She-Ra has quickly become one of my favourite TV shows of all time since sobbing my way through all five seasons in lockdown last summer. Although it is a show designed for children, the strong moral messages and beautiful characterisation transcend age limits, with most of the show’s fanbase being adults and teenagers.
Based on the original series from the 80s, She-Ra tells the story of Adora, a young woman and orphan, who has grown up in what seems to be a military school run by a force named the Horde. Upon leaving the Horde’s base for the first time, she discovers that she has been lied to throughout her childhood. Rather than a facilitator of order and peace, she learns that the Horde are in fact a destructive force of terror towards the inhabitants of her planet, Etheria. She also learns that she is the latest reincarnation of an ancient hero that her ancestors referred to as ‘She-Ra’. Taking Adora’s exit towards her new fate as a personal insult, childhood best friend Catra, another of the Horde’s prodigies, becomes her sworn nemesis for the next five seasons of the show.
Ever since I was a child, I have been a lover of fictional worlds. Like many other young people, I use them not only as a form of escapism, but a form of influence, and validation. She-Ra doubtlessly has many beautiful and artistically genius qualities, but possibly the most wonderful thing about the world fabricated by the show’s creator, Noelle Stevenson, is the presentation of women and girls. In watching the show, I truly learned a lot about myself as a young woman, and my relationship with femininity.
Firstly, almost all of the characters in the show are women, yet Stevenson succeeds in making them all markedly different from one another. The diversity within She-Ra’s characters is nothing short of remarkable: on the show you can find women of every shape, size and skin colour. Very few women would struggle to find someone who does not reflect their own physical appearance.
Not only this, but there is such a level of diversity in the feminine presentation of the characters: from the fairy-like, flower-clad princess Perfuma, to the butch, muscular, tomboy Scorpia. This is also present in their personalities: their passions range from flower-arranging to fighting, fashion to physics, and everything in between. No matter how masculine or atypical a female character in She-Ra may present, her womanhood is never once questioned, and she is seen as just as valid as her more feminine counterparts. Stevenson’s female characters are truly role models in the sense that they show their young viewership that there is no definitive way to be a woman. Every experience of womanhood is valid.
Additionally, many women in She-Ra hold positions of power. Society in She-Ra seems to be matriarchal: in addition to the ancient hero She-Ra seemingly always being a woman, most of the female characters are either queens or princesses and hold royal duties and responsibilities. There are several instances in the show where men are in positions of great power and rulership, but the role is more associated with women. Even the show’s villain, Catra, is presented on a morally dubious journey of climbing the ranks of power within the Horde. In none of these instances is power withheld from women: providing it is used wisely, power is seen as a genderless force. It is beyond reaffirming to see women flourish so naturally in such influential positions.
Finally, it is impossible to review She-Ra without mentioning the presentation of female queerness. Now, I can’t talk about this as much as I would like without completely spoiling the show. All I can say is that if you are looking for queer role models or representation for whatever reason, look no further. What makes queerness in She-Ra so remarkable is that the characters never struggle with coming out, homophobia, or “coming to terms with who they are”. We queer people know that struggle. We experience it every day. This show is beyond refreshing as it shows people like us simply allowed to live a carefree existence and unapologetically be themselves. It is the most beautiful form of escapism to see people like us loving who they want to love, with a complete absence of fear.
Was this blogpost an extremely long-winded way of telling you that you simply must watch She-Ra? Yes, quite possibly. But through this show’s gorgeous imagery, poignant plotlines and range of relatable characters, I could never begin to contain the lessons it has taught me to one post. My only regret is that a show as remarkable as this wasn’t there for me whilst I was growing up to shape me into the young woman I am today.
Girl Museum Inc.