Wednesday, May 16, 2012

111 Girls Who Kick Ass, Number 8: Cassie

Yes, Cassie.

If you're familiar with the series, you might have expected me to write about Rachel (and don't you worry; she's getting her own entry). If you're not familiar with the series, Animorphs is about six kids who get tossed into a war to save everyone on Earth from being enslaved by a bunch of mind-controlling parasitic aliens from outer space. They could be anyone: your pastor, your teacher, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, your big brother, your president . . .

And our only hope is six kids who can turn into any animal they touch. For two hours at a time.

Yeah, we're pretty much screwed.

Anyway! Cassie!

Despite the fact that the last book was published in May of 2001, you can find corners of the Internet where the fandom is still fairly active --- and, more often than not, whenever the discussion turns to the question of who's your favorite Animorph, Cassie is almost always always always picked dead last. Most fans don't outright hate her, but hardly anyone loves her.

Personally, I can only understand this on an intellectual level. These books were such an enormous part of my childhood that I love all six main characters pretty much equally. They all have fleshed-out personalities with their own believable strengths and weaknesses; picking one favorite would be like . . . well, frankly, it would be even more difficult than picking one favorite from the Mane Six of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I think a big part of Cassie's status as the not-so-favorite comes from the moment in book nineteen where she briefly quits the group. And I get that, but if she hadn't quit none of the kids ever would've found out that there were some Yeerks who actually felt bad about enslaving other species. (Then again, it could be because she got saddled with The Hidden and The Unexpected, two of the dumbest books in the whole series.)

Alright, then. Here's why she's such a badass:

  1. You know how, in the Harry Potter movies, it takes Professor McGonagall about three seconds to turn into a cat? And, in those three seconds, all of her is turning at exactly the same speed? And it's pretty cool to watch? Morphing in this series is absolutely nothing like that. It's DISGUSTING. It always takes at least a minute or so, and there's no controlling how it'll happen. Say you're turning into a fly. Chances are the first change will be your insect eyes just popping out of your human face --- they won't be the right size until the rest of you starts to shrink. But Cassie is special. She has enough control to, for example, look like an angel for a few seconds when she's demorphing from an osprey. When Ax joins the group, he explains that there are people on his planet who are so good at morphing that it's considered an art, and Cassie could be one of them.
  2. As if that wasn't awesome enough, in Megamorphs 4 we find out that she was born with another power she didn't even know about. When the Drode (who is basically a harbinger for Krayak, the series' Big Bad) discovers this power, he gets downright livid with the Ellimist (Big Good). It's bad enough that the Animorphs include Elfangor's son, Elfangor's little brother, and the son of Visser One's host body --- but, by making sure that Cassie was also one of them, he basically cheated and gave good an unfair advantage.
  3. From chapter one of book one, it is firmly established that Cassie is more sensitive than anyone else in the group. She always knows just what to say to diffuse an argument. Which is badass in its own way, of course . . . but not until book twenty does anyone realize that she is also really good at manipulating people. She masterminds every single detail of the plan to stop David without outright killing him (and you could make an argument that killing would have been more merciful).
  4. As you can see in the picture, Cassie is black. This is only an issue one time in the entire series, when the kids are stuck in an alternate-history Princeton in the late 1930s (long story) and some racist asshole can't believe that a "colored" girl is, gasp, looking him in the eye and speaking to him like they're equals. So she very kindly tells him that she can of course turn white if that'll make him more comfortable. And then she morphs a polar bear.
  5. Whenever she kisses Jake, it is always less of an "I like you because you're a boy and you make me feel all breathless" thing and more of an "I can't believe we're alive!" thing.
  6. It may not seem like a particularly effective way to stop an alien invasion (and it's not), but just think about all the things you could do if you could turn into animals. You could fly, you could become a lot stronger than any human on the planet, you could gain superspeed . . . all of which Cassie points out in the very first book.
  7. Can't believe I almost forgot this one! If you ever want proof that Cassie kicks just as much ass as anyone else on the team, read book twenty-nine. She singlehandedly completes a mission that could have left them all exposed to Visser Three, AND THEN she comes home and performs brain surgery on an alien.

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