Late to the Party is a monthly series in which members of the Fangrrls team catch up with some iconic geek media they've really missed the boat on. Each month, one Fangrrl is assigned five episodes of a TV series they've never seen to watch with as little context as possible to see what they think of this brand new (to them) experience.
Back in the 1980s, there were a handful of iconic cartoons on the airwaves. You had your Jem and the Holograms, your Josie and the Pussycats, your He-Man—and then you had She-Ra, Princess of Power. She-Ra rose out of the mythic worlds of her twin brother He-Man to take on the forces of evil in a different, and yet as far as I can tell remarkably similar, fashion.
While I was alive in the 1980s, it was only for a short time at the end, and thus, I lost out on the majestic animated adventures of Princess Adora and her rainbow-colored horse pal. As this is the very nature of Late to the Party, some of my fellow Fangrrls, along with our boss and resident She-Ra expert, Jesse, have picked out a smattering of episodes to introduce me to the Most Powerful Woman in the Universe.
Let's jump into this multi-colored adventure, shall we?
Season 1, Episodes 1-5: "The Secret of the Sword"
Normally, we only actually assign five episodes for Late to the Party, but it was made very clear to me early on that She-Ra would be a bit different. That's because the first five episodes of the series, which began in 1985, were actually one story. This was turned into a feature-length movie introducing the character. As such, it cannot be viewed in pieces because each individual episode makes very little sense on its own.
This is a fair assessment as She-Ra isn't even the main character for at least the first two episodes, though we do meet her in episode one. Instead, we're brought to the kingdom of Etheria by Prince Adam aka He-Man, who is sent by the Sorceress to figure out what the heck is going on. She gives him a fancy sword that looks just like his, only prettier because it's got a jewel in the hilt.
Adam discovers that in this other dimension is an evil force known as the Horde, lead by an even eviler villain named Hordak (who is some kind of robot or something?), and which employs magical beings of its own. They are at odds with the Rebellion, who we will get back to in a moment. One sort-of-general of the Horde is Adora and when she and He-Man meet and she holds the fancy sword for the first time, she discovers that she is actually Adam's twin-sister. One much-belated conversation with the Sorceress later, they learn that Adora was kidnapped from Eternia by Hordak when they were babies and for some confusing reason the Sorceress decided to erase all memory of the Princess from everyone's minds except her own, Man-at-Arms, and the King and Queen (this never makes any sense).
As the story goes on, Adora meets her parents, realizes her destiny to become She-Ra, and defeats Hordak for the time being. Instead of staying with her family, though, she decides to go back to Etheria to join the Rebellion and fight the Horde. After all, she did spend her whole life helping them.
My Impression: This was actually pretty fun. Mostly in a nostalgic kind of way, if I'm being honest, as my second favorite part was every time the scene change was a chorus of "SHE-RA!" with a swirling logo flying at the screen. My favorite part was probably the fact that I've convinced myself that the Rebellion is a super badass gay alliance where they fight the evils of homophobia and bigotry with love, rainbows, and super excellent mustaches. This is the future liberals want.
In all seriousness, there were some surprisingly poignant moments. I especially enjoyed the part about midway through this massive multi-part story where Adora, still on the side of the Horde, tells Adam that there's no way she's on the side of evil because that's what she's been taught her whole life. She's been sheltered from the realities of what's happening in Etheria and told by Hordak (a "man" who is essentially her father) that the Horde stands for good and the Rebellion is evil. She trusted him to tell her the truth and with no evidence to the contrary, she had no reason to think otherwise. It's not until Adam tells her to go and see for herself that she witnesses the injustice and pain inflicted by the Horde and immediately stands up to Hordak. Respect.
Season 1, Episode 60: "Flowers for Hordak"
Since the first five episodes are technically one story, I've decided to tack on a few bonus episodes. Like this one, where Hordak DOESN'T LIKE PRETTY THINGS. He does like making things hard for the rebellion though, so he stole Perfuma, the woman who ... keeps the forest alive? Since Hordak's Shadow Weaver has cast a giant darkness spell, and since the trees need light to survive, without Perfuma their home will be dead in days, apparently. Perfuma, however, is basically Hordak's nightmare, because she's skipping around his castle spreading flowers and making him LOSE HIS MIND with all the pretty.
My Impression: This episode is so weird. Hordak virtually shakes himself apart when he sees how pretty his castle is now. I love it. Honestly, it's worth it just for the number of times he says he doesn't like pretty things.
Season 1, Episode 61: "Wildchild"
There's a mystery afoot in the Whispering Woods. Something is killing all the vegetation, and when your home is trees, this is pretty bad news. Bow is sad about his plants, the woodsmen are pissed about all the dead trees, and Adora is confused by a ghost and a bunch of white wolfy creatures called, appropriately enough, White Fangs. Also, there's a missing princess who, it turns out, was raised for the last five years by the White Fangs, hence the episode title. She is immediately bullied by the children in the Rebellion and just as immediately shows them all up because this show likes it when girls are good at stuff.
My Impression: This one wasn't as fun as the last one, but it's probably much more indicative of a usual episode of She-Ra, and it certainly wasn't bad, though Princess Allegra's voice bothered me a lot.
Overall Impression: This show is actually way better than I assumed it would be. It's got a pretty strong hero, and an excellent over-the-top villain, so I totally get why those who grew up watching it would remember it so fondly now. It's just cheesy enough that it's more endearing than annoying, and the messages are pretty solid for a kid's show past its 30th birthday. I'm not sure I'll be binging my way through the first season (which you can watch on Netflix), but I could see myself picking it up again on a rainy day or as some comfort television when I'm feeling under the weather.