"you know, pulling a JK Rowling, essentially"
May 28, 2020 3:09 AM   Subscribe

"I will say, it is something I'm a little hesitant to canonise, because, honestly, I would have cast a trans actor if that was something I wanted to [do]. If I wanted that character to be very canonically trans, I think that would have been a really cool thing to do," she said. "It's just something I want to be a little cautious around, because I don't want to be adding to things after the fact"
She-Ra showrunner Noelle Stevenson responds to the fan theory of Bow as a trans man.

Perfuma was designed as a trans woman according to her designer, but this was never made official. There are also the Star Siblings, who used to be the Star Sisters in the original show.
posted by MartinWisse (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
For those who don't click the link, the FPP title is what ends the pull quote, which changes for me how that sentence reads. Of course, I am someone who thinks "let me make Dumbledore gay after the series is complete" was a cop out trying to cover for the fact there's zero queer representation in Harry Potter. (That is a derail, but is context for the first sentence of this comment.)
posted by hoyland at 3:27 AM on May 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

Speaking of Rowling, apparently she has a new children's book coming out. When she says it is “about truth and the abuse of power”, I cringed, as the likelihood of this being a train wreck (think Madonna's children's book about why you shouldn't be mean to the cool rich popular people because you have no idea what it's like to be them, with thinly veiled references to gender debates from a TERF point of view or something) is high.
posted by acb at 3:48 AM on May 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

"It helps kids who aren't queer develop empathy and understanding for people who might not be exactly like them," she said. "It's more than just normalising, it's an attempt to create a better world."

I wish they’d had shows like this when I was a kid.
posted by KGMoney at 4:23 AM on May 28, 2020 [11 favorites]

I have some frustration that we're meant to be pleased with this "representation" that isn't representation at all, but a creator saying "yeah, that's a valid read of the character" which covers anything from "I wanted the character to be trans but didn't think it was feasible" to "I defaulted to assuming he was cis but am not big enough to own up to that explicitly". And anywhere on that spectrum is fine, but shouldn't be confused with representation, given that we have live action programs with actual trans characters.

*Also, cis people, I'm going to stick my neck out and say it's not a hard rule that trans characters have to be played by trans actors. There are good reasons why you really ought to look for a trans actor first, and in professional productions, you should be able to find someone to at least give serious consideration to, but don't treat us as some other, impossible to depict category while telling us how you're respecting us.
posted by hoyland at 4:48 AM on May 28, 2020 [16 favorites]

I've really been enjoying this show with my daughter. Originally I thought it would just be kind of fun and I could tell her about the version I watches as a kid but really this blows the original out of the water. It's so well written and the characters diverse, complex, and interesting. For a children's cartoon, it's amazing.

Hoyland, I don't know if you watch the show but there is a trans character who is voiced by a trans actor who was introduced in Season 5. There is also a gender non-binary character who is voiced by a gender non-binary actor.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:23 AM on May 28, 2020 [9 favorites]

Everything about this show is amazing, and if there were any justice in the world, Noelle Stevenson would be the creative director for whatever $100-million spectacle Netflix decides to do next. I can't for the life of me find the interview now, but I read something earlier this month where she basically describes how a lot of the more progressive characters and character arcs introduced in later seasons (SPOILER ALERT) were iterative, because if she'd gone to the executive producer before Season 1 and led with "So, yeah, we're going to have the two main female leads in a sexually-fraught relationship with each other, ending the series on a kiss between them, and none of the romantic relationships anywhere in the show are going to be cis-het, oh and also some major characters are going to be transgendered or non-binary but we're going to treat them with dignity and respect" she would have been laughed out of the room, but she stuck with it and kept pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable within a kid's show, and as the show got more and more popular over its full run (despite or because of the progressive choices she made), it created a feedback loop where she was able to do even MORE cool stuff and she ended up creating a wildly popular children's show with tons of enthusiastic adult fans where all these nontraditional character archetypes fit perfectly with the ethos and the plot of the show at large.

