OK so this cartoon may have not occurred in the 1990s, but I’m going to let it slide because I believe that this cartoon is one of the more accurate depictions of the themes that it is trying to relate to. I’m talking about Nickelodeon’s “As Told By Ginger,” which debuted on Oct. 25, 2000 and ran until Nov. 21, 2009, although the show was in hiatus for long stretches of time toward the end.
Created by Emily Kapnek, directed by Mark Risley and produced by Klasky-Csupo, “As Told By Ginger” is the story of a girl named Ginger Foutley (voiced by Melissa Disney), who has to deal with the far-too-real experiences that every junior high schooler can expect to endure. There are the popular kids, the jocks and the nerds that rank among a traditional school hierarchy, with the popular kids and jocks near the top and the nerds at the bottom. “As Told by Ginger” is about a girl who finds herself somewhere in the middle; she wants to be popular, but at the same time doesn’t want to abandon her way of life, which more or less resembles that of a nerd.
By Ginger’s side is her friends Dodie Bishop (voiced by Aspen Miller), a gossip-seeking girl that tries, and fails, to be one of the popular kids at school, and Macie Lightfoot (voiced by Jackie Harris), an intelligent, yet nerdy, asthma-plagued girl. On the other end of the spectrum is Courtney Gripling (voiced by Liz Georges), a popular, attention-attracting blonde, and Miranda Killgallen, a cold, heartless sidekick to Gripling.
When this show first debuted on Nickelodeon, I was only ten years old and was not yet in middle school. While I did enjoy watching the show, I did not appreciate just how accurate of a depiction “As Told By Ginger” was to the world of junior high. It consisted of love triangles, population demand, betrayal, etc. The show spent the majority of air time visualizing the social aspect of what it’s like to be a junior high student in a low-income household instead of focusing on the academic portion of school. Ginger’s character can be related to a majority of kids, as she has a devious younger brother, Carl (voiced by Jeannie Elias), and lives with her mother, Lois (voiced by Laraine Newman), who is a divorced single mother. Ginger’s father is rarely mentioned.
As the show progresses, Ginger is hit with challenge after challenge that typical junior high girls go through at some point in their lives. As Courtney begins to befriend Ginger, she is left with the painful decision to choose friendships based solely on popularity or remain loyal to the true friendships she’s already created. In one of the first few episodes where she is invited to Courtney’s birthday party, she is willing to steal a welcome sign because Miranda tells her Courtney has always wanted one for her bedroom. She ends up getting caught and arrested as a result.
Love begins to play a crucial part as season two and three begin. As a camp counselor at Camp Caprice, Ginger develops feelings for a boy named Sasha (voiced by J. Evan Bonifant), only to later discover that he has a girlfriend. Romance becomes a central issue in the first movie, “Far From Home,” where Ginger is offered to spend a semester at a prestigious art school. It is then that her long-time neighbor, Darren Patterson (voiced by Kenny Blank), realizes his feelings for Ginger and embarks on a journey to find her and tell her the truth. A relationship ensues, which is noteworthy because Darren is African American and Ginger is white. It’s rare to see an interracial couple in cartoons.
The underlying theme of the TV show is relationships and how one deals with them. Throughout the show’s air time, Ginger’s relationship with her mother, friends and Carl are tested. There is plenty of drama that one would expect from a junior high schooler. Her mother eventually begins dating again and in season two’s “Ms. Foutley’s Boys,” Ginger finds herself in a miserable situation having to deal with her mom’s love interest, Buzz, and his wild three kids. But she keeps quiet because she wants her mom to be happy and is willing to sacrifice her own happiness to achieve that.
“As Told By Ginger” is a cartoon that every junior high student should watch because of how spot on it really is at depicting what life is like at that age. Social hierarchy, friendships, relationships, family issues are all stressed in this cartoon. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon put “As Told By Ginger” on hiatus several times during the third and final season. It debuted Aug. 9, 2003, and ran through Jan. 20, 2004, before being put on hiatus for the first time. It returned on Nov. 14, 2006, for one episode before being put back on hiatus. This on- again-off-again scheduling continued until the season finale movie, “The Wedding Frame,” which aired on Nov. 21, 2009.