After some stills from the upcoming She-Ra and the Princesses of Power series for Netflix from Dreamworks Animation were revealed, there was a vocal outcry from a group of fans that were outraged at the new design for She-Ra that showrunner Noelle Stevenson and her team came up with for the new series. One of the major complaints is that “She-Ra is meant to look like an idealized version of a woman.” She-Ra’s original co-creator, J. Michael Straczynski, however, dropped a little knowledge about how he and Larry DiTillio intended when they created the character over 30 years ago.
In a series of tweets, Straczynski explained not only what he and the other creators at Filmation had in mind when they were creating She-Ra, but his views on the concept of “idealized persons” in animation and comics over the years.
1/ As the guy who co-created the character of She-Ra and her universe alongside Larry DiTillio (though Mattel named her), a few thoughts. (Note: I am in no way connected with the current show, so I'm speaking both as an outsider to what is and an insider to what was intended). https://t.co/NVm3vqOoXQ
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) July 19, 2018
As to what their image of She-Ra was when they created her, Straczynski explained,
“We never considered or wrote for She-Ra as “the ideal woman.” I don’t think that phrase appeared anywhere in the bible we wrote, and certainly never in our discussions. We spoke, and wrote of, and considered her a warrior, first and foremost. So I think anyone who is looking back at She-Ra (or Adora) as the “ideal woman” is doing so through the lens of prepubescent (since it was aimed at kids) interest and kind of, understandably, imprinted on her like baby ducks. I get it. But that wasn’t the creative *intent*.
The acclaimed writer, who wrote for Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe before co-creating She-Ra and then later created the classic sci-fi television series, Babylon 5 and the current Netflix series, Sense8, then went into a discussion about the very idea of what it means to create an “idealized woman.”
I would add that there is a significant distinction to be made in terms of how a character like She-Ra is discussed or seen versus how male characters are seen both in shows like this and in super-hero books in general. Yes, male characters tend to be idealized in form and proportion; but female characters tend to be objectified. There is a profound difference between those two, and failing to perceive that distinction is pernicious. That’s why you’ll rarely see a male superhero without pants. By that I don’t mean naked, I mean without leggings of some kind. But that’s absolutely the rule for female characters (I say this as the guy who put Wonder Woman in pants during his run because seriously it’s hard to fight otherwise). No leg hair for guy heroes.
Straczynski again stressed that “idealization is not objecitivation,” before relating it to his own work, “That perspective is something I’ve always tried to bring to bear in my work, from so-creating She-Ra’s personality to Delenn, Ivanova, Lyta and others on Babylon 5, all the way to Riley, Sun, Kala, Nomi and Amanita on Sense8. It’s all about strength, smarts and wit.”
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