The internet has been abuzz with the latest Netflix series from Dreamworks TV. She-Ra and The Princesses of Power takes the 1985 television series and gives it a modern twist with a mostly female cast (and all-female writing room). The series has female themes of love, friendship, betrayal, and most of all doing what’s right.
The series follows Adora, a teenage girl raised to fight for the (evil) Horde. When she happens upon a magical sword, her destiny is revealed to her – she is She-Ra, warrior and savior of Etheria. Realizing what the Horde is doing is wrong, she quickly leaves her old life behind in search of answers on what being She-Ra is really about. With her new best friend squad, Glimmer and Bow, she adventures around the magical world attempting to bring all the Princesses together to defeat the Horde once and for all.
The show is a well-meaning fun adventure, giving new life to these characters while simultaneously being more representative. Its characters are the best part about it. They’re not just princesses with different hair, now. These are fleshed out characters combating real life issues.
Adora is a fierce warrior who battles anxiety and self-doubt in her abilities, especially as the eight feet tall She-Ra. Glimmer begins as a selfish princess trying to prove herself to the world. Meanwhile, Adora’s childhood friend/implied first love Catra is trying to figure out who she is without Adora being around. Because of this, all the characters feel real in this unrealistic setting. Sure one princess can turn into a half-mermaid, but because of their personalities, they’re like people you know and maybe even yourself. And, for young girls who may be questioning themselves or struggling with disabilities, She-Ra is great to show them it’s okay – you will find your own path and make it through.
Speaking of Adora and Catra, their relationship is the driving force of the show. In order for Adora to become the hero, she has to give up her life and her relationship with Catra. Since they were orphaned as children and raised by the Horde, they’ve been together their whole lives. When Adora sees what the Horde is doing to the planet, she quickly leaves them. Too quickly, if we’re being honest. That hurts Catra. What could be more important than their friendship? It’s something Catra has to deal with throughout the majority of the season, setting her on the path to become the villain. It makes their stories even more compelling to watch. And as mentioned, because of their close bond, it could be interpreted as they’re in love with each other.
What I love is that the show is utterly female. While it’s clear that the show pulls influence from other popular series (it’s not lost on me that Adora wears boots similar to Wonder Woman), they filter it through a female gaze. In fact, there’s only three men in the cast, two of which are sidekicks to their female companions. It’s the girls and women that are the heroes, it’s the girls and women who become villains, it’s the girls and women that this story is about. Heck, even the name focuses on the fact that the story is about all the girls in the show, not just She-Ra herself. We need more unapologetic female shows, especially for young girls. This show teaches them that they are strong, perhaps even more so because they are female.
Representation is an important part of the series as well. All of the princesses are different heights, sizes, and skin colors and it’s wonderful. It gives girls of all different backgrounds someone to relate to. It makes the characters that much more realistic. It’s not just looks they’re representing either. There is also an LGBT couple introduced, showing kids that it’s okay to love who you love. Unfortunately the show brings them in towards the very end, not giving us much time with them. However, it’s a step in the right direction and a great choice by the showrunners.
The show isn’t without flaws, though. There’s some pacing issues in episodes. It also becomes a bit formulaic and fetch-questy during the beginning of the season. Still, as it progresses, the show finds its strides. While a kid might not care that they’ve spent too long focusing on a minor story, it’s more obvious for adults. While our main characters are fleshed out really well, some of the princesses get left behind and don’t get much more than a couple traits to go with their look. If the show returns for a second season, we’ll hopefully see more from the other princesses. Additionally, this show was made for children. Because of this, the message of “doing what’s right” becomes the beating drum of every episode. While that may not bother some, it’s something worth mentioning to the older crowd.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power was a cute and fun show to watch. It’s a beautiful piece on representation and female power. It’s a wonderful update with potential to be one of the greats.
You can check out She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix, streaming now.
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