Here are five reasons that the eight year-old me loved Punky Brewster:
- She could take care of herself. When the show began, she was living in an empty apartment on her own. She got what she needed, and she was making it. On her own terms. She was living the dream.
- Punky didn’t let anything get her down or anyone tell her what to do. She never seemed afraid of anything. When you’re eight years-old, it doesn’t get better than that.
- She dreamed big. Punky’s dreams of being an astronaut were eye-opening to me. The eight year-old me didn’t even know that was an option.
- She made up her own name. As eight, I hadn’t yet discovered a reason to be dissatisfied with my given name–I didn’t decide that Mindy was too juvenile for me until I was ten–but it was still beyond awesome to see a kid create her own name with pride.
- For all Punky’s wild fashion choices, big dreams, and unusual family situation, she still lived a life I could imagine. I grew up in a world where people lived in apartments and worried about rents going up just like Punky and her neighbors. I didn’t often see that world on television, and while I didn’t think too much about that back then, I definitely noticed it.
Unfortunately the show doesn’t quite stand the test of time. Upon recent viewing of a few episodes, I have to agree with this article that Punky wasn’t the feminist ideal I thought I remembered. There is an option, though, for those of us who loved the idea of Punky and want to introduce that nostalgic version of Punky to our kids. Joelle Sellner has turned Punky into a graphic novel with a few updates and changes that are enough to turn Punky and her story into one of empowerment.
I’m glad Punky’s back, and I’m really glad she’s better than ever.