It’s the late 2000s. I’m covertly scouring the results that YouTube has so kindly given me for the search term “kigo.” This is how I first learned about But I’m a Cheerleader and Bound – by watching fan-edits of Kim Possible and Shego mashed together with the audio from various lesbian movies.
I was a baby lesbian in the 2000s, and she was a sexy villain on the Disney Channel. Can I make it any more obvious?
I really don’t remember when my fascination with Shego started. Probably at the same time it did for Kim — the moment she saw her.
For those of you unfamiliar with Kim Possible, Shego was the sidekick to the main antagonist, Dr. Drakken. Drakken is behind the schemes that Kim is constantly foiling, but he almost never physically fights her. He, and Kim’s sidekick Ron, are both bumbling men whose attempts at physical combat are played for laughs. Shego, on the other hand, is a mirror to Kim – smart, powerful, and physically adept. Shego is relegated to the evil sidekick, but by all means she could be running the show.
As a child, I spent a lot of time thinking about one episode in which Kim and Shego both fall victim to mind control. Drakken has the mind control gadget, and Ron tries to stop him. I remember I would lay awake wondering, what if Drakken used mind control to make Kim and Shego kiss? What if they liked it? Incidentally, I had a similar recurring thought (read: fantasy) about kissing one of my female friends on a dare… this was, of course, before I realized that women could kiss other women without being dared or forced to. But at the time, this was the only way I could conceive of intimacy between women.
With the power of way too much internet access, I found out that plenty of other people had wondered about Kim and Shego kissing. And from there, I was lost in the world of Kigo.
But let’s be real. Kim was just there. Shego haunted me. There was something about a woman who could pin a girl down (and who seemed to enjoy doing so). Something about the way she had no loyalty to anyone but herself. Something about that green jumpsuit.
For a long time, I defined my obsession with villainous women like Shego as “Threatening Girls Magazine” – a foil to the popular Simpsons joke of Non-Threatening Boys Magazine.
I suspect many of us may share this type. Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Catwoman. Bellatrix Lestrange. VILLANELLE. Faith Lehane. The list goes on.
I’ve recently realized that there’s another piece to this archetype, at least for me: this woman is not just mean for the sake of being evil. She’s powerful. And she’s using that power to serve her own desires.
Shego is repeatedly shown to be more capable than Dr. Drakken on all fronts, not just the physical. So why is she the sidekick? When musing out loud on this to my very sweethearted and patient fiancée, I realized that there’s no reason Shego couldn’t be in charge. (Spoiler alert, there’s even an alternate reality in which she literally takes over the world). She’s just… not interested.
What she is interested in are luxury items and beach vacations. When not fighting, she’s usually seen relaxing, reading magazines and filing her nails. She’s powerful enough to achieve what Drakken always wanted with relative ease, but she doesn’t care to. Why? Well, firstly, it’s worth noting that the men who created this show, and similar shows, may simply deem women unfit to be world-dominating villains. Women don’t care about world domination! They just want to go shopping!
On the other hand, my interpretation – likely straying very far from the intent of the creators – is not that these women are too shallow to be power-hungry. It’s that they’re too smart to be power-hungry. What’s the point of taking over the world when you can do whatever you want anyway? Do you really want an army of robots to terrorize the world? Or do you just want to do whatever makes you happy in the moment?
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized there’s something almost inspirational about these characters. They are all, in a way, women outside society.
Consider Killing Eve. Without spoiling too much, Villanelle is a very credible threat. She’s a highly capable professional killer. But rather than scheming and planning to get to the top, she spends most of her time doing whatever she thinks would be the most fun at the moment (which is, sometimes, killing people). While Eve is losing her mind trying to keep everything together, Villanelle is having a blast. I wouldn’t kill people, but her joie de vivre is admirable.
You can see a similar pattern with Kim Possible. Kim is under constant stress as she saves the world every week while keeping up her grades, appearances, and star spot on the cheerleading team. Shego, on the other hand, barely has a care in the world.
I have to think my young lesbian psyche recognized something in women like Shego. And my current psyche still does, in women like Villanelle. While Kim and Eve are saddled with everyone’s expectations, Shego and Villanelle carry all the same potential while accepting none of the responsibility. They ask: what would life be like if you refused to play the game? What would it be like if you put yourself first?
I think these are questions we all ask ourselves at some point as lesbians. What happens if you stop trying to make your family proud, your friends happy, and strangers comfortable?
Maybe you kiss women. And not just for a dare.