The He-Man / She-Ra Christmas Special from that magical year of 1985 has long been derided as one of the most confusing and pointless Christmas specials ever to air on television -- but I have never really been able to shake the lingering sense that this cartoon was not exactly aimed at ... adults, like, at all.
Every now and again, we have to consider the possibility that we're holding something for which we are not the intended demographic to way too high a standard. Besides, if you're here for machismo, grim and gritty heroes, or expanded action sequences, maybe you should have looked to someone other than a guy named Prince Adam from Eternia. Fortunately, the time has come to share my side of the story, where this is actually kind of a cute and enjoyable cartoon that doesn't really fully deserve backlash -- because it is exactly what it promises to be.
In the immortal words of Grayskull, don't be a hater.
1. We open up the story at the castle in Eternia, where King Randor and Queen Marlena are both hanging out off to the side, watching all of Prince Adam and Princess Adora's friends put up decorations for the impending birthday party for the twins. We discover that their shared birthday is near Christmas, and I'm just like, ugh, of course. They are SUCH Capricorns.
2. Queen Marlena is like, “This reminds me of Christmas,” and her boyfriend or whatever King Randor is like, “What's that? Some earth hollyday?” to which she responds, “Yes, a very special Earth holiday.” This is now what I refer to Christmas as: A Very Special Earth Holiday.
3. I know this is supposed to be happening on another planet comprised of fictional characters, but I swear to God, I have been to this party.
4. Everyone walks around with their hands in fists all of the time on this show and it is great.
5. Orko shows up and immediately starts breaking stuff not even five minutes into the episode. It's basically his job. He breaks into a ship for absolutely no reason and then launches himself into space. Okay.
6. There are a lot of really excellent names for characters on this show, but one of my favorites is Two Bad. They show up for about ten seconds just to argue with themselves. They're pretty much the physical representation of an internet comments section.
7. Horde Prime is like, hey Skeletor and Hordak, go get that ship or whatever, so they try to after Orko. Prince Adam is like, “This looks like a job for me, pretty much!” and does his whole turning into He-Man spiel. Adora watches him run past and is like, ok, have fun with that though.
8. So, then Adam jumps on Skeletor's ship, fights some metal robot tentacles, and makes some incredibly bad jokes while he does it. Adora is like, this guy can't do anything by himself, so she turns into She Ra and hops on her unicorn ... pegasus ... thing, Swift Wind (no, really). Together, she and her brother just straight up punch a hole in the side of the ship. Not to save their renegade ship, mind you, just to stop Skeletor from stopping their renegade ship.
9. Skeletor gets super mad that everyone messed up his not-a-plan to catch the renegade ship, so he just straight up throws one parachute at Two Bad and kicks them and 3 other villains right out of a flying ship in the sky. It's pretty amazing, but, damn. Skeletor does not mess around.
10. Orko crashes the ship right into Earth because he is the actual worst. The crash then causes an avalanche that very nearly buries two small children that are wandering the woods in search of a Christmas tree to chop down, because, I'm telling you right now, parents in the 1980s did not give a darn where their kids wandered off to or when they came back. Orko barely saves them, then asks the eternal question, "What's Christmas?"
11. I was going to have a fun drinking game where I do a shot every time someone says “What's Christmas?” or “Christmas, what's that?” in this episode, but it's only 40 minutes long and that happens maybe a half dozen times, so you might want to hold off on that.
12. The kids say, "We're lost!" and Orko says "No you're not! You found me!" The little girl responds by making this face:
Which is what I would do, too.
13. The Village of the Damned start explaining what Christmas is, even though they themselves seem to have only a fleeting understanding of the subject. After they fill Orko in on "peace" and "goodwill towards men," indicating that they themselves have never experienced Christmas, Orko says, "What about presents?" because he is the worst -- not only because he steals and crashes ships, but because he wants to hear about presents from children who he almost crushed to death under several tons of ice and snow.
14. It's hilarious that Prince Adam and Princess Adora have secret identities because they are both just the worst at it. They look at each other and wink and chuckle every time the names "He-Man" or "She-Ra" are spoken out loud.
