Saturday, May 9, 2015

KP EbE - I'm either humble to the point of lying or out of touch with reality (Theme Song)

(I've decided to call this project "Kim Possible: Episode by Episode", which is the KP EbE in the title.)

The standard format of a Kim Possible episode is 40 to 50 seconds of episode to hook you, a minute of title sequence/opening credits, and then back to the episode.

Since the title sequence is the same for every episode, it seems like it's worth addressing up front and thus getting out the way.

First, the theme song.
I'm your basic, average girl
and I'm here to save the wold
Then you're ... kind of screwed.  There's a reason that when the fate of the world is at stake we turn to ...

Ok, you know, it should be easier to find a teenage female superhero with non-superpowered friends.

If I wanted to talk about Peter Parker's non-superpowered schoolmates that would be easy, but for a female superhero I can't find one in the time I'm willing to devote to such a quick part of what I'm saying.

Normal people are vitally important to the salvation of any given planet, but they generally don't do it on their own.  Moreover, her odds of success aside, Kim is not basic or average.

The eldest child of a brain surgeon (her mother) and a rocket scientist (her father), she is world famous, quite popular, almost universally beloved, the captain of the cheer squad, involved in a stunning array of extra curricular activities, blessed with attractive features, near the top of her class in spite of having almost no time to study, well versed in martial arts to the point of knowing 16 types of Kung Fu alone, capable of athletic feats that other cheerleaders and other globe trotting world savers (both groups having more experience than she does) consider impossible, and so on.

Athletically, even with the cartoon rules of the world in question, the average girl probably couldn't match Kim even if training were all she did.  There's a reason that some fanfic writers posit that Kim does, in fact, have superpowers.  She's got a body Olympians would envy and, while she presumably has to work hard to keep it in that good shape, she cannot possibly be training as much as they do.

With the other things ... your average girl would burn out so very fast if they had to juggle the things Kim chooses to juggle.  Which brings us to another point, a lot of people don't get to choose.

Caveat before I get to that:

High School environments vary wildly.  If you don't believe me, look at any discussion of a fictional depiction of a high school social structure.  Some people will be convinced that a high school like that doesn't exist, didn't exist, and will never exist.  They'll assure you that it's a weird fictional convention with no basis in reality whatsoever.  Other people lived it.  That thing that was so far from group one's experience that group one thinks its impossible for it to exist in reality?  That was group two's experience.

Ok, so, anything detailed I say about high school cannot be taken as universal because nothing is BUT it is generally the case that people cannot live a life strictly of their own choosing.  After all, for you to be accepted in a group you don't just have to decide that you want to be in it, they have to welcome you.

Apart from not being able to sit at the senior table before she's a senior, there's basically no group Kim won't be accepted by.  All that she needs is to want it.

Kim can fit in with basically anyone anywhere.  That's not average.  Kim's school does have a "Food Chain" and Kim is way up at the top, but she's so far up at the top that she can have her best friend be the pond scum at the bottom without it harming her standing.  She's transcended the petty social structure.

Or, for the short version of almost everything since the quote of the first two lines of the theme song:

Kim isn't an average every-girl, she's a power fantasy.  She does what she wants, with who she wants, and the world will bend to her whims.

Sometimes she does get brought back down to earth.  The very first episode has her being reminded that despite her illusions to the contrary, she is not above getting thrown in detention for being repeatedly tardy.

Occasionally she will have it impressed on her that someone else is better at her than something or that her way is not, in fact, the best way.

But, overall, the fact that she literally lives up to the family motto ("Anything's possible for a Possible,") means that she's not basic or average.

The song has this contradiction in it, of course.  The song is about the show, so it can't all be, "I'm totally average," because she's not.

