Chicken soup for the queer soul

DreamWorks and Netflix present the final season of ‘She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’

4 minute read
Adora is back, in an affirming, truly beautiful adventure. (Image courtesy of Netflix.)
Adora is back, in an affirming, truly beautiful adventure. (Image courtesy of Netflix.)

The fourth and final season of DreamWorks and Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power aired on Netflix May 21 to the delight of kids and adults everywhere—especially members of the queer community.

Spoilers ahead.

Although technically a children’s show, She-Ra falls into that category of animated TV series that are particularly well written and have a significant adult following, like Avatar: The Last Airbender (recently available to stream on Netflix), its successor, The Legend of Korra, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe, to name a few. She-Ra has spoken especially to queer adults, who are finally seeing themselves reflected in complex, engaging, explicitly queer protagonists. Its final season is full of canonically queer characters whose love for each other saves the universe, which is both exactly as cheesy as it sounds, as well as incredibly affirming and truly beautiful to see.

She-Ra reborn

A remake of the ‘80s classic, She-Ra follows Adora, a soldier of the Horde, an organization with the sole purpose of conquering the planet of Etheria. While out on a mission, Adora (voiced by Aimee Carrero) finds a magical sword that transforms her into the superpowered princess She-Ra. She learns of the Horde’s evildoing, and summarily joins the resistance. This places her in direct conflict with her former best friend and fellow Horde soldier, Catra (AJ Michalka), whose feelings of betrayal and anguish lead her to become Adora’s arch-nemesis.

In the recently released final season, Adora and the resistance are somewhat reluctantly joined by Catra in fighting a losing battle against Horde Prime, a galactic conqueror who seeks a superweapon located on Etheria. It is Adora and Catra’s love for each other that enables Adora to transform into She-Ra, despite having earlier destroyed the sword that enabled her transformations, survive the near-fatal power of destroying the superweapon, and vanquish Horde Prime, all sealed with a kiss.

Not a side plot

It is especially important that this queer, feminist content was reimagined by showrunner Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, Lumberjanes, The Fire Never Goes Out), a well-known lesbian comic writer who in 2015 tweeted, "Assume all characters in my comics are gay unless stated otherwise,” and has never wavered from that stance. In an interview with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Stevenson detailed her approach to incorporating queer content into the show, and how she and the writers laid the groundwork so that Catra and Adora’s romance simply could not be edited out or brushed aside. “This is not just a side plot,” Stevenson stated. “This is the plot of the entire show.”

As normal as you can get with transformations, a cat-person, and an absurd number of space aliens: Catra looks on in ‘She-Ra.’ (Image courtesy of Netflix.)
As normal as you can get with transformations, a cat-person, and an absurd number of space aliens: Catra looks on in ‘She-Ra.’ (Image courtesy of Netflix.)

Considering the fact that, as of today, same-sex marriage hasn’t even been legalized in all 50 states for a full five years (Stevenson, in fact, could not marry her wife, Molly Ostertag, at the time she began working on She-Ra), it’s both a delight and, okay, a little surprising to see such moving, wholesome, queer-positive content produced by queer creators on mainstream platforms like Netflix.

Many queer adults take particular joy in watching She-Ra because we were never able to see ourselves portrayed with such warmth and dignity in kid-friendly media during our youth, or, frankly, even in adult-targeted media as adults. Protagonists Adora and Catra queer are not the only queer characters: Spinnerella and Netossa, two of the titular Princesses of Power, are married. There are also several queer but mostly unnamed characters, including Stevenson and Ostertag, who make a brief cameo in season one. Adora’s friend Bow has two dads, and fans widely consider Bow himself to be trans. (Stevenson says she loves this theory, but notes that it wasn’t her original intent, so she can’t canonize it officially.)

Better, brighter, sparklier future

All things considered, the show is…surprisingly normal; no one mentions the characters’ queerness as an outlier, as something unusual enough to be worthy of pointing out. She-Ra imagines a better, brighter, and sparklier future without the fear so many queer people associate with being out. There’s no hint of the “bury your gays” trope (the tendency for explicitly gay characters to be quickly killed off in media). It’s just intensely normal, queer relationships—or as normal as you can get with magic, sword transformations, a cat-person, and a truly absurd number of space aliens. Like The Great British Baking Show but gayer, this kind of gentle, nourishing representation is chicken soup for the queer soul.

She-Ra has given adults the by-us-for-us, soul-sustaining representation we deserve, in a predictable (but no less heartwarming) format that is especially comforting during these trying times. There is a particular joy in being able to look at a character and finally, finally see yourself reflected there, after decades of denial. Knowing that a generation of children are seeing this and normalizing it, and that queer children in particular now have positive role models with whom they can identify, who will make the journey of discovering their queerness less scary and lonely, gives me hope for the future in a way I can’t quite articulate. In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Noelle Stevenson reminded us that queer love is the most important, most powerful force in the universe—and dammit, she’s right.

What, When, Where

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is available to stream on Netflix.

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