Laying in my bed the Friday after Thanksgiving, recovering from southern comfort foods eaten in excess and online shopping, equally overindulged in, I watched Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The animated series reboots She-Ra: Princess of Power, which aired during the 1980s, a spin-off of the He-Man franchise.
The series follows Adora, who has been raised from childhood by evil Hordak, Shadow Weaver and the Horde organization, who want to take over the planet Etheria from the formerly ruling princesses. While in the woods beyond the Horde, Adora discovers a sword, which will reveal her destiny and transform her into She-Ra. As Adora learns more about the swords lineage and the truth of the Horde’s wrong-doings, she becomes conflicted about which side she should fight for. Eventually she meets Princess Glimmer and friend Bow. They team up to try to rebuild the Princess Alliance and defend the planet from the Horde.
While laying there in my near-paralysis state, I began sprinting through this feminist show and wishing it had existed during my childhood. So many things appeal to my sensibilities as a viewer and story-consumer. I should preface that I have never watched the original She-Ra series and this is pretty much introduction to the He-Man universe in general.
Let’s start with the first- a land of princesses, each with unique abilities and personalities, which theme with their land of origin along with very on-the-nose names (lookin’ at you, Castaspella). They formerly made up the Princess Alliance in resistance to the Horde. Most of the princesses have a dedicated episode, which gives viewers an opportunity to explore this world. All I really want is to be a princess of Etheria. Can I be Runrealfasta? I’d run real fast from the bad guys.
This reboot received a number of very modern upgrades, from more racially diverse characters to realistic female body shapes to varying degrees of sexual orientation. It’s so unusual to see animated female characters with curvaceous bodies, it takes a few episodes to get used to- which is a pretty sad commentary. My favorite character is Glimmer, a princess with the ability to teleport. The show’s animators didn’t shy away from giving her a full figure highlighted by her spandex outfit. But, what I love about her is how relatable she is as conflict comes between her and her mother, Queen Angella of Bright Moon. I also love her sparkly purple hair and cape. I really want sparkly purple hair now.
The title character, She-Ra, doesn’t start out as the giant, muscular, sword wielding hero that she eventually transforms into. She starts as Adora. The relationship between Adora and the Horde becomes a focus of the show, after Adora gains her She-Ra powers and teams up with the princesses. Her relationship with Catra, Adora’s troubled childhood best Horde friend, is especially compelling as they become enemies. The screen time given to the villains sets this series apart from other animated series with similar structures, in a positive way.
The other strength of the show is in its history and backstory. While out on a rogue Horde mission with Catra in the first episode, Adora discovers the Sword of Protection. The beginning of the series slowly explains the history of the sword and the ancient peoples Adora descends from, the First Ones. This information comes to her in an archaic language, which Adora has the unique ability of deciphering. She can open certain doors with this language and interact with First Ones’ technology.
While there are a few things about the series that could be improved upon and the animation feels a little juvenile at times, for me, the good significantly outweighs the bad. I appreciate the unabashed shift in this reboot to relate to women and young girls as well as present a story of female leadership with diverse characters. Beyond the timely social aspects of the show, it is wonderfully structured, presenting a narrative that is both fun and emotionally rewarding.