SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is definitely a reboot for the new generation. Its messages of inclusivity, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ arena, not to mention its strong feminist themes, all make it stand out as a show not afraid to wear its progressive heart on its sleeve.
However, at its core, there's a very sensitive issue the show tackles as it charts a path for young Adora/She-Ra, her fellow princesses and her villains. This issue is, of course, how teens deal with abandonment in their formative years.
The issue first pops up in the Fright Zone, where Hordak and Shadow Weaver are grooming and weaponizing orphans for their army. The likes of Catra, Scorpia and Adora (who was kidnapped as a baby) are gaslighted into thinking the only parents they'll ever know are these villains, and so they fight for them. It's similar to extremist groups who prey on kids, turning them into child soldiers, and as we see with Catra, she just can't break away, even after it's revealed her "parents" are mass murderers.
One of their friends, Kyle, another orphan, is a prime example of someone struggling, as we see him befriending Bow in Hordak's prison. Even though he should be keeping watch over the archer, Kyle admits he feels abandoned, isolated and alone, which is why he's mentally cracking as one of Hordak's soldiers. When he tells Bow, "all I want is someone to talk to" you can sense a young kid crying out for help, needing a shoulder to lean on.
The lack of family really leaves these kids vulnerable and reflects what we see today in the real world, with broken homes and abandonment leading them into lives of crime, drugs, the sex trade and human trafficking, among other things. She-Ra reiterates that it's not just physical abandonment, but mental abandonment that causes this breakdown, because in the case of Princess Glimmer and her mom, Queen Angella, there's a huge emotional disconnect that speaks to parents who don't pay enough attention to their children in person. The queen doesn't see how her daughter is suffering after losing her father in battle, and in return, Glimmer, being a rebellious teen and whatnot, doesn't want to share anything with her mother, even when her powers start malfunctioning.
And it's a two-way street, because Glimmer has abandoned her mom too, who's struggling with depression after feeling like she's to blame for King Micah's death. Using this duo, She-Ra paints a holistic picture, showing how emotional care involves two parties working together, listening and then being there for one another.
Catra can't grasp this, which eventually drives a wedge between her and Adora. She thinks Adora physically abandoned her when she switched to the light, but just doesn't understand Adora feels emotionally abandoned when Catra opts to remain a terrorist. And it's perfectly understandable because both, being conditioned their entire lives, are only now truly understanding the concept of family and friends. And so, Season 1 wades heavily into the importance of never abandoning those you love -- which She-Ra and the Princess Alliance embody in the finale by uniting at long last to defeat Hordak's armies.
Ultimately, this message is compounded by Adora's ever-lingering desire to save Catra time and time again, something her mentor, Light Hope, and the rest of the princesses try to talk her out of, but which she never backs down from. That's because She-Ra doesn't believe in abandonment; she believes, no matter what, being there for the people she loves is what what truly makes someone, well, a hero.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, starring Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint, Keston John, Lauren Ash, Christine Woods, Genesis Rodriguez, Jordan Fisher, Vella Lovell, Merit Leighton, Sandra Oh and Krystal Joy Brown, is now available on Netflix.