Burka Avenger!

This is a pretty cool cartoon with an admirable goal: to advance the education of women in Pakistan, a country where there’s considerable opposition to that goal. Reader Geoffrey sent me this link and a note (indented below), and I watched one episode of the cartoon. That video is below, and I like it. (You can find other episodes on YouTube.)

I just found out about this recently, and with the site’s repeated use of that Pew poll (a very useful and powerful instrument in my opinion) I felt it might be nice to have some good news about the countries represented in that poll.

The show Burka Avenger is apparently very popular in Pakistan, with its message to give girls an education—what Captain Planet is to caring for the environment. It’s not all that good [JAC: I disagree], but hey, if one of the most popular shows in Pakistan is preaching girls’ right to an education, then that is a good sign. Further, while the superheroine does wear a burka, it’s mostly as a disguise, going for a sort of half-ninja / half-superhero look. When outside of her disguise, she doesn’t even wear a hijab.

This show started airing around the time of that poll (2013), which incidentally shows that 88% of Pakistani Muslims believe women should always or mostly submit to their husbands. So, it’s got an uphill battle. But it is nice to see that there are good people winning that kind of battle in Pakistan. I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

Here’s the first episode of Burka Avenger:  “Girls’ school is shut”. The YouTube notes say this:
The first episode of the Burka Avenger, Season 01. In this episode, the crooked politician Vadero Pajero and evil Baba Bandook conspire to shut down the girls’ school. Burka Avenger must come to the rescue and help save the day. The series was made using a combination of 3D animation and 2D art. The characters are 3D but all the backgrounds are painstakingly painted in 2D by our talented artists.

I wonder if the hurling of stones at beginning means is saying something about stoning of women. There’s really very little religion in the cartoon—only one Invocation of God, and I love that the hero uses a book and a pen as weapons.

The show has not been without criticism, mostly involving the superhero’s attire.


  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I watched the first episode of this show when it first came out and enjoyed it. At that time there were no other episodes available and I’d forgotten about it, so I look forward to seeing some more.

    I like the show’s positive message, and anything that promotes education, especially for girls in places where they often miss out, is a good thing. The way those who are trying to stop girls going to school is portrayed is one of my favourite bits – there are no redeeming features to their characters at all!

  2. Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink


  3. Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m not up on contemporary cartoons, but I thought this was damn well done. Of course, the theme “Bur-Kah” reminds us of “Bat-man”. As Brahms said when someone pointed out that the theme of the last movement of his 1st symphony sounded like Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, “Any ass can see that.”

    Thanks for posting this. It gives a ray of hope.

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Did Brahms really say that? That’s hilarious!

  4. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    What throwing stones? Those are eggs. The idea is that a martial artist can not only stop a thrown egg, but do so with just the right touch to not break it.

    Personally, I rank this up there with Captain Planet. Good message, crap show. I prefer Captain Planet, but I’m willing to say that that preference is due to originally watching it as a kid, and cultural differences. About the only thing I like about it are the stylized 2D animation moments, which makes the Avenger look pretty badass. Though the contrast of Ninja and Superhero asthetics is quite clashing. The Ninja mask just doesn’t fit with the Batman cape.

    Also, the low budget shows in it’s jerky animation. It’s REALLY distracting to me.

    I’m commenting on the quality of the show, only because it seems I’m the only one who doesn’t like it. I think there’s no need for any of us to defend the moral message ^_^.

    It’s just that I do watch a lot of kid shows for my own personal amusement (screw you Stephen Fry!) and this ranks below everything I do watch. I can see it being good enough to entertain kids, but there are plenty of competing kid shows that are high quality and quite enjoyable to adults.

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      I recall my mom laughing at Saturday morning cartoons, getting the adult humor that went right over the heads of us kids. Now, I want to find them and see what I missed.

  5. mdeschane
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Awesome, the world might be heading for a rationality reaction after all.

  6. Filippo
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    ” . . . which incidentally shows that 88% of Pakistani Muslims believe women should always or mostly submit to their husbands.’

    I wonder what pct. of the Southern Baptist Convention membership would acknowledge that they have at least one thing in common with Muslims.

