The Emmy Award-winning She-Ra and the Princesses of Power series came to an end this month, but its legacy will live on as a testament to how far we’ve come and where we are headed.
Dreamworks’ She-Ra, created by comic book author and illustrator Noelle Stevenson of the Lumberjanes comics, is more than a reboot of the 1980’s animated series, He-Man and She-Ra. It is a re-imagined story with gender and sexuality elements of our world today showing us where we could be tomorrow. With a queer writer and diverse voices like Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, Sandra Oh, Jacob Tobia, and Lorraine Toussaint, the show features gay parents, lesbian wives, non-binary characters and women in positions of power. She-Ra’s Etheria is a place where discrimination and prejudice based on gender and sexuality does not exist.
In 2018 Netflix debuted the story of Adora, a young orphan girl raised inside the Fright Zone, where she was taught that Etheria needed to be saved from the princesses’ dictatorship. Once she leaves the Horde, Adora discovers this matriarchal society is part of who she is and who she is meant to be. Alongside Princess Glimmer and Bow (Marcus Scribner), Adora sets on a journey of self-discovery and friendship. Back at the Horde, Catra (AJ Michalka), Adora’s childhood best friend, feeling abandoned and betrayed, plots her revenge. What seems to be an excellent plot for a young adult drama, is actually a great example of how narrative television is not just mirroring our society but how it has the power to shape it as well.
For the past decade, we’ve seen television shows and films market themselves as feminist. The trend features a push for female characters to have more control and agency over their stories. However, in those story lines, women were still seen through the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Many characters were labeled as “lesbian” if they had any traditionally “male qualities” like strength and assertiveness. She-Ra, on the other hand, builds a world where gender and sexuality are seen, acknowledged, but are secondary aspects to someone’s overall character. Etheria does not concern itself with gender norms or sexual preferences, leaving room for characters to discuss and grow in other areas like self-esteem, facing fears, friendships, and strategic planning on how to save their planet! The young women of the show don’t fight over boys or who wore it best, they might not always collaborate, but they can communicate and respect one another. Young men like Bow and Sea Hawk (Jordan Fisher) are not second class citizens. They are given their own stories, providing essential support to the princesses. Sure, Bow’s crop-top was a topic of discussion during one episode. Still, this fashion statement was used to demonstrate Bow’s identity as a warrior as opposed to his father’s academic career path.
The end of She-Ra does not signify the end of feminist television, but the start to a post-feminist, modern, inclusive, and diverse world with excellent storytelling. We can see ripple effects of this in other animated series like The Dragon Prince and Stargirl and the Forces of Evil. Here’s to She-Ra and all the princesses empowering not only the young, but people of all ages, backgrounds, and genders, to acknowledge our differences to work together towards a better world.