Throughout the years, diverse representation in the media has started to rise. However, depending on how the representation is portrayed, it can generate stereotypes. An example of such stereotypes include how powerful women are supposed to act. Their relationship with men is unlikeable as equality isn’t present. This article will describe this topic in more detail by looking at the show Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Chat Noir.
Miraculous is a show about two Parisian citizens whose alter egos are superheroes. One is a girl named Ladybug and the other is a boy named Chat Noir. Despite loving each other’s alter ego, neither of them know each other’s true identities. As heroes, they constantly fight villains that the Antagonist creates.
Knowing this, let’s examine Ladybug and Chat Noir’s contributions to the plot and how the author writes their cooperation. Throughout the show, they are constantly referred to as “equals” or “partners.” Interestingly enough, Chat Noir has the powers for destruction, while Ladybug’s power is for creation. Their opposing abilities are used to showcase their teamwork.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case throughout the show. Chat Noir is constantly “dumbed” down to highlight Ladybug’s character. She’s creative in the sense when it comes to using her powers, while Chat Noir isn’t shown to do the same. The tasks he’s given are always to “distract” the villains or “destroy” objects around him upon Ladybug’s command. It may not seem like bad tasks, and one could argue their “roles” are what makes them work well with each other. But that’s the problem. Those are the only roles he’s been portrayed to do. Not once has he given insights with Ladybug on how to defeat the villain. Chat Noir only listens to Ladybug for her opinions and her directions on how to defeat the villain.
Furthermore, Chat Noir fails numerous times, allowing Ladybug to make tough decisions and work on her own. This eventually sheds more light onto her and how she can be this independent hero. Except, does this not contradict the whole “equal as partners” deal? Shouldn’t Chat Noir participate equally alongside Ladybug? Apparently not, considering how little Chat Noir contributes. The writers want to make it seem that Ladybug is this intelligent and clever superhero that Chat Noir clearly cannot be. Where’s the equality here? It only makes it appear that the female character is worth paying attention to because there are no other heroes with basic intelligence.
Additionally, along with the limited roles Chat Noir is given, he is stereotypically always the one who sacrifices himself for Ladybug. If there is a villain that’s going to attack her, he’ll have the villain hit him instead. And this is actually where the “independent” hero role comes into play for Ladybug. Not once in the whole show has Ladybug been shown to physically sacrifice herself for Chat Noir. It’s only Chat Noir. Does this not reinforce the idea that males are the ones to save the females? Is that the only heroic aspect for Chat Noir?
What’s even more problematic in this show is how Ladybug constantly yells and makes fun of Chat Noir to show how “confident” she is. An example of this is when Chat Noir and Ladybugs powers switch. So, Chat Noir has her power of creation while Ladybug has his power of destruction. This was the moment to see how Chat Noir could finally give his insight while fighting a villain. Unfortunately, Chat Noir has no idea how to use her creation power while Ladybug effortlessly uses Chat Noir’s power of destruction. When Chat Noir has difficulty using her power, Ladybug insults him while giving advice. This is a common trend when showing a “confident” woman in the media. Except not only does this damage the reputation for women who are trying to be confident, but it also reinforces the stereotype that confident women are annoying. Portraying a powerful heroine, yet showing her rudeness towards the hero can just be as harmful as a weak woman who doesn’t do anything to the plot. Ladybug obviously does not have to insult Chat Noir to be a “confident” female hero. Enabling the female lead to know everything, including working her new powers, makes the female hero unrealistic and two-dimensional. If the show is trying to make a “strong” female character, they should show her vulnerable side. They should make her human and not some stereotype of a female hero.
Lastly, Chat Noir is left in the dark for the majority of the show. Ladybug apparently knows more information about the miraculous world than Chat Noir does. She knows the magic system and its limits. She even knew the guardian holder of their magic while Chat Noir didn’t. Numerous times throughout the show, Ladybug is shown interacting with the guardian. Chat Noir though? Apparently not. There’s barely any interaction between him and the guardian. So while Ladybug is hyped with new discoveries of magic, Chat Noir remains Chat Noir.
Now, a fan did push out their concern towards the equality between Chat Noir and Ladybug on twitter, yet the response from the creator of Miraculous, Thomas Astruc, replied, “I can’t believe so many people have a problem with a girl being the leader of a duo. Ladybug isn’t the boss, the chief, the captain or the superior Chat Noir. They are equal. But she leads because of her abilities. Is it so difficult to let girls lead?” His response really just twists the words of the fan since we clearly know Ladybug is shown to be superior. She has more abilities; has more independent screen time; and more knowledge of the whole miraculous world. How is that equal to Chat Noir? What significant role, abilities, or knowledge does he have?
Looking at the response of Astruc’s twitter, it seems like the writing team is trying to advocate “feminism,” but are actually failing to represent their female heroine. How is she even a heroine to look up to if she’s constantly given everything? It makes her not complex at all, but a version of what males think confident and heroic females are supposed to be. In fact, it just seems like the author flipped the gender norms to “please” the female audience, by giving her more power. The show, really, just ends up hurting how male audiences may see what the females (and feminists) are asking for: equality. If females are to be properly represented in the media, then they need complexity. Not only will that bring a realistic representation for the heroine, but also a more realistic approach as to how equality should be advocated for.