Last night, my friends and I celebrated the arrival of Animaniacs on Netflix by binge-watching over tacos. It was nice to see how most of the show still holds up after over two decades.
That said, nothing is without sin. And the biggest sin in this show’s record, at least in my mind, is the teenage terror that is Katie Ka-Boom.
If you don’t remember Katie, good for you – you were able to blank her out of your mind and ignore her while waiting for more Slappy Squirrel segments like my younger self. But now, looking back, there is just so much wrong with her as a character and I understand why she never took off as a staple of the show or was accepted by the fans. For instance…
She’s not funny
The entire premise of the Katie Ka-Boom segments is that Katie is a teenage girl who loses her mind with every minor social misstep or foible. The twist in this cliché is that she transforms into a series of grotesque monsters based on the stressor of the day which ultimately result in the terrorization of her family and destruction of the house – usually through a massive explosion; hence her name.
There is a germ of a good idea here that could have been made into a passable laugh, but there is no variation to the theme. They even reuse the same lines and gags. It’s just incredibly lazy writing.
And, of course, when I’m not laughing at the show, I’m asking plot-hole exposing questions that further pull me out of the experience like, “Why does Katie transform like that? Is she related to Bruce Banner” or, “How does she even HAVE a social life to fret over? Wouldn’t the other kids at school be too afraid to talk to her knowing she demolishes her home on a daily basis?”
There are many sins one can commit in entertainment, but not being funny in a comedy (or not entertaining in any regard) is the worst because it can only bring the other problems into clearer view.
She’s a living middle finger to teens and women
There are two things we praise Animaniacs for consistently; it’s desire to treat it’s younger audience as intelligent, critical people and it’s progressive depiction of women.
As for the women of Animaniacs, they had a knack for independence and proving their capableness in hard times. Even blatantly sexualized characters like Hello Nurse and Minerva Mink demonstrated amazing intellect and cunning; proving they had the brain to complement their beauty.
So, imagine how much of a kick in the head it is to see a character like Katie who basically says that all teens – especially teen women – are irrational, emotionally unstable, sub-humans.
… Yeah. kinda makes you angry, doesn’t it? But not as angry as when you realize that…
She is demonstrably and radically evil
Let’s cut through the crap and get to the big point; this is the story of a spoiled rotten child oppressing and controlling her family through violence in order to get everything she wants. You know what we call that in the real world? DOMESTIC ABUSE.
Yes, in a world of whimsy and cartoon antics, there exist abuse victims. There was one episode in particular (the clip of which I sadly can’t find online) that demonstrated this shockingly well when, for a brief moment after being corrected by Katie, her mother quickly recoils back in fear with arms raised saying, “my mistake.” Speaking as someone with a minor background in psychology, such actions and hyper-awareness in social situations are clear symptoms of an abuse victim.
If the show just had a passable exaggeration beyond the supernatural powers, it could have played itself off as a dark comedy. But, as we have established, Katie Ka-Boom is NOT funny; she’s evil. Like, the ‘monster-that we-need-The-Avengers-to-fight’ kind of evil.