In conclusion, if you haven't seen this show, you should watch this show.
posted by Mayor West at 7:59 AM on May 28, 2020 [18 favorites]

Y'all have convinced me to check this out. I misjudged it as just a reboot of a He-Man spinoff, so it's good to know that it transcends its roots. It's pretty wild to think that the final episode of Korra was less than 6 years ago, Ruby and Sapphire's wedding was only two years ago. The envelope is being pushed, and being pushed successfully. One reason why conservatives are so angry and violent is because they are clearly losing the culture war.
posted by rikschell at 8:37 AM on May 28, 2020 [10 favorites]

Mayor West, that very much tracks with my experience as a viewer.

SEASON 1: Wow, there's a lot of queer subtext in this show! Oh, well, I guess it'll probably remain subtext, but at least there's one definite same-sex couple, and what I'm seeing is far more than I'd normally expect in such a show, anyway.

SEASON 2: ... Huh.


SEASON 4: !!!!!

SEASON 5: Aaaaaaaand that subtext? Is now text.
posted by kyrademon at 10:23 AM on May 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Everybody should watch this show. It's phenomenal storytelling and the LGBT+ representation is just baked into the world, no "very special episode" syndrome. The closest it gets to that is, ironically given the subject here, with Bow's storyline in season 2 that functions as a coming-out analog regarding his career choice. Meanwhile as far as I can figure there's exactly one (requited) straight relationship on Etheria, between two people who only appear on-screen at the same time in flashbacks.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:29 AM on May 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Meanwhile as far as I can figure there's exactly one (requited) straight relationship on Etheria, between two people who only appear on-screen at the same time in flashbacks.

Hmm, I see Glimmer's parents, Mermista and Wassface (the pirate guy) (it's clear by the end it's not entirely unrequited), and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it romantic beat at the very end between [spoiler] and [spoiler].
posted by suelac at 11:49 AM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ah, I'm only partway into S5 so I haven't seen any interest from Mermista in Seahawk, or whatever the Spoiler x Spoiler pairing is.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:55 AM on May 28, 2020

She-ra is everything I wish TV had been growing up. Most of the cast is female and they don't all look the same, there are LGBTQ+ characters, Entrapta is the autism spectrum representation I've been waiting for all my life, and the male-coded villain for much of the show just casually wears a very revealing dress because why not?

I also think it's hilarious that it's a reboot of a show designed to sell toys in the 1980s and has almost no merchandise for sale.
posted by marfa, texas at 12:11 PM on May 28, 2020 [10 favorites]

I've been talking up this show to friends recently and they all look horrified and deeply skeptical. So glad to read this! (I'm not to the end of s5 yet, can't wait!)
posted by esoteric things at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2020

Huh. Glad to see that confirmation of Perfuma too. I definitely got a vibe about the character, but I was wondering if I was grasping at straws.

By Season 5, I'm definitely getting "you're lucky I love you so much, you annoying doof" vibes from Mermista toward Sea Hawk. It no longer feels like "you annoy me and I wish you'd go away."
posted by explosion at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Looking through a wiki for the OG She Ra, I noticed that the sword Sea Hawk has in season 5 was originally called a "photon cutlass". I started to snark about about what an off-brand name for a light saber "photon cutlass" is and how fitting it is for the new Sea Hawk to still have one (he did brag about running the 50-klick GaleBreath Gauntlet in less than 20-klicks, after all), when it occurred to me that I think I like the new She Ra more than Star Wars now.

She Ra knowingly hits every single Star Wars story beat I can think of with perfect rhythm, and then goes much further to create something wonderfully original and genuinely great. There's a moment in the finale which is simultaneously the most Star Wars thing I have ever seen but also something that is uniquely She Ra which is why the show has become my new benchmark for measuring awesomeness.

I can't recommend it enough. It has great characters, a great world, a great story, and an ending that means something and is 100% earned.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

Meanwhile as far as I can figure there's exactly one (requited) straight relationship on Etheria, between two people who only appear on-screen at the same time in flashbacks.

I've seen tons of background hetero couples in lots of episodes, which I am told is a very important form of representation.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:47 PM on May 28, 2020 [16 favorites]

But they didn't explain what the fan theory about Bo being trans is? They just said the theory existed. I didn't read him that way myself.

