'She-Ra and the Princess of Power' passes edge of greatness

The remake, based on the 1985 animated show She-Ra Princess of Power, delighted many old fans, won a bunch of new ones.

THE FIRST program of the new ‘SheRa’ series shows, from left, Glimmer, Adura and Bow (photo credit: screenshot)
THE FIRST program of the new ‘SheRa’ series shows, from left, Glimmer, Adura and Bow
(photo credit: screenshot)
The Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power released its fifth and likely final season on May 15. This is a crowning season to a show that was a tour de force on many levels, from its imaginative writing and beautiful animation to the immense talent of the voices behind its characters.
The remake, based on the 1985 animated show She-Ra Princess of Power, delighted many old fans, won a bunch of new ones, and can be hailed as a powerful meditation on the meaning of power suitable for viewers ages seven and up.
She-Ra is the alter-ego of Adura. Like her brother, He-Man, the alter-ego of Adam, Adura wields a magic sword that grants her super-human strength when she lifts it and says, “For the Honor of Grayskull!”
Adura was brought up to believe the Horde – an authoritarian military group led by Hordak, who seeks to rule the planet Etheria – stands for justice and progress, and that the rebels who oppose him are evil. However, during her heroine journey, Adura learns that she was kidnapped as a baby and raised by the Horde; that the Horde is in fact evil; then joins the rebellion.
Along the way, she makes friends with a colorful assortment of characters, such as the powerful but slightly dotty sorceress Madame Raz, the handsome hero Bow, and princess Glimmer.
The original show, created by Michael Straczynski and Larry DiTillio, was intended to sell Mattel toys, with the hope that young girls would be interested in buying at least as many toys as their He-Man-worshiping brothers.
In that sense, the show started off as an uneasy merging of two needs: the commercial one that saw the series as a means to push toys, and the artistic one that wanted to tell children an inspiring story.
In his 2019 autobiography, Becoming Superman, Straczynski blasts studio chiefs who fail to value good writing. Some children’s-oriented television, like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – which ran for 31 seasons – is made to inspire children. Other shows are meant to make money.
Any success of latter type to inspire and educate is a happy, usually hard-won, accomplishment. (The She-Ra remake also comes with its own line of toys, as Mattel still holds the rights to the show.)
The major shift of the new She-Ra is in the lone heroine’s relations with others; not just one princess of power but many. Other massive changes include the removal of He-Man, who doesn’t appear in the show even once. There is also a new focus on Catra – originally one of the so-called bad character out of a gallery of rouges – and her relationship with Adura, offering a comprehensive background story about the world, both good and bad, in which the characters live.
The show is highly unusual in its depiction of LGBT characters. Bow was raised by two dads, and while the Horde is indeed very evil, not even Hordak thinks to question their relationship.
Even Adura’s talking winged horse, Swift-Wind, speaks out against how horses are treated. He makes it clear that his aim in helping the rebellion is to eventually liberate his own species and build a society “with hay for all!”
Liberation, the show claims, is not only for gay humans; it is also for non-human animals and (gasp!) the bad guys.
Unlike the original show in which good was good and bad was bad and never do we question why, the new She-Ra shows that bad became bad for good reasons and, if given a chance, doesn’t have to remain bad.
For example, Catra is transformed because of love; Adura’s choice to leave the Horde is presented as a difficult one, as it hurt Catra; the Horde itself is not entirely bad, as some of its members are kind and generous persons; the rebellion isn’t a walk in the park either; the princesses fight among each other; and Glimmer has a difficult relationship with her mother.
Having a magic sword, the show often points out, isn’t an answer to everything. One of the key-moments of the show is when Adura opts to break her own sword to save others.
Like the original She-Ra, children are watching, so the magic sword never cuts anything that isn’t a robot or a giant spider, and nobody really dies. Unlike the original She-Ra, which was drawn as a model with a cape in a world filled with mostly white people, the remake presents a variety of body types and ethnic groups.
If current politics in the US and elsewhere bring you down, this is your cartoon..