After Netflix’s screw ups in Part 3, Part 4 covers how they moved forward after Voltron Legendary Defender and redeemed themselves, by becoming home to one of the biggest queer success stories in animation in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Netflix (Part 2)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, The Dragon Prince & Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018-2020) is a reboot of 1985’s She-Ra: Princess of Power that follows Adora, former soldier of the Evil Horde, who finds a magic sword that transforms her into the powerful warrior princess She-Ra and leads a rebellion against her former masters. SPoP rivals Steven Universe as the queerest cartoon ever made, with background or supporting same-sex couples (Bow’s dads, Netossa and Spinnerella), a non-binary character (Double Trouble, voiced by non-binary actor Jacob Tobia) and more.
SPoP followed in Steven Universe’s footsteps, subverting and uprooting traditional perceptions of gender by representing a wide range of body-types
Making the She-Ra reboot a symbol of the queer community is even more subversive as the original – a spinoff of the hyper-masculine He-Man and the Masters of the Universe- was created to sell toys after President Raegan’s reforms let advertisers market directly to kids. In this way the original She-Ra is linked to Reaganism’s conservative, heteronormative ideal of the nuclear family and traditional gener norms.
Maybe that’s why the reboot’s character designs created controversy, spawning classic rants like SHE-RA LOOKS LIKE A MAN?! from ‘fans’ who seemed offended the new She-Ra didn’t have the original’s skimpier outfit and bigger breasts. Whereas the old show reused the same body-type for every character so they could cheaply produce action figures, SPoP followed in Steven Universe’s footsteps, subverting and uprooting traditional perceptions of gender by representing a wide range of body-types.
Multiple ‘endgame’ couples in She-Ra are same-sex, most prominently Catradora – a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers rollercoaster ride between protagonist Adora and primary antagonist Catra. Showrunner Noelle Stevenson always intended to pair them off but doing so was a constant battle with both the studio and the characters’ ever more complicated relationship.
SPoP’s runaway success proves that, in contrast to long-held executive beliefs, being progressive can be profitable
Showrunner Noelle Stevenson (Eisner-winning writer of Lumberjanes, a phenomenal comic with phenomenal rep– go read it) told GLAAD how, like Rebecca Sugar stealthily setting up Ruby and Sapphire, the crew kept their intentions secret for as long as possible. By the time they were writing the final season, season 1 had already premiered on Netflix and its LGBTQ+ subtext (and text – in one episode the villains are defeated by a rainbow tsunami) had already garnered it a cult following.
Fan enthusiasm emboldened Stevenson to pitch the final season – revolving around Catra and Adora’s romance – to executives. What followed was a nail-biting wait as every exec on a chain from IP licensing to marketing had to be persuaded to give SPoP the go-ahead, the same obstacle course that allegedly crippled Voltron Legendary Defender. Stevenson had to personally argue her case over the phone at each stage.
Stevenson specifically namechecks The Legend of Korra and Steven Universe as ‘chipping away at the wall’ that allowed Catradora to emerge as a complex, nuanced queer romance that became a central pillar of the show.
Netflix has been making up for Voltron Legendary Defender’s missteps with a wave of new original cartoons peppered with LGBTQ+ representation
SPoP’s runaway success proves that, in contrast to long-held executive beliefs, being progressive can be profitable: Months after the show ended, She-Ra continues to trend on Twitter as fans ask Netflix for more. The show is even available in regions hostile to LGBTQ+ rights like Singapore and Russia, albeit with a 13+ rating excluding it from the Netflix Kids app. This probably speaks more to their greater hatred of male homosexuality than any laudable progress, but it’s nice knowing the show reaches the LGBTQ+ community in those regions.
Since SPoP, Netflix has been making up for Voltron Legendary Defender’s missteps with a wave of new original cartoons peppered with LGBTQ+ representation – The Dragon Prince (2018-) – co-created by Avatar the Last Airbender’s head writer Aaron Ehasz – has multiple LGBT+ background/supporting characters, including main character Rayla’s adoptive parents.
Elsewhere, Dreamworks’ Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (2020-) gave black gay teen Benson a love interest by the end of season 1. Benson even casually comes out in the show – no need for the metaphors or last-minute Hail-Marys of the last decade.
Check out the 5th and final part where I look into LGBTQ+ representation Disney animation, including The Owl House and Gravity Falls!
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