I am a creature of the Internet which means that I got to see the conflama that was caused by the She-Ra reboot. The truth is, being a hobgoblin of the Internet, I’ve seen this happen now more than once. It started with Teen Titans GO! And rose to the top with the new ThunderCats (coming to Cartoon Network later on this year) and culminated with She-Ra: Princess of Power, a brand-new Netflix original. With all of the kerfuffle, I wanted to take a moment discuss reboots, remakes and accepting a painful truth: many of us are old as hell.
I was born in 1990: I am old. I am becoming old. But that means that 80s nostalgia was mostly before my time. I watched Jem and the Holograms (still do because it’s an amazing show) and I was aware of He-Man, She-Ra, and ThunderCats (which I actually watched a lot of because I was an asthmatic child in Texas and was encouraged to stay inside). These shows sort of filtered through me except for Jem because it’s just American Sailor Moon with synth pop. But since I was born in the 90s, I’ve been able to see in real-time the influx of shows that are determined to pander to me. However, none have rattled the collective consciousness of the fans like the reboots of the shows from the 80s. While us 90s kids are too busy with our student loan debt and housing crises apparently the people (mostly the men) of the 1980s have a lot of opinions about how their nostalgia is rising from the ashes like a phoenix.
I want to address the main reason many say they are offended and irked by these new reboots: it’s that nothing is original anymore. It’s true there are a lot of reboots but media cycles are real and people keep purchasing and supporting these franchises and reboots, so the economics supports them despite our derision. While I may whine about seeing the 1000th superhero flick in 5 years, I’m still in line and in costume.
As far as Teen Titans GO! And Thundercats (2018) go, there’s a lot of concern about a once serious show now becoming a meme factory. I admit that TTGO! was upsetting to me. I loved the original Teen Titans anime-like show. I loved how grit it had and the seriousness; even if it was a bastardization of the characters and comics because of censorship. I loved all of it (even when it ripped off InuYasha and other beloved anime series. TTGO! is just a series of bad jokes and lame animation all under the mask of bringing back the original (amazing) voice actors from the previous series.
Thundercats (2018) seems much of the same. A very signature CalArts style of animation and a bigger focus on humor whichs is aimed at children rather than “edgelord” teens. While I may not have grown up organically with Thundercats, I absolutely did watch the 80s show and I even enjoyed some of the more anime-like reboots in the 2000s that no one seemed to mention or care about until we received the kid-oriented second reboot that the franchise invented to sell toys to boys in the 1980s. Figuring out that these new shows are for kids really put the whole thing in perspective: I am old now. This show is no longer for me, it’s to sell toys to the next generation of possible future edgelords. The kids these days like the CalArts style, like memes and like cartoons that are essentially fluidly animated Vines. That isn’t to say there aren’t shows with real heart geared towards kids (another common criticism) there’s Steven Universe, The Marvelous Misadventures of Gumball, Craig of the Creek and more. Sure we had shows with heart in the 90s but we also had horrifying television shows that left scars which remained long into adulthood (thanks, Courage the Cowardly Dog).
Now we’re at the most interesting part of this debate and one that brings us to the current discussion over She-Ra: Princess of Power. Here is the real meat of the business: an uncomfortable level of misogyny.
The creators of the new show are mostly female and thus they redesigned She-Ra in a way that is way less sexualized than she was in the 80s. Remember, She-Ra was only created to dominate the toy market since He-Man basically had boys playing with toys cornered; a female counterpart was needed to get girls buying the toys, too. Honestly, the less sexualized She-Ra is refreshing: this cosplayer is also personally happy about her modesty shorts under her skirt and her sleeves. Additionally, she looks physically strong: something girls do not always have. She-Ra isn’t just pretty now, she looks like she can carry the weight of her sword and her responsibility. I may not be super excited to watch the new She-Ra show but I can’t say any part of her design rustle my jimmies. The ones that seem to be overwhelmingly affected by her very practical redesign are men. These men have called the new animators and creators less than kind words and mostly just seem hurt that a show they likely didn’t even watch back in the 80s (remember, He-Man was a thing) is no longer made for them.
So much has changed since the 1980s as far representation of women, people of color and more. We now have a much higher standard for how female characters should be written. They aren’t meant to just be tokens. I’ve gone back and watched the old She-Ra, she is useless. She’s a gender-bent version of her brother and somehow manages to be doubly useless and surrounded by useless people. Except for her scary raggamuffin witch friend, she can stay. The old She-Ra wouldn’t fly today. She had to change and frankly, I’m glad she did.
Are you angry about She-Ra? Ask yourself why for a moment or two before you answer. Consider that this is a show made for children, made for modern children with modern creators who grew up in the shadow of lackluster representation. Keep in mind that things do change and that despite the fact that we are in a seemingly endless nostalgia loop that change, even small change is for the best.
If you’re still mad about She-Ra after those levels of introspection, then you probably have a valid concern and I look forward to reading about all of them in the comments.