  7. Jamie
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    From the link to criticism:

    “Haroon emphasized that the character ‘Jiya’ does not wear a burqa, headscarf or veil by day.”

    I don’t think that is much of a counter to the critics. No one wants to be Clark Kent or Diana Prince… the kids see the hero and want to be that… I see a strong message here to accept (even love) the burka. I do agree with Haroon, however, that the sexualized superheros of the west ought not to be emulated. I do not see them as liberating for women as they might be.

    On balance, I agree with Jerry that the show is positive and worthy of praise, especially givin its circumstances. But my own criticisms would have less to do with the costuming and more with the ambiguous messages of the songs. “He is your saviour”, “keep the faith, keep the belief…” and similar lyrics cry out for disambiguation. Who is “he” and how, exactly is he going to save anyone? What faith? What belief? And especially the almost endless repetition of the idea that if you believe harm will “stay away” from you. This all looks very much like religious indoctrination to me. Perhaps a corrective to some of the worst abuses of a less female friendly Islam, but not exactly what I would call a beacon of rationality.

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, there is a patina of religion, but given that the country is saturated in faith, that doesn’t bother me so much so long as the overall message is positive. Perhaps the makers even had to give a nod to Allah in order to get this shown on television.

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t watched the cartoon, yet, but does it seem the burqa’d avenger is more adult while the un-burqa’d daytime persona is more childlike? If so, your gut feeling is probably right.

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      PCC has said, and I’m inclined to agree, that suffering and despair tends to result in higher religiosity.

      I don’t know about PCC, but I’d say in sufficiently bad cases where hope is all you have, faith might even be a good thing, on the whole. Even for people who aren’t in situations that bad, plenty of people believe in God without being crazy jerks. I’m opposed to religion, but this is one step back, 10 steps forward.

      As far as the romantization of the Burka, I don’t think you could be more wrong. This show might cause the burka to be seen not as a typical garment, but as a badass symbol of power. Capes are not seen as articles of clothing to keep you warm, it’s what superheroes wear!

      These kids are going to grow up viewing the Burka not as clothing of modesty, but of clothing of disguise, or power. They’d probably recoil at the idea that you’d wear a superhero outfit in order to quietly get some vegetables at the mall.

      The fact that the show emphasizes the Burka as a disguise is also probably going to make some people opposed to it simply on the basis that it allows people to hide their identity. “Nobody is allowed in my store if I can’t see their face”. While this might result in some already oppressed women getting a harder time (who are afraid of what will happen if they do take it off), it will also result in a greater rejection of the article of clothing as impractical and possibly dangerous.

      The reason I hate the Burka so much more than the Hijab is that there is a difference between hiding your face, and hiding your hair. To hide your face is dehumanizing. And the more it’s pointed out that it’s also a good way for thieves (or superhero ninjas) to disguise themselves the more that culture will start to reject clothing that covers the face or makes it harder to identify people in general. And that’s exactly the kind of clothing I have a problem with.

      It may not be the right reason to get rid of head coverings, but one million dollars of charity donation spends just as well if it was made for tax write-offs. So whatever gets the burka banned from regular society is good by me.

  8. Posted June 19, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The Pew poll referenced is an excellent, if frightening, source of information, but it isn’t complete. Does anyone have similar data about the views of Muslims in western Europe and the U.S.? I’m particularly curious about how well, if at all, Muslim immigrants integrate into western cultures after a couple of generations.

    My apologies if this is too off topic.

  9. Posted June 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    this pleasantly reminds me of the Mighty Isis show from my childhood.

  10. Hempenstein
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Watching this thru Western eyes that have never been farther east than Finland, and not knowing what, if anything, to compare it to, I think it’s impossible to form a valid opinion. But interesting to note a handful of English terms – Breaking News was one.

    As long as the subliminal message the kids are getting is not that women in burquas will conquer the world, it seems good.

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      That’d be an interesting reversal.


      “Women wearing burkas have gone up 40%! However, these same women are regularly disobeying their husbands!”

      I’d call that a net win. If somebody truly does want to wear the Burka, simply because they think it looks cool (and not because they’re abused into the decision), then that’s fine with me.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted June 20, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      FWIW, forgot about two great wks in Crete. which seems like it should be farther east than Finland, but seems that it isn’t.

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