15. It's weird that they don't just cut their losses and leave Orko stranded, but Man-At-Arms decides to teleport his sky boat back to Eternia, at which point Orko makes the executive decision to commit intergalactic kidnapping and takes the children with him to Eternia. JFC, Orko.
16. She-Ra's theme song is amazing.
17. She-Ra runs over to get some help and advice from Mermista, but look how cute this scene is. I ship them.
18. She-Ra rides Swift Wind over to ... actually, it's a little difficult to follow the plot. They're trying to get a crystal from the ocean because they need it to power a ship, or ... something? Anyway, she fights a sea monster that basically looks exactly like Godzooky from the old Godzilla cartoon, and Mermista is like, "Good luck, hope that helped!" With her goes my heart.
19. It really freaks me out when Swift Wind talks.
20. On Eternia, for some ungodly reason, everyone leaves the kids with Perfuma and Bow, those absolute queer weirdos. They have a hilarious misunderstanding of how to comfort children, but the kids are totally into it. Also, I don't know what the gay agenda is exactly, but I'm pretty sure this is a photo of it:
21. I forgot about Catra, who has only one line in this special, which is a crime. Cat-affiliated villains are THE BEST.
22. Oh, right, so there are these robots called Monstroids that have terrible attitude problems and show up just to get ripped to pieces periodically through the episode. They even fight with Hordak, who runs away like, "AIEEEEE!"
23. Orko almost leads to these kids' deaths more than once in this episode, I think we're on like the third time now.
24. There's also a group of well-meaning monstrosities called manchines ... MAN-CHINES. Orko and the kids are sitting in a prison cell, then suddenly this ... guy ... shows up and says, "Hi! I'm Cutter! Whirrrrr ..." and just starts sawing through bars. Then his ... friend ... shows up and says, "I'm Zipper, check me out! Whirrrrrr ..." They all jump on Zipper's back and ride ... away? To somewhere.
25. He-Man and She-Ra throw down hard on some Monstroids, and it is GREAT. Best part of the episode. There are a lot of Monstroids, though, so Cutter looks at Zipper, like, "Guess we'd better call our cousins!" Oh, there's ... more of you? Oh ... no ...
26. One of the manchines is ... a puppy. Named Relay.
27. Skeletor kidnaps the kids again, but this is where things get REAL CUTE. The kids are freezing in the tundra, and Skeletor is like, "Don't care! I got a Horde Prime to get you delivered to. Start walking!" The kids are like, "No, we're freezing to death." Skeletor gets mad about it, but then he gives them coats. After that, they're like, come on, Relay! Skeletor is like, "NO! NO PETS! GET MOVING!" But then. This is where it happens. Like the plague, Christmas spirit has infected Skeletor and is eating him from the inside. He goes back, and picks up Relay. Because Relay is HIS BEST FRIEND.
28. The kids keep talking about how nice Skeletor is, and he SMILES. It's so cute! I love Skeletor. They're like, "Christmas is fun!" and he's like "Oh, so there's fights," and they're like, "NO, SKELETOR, JFC." They're like, "We put presents under the tree!" and Skeletor is like "Yeah! Then they explode in everyone's faces!" and the kids are like, "NO."
29. I don't know, after we see the softer side of Skeletor, there's kind of no point to seeing much else of the episode except for the robot smashing He-Man and She-Ra do for about 3 minutes straight. Skeletor was right, fights really are fun!
30. She-Ra and He-Man lift the Horde Prime and just toss them into outer space, which is about how they solve 90% of their problems. Then they go home to party with all their amazing super queer rainbow friends. Happy ending kind of!
31. The kids get sent back to Earth, to their parents, the most 1985 looking characters ever created.
32. Orko even ruins the end of the episode by stepping on Prince Adam's admittedly not great punchline, and jumping right in front of the camera like, "CHRISTMAS!" Fool, you did not even know what Christmas was like half an hour ago. But, whatever.