Throwing Popcorn: Kim Possible

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kp-logoKim Possible

Disney Channel (2002-2007)

Created By Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle

 

The super catchy theme song tells you what you need to know about Kim:

I’m your basic average girl/ And I’m here to save the world

You can’t stop me ’cause I’m Kim Possible.

Kim’s show has the distinction of being one of only two shows to go past the old-school Disney Channel three season limit of 65 episodes  (That’s So Raven is the other). Depending on who you ask, it was either a German syndication deal requiring more episodes, or a massive fandom outcry that generated the last season. I know which version I prefer.

Kimberly Ann Possible is an average American girl from an average American town kp-kimcalled Middleton. That is, if you define average as the daughter of a brain surgeon and a rocket scientist.

Kim goes to school, gets good grades, does her homework, is on the cheerleading team alongside her rival Bonnie Rockwaller, gets annoyed by her twin baby brothers Jim and Tim (she calls them the “tweebs” — twin dweebs), and oh yes — travels around the world to stop a handful of villains from doing evil. She even works with Global Justice, an organization that is equal parts homage to and affectionate parody of Marvel’s SHIELD.

When Kim has to jet around the world, it’s not really an obstacle despite her age: she has helped and saved people so many times that she has only to ask — someone she helped will offer her a lift, even across the Pacific!

Kim faces more than one bad guy. She fends off evil golfers, lazy rich guys who get into villainy more out of boredom than anything else, and ninjas — all while trying to cope with the travails of high school life. One of her more memorable episodes has her trying to cope with looking cute for Picture Day — but the fallout from one of her missions having her sprout embarrassing body hair … which causes Ron to think she’s turning into a monkey.

Kim’s missions and world-saving after school are pretty much common knowledge, as Kim’s adventures began with her babysitting website. But the school pretty much ignores her as a heroine unless something happens on school grounds where she has to do her thing. Kim is also not a stuck up type despite her looks and brains, so she is one of the most popular girls in school, second only to her rival Bonnie. Kim doesn’t generally let this get her down. She cares about her schoolwork and about her jobs, and that’s where she focuses her attention. Nobody gives her a hard time for being a “brainiac”, which is extremely refreshing.

Kim is different from your average heroine in that despite being cute, smart, competent, and talented, she’s not as boy crazy as many girls her age; and despite her hypercompetence, she is kind of shy and awkward when she does find a boy interesting. However, she does occasionally have screaming fangirl fits with Monique over boy band the O-Boyz. She also is your average teen in that she loves shopping at the mall and the outlet store for both school clothes and her mission outfit.

kp-ronRon is Kim’s best friend and bumbling but well-intentioned sidekick who hasn’t realized his own potential yet. He just needs a little confidence, but so far life is determined to keep him from developing any between preschool problems, the angst of Camp Wannaweep, his fear of monkeys, and the fact that he’s a bit of a nebbish.

Despite those things holding him back, they are often useful to him on his adventures with Kim. As for Ron’s potential — we get to see glimpses of it when he’s hired on at Bueno Nacho, and when one of his ideas gets him a huge royalty check from them (even though he ends up losing it to Drakken). Ron is actually capable of matching Kim in hypercompetence — the problem is that the only time he does so is if he’s been mind controlled into being evil. He’s so good at it that he intimidates the main villain’s henchwoman. When he’s good, his insecurities and inhibitions cause him to get in his own way.

Ron is different from the other boys in that he’s not a buff jock. He’s not a brain to match Kim, but he is sincere and earnest. He pretty much personifies the idea of “boys mature slower than girls,” but he does still grow over the series’ seasons. Kim starts out as the head of the cheerleading squad but eventually loses that to Bonnie. Ron decides he wants to become a costumed mascot, so he suits up as the Middleton mad dog. The cheerleaders — including Kim — expect Ron to mess it up, but he is creative and imaginative in his approach and is a big hit when he makes his debut. He also is the one to give Kim her pep talk in So The Drama, the third season finale, when Kim is ready to give up after Drakken tricked her and broke her heart in the process.

