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Star vs the Forces of Evil

Entry updated 10 January 2022. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2015-2019). Disney Television Animation (see Disney on Television). Creator and executive producer: Daron Nefcy. Directors include Dominic Bisignano and Aaron Hammersley. Writers include Dominic Bisignano, Aaron Hammersley, Amy Higgins, John Davis Infantino and Daron Nefcy. Voice cast includes Esmé Bianco, Keith David, Abby Elliott, Grey Griffin, Michael C Hall, Adam McArthur, Eden Sher, Jeffrey Tambor and Alan Tudyk. 56 22-minute episodes to date (usually two stories per episode). Colour.

Following the bestowal of the family's magic wand on her fourteenth birthday and its over-enthusiastic use (rainbows were set aflame), Princess Star Butterfly (Sher) of Mewni is dispatched to Earth as a foreign exchange student at Echo Creek Academy (who are remarkably blasé about magical princesses); she is accompanied by Glossaryck (Tambor/David), her magic tutor. Fellow student Marco Diaz (McArthur) is appointed her guide. Together Star and Marco comfortably fight off repeated attacks by the incompetent Monster Ludo (Tudyk) and his cronies, who desire the wand. However Ludo hires Toffee (Hall), a capable lizardman with his own agenda: "sometimes your biggest threat is right under your nose", he tells the oblivious and soon to be deposed Ludo. As the leader of a Monster army, Toffee had been defeated by Star's mother, Queen Moon (Griffin); she used the forbidden magic of Eclipsa Queen of Darkness (Bianco), a predecessor who had left her royal husband to marry a monster, thereupon being denounced as evil and crystallized as punishment.

Star (who can transform into a six-armed, winged humanoid butterfly) beats Toffee, but suspects the Mewni history she'd been taught is false ("the first settlers of Mewney [had] noble pursuits: life, liberty and corn. But the wicked monsters rose up"). By the end of season 3, and with Eclipsa freed, Star now knows that Mewni was conquered by her ancestors and the indigenous monsters subjugated (see History in SF; Race in SF). The wealthy or noble monsters are largely exempt from Mewnian bigotry; nevertheless, Eclipsa's daughter, true heir to the (matriarchal) throne, was substituted because she was half-monster (Moon and Star are descendants of the replacement). Star holds a party to bring young Mewnian's and monsters together, but it is disrupted: police arrest the monsters and provide the Mewnians with hot chocolate.

Season Four sees Eclipsa on the Mewni throne, with Star's support. Many humans happily co-exist with the returned monsters, but genocidal extremists plan to turn the clock back ... and Moon allies herself with them, believing they can be controlled to bring about a bloodless coup. She is mistaken. Star concludes that magic is the root cause of Mewni's problems and must be destroyed, even if she and Marco would be separated, since the end of magic will mean that all Dimensions are isolated and all magical creatures die (including Glossaryck). However Earth and Mewni merge, so Star and Marco are together; and only a heartless curmudgeon would point to the many, many deaths that will doubtless follow from the resulting chaos.

The finale's reception was mixed, many viewers objecting to the high off-screen death count being swept under the carpet. Also underplayed, presumably because this is a children's show, was how the immortal Glossaryck had manipulated the plot to bring about his final death (see Godgame).

Though predominately a fantasy, Star vs the Forces of Evil includes sf-related tropes: several Robots; Machines for measuring evil and draining energy; a pigeon with a Mecha body; Aliens; Suspended Animation; and visits to exotic Dimensions. There are various Time plots: Star triggers a Time Loop, where she experiences alternate versions of herself, friends and the "why did the chicken cross the road" joke (see Parallel Worlds); electronic screens that show past events in your life (see Time Viewer); Time Distortion, both frozen stasis and with dimensions running at differing speeds. A museum planet displays many sf items. Star's occult-minded human friend, Janna (Elliott), has Carnacki-style devices such as a "spiritual chromatograph" and "energy oscillotron" (see Imaginary Science). Anthropology is satirized and a use of aversion therapy (see Psychology) references A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Despite some clunkiness early in season 4 and a resolution focusing on the happy ending for Star and Marco that left its darker elements stifled, Star vs the Forces of Evil was one of the foremost animated series of its era. Heavily influenced by Anime and engaging with serious themes – imperialism, bigotry, the abuse of power (see Politics) – it is visually pleasing, has appealing characters and is very funny. [SP]


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