In 'She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power,' True Strength Is In Being Yourself Netflix and DreamWorks Animation have rebooted the classic 1980s cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power. The new version updates characters from the old show to reflect a more diverse audience for kids.
NPR logo

In 'She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power,' True Strength Is In Being Yourself

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/854610573/856594282" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In 'She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power,' True Strength Is In Being Yourself

In 'She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power,' True Strength Is In Being Yourself

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/854610573/856594282" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The final season of "She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power" drops today. Dreamworks and Netflix rebooted the kids' TV show from the '80s. Now, in the original, all the princesses were white, skinny and presumably straight. NPR's Victoria Whitley-Berry says the reboot reflects a wider range of people.

VICTORIA WHITLEY-BERRY, BYLINE: For starters, it was originally called "She-Ra: Princess Of Power." The reboot is "She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power." They're all important. It still takes place on the magical planet Etheria. And it's under attack by an evil army called the Horde. So a group of powerful princesses fight back. Adora is a princess who discovers a sword that transforms her into a giant warrior princess named She-Ra.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER")

AIMEE CARRERO: (As Adora) For the honor of Grayskull.

WHITLEY-BERRY: "She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power" is your classic science fiction and fantasy story. It has the epic fight scenes, the space battles and, of course, magic. Showrunner Noelle Stevenson grew up on these kinds of stories.

NOELLE STEVENSON: Like "Lord Of The Rings" and "Star Wars" and things like that.

WHITLEY-BERRY: But there was a problem with her favorite childhood films.

STEVENSON: I never quite saw myself reflected in them, certainly not at the heart of the story.

WHITLEY-BERRY: There were a few women - Princess Leia and, much later, Rey. But where are the female Luke Skywalkers and Lord Saurons? So when she started writing stories of her own, she wanted kids like her to feel seen in more ways than one.

STEVENSON: I know I'm not the only one - that my first-ever crush on a female character was Velma from "Scooby Doo." And I think it's very important to know that this is an OK way to be. You don't have to hide.

WHITLEY-BERRY: Stevenson started out as a comic writer and illustrator, writing the graphic novel "Nimona" and the comic series "Lumberjanes." So when Netflix and DreamWorks started working on a She-Ra reboot, Stevenson was all in. She and her all-female writing staff updated the princesses. There are women of color now, women of different shapes and sizes and women who love other women. We also meet a nonbinary character named Double Trouble. They're voiced by actor Jacob Tobia.

JACOB TOBIA: Double Trouble is a nonbinary shape-shifting mercenary and a method actor. So their whole sort of shtick is that they're like, well, sure I can be anybody physically. But it's being people emotionally that's the real art.

AJ MICHALKA: (As Catra) This is what you really look like?

TOBIA: (As Double Trouble) More or less. Of course, we all wear costumes. I just happen to be able to wear other people as costumes - for a price.

WHITLEY-BERRY: Double Trouble is a fully realized character, even though they aren't one of the main ones.

TOBIA: That's what having access to full personhood looks like - is being able to play characters that aren't just there to be the moral of the story but are there to advance the story and escalate conflict and just cause trouble.

WHITLEY-BERRY: Now, "She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power" isn't the first time we've seen LGBTQ stories in children's entertainment. But what "She-Ra" and other shows like it do is bring queer stories that used to be subtle and puts them out into the open. Mey Rude is a journalist and trans character consultant. She says that because the team making "She-Ra" is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories they tell feel more genuine.

MEY RUDE: It's definitely this feeling of just comfort in queerness. It just feels like, oh, yeah, OK. This is me. This is my life. This is how my brain works, too.

WHITLEY-BERRY: Because throughout the five seasons of "She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power," everyone discovers they're strongest when they're being their true selves. Victoria Whitley-Berry, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WARRIORS (SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER THEME SONG)")

AALIYAH ROSE: (Singing) We're gonna win in the end.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.