So, with the problem of the opening lines dwelled on way too much, let's do the whole song, starting from the top:
I'm your basic average girl,
and I'm here to save the wold.
You can't stop me cause I'm
Kim Poss-i-bile.
There is nothing I can't do,
and when danger calls just
know that I am on my way.
(Know that I am on my way.)
It doesn't matter where or
when there's trouble,
if you just call my name
Kim Possible.
Call me, beep me
if you wanna reach me
When you wanna page me it's okay
Whenever you need me baby
Call me, beep me
if you wanna reach me
(Call me, beep me)
(if you wanna reach me)
Doesn't matter where,
doesn't matter when:
I will be there for you
till the very end.
In danger or trouble
I'm there on the double.
You that you always can call
Kim Possible.
Call me, beep me
if you wanna reach me
So we get a quick rundown of things:
--She saves the world
--She's unstoppable for the simple fact that she's herself
--She can do anything
--She runs toward danger
--It's none the less important to call her
--She's there to end.  (Verily.)
--She's always on call.

It's a pretty good summing up of her character, especially as seen through her own eyes.  She isn't quite as good as she thinks.  Ron, her best friend and sidekick, helps but Rufus (Ron's pet naked mole rat) is the one who ends up saving her when she gets in over her head more often than not.  (Because if it's over her head it's definitely over Ron's head.)

She's not quite unstoppable and while it does seem that she can do anything (given time and motivation) she can't always do it as quickly as she assumes she can.

Moving on, usually she's called in for help but sometimes she does simply see something bad happening and jump in to help on her own initiative.

Off the top of my head I can think of a grand total of one time she gave up, and that was because she thought it was the very end.

With one notable (and unintentionally cruel) exception, we never see her turning down a call.

Over all pretty good for an opening; apart from "I'm your basic average girl" there's nothing that stands out as "... and they have a plan" false advertising.  Though I do note that "beep me" makes "page me" redundant as a beeper is just a beeping pager, and also that she is hardly ever called or beeped onto a mission.  A request for help is put in at her website, her friend Wade contacts her via computer or a secure multipurpose (including video conferencing in this case) device known as a "Kimmunicator".

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I've recently come into contact, via Ana Mardoll, with the song The Princess Who Saved herself:

(you don't need to watch or listen if you don't want to)
(I'll say everything that's important to my point in text)



The song, and a comment by one of the people involved in adapting it into a children's book, has me looking at Kim Possible in a different light.  The Kim Possible theme is a minute long, so it can't go into the kind of the detail that The Princess Who Saved Herself does, and it goes before every episode so it has to be pretty generic, but there are important differences beyond that.

The princess never meets a challenge she can't beat, but when faced with a dragon trying to burn her castle down she's appropriately scared.  She doesn't assume her victory is a forgone conclusion the way "you can't stop me" and "there is nothing I can't do" implies for Kim.

That's not just bluster in the theme song either, Kim really does have nigh unsinkable self confidence and a general lack of fear.

That's not the thing that made me bring up The Princess Who Saved Herself.

This is:
What I love about our heroine is that she fearlessly takes on every challenge and will kick a dragon’s butt if necessary, but in the end, she’ll always handle the problem by reaching out with compassion.
That's from Greg Pak, the one who headed up adapting the song into a book, in an interview with Black Girl Nerds.

She ties the dragon to the tree (by his tail) because he trying to burn the castle down but then she talks to him and, afterward, offers him tea and becomes friends with him.  Tying him to the tree was a short term solution, like Kim winning a fight, compassion was her long term solution, like Kim sending someone to jail.

Don't get me wrong, the bad guys in Kim Possible ought to go to jail.  They're usually thieves, often would-be world conquerors, and they have a habit of doing things that are incredibly unethical.

But when I have Kim Possible on one side and the princess on the other, it makes me wonder about a lack of solving problems by means that don't include blowing things up and throwing people in jail.

The princess "defeated" the witch by being willing to talk to someone who was different (wrinkled old and green) about what that person wanted out of fashion.  Kim can't even accept her best friend's preferred haircut without first seeing her attempt to change it explode with such force that Europe's power grid is taken out by the shrapnel.  (Ok, not quite how it happened, but we'll cover it in detail when we hit episode 5.)

