Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The He-Man/She-Ra gender divide

I was always a Transformers and GI Joe kind of girl. Voltron, Dungeon and Dragons, Robotech, Thundercats and (somewhat embarrassingly) Jem and the Holograms, which, in reflection, were serials that overplayed romance and tragedy rather than humorous situations that taught life-lessons. But on a recent late-night date with a bottle of ice-cold muscat and Qubo's Night Owl I watched the Masters of the Universe shows He-Man and She-Ra for this first time. Wildly disdained by my discerning eye in the 80's, this viewing lead me to a few realizations why people (still!) love these Filmation productions:

He-Man is an attractive metaphor for a boy-child's transition into adulthood. Who wouldn't want a magical sword to change you from a frightened, sheltered, indecisive coward to a self-assured natural leader who is the most powerful man in the universe? And Prince Adam's lack of confidence didn't seem just due to laziness and pampering; his misgivings seemed pre-pubescent. He-Man's voice even transitions from tenor to baritone.

But has anyone else noticed that He-Man is not afraid to be kind and considerate? When things don't go his way in battle, he laughs at himself. A far cry from what we're taught by the Apprentices and Katie Prices of reality TV. He-Man's fairness to the misfortunate who'd fallen upon hard times and his merciless to the evil-doeers who begged for sympathy were equally appealing. What could be more rewarding for a man than for his friends to need his help and for him to be able to readily satisfy them? (By the way, the evil-bunny dude in the episode 'Quest for He-Man', was ripe with passive aggressive homo-erotic overtones. I'm just saying is all.)

But the metaphor doesn't come across one-to-one for his sister She-Ra does it? Unlike Adam, Adora is never cowardly, but is instead gentle, mild-mannered and mildly submissive. She is also intelligent and helpful, but is somehow unable to effect change or fight for what she knows is right without becoming She-Ra. For heavens sake, She-Ra doesn't even say "I have the power", she screams "I am She-Ra!" as if finally remembering her identity. (Why does Bo resemble Adam more than He-Man? Even He-Man has sharp-tongued Teela to pine after. And who, who, I ask you, made Bo wear that ridiculous cravat?).

Even as a child I recognized that She-Ra lacked part of the attraction of He-Man. The transformation of her personality is less substantial, and I'm not just talking about a change in voice-timbre, here.

Although, sure, who wouldn't want a bitchin' rainbow-winged unicorn to ride?

No one, that's who. Even He-Man is itching to trade Battle-Cat in for Spirit, I bet.