Ron’s pet naked mole rat Rufus, purchased because Ron’s father can’t have animal kp-rufusdander due to allergies, is more often than not as good as or better at helping Kim than Ron is. However, Ron does get his own character arc. He goes from being terrified of monkeys to learning monkey kung fu, to finally being able to channel his chi and tap into the monkey force.

kp-wadeloadThe third member of Team Possible is Wade Load, boy genius, who more often than not is a voice on the phone or a face on the screen of the “Kimmunicator.”  He is Q to Kim’s James Bond, supplying her with various gadgets and gizmos to take on her mission: from grappling hooks to mini-bots, to whatever else he comes up with. He stays in his room until the end of Season 3 when Team Impossible spiked his system. At which point, he decided it was personal and that it was time to do something himself to stop it.

kp-moniqueHonorary fourth member of Team Possible is Monique (no last name given). She is Kim’s bridge between the world of super-spy, superhero action, and the world of high school, and stuff teen girls care about. She does, however, occasionally accompany Kim on missions when Ron can’t. She doesn’t care nearly as much about the super stuff, though.

In season four, Jim and Tim Possible, kp-tweebsKim’s kid brothers, join in with the gadgeteering and trick out Kim’s little car for her. One of the most interesting things about them is that the creators actually put in Twinnish, the langauge that identical twins can and do speak from babyhood. The boys randomly say things like “Hicka bicka boo?” “Hoo shah!” to each other.

Kim’s main opponent is Dr. Drakken, a contemporary of her father’s who, after an unrevealed lab accident, got a scar, turned blue, and went evil. Once known as Drew Lipsky, whatever happened to make him blue, scarred and evil is a secret that was never revealed.

kp-drakkenDr. Drakken is not the most competent mad scientist despite his obvious brains, but he is Kim’s most frequent opponent and the one who comes closest to succeeding despite his foibles. He’s one of those villains who would make a great good guy if he would only use his powers for good. We get to see he actually has a streak of morality under the evil: in the episode “Rappin’ Drakken” he is actually proud that he follows truth in advertising laws, even though doing so gives away that his new shampoo is a mind control potion.

He is a bit of an immature mama’s boy who tends more to tantrums. His fist-shaking parting line is most often “You may think you’re all that, Kim Possible, but you’re not!” Ron doesn’t even register on his radar until the end of season three.

kp-shegoKim’s true opponent, despite Drakken, is a villainess who goes by Shego. She is sarcastic, narcissistic, and takes as much pleasure in snarking at Drakken’s plans as she does at fighting Kim. Like Drakken, Shego was once a good guy — part of a family team of super heroes called Team Go. She gave up the hero game because she found it boring and the rest of her family got on her nerves. And like Drakken, she retains a streak of good; she will deny that saving Kim is for any other reason than “nobody gets to defeat her but me.”  To combat Kim’s gizmos, Shego has actual powers: an acidic green glow around her hands that manifests as destructive energy.

Kim’s adventures are usually episodic, and don’t carry a lot of continuity from episode to episode, though there are mini-arcs. They deal with a lot of stock cartoon and sitcom conflicts: brain swaps, teens who need to get jobs,  detention and homework, Indiana Jones type adventures, and the like.

Aside from the obviously awesome angle of the main character and the secondary villain being female, the show is revolutionary in other ways. Kim’s dear sweet Nana Possible explains where Kim gets her hyper-competence. When Nana was younger, she was a secret agent herself.

The very best thing I can say about Kim Possible aside from it just being a half hour of whimsical, punny fun, and action is that in 2002, before “friendzoning” had a name, it handled the issue in an appropriate and healthy way.

Kim and Ron were friends from preschool all the way through high school. Best friends, and nothing more. There were hints during the course of the series that Ron was interested in Kim as more than that, but he never made a move. Although Kim seemed to have no interest in Ron, when ninja girl Yori showed interest, Kim became a little jealous, though she refused to recognize that even after it was pointed out to her.

