undocumented and queer people by telling their story and putting a human face to the issue. To see more of his work, go to juliosalgado.com.
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