Let me talk about ‘Miraculous Ladybug’
Natalie Allton | Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Okay. Hear me out.
“Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir” is a French children’s show about two superheroes, Ladybug and Chat Noir. Every episode, the villainous Hawk Moth “akumatizes” (read: makes a supervillain out of) a poor Parisian having a bad day, with the aim of stealing the Miraculous jewels that give Ladybug and Chat Noir their superhero abilities. Meanwhile, the superheroes’ 14-year-old civilian identities (as aspiring fashion designer Marinette Dupain-Cheng and famous model Adrien Agreste, respectively) navigate the ordinary ups and downs of young adulthood while keeping their alter egos secret from everyone, even each other. It’s a simple premise, but one that is wildly effective at generating episodic plotlines that can recycle the same base formula.
If, like me, you started watching the show as it first came out in 2015, you were given absolutely no exposition or information. But that was part of the fun of the first season: there was no lore, no origin story, no explanation of anything. We didn’t even know the identity of the main villain. Each episode revealed just a tiny piece of the puzzle; we were dropped headfirst into the thick of it and left to piece together all of the narrative clues for ourselves.
Now, after the season four finale, things are drastically different. If you haven’t been keeping up, let me lay it out for you: Hawk Moth is actually Adrien’s emotionally neglectful father, who’s been keeping his dead wife’s corpse in their basement for a year and hopes to resurrect her using the Miraculous of Ladybug and Chat Noir. Also, Adrien might have been artificially created, like, a year ago.
I would like to reiterate that this show is for children.
The show’s biggest draw is the drama of its central “love square” – that is to say, the four unique relationships drawn between the same two people. Chat Noir is in love with Ladybug, who sees him only as a crime-fighting partner; Marinette is hopelessly infatuated with Adrien, who’s wonderfully oblivious to her crush. When Ladybug and Adrien interact, it’s all blushes and stuttering. When Marinette and Chat Noir cross paths, they’re public menaces who poke fun at each other and occasionally lament over their mutual unrequited crushes. It’s a unique take on a classic trope, and the writers have managed to keep audiences engaged for four full seasons without any kind of identity reveal.
In fact, the show’s best episodes are “what if” scenarios about the consequences of such a reveal. Take, for example, season three’s “Chat Blanc,” in which the protagonists’ identities are revealed, they begin a romantic relationship, and Chat Noir is akumatized – causing the destruction of the moon, the flooding of the entire world, the deaths of both Ladybug and Hawk Moth, and the deteriorating mental state of a lonely teenage boy doomed to sit alone in the apocalyptic wasteland he created.
Once again: this show is for children.
I can’t make this clear enough: I don’t think that the show is good. I don’t consider it high art. I barely consider it art at all. At its worst, “Miraculous Ladybug” is repetitive, poorly animated and, at times, downright insulting to a viewer’s intelligence. At its best, it’s a heartbreaking and visceral examination of trauma and how people deal with the hidden parts of those they love. Mostly, it’s a melodramatic, candy-coated distraction from real life, where protagonists’ problems are wrapped up in 20 minutes and the status quo never changes.
That being said, it’s fantastically fun to watch and discuss. There’s a fervent fanbase for it, and I know several people who have kept up with the show for years. Inexplicably, we all latched onto an animated kid’s show about Parisian superheroes and just ran with it.
“Miraculous Ladybug” is no particular standout, but its unending popularity and the fan culture surrounding it make it one of the most enduring television shows of the past decade. My advice for a new viewer: If you can find it, watch the French dub. Trust me.
Title: Miraculous Ladybug
Favorite episodes: “Chat Blanc,” “Oblivio,” “Glaciator 2”
If you like: “Sailor Moon,” absolute guilty pleasure television
Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on Netflix; season 4 on Disney+
Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5