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She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Entry updated 23 February 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2018-2020). DreamWorks Animation. Developed by/Executive Producer Noelle Stevenson. Directors include Jen Bennett, Roy Burdine and Mandy Clotworthy. Writers include Josie Campbell, Katherine Nolfi, Laura Sreebny and Noelle Stevenson. Voice cast includes Lauren Ash, Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, Morla Gorrondona, Keston John, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Lorraine Toussaint and Christine Woods. 52 24-minute episodes plus twelve shorts. Colour.

A reboot of the Filmation animation series She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-1986), created by Larry DiTillio and J Michael Straczynski. This was a spin-off from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) (see also Masters of the Universe), but targeting girls rather than boys. Both series were linked to a Mattel toy line; nonetheless the original She-Ra is fondly remembered for its positive messaging for young girls.

Captain Adora (Carrero) and her friend Catra (Michalka) are cadets in the army of Hordak (Keston), which seeks to liberate the planet Etheria by defeating a rebellion of evil princesses. But after Adora finds the Sword of Protection she is captured by Princess Glimmer (Fukuhara) and her friend, Master Archer Bow (Scribner). Adora learns that the Rebellion (people living in rural communities and beautiful castles, using Magic and at one with nature) are good and her side (living in ugly constructions, using war Machines, destroying nature and called – even by themselves – "the Horde") are evil. Discovering that the sword can transform her into eight-foot She-Ra, Princess of Power, she vows to defeat the Horde. Meanwhile Catra, feeling deserted by Adora, becomes Hordak's second-in-command, ousting her (and Adora's) abusive mother figure, the sorceress Shadow Weaver (Toussaint).

Though the Rebellion uses Magic, it is linked to the science of Etheria's self-proclaimed original colonists, the "First Ones" (see Imperialism). Princess Entrapta (Woods), an eccentric Scientist easily distracted by Robots, studies their Technology; following a misunderstanding she joins the Horde and, continuing her research, she learns that Etheria is deeply embedded with First Ones' tech. On discovering the First Ones planned to use the planet's magic as a super-Weapon (the "Heart of Etheria"), controlled by their AI Light Hope (Gorrondona), the previous incarnation of She-Ra had put Etheria into another Dimension. Hordak is trying to create a portal to contact Emperor Horde Prime (see Galactic Empires), of whom he is an imperfect Clone: Entrapta aids him, only to realize it will create a collapsing warped reality. This does not prevent a now embittered Catra from activating the portal, and Adora finds herself in an Alternate History where she failed to discover the sword. A sacrifice is made and the real world restored, but the portal's temporary opening has been noticed by Horde Prime. Prior to his arrival, Adora and the now-Queen Glimmer find themselves at loggerheads; whilst Catra – following the desertion of her last friend, Scorpia (Ash) – begins to understand her sense of abandonment is the consequence of her own actions, not the malice of others.

The ancient Horde Prime – linked by a Hive Mind to his clones and depicted as a cult leader, using Identity Transfer technology to replace his host body when it ages – mindwipes (see Memory Edit) Hordak for his aberrant individuality and abducts Glimmer and (accidentally) Catra. Adora, Bow and Entrapta use a First Ones Spaceship to rescue them. On returning, they find Etheria overrun by Prime's forces: he attempts to use the Heart of Etheria, but is defeated. All ends emotionally but happily; Adora and Catra declare their love and kiss (in an ironic reversal of a convention intended to mollify conservative markets, it is the same-sex couples who kiss, whilst the straight couples just hug).

As with the original series, the debt to the Star Wars franchise is clear; other influences include the television animation series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) and Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997-1999). She-Ra is an exciting, funny (see Humour) Planetary Romance with some later excursions into Space Opera and with engrossing storytelling. At the core are its memorable characters; fairly straightforward early on, in deference to the young target audience, they become increasingly complex as the series progresses – Catra's journey being particularly noteworthy. Though the response has largely been favourable, dissenting cries were heard from some middle-aged males, complaining that the female characters in this children's show are not as sexy as they were in the original, whilst also fretting over the show's strong LGBT ambience. Viewers able to abide such wickedness will find this iteration of She-Ra to be in animation's top tier. [SP]


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