While researching female cartoon characters online, I was dismayed by the number of lists I came across with names like “The Sexiest Animated Women Ever,” “Cutest Female Cartoon Characters,” and “The 25 Least Sexy Cartoon Chicks.” As if all female characters can only be reduced to their looks. I got so much more from the female cartoon characters I watched growing up than how to be attractive. The female cartoon characters I grew up watching were interesting, complex, and didn’t exist solely to be the love interest, like so many female characters are written as in movies and television. They were intelligent,opinionated, and funny. I’m not aware of the type of female characters on animated programs now, but I’ll bet that most of them don’t hold a candle to the characters on this list. I honestly feel fortunate to have watched these female characters during my formative years.
7. Phoebe Heyerdahl from “Hey Arnold”
Phoebe was the loyal best friend of Helga Pataki. As a child watching “Hey Arnold,” I appreciated that she was half-Japanese. As an adult, I don’t know that I’m too cool with the one Asian character being subservient to the white female lead as well as being the smartest kid in class. But I may be overthinking this, I love “Hey Arnold” and I think it’s one of the best shows ever. One thing I liked about Phoebe was that she knew about Helga’s obsession with Arnold, but never told Helga she knew. She would listen to her rant and rave like a good friend would and never made Helga feel crazy.
6. Melissa Robbins from “Home Movies”
If you haven’t seen “Home Movies,” find it and watch the whole series immediately. It’s definitely a cult classic. It aired on Adult Swim from 2001 until 2004. It was about an eight-year-old aspiring filmmaker who made movies with his two best friends. Melissa was one of those best friends and was such an integral character. The show would not he half as funny without her. I liked that she wasn’t written as a nagging female character. She was just as silly as the two boys she made those movies with.
5. Angelica Pickles from “Rugrats”
She had the most memorable lines from “Rugrats” including: “I wish I could be you just so I could be friends with me” and when one of the other kids asks her why they should give their moms gifts on Mother’s Day, Angelica replies, “Well, in your case it’s to say you’re sorry.” That cracks me up every single time.
4. Lisa Simpson from “The Simpsons”
Lisa is such an inspirational character. The episode “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” is what made her into an iconic female character to me. In it, she is disappointed that the doll that she and every little girl loves is an airhead. She creates her own doll which is modest, but has intelligent things to say, and is voiced by Lisa herself.
3. Ginger Foutley from “As Told By Ginger”
As I’ve said before, “As Told By Ginger was a perfect show for women and girls of all ages. You can definitely tell that it was written by women. The show provided great insight into female friendships as well as mother-daughter relationships.
2. Daria Morgendorffer from “Daria”
Daria is one of my role models in life. I aspire to be like her, but there’s no way I could ever be as smart and witty as she is. She is the ultimate role model for anyone who feels like an outsider, which, I would imagine is most people.
1. Helga Pataki from “Hey Arnold”
Helga is one of the most complex and multidimensional characters that has ever been on television. The character was played perfectly by the voice actress Francesca Smith. Unlike most cartoons, “Hey Arnold” used actual kids as the voices of the characters. It’s hard to believe someone so young could do justice to Helga’s nuanced personality. I have such affection for Helga and always will. As a viewer, she made me laugh, she made me mad, I felt sympathy for her, but most of all, I wanted her to find happiness.