For those who don't know, JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS started life in 1963 as a comic book in the Archie universe. Then they were in two early 1970's Saturday morning animated series, one in the Scooby-Doo universe and the other in outer space. In the 21st Century, the all-girl band turned up in a vastly under-appreciated 2001 live-action film and appeared in RIVERDALE, The CW's moody, broody take on Archie and the gang.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
channel freakboy: JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (1970-1971)
For this post, and my continuing Saturday Morning Mid-Life Crisis, I'd like to examine 4 aspects of the first animated series. So, come along now, pour a bowl of your favorite breakfast cereal and put on long tails and ears for hats...
1. The characters...
Josie, on the guitar, is sweet and understanding. Valerie, on tambourines, is so clever and mechanically inclined that I'm convinced she taught MacGyver everything he knows. Melody, on the drums, may seem like a ditzy blonde but she is more aware than people think.
Along for the crazy ride is Alan, the roadie (I assume), who may be sweet on Josie, but I think he's secretly crushin' on Alex. Alexander Cabot III, the band's manager, tends to be a chicken, but manages to book gigs all over the world. His sister Alexandra, a schemer with a punk rock white stripe in her hair, tags along because she can and because she has it bad for Alan. Last, but not least, there is Alexandra's cat Sebastian, who ultimately gives his feline brethren a good name. He saves the gang on occasion, even from the bottom of the ocean in the first episode.
2. Groovy tunes...
Ive been wanting an official collection of Josie and the Pussycats for years. I could've dropped $900 of my stimulus money on a used CD via Amazon or just buy the series on DVD for $10. It was a no brainer because I'm a cheapskate. The songs have always been the thing I remember most from watching reruns as a kid.
I enjoyed all the songs, but a few really stood out. The theme song is terrific and nicely sets up the series, but there is so much more to hear. Inside, Outside, Upside Down is a catchy song about stalking your crush. Lie Lie Lie is one of the most realistic songs about romance ever recorded. Roadrunner is unfortunately not about a fellow cartoon character, but it is about a woman warning another of a male hussy. My favorite is You've Come A Long Way Baby. This song is about a woman not being impressed with the glitz and glam of an old beau's success. She wants the boy she used to know, not the tricked out mack-daddy he's become.
3. Mystery-solving teens...
When I was younger, I believed Josie and the Pussycats belonged with the Scooby gang in the genre of teen sleuths. Now that I'm older and allegedly wiser, I'm not so certain. Yes, there are similarities, but there are also notable differences.
Josie and the gang aren't really solving mysteries. They are often swept up in the world domination plans of James Bond-style villains. Typically, these baddies are introduced in the opening scene, so there is rarely a big unmasking at the end. Also different is the constant antagonistic behavior of Alexandra. She has no comparison character in the Scooby gang. Last, but once again not least, Sebastian isn't really a sidekick like Scooby or Captain Caveman because he's not front and center. Maybe these differences stem from Josie and the Pussycats being a comic book first.
4. Insensitivity issues...
It was 50 years ago, so 21st Century viewers should expect to be offended by something. There is cultural insensitivity, especially a scene where Alan goes through a series of stereotypical disguises. There is also body insensitivity, with some overweight jokes. I must add there is age insensitivity when a villain transforms Alexander, Melody and Alexandra into slow, sleepy, complaining senior citizens.
Oh, and some might find Melody offensive because she may contribute to the ditzy blond stereotype and Alexandra may encourage bullying. Plus, there is little representation of the LGBTQ community, other than maybe Alan. There may also be an outcry over The Pussycats' skimpy cat outfits. Are they a product of male chauvinist sexism or female feminist empowerment? I don't know, but I believe the most important question centers around one of The Pussycats.
Does Valerie, a strong, intelligent, independent woman of color, counterbalance the potentially outrage-inducing aspects of JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS?
I believe the answer is far more complex and runs much deeper than an early 1970's Saturday morning cartoon.
In conclusion, despite its flaws, i enjoyed this trip down Saturday Morning Lane. Memorable characters and great songs keep JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS groovin'. However, 21st Century parental discretion is advised.
P.S. 4 reasons to see the 2001 film...
My Saturday Morning Mid-Life Crisis, so far...