Lela Lee: Angry Little Girls

Kim—a short-tempered little girl who is so angry she shakes.

Deborah—a disenchanted princess who has everything but is never happy.

Xyla—so full of doom and gloom that at times it seems that a dark rain cloud is following her.

Angry little girls. If these characters seem unlikely subjects of a comic strip, meet Lela Lee, a Korean American cartoonist and actress whose work first made its appearance when she was a sophomore at UC Berkeley. What began as a video cartoon has blossomed into an official website, Angry Little Girls merchandise, and now a book—a collection of her comic strips.

Angry Little Girls began as a cartoon in 1994 called Angry Little Asian Girl featuring the character Kim. After the debut of this animated video, Lela Lee began thinking of using a comic strip format instead. When she started selling Angry Little Asian products on her own, many people who were not Asian could connect with the cartoon, but wouldn't buy the merchandise because they felt it was only for Asians. After much consideration, Lela Lee decided to start a comic strip called Angry Little Girls this time featuring a more diverse group of girls.

The characters from Angry Little Girls strike a more universal chord with readers. The comic situations center on the experiences of being a girl—how difficult growing up as a girl really is.

Rather than being solely a reflection of different pieces of her own personality, Lela believes that everyone can identify with pieces of the personalities of her characters.

“Everybody feels that way; everybody feels a little depressed; everybody feels really like, I don’t know, fatalistic, and everybody feels happy at times,” Lee explained, in an interview with UCLA’s Asia Institute. “These characters are very hopeful, trying to find meaning in things and sort of seeing beyond what that reality is.”

“The thing is really about anger and how different people react and deal with things that make them angry. One girl gets depressed about it, or another girl responds to it as a challenge. Their core emotion is a lifting of the wool. The wool’s coming off and they’re seeing stuff.”

Pretty heavy topics for a comic strip. But Lee makes it work, and with the publication of her new book, she will undoubtedly succeed in reaching her goal of connecting with an even wider audience.

September 2005

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