She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a Netflix-Dreamworks collaborated reboot of the 1985 show She-Ra. Netflix didn’t simply reuse the original series, but rather, completely reworked it. The characters of the 1985 She-Ra were stiflingly the same—predominantly white, barbie-doll figures emphasizing super-human feminine (and masculine) ideals of the ‘80s—problematically so.
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The characters of the She-Ra reboot are diverse in body shape and race, in a way that kids especially can take more positive body-imaging (see Glimmer, below, on the left) and self-identification from. Most stunningly, LGBTQ+ identities are widely represented. Although most shows would present these types of characters merely in order to check off diversity boxes, She-Ra doesn’t merely relegate these characters to the periphery. They get a central position in the narrative, as MAIN CHARACTERS.
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For example, Bow (above, center) wears a cut-off shirt and prominent heart-designs, expressing femininity, and is also suggested to be transgender when he’s shown wearing a binder. He is attracted to a male pirate character during one episode, and also takes a female character to the Prom, in season one episodes, exhibiting potentially bi- or pan-sexuality. His dads make an appearance in a season two episode, which is a positive representation of queer family-building. Adora’s friend/nemesis Catra (below, far right) takes another female character to the Prom and wears a tuxedo, casually expressing masculinity and possible gay orientation. There are numerous other examples of LGBTQ+ representation which populate this series.
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What is really striking to me about how She-Ra presents various gender and sexual orientations is that these factors are not the sole defining features of the characters. In fact, there generally isn’t very much discussion about characters’ gender and/or sexuality at all. This lack of verification might seem odd, but I would argue it helps to assert the validity of these identities. The fact that most shows presenting diverse characters attempt to explain them indicates that these identities are considered strange or abnormal. For a show targeting kids, I think it’s productive for kids especially (and honestly people in general) to view these identities as equally valid and acceptable as the cisgender binary and heterosexuality have been.
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The story itself I found really engaging because it’s well paced, has a wholesome sense of humor, and an amazing, bubbly art style (attributable to cartoonist and executive producer Noelle Stevenson). The “bad guys” are especially complicated, such as Entrapta (below), who is more committed to scientific advancement than political alignments, and Catra (above left), who feels abandoned and betrayed by her childhood friend Adora (above right) and has to learn to empower herself. She-Ra offers a way to understand and empathize with each major character.
Despite some of the intentionally younger-oriented material, such as emphasis on friendship, empowerment, and questioning authority, the show also has a complex plot and characters that soon had me binge-watching the series. I got my younger cousins to watch this show and the smallest, a 10-year-old, Mason, set it as his device background (I was so proud: *cries*). She-Ra is definitely female-character heavy and about women empowerment in a feel-good way, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to a single audience.
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For some further reading, here’s an additional article that goes more into depth about the She-Ra reboot and how it is a huge step forward for LGBTQ+ representation in TV: https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/11/21/18105176/she-ra-princesses-of-power-reboot-review.
If you enjoy She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (season 3 is already out on Netflix), you should also check out executive producer and cartoonist Noelle Stevenson’s other works, such as her graphic novel Nimona!