She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a magical reboot of the classic ’80s cartoon series filled with girl power, friendship, and positivity. It also happens to house some of the most queer-positive storytelling in animation this side of Steven Universe and Voltron: Legendary Defender. She-Ra herself is even queer-coded to some extent, which lends an entirely different lilt to the series as a whole.
The update of the classic cartoon totally flips the script on the typical portrayal (and downplaying) of queer couples in popular media to fantastic effect, and it’s seen a massive amount of success because of it.
Like the gems’ Ruby and Sapphire’s beautiful wedding in Steven Universe, it takes well-known and popular characters fans are attached to and isn’t afraid to use their love to showcase and normalize queer relationships for the first time in what feels like years in animation (beyond a few notable examples). The way it handles gay relationships is refreshing to the point where other series could absolutely learn from it—and it’s exactly what we need right now.
She-Ra centers on Adora, a young woman who grew up under the thumb of the evil Hordak, who keeps planet Etheria in line by dispatching malevolent Horde warriors to deal with any potential uprisings. Adora knows nothing of the ways of the world, blindly serving the Horde without any idea of her actions’ implications—until one day it’s all turned upside down.
When Adora happens upon a magical sword in the middle of a forest that only she can wield, she realizes her entire life and cause has been a lie. She’s forced to turn against her best friend Catra, the entire Horde, and join the Rebellion to rebuild the Princess Alliance, a collective of powerful princesses, so that peace and positivity can endure—in a nutshell, anyway.
In the original She-Ra: Princess of Power series, Catra was indeed Adora’s nemesis, though the two never grew up together as friends. She was simply another of Hordak’s minions who gained special feline qualities by way of a magical mask. The 2018 update changed things entirely in this regard and made Adora and Catra impossibly close childhood friends, avoiding cliched, linear “good versus evil” paths for the central characters. Instead, it bestowed a very complicated relationship upon them that veered toward the openly queer many times throughout the series. It’s one of the most important parts of the whole show, in fact, which is fantastic news for queer representation.
It’s not just fans shipping the main rivalry of the show, either. Adora and Catra’s relationship is written into the very fabric of the series. According to showrunner Noelle Stevenson, the pair’s romantic undertones are the “core relationship” and “core conflict of the show,” as stated in an interview with Polygon.
The eighth episode of the series, “Princess Prom,” finds Adora attending a ball where all of the princesses of Etheria meet up, something her friend Glimmer describes as a “giant party.”
There’s a memorable scene near the end of the episode where Catra dances with Adora as Catra is clad in a maroon tuxedo, taking Adora’s hand and spinning her about like any of the other couples would. During the dance, Adora exchanges dance partners, including Glimmer and another princess, and there’s a shining moment where Catra dips Adora down for a moment with a dance move that would make anyone’s heart flutter before the two break into combat. You could cut the tension with a knife, and it permeates the entire series for a decadent combination of drama and romance.
There’s representation beyond Adora and Catra, too, however, as you can find a variety of memorable queer characters in the series, and they all spring from a multicultural, diverse cast of varying personalities. One, in particular, is the archer and technology master Bow, a sweet and kind-hearted black teenager who travels with princess Glimmer and Adora. Bow is clad in a white vest with red heart-shaped opening and navy pants with matching boots, and he’s always there as a voice of reason for the traveling trio.
Bow is seen fawning over the hunky, mustachioed good guy Sea-Hawk, cementing his romantic preferences in a pure, adorable way. What’s more, as confirmed by Adora’s voice actress Aimee Carrero, he has two dads. But in typical new She-Ra fashion, this isn’t a point of contention or anything to question, like Bow’s crush on Sea-Hawk—it simply is, and it’s beautiful. Even though it looks like Sea-Hawk himself has his eye on the princess Mermista, it’s still heartwarming to note Bow’s burgeoning interest—who knows which way it could go in the future?
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power features several episodes that explore these topics outright, as it’s rife with beautiful, queer-coded moments that remind you of Eternia’s approach toward different sexualities and how it’s perfectly normal to see everyone of different orientations coming together to love and appreciate one another.
The Princess Prom is rife with same-sex couples, queer crushes are celebrated, and everyone is encouraged to befriend and love one another, the object of affection of their choosing. This vision of Eternia is inclusive, positive, and doesn’t bat an eye at queer romance, which makes it a soothing beacon in a sea of what can sometimes be frustratingly dense media when it comes to this sort of thing.
This modern update to She-Ra is exactly what viewers of all ages need to see in this day and age: love, in all its forms, exalted and celebrated. And with plenty of story still left to explore, we can’t wait to see where it goes next (and which couples form, too).