Panty and Stocking: Broken Heroes

It should be a series filled with horrible angst.

Panty and Stocking – named for the artifacts they bear – are outcast angels, unable to ascend to heaven. Denied communion with their maker, they must slaughter their way through hordes of ghosts and demons until they redeem themselves. It sounds like the recipe for a Twilight knockoff, or a Supernatural/Buffy pastiche.

But Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt avoids these predictable traps, and is far better for it. Brandishing a “hell with it, let’s roll” attitude, the title characters are seriously flawed heroes. Stocking is a gothloli addicted to sweets, and Panty is a shameless tramp with an insatiable appetite for man-flesh. Let’s face it: these are the girls your mother warned you about – and that’s before the whole “angels on stripper poles” transformation sequence. Faced with epic morale problems, Garterbelt – a Mr. T in clerical robes – has mostly settled for pointing them at the monsters and saying, “Kill.”

It’s interesting that the demons of the series – Scanty and Kneesocks – represent order. The demonic is not the order we create, the meaning we give to our lives personally, but rather the thousand petty rules and obligations that society foists upon us. The creators of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt have literally demonized social rules, and cast the angelic protagonists as struggling to overcome them.

What makes the series compelling? Is it fun? Yes. Does it have any compunction about making gross scatological jokes? No. But overall, Panty and Stocking are heroic for their willingness to endure. They have the scorn of others; they face doubt, mockery, and condemnation – and like Rhett Butler, they frankly just don’t give a damn. They’ll do the job they have to do, but they won’t bother being saints about it. Surely this resonates with an audience tired of having to put up with everyone else’s troubles and expectations.

Nihilism isn’t quite the same as grace under pressure, but in the broken world Panty and Stocking inhabit, you take what you can get, and look good doing it.

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