Reminiscing on the girl power showcased in “Totally Spies!”
On Nov. 3, 2001, the very first episode of Totally Spies! Aired on ABC Family Channel out of the United States. The world of children’s television programming as we know it would never be the same.
For Canada, the creation of Totally Spies! was a particularly notable accomplishment. The show was produced by Marathon Media and F1, two French companies. However, for seasons 3-5, the show was co-produced with the Canadian company Image Entertainment Corporation. This is the most notable series produced by the company, however, there is very little information about the company available online.
The series itself follows the daily lives of three high school aged girls — Sam, Alex and Clover. By day, the girls attend school and confront many problems that young women face in high school — dating, mean girls and balancing getting good grades with having a social life.
However, they all have a shared secret — they are living a double life.
Along with being students, they work as super spies for the World Organization of Human Protection (WOOP). After being recruited by Jerry (the leader of WOOP), they must travel the globe to fight crime.
Each girl has her own unique personality and traits, ensuring that each child who loves the show can find one of the main trio to relate to. Of course, these are rather stereotypical. But what can you expect from an early 2000s show?
Sam is the “smart” one. Always the first to think of a plan and get the trio out of a sticky situation, she is the de facto group leader and the most mature. She wears a green spy suit, and has long red hair. Due to these qualities, she was the favourite of many children around the globe and proved to be a good role model.
In a poll taken about the show, two out of three respondents said that Sam was their favourite character.
When asked why the character was her favourite, one respondent enthusiastically replied “I love her hair and her leadership! I also liked the colour green at the time so I loved her outfit!”
The second of the trio, Clover, is a girly fashionista. With a ton of confidence, charisma and a killer sense of style she provides many of the comedy aspects of the show. She has short blonde hair, blue eyes and a red spy suit.
One participant in the survey responded that Clover was her favourite character when she was watching the show regularly as a child, citing Clover’s “outgoing & funny” nature.
Lastly, Alex is the ‘sporty’ one of the trio. Appearing to be the youngest of the group, she is naive but well meaning. With short dark brown hair and an orange spy suit, she is the one who balances the group. The least outwardly stereotypical, she makes the characters of Sam and Clover more palatable.
Of course, as with any show geared towards children, there was merchandise related to the show that was released. Much of the merchandise was related to the unique spy gadgets used across the show’s airtime.
Some of these gadgets include the compowder, laser lipstick and the expandable cable bungee belt. As the girls had to remain as undercover as possible, all three gadgets had to appear as if they were regular items. The compowder in particular was a key item used by all three of the spies. Shaped like a powder compact, the compowder allowed the spies to communicate with Jerry back at WHOOP HQ as well as do analysis. After Season 3, it was called the X-powder and allowed the spies to change their vehicles and disguises.
Another memorable gadget was the laser lipstick, which helped the girls to spring themselves out of traps. It was used primarily in the first and second season before being replaced. The expandable cable bungee belt, while iconic, is later added to the spy suits of the trio instead of being a separate prop. All three survey participants mentioned one or all of these gadgets, indicating just how popular they were to kids growing up during the early 2000’s.
After a 156 episode run spanning 12 years, Totally Spies! stopped airing. However, during the period of the show’s run, it still managed to have a large impact on audiences. The premiere of the show’s sixth season took place at the Palace of Versailles, a huge honour for a television show geared towards children. In addition, the show has been aired all over the world and inspired a spin-off series — The Amazing Spiez!
When asked to reminisce about their memories of the show, one respondent detailed how she thought the show was “empowering” through the way it depicted three young girls who looked different but banded together to battle high school and the world. “ I wanted to be a spy just like them, kicking butt,” she adds.
As someone who was a little girl over the show’s run, I echo this sentiment. While the show can (and should) be analyzed through a critical lens to highlight its questionable aspects — such as the boy-obsessed antics of Clover and the fact that all three of the girls are ultra skinny — it influenced the lives of many children who are of university age today. When I watched the show, my favourite character was Sam. Like her, I felt that I was super studious and mature for my age.
I was inspired by her loyalty to her friends and wished to have a friend group like she did. In addition, as someone who didn’t have a lot of confidence in herself, I wished to have the leadership qualities that she did. Today, I recognize that she inspired me to have more confidence in myself and be proud of the fact that I was (and still am) a “nerd.”
Lots can be said about the influence of television shows on the psyche of a child. While Totally Spies! was far from perfect, it meant a lot to children growing up in the early 2000’s (especially in Canada). As a show that demonstrates the importance of friendship, it did an excellent job.
Today, you can find many episodes of the show on the official Totally Spies! YouTube channel. It is still updated regularly with clips from the show so long-time fans of the show can reminisce on their favourite childhood episodes.