The original She-Ra was created as a spin-off of He-Man, a soulless 80s animation made with the primary objective of selling as many toys and merchandise as possible. The Netflix reimagining She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is as far from this as possible – and is wonderful for it. Produced by DreamWorks and created by Noelle Stevenson (who previously developed and wrote on the Lumberjanes comic book series) this version of She-Ra is a love letter to the strength of its female characters, a beautiful depiction of the many different versions of friendship women can share.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power tells the story of Adora, an orphan raised by an army called the Horde, who rule the planet Etheria and stamp out the Resistance. One day, Adora finds a magical sword which, with the phrase “For the honour of Greyskull”, transforms her into She-Ra the Princess of Power, an 8-foot warrior responsible for protecting Etheria. After meeting Princess Glimmer and her archer friend, Bow, Adora realises she’s been fighting for the wrong side and joins the resistance with the intention of recruiting other princesses to team up with them. The Horde aren’t prepared to let her leave, though, and her lifelong best friend Catra attempts to bring her back and eliminate the resistance.
It’s hard to pick a standout character, but Catra is one of the most interesting and compelling antagonists on television today. She is utterly charming and the audience will struggle not to root for her, as she battles with her internal conflict over whether she wants to help Adora or defeat her. Their relationship is complex and episodes such as ‘Princess Prom’ and ‘Promise’ seem to imply there is more to it than we’re first shown. At a time when most villains are one-dimensional or just plain evil, Catra is refreshingly unique, in that you’re just as likely to find yourself cheering for her as you are for Adora.
Adora herself is more relatable, even if she does have the ability to transform into a seemingly unstoppable warrior. She doubts herself and still feels the need to train; her magic sword may make her taller, faster and stronger, but at heart, she is still a teenage girl who is unsure of herself and her place in the resistance. Every hero needs a sidekick and Adora has a whole team of them. Glimmer and Bow are a delightful double act, both bubbly and overly-enthusiastic but also skilled fighters and tacticians. They travel Etheria recruiting different princesses with different powers, such as the seemingly aloof Mermista who controls the sea, the hippy-like Perfuma who controls flowers and the slightly eccentric scientist Entrapta with a talent for technology and traps.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a celebration of female strength and all the forms this may take. The Princesses themselves come in a diverse range of shapes and colours, and showcase a range of femininity from the almost ethereal Perfuma to the more muscular build of Scorpia, a member of the Horde desperate for a best friend. The show also includes some groundbreaking LGBTQ content, from the subtext and implied attraction between several characters to the established relationship between princesses Netossa and Spinnerella. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is an important and timely show that will introduce young (and old!) girls and boys to well-rounded female characters who win battles, and lose them, who fight for good, and who fight for evil, in a way that manages to not be on-the-nose or clumsy. Quite simply, She-Ra is magical, offering the kind of representation other shows often try, and fail, to achieve with ease – and with characters you can’t help but fall in love with.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.