I could very well be forgetting something, four seasons of stuff is a lot to try to keep in one's head, but I can think of only one example where the follow up to stopping the evil plot involved the kind of compassionate welcoming approach of the princess.  Kim didn't do it.  Ron did.  (That's episode 25, who knows if we'll ever get there.)

It's not like there isn't opportunity to try reaching out.  Half the time Drakken isn't trying to take over the world, he's craving validation or trying to prove himself to people who laughed at him.  A nice talk about how they can't give you a Nobel Prize if you never publish your research or how cool everyone would think he were if he adapted his hover-pod technology into flying cars for all and it's entirely possible that one super-villain could be eliminated entirely, in the best way possible.

Not everyone is potentially receptive to that kind of thing.  Shego, Drakken's second, is in the evil business for the evilz.  Mind you for her that seems to mean getting paid to steal things and fight.

The point isn't that Kim should respond to every problem with the compassion of an absurdly welcoming heart.  My point is that being faced with someone who saved her kingdom by being nice to people (even though she could kick ass and take names if she wanted to) while I was getting ready to write this post really made me start to question whether Kim's standard response (retrieve what was stolen, blow everything up, get bad guys arrested) is really the best one available.

-

I was going to talk about the title sequence over which the theme song plays, but I've kind of run out of time.  Maybe tomorrow.

-

4 comments:

  1. ...I might be too tired to say anything coherent, but I thought this post was excellent and I'm interested in hearing what you have to say about the title sequence in conjunction with this theme, and about the first episode, and probably many episodes after that.

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  2. If this were a real person we were talking about, I might think this was a perception issue. It sounds like her family members are also all immensely talented and her friend, while more average, is able to help her in super heroics. When I was doing tutoring, one of the common problems I saw in the tutors, including myself if I wasn't careful, was "but this is easy! (For me.) What do you mean, it isn't obvious? (To you)," basically, that people who are very good at something, especially if they spend most of their time with others who are also good at it, do not necessarily realize that what they can do is not normal for other people. So something like that might be happening with Kim. Except, of course, that she is not a real person, and the theme song does not have to do with how she sees herself, but with how the authors want us to see her, and, yeah, I agree she seems like a power fantasy. Which is fine, in fact I rather like a series that says any girl can be a superhero, but on the other hand, as you say, she is nowhere close to average.
    If I'm being more cynical about it, I would guess that by "normal," they mean that she has school woes and worries about friendships and crushes on boys, the typical stuff of high-school dramas. So then the definition of "normal" becomes white, upper-middle-class, American, cis-gender, heterosexual, and in high school, and as long as she keeps to those, she remains "normal" regardless of having off-the-charts abilities in every other area.
    Your point about the compassion of the unnamed princess is a good one. I'm certainly guilty of wanting to see explosions and the bad people defeated and punished, but I would like to see more of the sort of compassion that deals with enemies by turning them into friends. Especially as one of a number of options, rather than used either always or never. I kind of like that Ron's the one who does it at least once, though. Partly because there is a tendency for compassion to be labeled a "girl" trait, and partly because that really is the sort of thing that can let even "normal" non-super-powered people make a real contribution to solving the problems long-term.
    Thanks for doing this, Chris. It's interesting, and I hope you'll keep it up.
    -Thalassa

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    Replies
    1. If we assume that Kim isn't a habitual liar, a strong argument can be made that it's exactly that kind of perception issue that leaves Kim's self image so disconnected from reality. She'll routinely say, "[It was] No big [deal], anyone could have [insert thing almost no one could do here]."

      The good news is that most of the time she doesn't apply the same standards to others.

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  3. I definitely interpreted normal to mean 'middle class neurotypical/mentally well American cis hetero girl'. Possibly with 'white' added on to it, actually very possibly, although that makes me cringe.

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