Anyway, the show is SO GOOD. I'm almost done with the last season. I kept thinking it would have a crappy season at some point but it just keeps getting cooler. We need more shows like this. Google alert me when Stevenson makes more shows.

I like that it seems like everybody gets a redemption arc which is cool (except Catra, I don't feel like she deserved one) but the redemption situation is always presented in a morally dualistic context. The basic framework, even if based on the idea that people can improve and the power of friendship, is one that's squarely within Western good-vs-evil ideas. The character development doesn't quite make up for the fact that it kinda has the same moralistic simplicity of Disney films.

Anyway, I don't read fanfic, but I would read She-Ra fanfic. Link me if you want.
posted by Sterros at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2020

I appreciate you sharing this. Because of this article and thread, I checked the show out and watched the first episode with my two kids. We're hooked and I think it's going to be so good. I needed something purely fun and validating right now, so thanks!!
posted by forza at 3:21 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

forza, I'm glad you get to enjoy it fresh. It's delightful and perfect for kids.
posted by ChrisR at 3:46 PM on May 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think it's going to be so good.

You are correct.
posted by mikelieman at 4:35 PM on May 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

gender non-binary
just nonbinary i think!

i watched enough of the first couple seasons to fall in love with bow and i have a bow meme saved from a trans meme subreddit thats just him as a boy version of the happy gay noises reaction girl. i dont think its still used but everyone knows bow's trans! this is more of a problem with the decision to frame an entire article around this but i get (very mildly) annoyed with a creator saying its Fair to see someone as trans. i know! i don't need your permission! i respect your respectful decision making in your show but now all of your characters are trans!
posted by gaybobbie at 4:38 PM on May 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

All characters are trans, unless explicitly shown to be cis.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:05 AM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

But they didn't explain what the fan theory about Bo being trans is?

Bow as a trans man was first suggested due to one scene in an first season episode, where he was shown coming out of a bath wearing what looked a little bit like a binder a trans man could wear to conceal his breasts.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:07 AM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was afraid the "pull a Rowling" was going to mean "reveal I am anti trans then claim it was yet another accident." Glad it seems to be more the opposite.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 9:53 AM on May 29, 2020

By Season 5, I'm definitely getting "you're lucky I love you so much, you annoying doof" vibes from Mermista toward Sea Hawk.

By season 2 I was joking that it was *rolleyes* "He's not my boyfriend. We just have sex sometimes. SO annoying." And while Mermista and Seahawk may be a couple, they're not straight.

I think that there's room for a whole grad paper on how She-Ra took queer hopes and desires that are normally only painfully expressed in fan works, ones that have to get by on subtext and queer baiting (yeah looking at you, Supergirl) , and said" No seriously, this is text".

When I think of all the fucking DECADES where fans have argued "No really, the way they look at each other, and how they held hands in this episode? Means they're gay"? This is like a beautiful storm. Something whose success is going to open more doors.

So yeah, going back to read those Incredibles fan cartoons featuring Void again...
posted by happyroach at 1:53 PM on May 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

I’ve encouraged both my (bi) girlfriend and my (gay) best friend to get into this show (of which I am absolutely obsessed and deeply impressed) but they watched the first episode and said it wasn’t for them. And to that I say - the dialogue in the first few episodes is a little pat! But they’re setting up so much world-building and character-building, and so if you think the first ep is cute but just ok, watch the second. (And no, I’m really not over my two favorite people not immediately loving it like I did.)
posted by missmary6 at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2020

Thank you all for reminding me that Noelle is amazingly overtalented. She took the most cynical toy-selling cartoon property in the history of Saturday morning and turned it into Star Wars. (h/t RonButNotStupid.)
posted by whuppy at 5:47 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Swift Wind and Red Death from the Venture Bros. would respect the hell out of each other.
posted by whuppy at 6:13 PM on May 29, 2020

Current She-Ra is the version I needed as a kid.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:50 PM on May 29, 2020

Still fangirling over Adora's new She-Ra glow up in S5.

My eyes involuntarily water with sheer joy and bi pride every time I try to describe this show to a new potential viewer.

If you haven't watched it, why do you deny yourself such pure, unadulterated joy? OMG JUST WATCH IT.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:37 AM on June 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

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