When you hear that I’m reviewing “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” it’s probably a little confusing.
At first glance it sounds like I’m talking about a dumb kids show from the 80s, and you must wonder why I’m reviewing that.
But it’s really a Netflix reboot of a kids show from the 80s, which is somewhat less kid-focused, though still definitely appropriate for kids.
It’s also really gay. As in half of the main characters are lesbians. But despite being a straight guy, I vibe with lesbians (and not in the way straight guys usually say they like lesbians).
Even with the happy, healthy homosexual relationships, She-Ra never feels the need to remind you of how progressive it is. There are characters of all different races (and I mean different — there are mushroom people and a cat girl) and sexualities, and it’s never really addressed because in the world of the show there’s nothing to address. It isn’t representation for representation’s sake. It’s representation because the creators imagined a world that was as diverse as our own, if not more so, and then animated it.
The show is ultimately about relationships of all kinds. Romance, friendship, siblings, parents and children, rivals, and even our relationships with ourselves are examined by the show. In my last review, I said Jack Johnson shows us through music that love doesn’t have to be about power. She-Ra says pretty much the same thing through animation. In fact, the show is very clear that relationships that focus on power and control are the ones that become toxic and harmful, and that letting go of control and trusting other people is how you build a healthy, happy life.
It’s a nice message right?
That’s part of why I love She-Ra. Because the message isn’t cheesy. It’s not that sometimes life sucks, or you have to sacrifice to make positive change, or even that one person can change the world. It’s about the fact that if we all loved each other a little more, the world would be a better place.
I also love the characters.
The main character is Adora. Raised in a fascist tech-based evil army (called the Horde), she leaves upon finding out that the fascist evil army is, in fact, evil. She’s a little bit of a lovable idiot at times, but at others is determined to protect her friends, and is always fiercely committed to doing what’s right, even if she isn’t always certain what that is. She’s almost too willing to sacrifice herself, and one of the lessons she needs to learn is that she doesn’t have to charge ahead on her own to protect those who follow behind her. Oh, and she turns into a giant magical warrior sometimes.
The main antagonist is Catra, Adora’s childhood best friend. Catra is less oblivious to the Horde’s true nature, but is not committed to their goals. Instead, she is driven mostly by self-interest, anger, and some other stuff that I don’t want to spoil. Suffice it to say she has complex motivations, which is always a recipe for interesting TV.
Glimmer and Bow, Adora’s best friends, round out the main good-guy trio, but they all have their own separate individual relationships with other characters. There are actual friendships between characters that don’t involve the protagonist. Even the antagonist has friends, and gradually learns to be a better friend. The show doesn’t shy away from complexity, which is rare, but ultimately a good decision in most cases. Complexity, when it exists as a reflection of reality and not as an attempt to appear intellectual or confuse the watcher, is what makes us invest in a TV show. Deep side characters with meaningful relationships with each other are what make me feel like it’s worth watching a show instead of simply reading the episode summaries on Wikipedia.
I love She-Ra for its messages about love and relationships. I love She-Ra because diversity isn’t the goal of the show, nor is it an afterthought; it just exists. I love She-Ra because it’s so clearly a fully thought out labor of love, and not an attempt to attract a certain demographic.
I love She-Ra because it feels real, but it’s still soft and happy. And it makes me feel like the real world could be soft and happy, too.