Feminism is in the Futur(ama)

The 1999 women’s world cup was an exciting event. At full time both teams (US and China) were at 0-0 and so the game went to penalty kicks. Brandi Chastain nervously lined up before the goal with the cheers of 90,000 spectators echoing in her ears (Hauger, 1999). She scored, winning the game and the stadium exploded. She was, of course, ecstatic and in a move which was common practise among male football players removed her shirt whilst taking a victory lap around the stadium. The next day Newsweek described Chastain as the “flamboyant, pony-tailed blonde known as Holly Wood” who “whipped off her shirt”, and was “stripping down to her black sports bra”.

The media reduced an incredibly talented football players winning of the World Championships to her clothes and appearance.

matt smith
However this reception was far from unique in 1999 as women were (and still are) treated as objects for male pleasure. This can be particularly seen in the 1990 animated series which were so beloved. Cartoons like Invader Zim, Danny Phantom and The Emperor’s New School where incredibly popular but portrayed women as damsel in distress side characters who were constantly shown in revealing clothing (Bustle, 2008).

However on March 28th 1999 the first episode of Futurama was aired on Fox and earnt it’s title as a trailblazer by making Leela, the one eyed independent alien a lead in the series (IMDB, 2011).

leela 2

We first see Leela when Fry, the immature and lost pizza delivery boy, accidentally sends himself 1000 years into the future. He immediately starts questioning her as she only has one eye and she responds with bored sarcasm as if she is used to this treatment. We therefore see that she is used to being stereotyped and defined by her appearance rather than actions (just like Chastain was). She is also a marginalised member of society with a difficult upbringing as we hear her say “I’m the only alien on this planet my parents abandoned me here when I was young I don’t even know what galaxy they were from.”

However whilst we sympathise with her situation we are never made to think that she is vulnerable or incapable in any way as she consistently escapes from problems by herself with much more ease than the clueless pair that is Fry and the robot Bender.
Leela shows herself to not only be resourceful but also a compassionate and moral individual. She decides not to inject Fry with the label of ‘delivery boy’ as ‘if he really doesn’t want to do it I don’t want to force him.’ She quits her job to do the right thing, an admirable action which makes the audience like her.


The one moment that might test this review is when Leela removes her jacket showing a revealing tank top which is slightly reminiscent of when Elsa’s dress is transformed. Dassu critics this moment in Frozen in her article for Huffington Post; ‘That dress… I can’t let it go’ and questions ‘Why does a woman have to ‘get naked’ (you know what I mean) to be happy and free?’ (Dassu, 2015) However In Futurama the removal of clothing has a practical use as she is about to drive the submarine and so needs to be comfortable. In addition I would say that both Elsa and Leela are women who should be able to dress how they want and if more revealing clothing makes them feel comfortable then I do not see any reason to question their personal choice.

Due to the show’s popularity (it’s first episode was viewed by 19 million people) I would credit Futurama with starting the multitude of cartoons which began to depict women as characters in their own right for example Dora the Explorer, Kim Possible, Angelica Pickles etc. In short Futurama promotes Feminism in the best way possible; through a clever and entertaining cast which includes heavily features a female.


Dassu, A. (2015). ‘Frozen’ the Movie – THAT Dress Change… I Can’t ‘Let It Go’. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/asma-dassu/frozen-elsa-dress_b_6803252.html [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
MDb. (2011). Futurama (TV Series 1999–2013). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0149460/ [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
Griffiths, K. (2008). 7 Nick & Disney Shows From Your Childhood That Were Pretty Sexist. [online] Bustle.com. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/33234-7-nick-disney-shows-from-your-childhood-that-were-pretty-sexist [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
Griffiths, K. (2008). 7 Nick & Disney Shows From Your Childhood That Were Pretty Sexist. [online] Bustle.com. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/33234-7-nick-disney-shows-from-your-childhood-that-were-pretty-sexist [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
Hauger, D. (1999). Sexism and the Women’s World Cup Soccer Team of 1999. [online] Soccer-football.knoji.com. Available at: https://soccer-football.knoji.com/sexism-and-the-womens-world-cup-soccer-team-of-1999/ [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].


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