The Backlash Over She-Ra's Redesign Is Why Girls Can't Have Nice Things


Back in May 2018, Warner Bros. Animation revealed that it was reviving the ThunderCats. The announcement was accompanied with a teaser trailer, showcasing a new name for the reboot -- ThunderCats Roar -- and a drastic change in animation style to make sure Lion-O and his feline friends didn't look out of place alongside Cartoon Network's current crop of fantasy adventure series' like Stephen Universe and Adventure Time. Reaction to the Cats' new, pudgier physiques, coupled with the reboot's more comedic focus, produced a sizable negative response online.

Luckily for the Roar showrunners, that heat is now being drawn towards Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, the latest nostalgia-baiting throwback to the '80s. Creator Noelle Stevenson recently gave us our first proper look at what a 2018 version of the Princess of Etheria will look like, a redesign that has quickly become controversial.

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In a similar vein to the complaints ThunderCats Roar attracted, a contingent of men (and some women) have flipped out about the shape of the teenage heroine's body and face. Dubbing her "Androgynous-Ra," they've pointed to the absence of makeup on her face, her squarer jaw, flatter chest and lack of curves as evidence the show's creators are toning down of the original's "femininity," which -- judging by the level of vitriol over fairly minor changes -- was apparently the character's sole appeal.

Actually, they're not entirely wrong. Back in the early '80s, She-Ra's main appeal was her femininity. But only insofar as that she was a "she." In Netflix's docuseries, The Toys That Made Us, former Mattel CEO Jill Barad explains that She-Ra was created to capitalize on the 20% of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe fans that were female. Unofficially, she also wanted to make sure that Barbie -- the company's golden goose -- was no longer being outshined by a bunch of body-building boys toys -- a battlefield that He-Man's creators were more than willing to meet the women on, refusing to let She-Ra match her twin brother in size or stature for fear that their Eternian Prince would be made to look like a "wimp." Even when the princess was in her infancy, her body was being controlled by a bunch of disgruntled men.

She-Ra's creators at Mattel had to settle for releasing a toy that was essentially a Barbie doll with a sword and limbs posable enough to allow for more than just going to veterinary school or holidaying in Malibu with Ken. It wasn't until after her design and name were settled on that J. Michael Straczynski was tapped to create a backstory for the character, under the guidance of Larry DiTillio, keeper of the He-Man "bible," so that she could make her cartoon debut.

"We never considered or wrote She-Ra to be the 'ideal woman," Straczynski recently tweeted. "We [...] considered her a warrior, first and foremost [...] Anyone looking back at She-Ra [...] as the 'ideal woman' is doing so through the lens of prepubescent (since it was aimed at kids) interest. [...] I get it, but that wasn't the creative intent."

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