She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix is a modern reimagining of the classic ’80s Filmation series. She-Ra is a part of the He-Man universe and so holds a place in many fans’ hearts, and as expected this has led to many debates about the redesign of the characters. Some arguments seem to be reasonable, like some complaining about the more cartoony super deformed art style, or the redesign of She-Ra herself, but some seem purposely argumentative and toxic like why there is a wider LGBTQ and minority ethnic representation on the show and why She-Ra herself is less 'feminine' .
So, away from the Twitter frenzy what is the show like?
Well, I did like the design of the '80s show but the new art style is great too. I am a big fan of Noelle Stevenson (the creator and lead writer of the show), who has created the amazing Nimona and Lumberjanes graphic novels, and her art style feels modern and stylised like Steven Universe. I don't understand why this seems to be an issue when many cartoons have been drawn in a more simplistic style compared to what they were years ago, after all, Phineas and Ferb, Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball and Over the Garden Wall are all brilliant but less detailed and 'realistic' when compared to '80s fare such as He-Man, TMNT, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, MASK or GI Joe. However, what is inarguable and beyond dispute is that the storylines, dialogue and characterisation in the new She-Ra show is much better than in its predecessor. In a medium which has been hegemonic in portraying white characters and often sexualised females, the recent wave of real world representations in cartoons is exciting and the fact that it is backed up by engaging stories not just meant to sell toys is brilliant.
The story itself is classic hero fare: Adora is a cadet in the Fright Zone and a part of the Horde, who are trying to wipe out the 'evil' Princesses. However, after a joy riding accident in the Whispering Woods with her friend Catra, Adora finds the Sword of Power and has visions of She-Ra and the First Ones.
Adora is captured by Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon and Bow and realises that the Horde are evil and that the Princesses aren't a guerilla force but actually just peaceful rulers of their respective lands. Over the course of a few episodes Adora transforms and aims to unite the Princess Alliance that once fought the Horde but ultimately failed and fell apart.
So, as I stated before, the usual Hero's Journey fare. But what really helps set this apart from many shows of its peers is the snappy dialogue and characterisation. From episode 10 of onwards the show goes deep into lore and it is genuinely exciting to see the battle between Adora/ She-ra and Catra as they realise that they want different things in life yet their paths are inextricably and destructively linked.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is an excellent 13 part animated series with a lot of heart. It may not please all previous fans of the show but as a father of a 3 3/4 year old daughter I can honestly say that it is wonderful to have a show that has a strong female lead that isn't wearing questionable clothing or revealing too much skin. The Heroes Journey is a universal tale and in She-Ra it is a tale told well.