By: Carly Boies
First, a word of warning: She-ra and the Princesses of Power works very hard to be a kids’ show. It has a Y-7 rating on Netflix, and there is no swearing, no inappropriate scenes and no sexual content. It is, in every aspect, a clean show, but if that turns you away I still encourage you to give it a try. Just because something is made for younger children does not mean it is not enjoyable and well made, and this is very much the case for She-ra. For many reasons, this show is geared for an older audience, and beyond that, it is the best thing I have watched all summer. Here are a few reasons why:
Most children’s literature is very simplistic and clean cut. The villains are evil; the heroes are virtuous and good. Stories play out in a very linear and straightforward way. She-ra flips all of this on its head.
During the earlier seasons, She-ra did takes a more traditional route, but as the series progressed it began to diverge. In the beginning, the two main characters are soldiers for the Horde (the bad guys). The main character, Adora, quickly leaves to join the rebellion. Unlike she would in typical episodes, she has very mixed feelings about this choice. Catra, the main antagonist and Adora’s close childhood friend, stays with the Horde.
Throughout the series, Catra and Adora break away from the normal enemies pattern. Adora believes she did the right thing by leaving the Horde but struggles with her mixed feelings of losing Catra. Catra becomes the main “bad guy”, but it is very obvious from the beginning that she is not actually a bad person. She is angry and hurt because she knows she has been left by the person she cares about most.
This dynamic diverges from the norm in so many ways. The villains are not evil because they are innately bad but because of emotions and situations that feel very real. By humanizing its villains, She-ra allows you to empathize with both sides until the lines between the two begin to blur.
By telling the stories of both the heroes and villians, the show becomes infinitely more complex and fulfilling to watch. She-ra might be a kid’s show, but the situations each character faces are very adult. The writing is good enough that it can depict abusive parents, toxic relationships and complex emotional development while still making the show appropriate and enjoyable for children. That puts She-ra a step above the generic good vs. evil tropes.
The Inclusion of People of Color
She-ra does a wonderful job representing different ethnicities. Many of the main and supporting characters are women of color. There are countless examples of different skin colors and races all throughout the show and everyone is on equal footing. Not once in all five seasons is there any racism, prejudice or even mention of the different races of the characters. Everyone is portrayed as equal no matter what they look like, and that quality of the show is an amazing breath of fresh air.
So often, Black, Latino and Asian characters are sidelined and misrepresented. Other times, they are put in as proof of a show’s diversity but are never given the screen time they deserve. In She-ra, we see a multiracial world where skin color is simply beautiful, no matter the ethnicity of the characters.
The Depiction of Women
Unlike so many shows, the characters in She-ra are almost all female. They are all strong, well represented, well written women. None of them rely or focus on men. They have their own problems and lives to deal with, and they do it independently. More than that, they all look different. In many many children’s shows, the women have one over-sexualized body type. Growing up in a culture where kids never see a range of female characters that reflects the diversity in the real world, young girls internalize the “ideal body”, leading to self image issues.
Seeing so many different body types, all of which are celebrated and beautiful, is wonderful. There is never any body shaming; everyone is just comfortable in their own skin. This is how TV shows should strive to depict women
The Representation of the Queer Community
She-ra’s representation of the Queer community is what really sets this show apart. In She-ra, there are many characters who are gay, lesbian and gender queer. I have never seen a show that represents LGBTQ+ people in the way She-ra does. In almost all children’s literature, the Queer community is absent. Oftentimes, writers will hint at a same-sex relationship, but it almost always goes unconfirmed. Occasionally there will be one or two Queer characters included, but they are always minor and often killed or written out by the end of the season, sometimes even in the same episode they were introduced in. On the flip side, there will be media specifically written for Queer people where character’s sexuality, gender identity and relationships are the main focus of the show. This is rarely seen in entertainment geared towards kids.
She-ra takes all these barriers and throws them out the window. There are many examples of same-sex couples in She-ra. Main characters are confirmed as being a part of the Queer community. Gay couples hold hands, show affection for each other and even kiss on screen. The presence of Queer characters is established from the start and continues throughout the five seasons.
However, She-ra takes it one step further. There have been previous animated shows with well-written gay characters. It is extremely rare but not unheard of. But, in season four, we are introduced to the first non-binary animated character, at least the first I have ever seen on TV. Double Trouble is dynamic, funny and interesting. More than that, on multiple occasions they have a major part to play in the main plot of the story. They are not sidelined or played up for comedy, rather taking an active role in the story as any other character.
Beyond just the inclusion of diverse characters, She-ra never depicts any homophobia, racism or concern about appearance. Every Queer person and relationship is celebrated and all the characters use they/them pronouns when referring to Double Trouble. There are never any conversations about skin color or prejudice based on race. All the women are drawn with different bodies and put in clothing that celebrate but do not sexualize their curvature and unique body type. A cross section of people is just a normal, included part of the society She-ra is based in, and nobody ever questions that.
Depicting different kinds of people and writing them the right way is very important in children’s media. Kids internalize messages from a young age, and by exclusively writing from one point of view, shows can lead children to internalize the implied message behind the absence of diversity. They grow up believing that women should look one way, people of color belong in the background and being gay is something to hide because it is unnatural and has no place in literature. She-ra does an admirable job of countering those messages and depicting a society where everyone belongs.
So yes, I would highly recommend She-ra and the Princesses of Power. It is an enjoyable, fun and groundbreaking show in children’s media. With everything bad happening in the world right now, it can be nice to slow down and watch something that is not geared for older people. And if this is not something for you, show it to your younger sibling. Maybe watch a few episodes with them if you feel so inclined.