A review of the Netflix & Dreamworks reimagining of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power – 6/5 stars, because I can do that.
On November 13th She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a reboot of a 1986 show of the same name, was released by streaming service Netflix. The original series was created in part by Mattel in an effort to sell toys, but was also created as a partner to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This time around, She-Ra shares a much more important message: representation.
She-Ra, created by the amazingly talented and queer Noelle Stevenson has brought a wealth of diverse and loveable characters to the screen. First of all, we should talk about the characters Adora and Catra, childhood best friends who grew up together in the Horde, a group of soldiers tasked with a mission of destroying the princesses, who are painted as terrible people; and Adora believes that they are a group that deserves to be taken out. After all, this is what she’s learned over the course of her entire life. Adora ventures out into the world outside of the Horde and finds something she didn’t expect: the princesses aren’t scary at all. And the Horde, well, they’re actually the real bad guys. With this information in mind, Adora can’t go back to her old life with the Horde, and finds a magical sword, that allows her to transform into Princess She-Ra.
Meanwhile, Catra remains at the Horde, and the two of them grow further apart as the season moves forward. In the first episode, we also meet Glimmer and Bow. Glimmer is a princess who has the ability to teleport, which leads me to another thing I love about this show: none of the characters fit a typical mold — no one is “normal” or stereotypical. Glimmer is short and plump, an accurate representation of human beings in the real world. Bow, Glimmer’s best friend is a black man who doesn’t fit society’s binary gender roles. When it comes to Adora and Catra, these childhood best friends definitely have a future as being more than just friends. Another favorite character of mine is Scorpia, voiced by Lauren Ash. She’s a queer princess turned Horde soldier, and she’s amazing. While she’s on the antagonist’s side, we still get to see a loving, nurturing side to her, giving her character the depth it deserves. She-Ra shows queer and diverse characters on both sides of the fight. Good and evil. It’s awesome to see the representation in every aspect of the show. The “evil” characters aren’t the only ones who are diverse. Everyone is.
The show employs not only a diverse set of characters, but a diverse cast, as well. As mentioned above, showrunner and creator Noelle Stevenson is queer, and the actresses who voices Adora, Aimee Carrero, is Latina.
The best part of this show is the way that they handle their diverse characters. Nothing about who they are is explained or linged upon to make make sense to the less diverse members of the audience, establishing a new normal. Each character is simply treated as normal. There are no questions of, “Oh, is that person gay?” or “Why is this person different?” There are no explanations. While this can lead to some confusion within the fan base, I think it’s a good way to paint characters on the screen in order to normalize them to audiences. In the real world, queer people (or anyone on the LGBTQIA spectrum) don’t show up with an explanation of who they are, they just are. And while there are people who like to question queer people about why they are who they are, it isn’t the responsibility of queer people to explain themselves to heteronormative or cisgender audiences. This aberrant component of ‘we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it’ isn’t something I’ve ever seen reflected accurately in fiction before, and it was a pleasant surprise while watching this show.
While She-Ra is incredibly enjoyable for adults (I loved every minute of it), it is, of course, geared more toward children. And while I’m no expert on children, I think that the inclusion of diverse characters without making a big deal of their sexuality or disregard for stereotypical gender roles is a great way for children to realize that these people really are normal. In fact, normalizing queerness in this way and planting those ideas in children’s heads at a young age eliminates the need to pose the question later down the road at all. It’s something I wish I’d had growing up, and it’s a great step toward clearing a path for diverse characters in all types of fiction.
The reason it’s so important to have these types of characters in fiction is because it gives children (and even adults) a chance to see characters like them on their screens and how, in spite of their differences, all people are generally same at their core. This show will be vital to queer children everywhere struggling to understand and express their identities, and it will finally give them a chance to see themselves as accepted by society.
While the show is deep and meaningful, it’s also incredibly fun. It made me laugh, think, and cry within a span of only twelve episodes. I’ve never really been one to get attached to cartoon characters, but I’m genuinely interested in where Stevenson decides to take this show in the next season. If you watched She-Ra and enjoyed it, I highly suggest you check out some of the other things Stevenson has worked on, including Lumberjanes, her graphic novel. And if you haven’t checked out She-Ra, definitely get on it. Though I warn you, it will break your queer heart.