Kim had the occasional love interest here or there, but only the one whose name reminded Ron of monkeys caused Ron to have anything negative to say about him.   Ron accepted that he was Kim’s friend and nothing more  until the third season finale, So The Drama. Despite realizing that his feelings for Kim had grown, he accepted  that she was dating someone else, and remained where he was out of a desire to see her happy.

Further, he decided early in the episode that his friendship with Kim was valuable enough that he didn’t want to risk it by confessing to her. He only ended up telling her because she was despairing and  he thought that telling her might give her a little bit of reason to not give up on being a world saver. They put the whole conversation and the emotions along with it on the back burner until they defeated Drakken, at which point Kim gave Ron a chance, and it worked out.

There is no more appropriate and correct way to handle the so-called “friendzone” than to be a friend, genuinely, and accept the chips as they fall. Ron’s friendship with Kim was never under false pretenses, nor did he seethe at seeing her with other guys; nor did he pine for her to the exclusion of seeking out other girls to date. He just lived his life until the opportunity presented itself. If a kid’s show can get it right, how hard can it possibly be for live action humans to do it?

The fourth and lamentably final season gave us Kim and Ron’s senior year, and expanded  on their relationship, taking a couple of unfortunate cliches to do so. This can be handwaved by the generous as them having to scramble for material; So The Drama, the season 3 finale, was supposed to be the finale for the series as a whole.

Ron opened season four calling Kim at 4 AM to make sure their kiss at the end of Season 3 wasn’t a dream. Kim assured him it wasn’t, but warned him if he wanted more he’d need to stop calling in the middle of the night for reassurance.

One of the more uncool moments of season four: one of Kim’s cousins gets kidnapped by the bad guy because he sent his lackeys to kidnap “the guy with Kim Possible who doesn’t look like he belongs with Kim Possible.” There’s that “only certain girls belong with certain guys” reinforcement.

The series finale proper ends with Ron finally living up to his potential, and becoming “worthy” of the amazing girl he’s dating…and rescuing Kim after years of her having rescued him (and everyone else). A little cliche, but forgivably so in this case.

Representation? Disney prides itself on being good there, but it stumbled a little in the Possibleverse to be honest.

Although Ron’s Judaism is treated respectfully, as is the blended family when the Stoppable family adopts Japanese ninja baby Han, the show does manage to hit a couple of no-no points on the representation scale.

Acceptable targets played for laughs: Wade. Although he’s a genius, Wade Load’s name is a pun on “wide load,” a comment on how fat teenage Wade is (and on him being a bedroom-dwelling geek). They try to make up for it –a little — in season two movie “A Sitch In Time,” wherein Wade has grown up and become extremely buff.

Wade and Monique are the only two black main characters on the show. Sensei (voiced by George Takei) and Yori are the main two Asians.  Zita Flores, Señor Senior Senior and Señor Senior Junior are the only Latinos appearing in the series.

Mr. Barkin (voiced by Patrick Warburton), is a bit of a sexist, who picks on Ron for needing rescued “by a girl.” Frugal Lucre is a “basement dwelling geek” as are Kim’s cousin Larry, and Malcolm, one of the single episode villains.

Kim Possible is airing at random intermittent intervals on Disney XD,  with no set air time.  It’s available on DVD for watching any time.

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About Author

Jamie Kingston is a Native New Yorker, enduring a transplant to Atlanta. She’s a lifelong comic fan, having started at age 13 and never looked back, developing a decades-spanning collection and the need to call out the creators when she expects better of them. Her devotion extends to television, films, and books as well as the rare cosplay. She sates her need to create in a number of ways including being an active editor on the TV Tropes website, creating art and fan art, and working on her randomly updating autobiographical web comic, Orchid Coloured Glasses. As a woman of color, she considers it important to focus on diversity issues in the media. She received the Harpy Agenda micro-grant in November of 2015 for exceptional comics journalism by a writer of color.

1 Comment

  1. Actually, there were four Asian characters in Kim Possible. The third character was actually a guy by the name of Hirotaka and, like Yori, he came from the same ninja school that Sensei headed and there was also a female ninja student that went to Middleton that also was from that same school, but I forgot her name.