Despite early complaints about She-Ra’s design not being sexy enough, Netflix’s She-Ra and The Princesses of Power series has made a huge splash. Fans have fallen in love with the inclusive, diverse, and beautiful show. With the strong and powerful Adora, bold but insecure Glimmer, and the overexcited, intelligent Bow, the main cast drives each episode with gusto. Even if the intro theme song sometimes gives a harsh reminder that the show’s made for kids, people of all ages can enjoy and appreciate it.
However, what’s gotten the biggest buzz about She-Ra is its open and casual acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and relationships. Bow has two fathers. Two different allies are in a serious relationship (Netossa and Spinerella). Adora and Catra have romantic undertones so heavy that they could drown an entire city.
The series is openly accepting of every kind of consenting relationship, letting everyone and anyone fall in love the way they want. It’s liberating. She-Ra isn’t the first animated series to do that, though. Steven Universe, Adventure Time, and even Sailor Moon pioneered supporting the LGBTQ+ community. They brought the community into their shows with love and then pulled it into the mainstream.
Animated shows aren’t the only series and mediums that supported the LGBTQ+ community. The L Word, Queer Eye, and more have superseded this newer wave of inclusive animated shows by decades. They brought the LGBTQ+ community into the public eye before most of these animations even had their pilot episodes. However, that doesn’t make the animated series any less important.
So why are animated series still so important, regardless of any other shows, movies, etc. supporting the LGBTQ+ community? Why do they seem so few yet so much more beloved?
It all has to do with their demographic. Well done kid shows have a secret rule: they may be made for kids, but they are at a level of cleverness and high-quality that all people can enjoy them. And no, that does not mean the adult joke bone throw that a lot of animated series and movies do. The stories are just structured, the worlds are vibrant and fleshed out, and the characters are strong and unique.
But the point is, even though good kids shows can be for anyone, their target demographic still is what it is: kids. That’s exactly why these series are so important.
The biggest danger to young LGBTQ+ members is not feeling accepted. Animated series, geared towards their age group, have a chance to give them somewhere to feel accepted when they might not feel that way elsewhere. Moreover, even if a kid is not LGBTQ+, seeing people like that on screen helps other kids understand and accept any LGBTQ+ people they may meet. Acceptance and inclusion could make a world of difference for a young, confused LGBTQ+ member.
Just because a show does it, though, doesn’t mean it’ll reach any kids. One of the earliest cases of LGBTQ+ inclusion, Sailor Moon, was heavily censored when it reached America. The lesbian couple, Uranus and Saturn, were turned into “cousins” and had their explicitly romantic scenes and lines removed. They didn’t do a great job, though, and confused a lot of observant young girls what their relationship really meant. Furthermore, the series had trans-esque characters in the form of the Sailor Starlights. They were boys, but because Sailors were only girls, they transformed into women whenever they were fighting. That was also edited away, though.
Think of the decades of blossoming lesbians or trans people that could have seen themselves in those stories, or found comfort in finding people in stories that look and feel like them. Alas, the U.S. thought that was all too racy for their audience.
Sailor Moon was part of the beginning, but the reason She-Ra is notable is because it’s part of the change.
Recently, She-Ra marks the new wave of accepted LGBTQ+ inclusion. So accepted that even Disney dared to have an on-screen gay kiss in their own animated series, Star VS The Forces of Evil.
LGBTQ+ led series aren’t just for the LGBTQ+ community, though. The inclusive message of their community also leaves doors open for other vulnerable and “othered” people. For example, these animation series tend to include more character of different shapes, sizes, and races. Kids who don’t see people like themselves in media can find often find at least one person like themselves in these series.
The emergence and popularity of series like Steven Universe and She-Ra aren’t just “cool things”. They’re a step forward in accepting and protecting young people who don’t feel like they’re included. Artists for years have been trying to create mediums where they can see their own faces, their own stories. But now everyone can see their stories, too, and they’re being celebrated.
There has been a LGBTQ+ media revolution happening for awhile now, slowly evolving and growing.
Let’s drop the soap box arguments and be real. Shows like these help protect children. Depression and suicide are horribly common among the young members of LGBTQ+ communities. If they can find some solace in feeling accepted somewhere, it can help them grow into the adults they are meant to be.
Why should people care if kids shows have boys kiss if it means that it could also help save kids, right?
Either way, just from a culture standpoint, different is refreshing. Thanks, artists, for creating such great stories.
Now, time to watch some Sailor Moon. I ran out of She-Ra episodes last week.