Reboots are tougher than you might think. Sure, if you're relaunching a childhood favorite like The Powerpuff Girls you have the benefit of nostalgia, but that also sets up an expectation. Millions of fans have a deep fondness for the show that's connected to their formative years, and in many cases these memories will be immaculate and idealized versions of a show that can never be topped. On top of that, someone has to make sure Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are still relevant in 2016. There's not an easy solution to any of these problems. I know I can't say for sure what the best course of action would be for Cartoon Network's recent PPG relaunch, but I can say for sure that it's not "Put old memes in it!"
1. The memes are insufferable
Appealing to the internet can be a dangerous game. If you do it right, you engage your audience and make them feel included in something they love. Try too hard and it comes off as desperate, out-of-touch and just plain cringey. The above is clearly a case of the latter; Bubbles contorts her face to resemble the NO. rageface, and then combines that with the Me Gusta rageface. The ordeal only lasts four seconds, but that's long enough. The juxtaposition of what's now a classic cartoon with a meme that died at the end of the last decade just feels wrong, like your middle school friends and college friends hanging out in the same room.
And that's not even the most dated meme used in the show. In a preview for an upcoming episode, Bubbles showed off her "Mojo Meme Generator."
The Doge meme on the right is bad enough, but a "I Can Haz Cheezburger" reference is beyond the pale. That meme is almost ten years old at this point, and hasn't been funny since the second Bush Administration, if it ever was in the first place. These gags seem like they're supposed to appeal to potential adult viewers who watched the original show when they were kids, but somehow fail to recognize that those kids had to grow up in order to become those adult viewers. Lots of things that we found funny in 2007 no longer make us laugh, which is why anyone doing a Borat impression in present day finds themselves ostracized by society.
Unfortunately, bringing in current internet culture isn't any better.
Hearing Bubbles squee like a Buzzfeed post about puppies is downright nauseating. It doesn't matter if you still type "YAAAS" in the comments of every article you see on Facebook -- this is another one of those middle school friends/college friends situations that just ain't natural. And with each punchline swiped from the internet, the girls lose a little more of their individuality.
Cultural relevance isn't a bad thing, but it's never been what the Powerpuff Girls are about. They stood on their own because they were funny, fast and packed a hell of a wallop. No one ever needed to see Blossom and Bubbles twerking.
If you ever wondered what the Nazis saw inside the Ark of the Covenant right before their faces melted off, this was it.
2. Cartoon Network blew off the original voice actors
You've probably got a pretty good idea of what the Powerpuff Girls sound like. Catherine Cavadini, Tara Strong and E.G. Daily all contributed pitch-perfect voices that helped to define their characters. You could argue that they're a large part of the reason that PPG was worth rebooting in the first place. So it's a real bummer that Cartoon Network decided to completely ditch them for the new series.
Now, it's not the end of the world for the Powerpuff girls to get new voices. But apparently CN never even approached the original trio before replacing them with younger models.
I don't remember ordering a stab in the heart today https://t.co/wmomYvtCDG-- tara strong (@tarastrong) June 8, 2015
Owie! Rt in the kisser ! Hurts-- RealEGDaily (@RealEGDaily) June 8, 2015
I wish the new girls well but Wow! does this hurt my heart:( https://t.co/OzchpdAXFR-- Catherine Cavadini (@CatCavadini) June 9, 2015
In the voice acting world, this is known as Not Cool. Strong, Daily and Cavadini had been almost exclusively responsible for voicing the girls for their entire broadcast run, starting from the show's premiere in 1998 all the way to a CGI special in 2014. This is pretty common, since aging isn't much of a factor in voice acting -- Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are still voicing Batman and Joker to this day, after all. To rip the characters from people who had been attached to them for so long is considered cruel and unusual in this line of work. Then again, maybe Cartoon Network was doing them a favor.