Liz Tells Frank What Happened in “She-Ra: Princess of Power”
This is a true story — I didn’t learn how to swim until the age of 12 because of She-Ra: Princess of Power. Well, and my own stubbornness, I suppose. When I was four or five, my parents, wanting me to be safe both on land and at sea, signed me up for swimming lessons. But the lessons were at the same time that She-Ra aired after school and in that pre-DVR age, missing She-Ra after school meant missing it FOREVER. This was unacceptable to me. So I staged a multi-pronged offensive, including temper tantrums, passive aggressive comments, and (to the best of my memory) one or two bathroom lock-ins, and eventually they gave up on the swim lessons and I was able to watch as much She-Ra as I liked.
I tell this story not because I’m particularly proud of it, but to make the following point: Frank, I REALLY LIKED SHE-RA. It was MY FAVORITE SHOW. But because not only was I watching it in a pre-DVR era, but a pre-DVD era, it wasn’t a show I was able to religiously rewatch; instead, as I grew older, I moved onto other animated entertainments, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men and Gargoyles.
This means that now, as a lady of mature years, I had the opportunity to sit down and watch a She-Ra episode at random — as if I were watching the show for the first time. I mean that pretty much literally, because WOW, Frank. I do not remember She-Ra AT ALL.
The episode I watched, “The Stone in the Sword,” was selected largely because it was the first episode available on Netflix. As a sampling of this beloved show, though, it seemed fairly representative of the series. Which is to say, WHAT THE FUCK.
We open on Hordak, She-Ra’s prime nemesis, who lives in a really creepy castle that looks like a giant spider. He is building some sort of machine that (spoilers) will turn out to be a zeppelin, and yelling at one of his minions for nearly breaking a tiny statue that is his lucky charm. I find Hordak, just for the record, to be a much more intimidating villain than his counterpart on He-Man, Skeletor. Two reasons: 1) Hordak has a crazy cannon for an arm. 2) He doesn’t talk like this:
Then we go over to where She-Ra lives in a provincial medieval village with her friends. Okay. I don’t want to make a big deal of how this is some weird alternate reality where people use bows and arrows against zeppelins (spoilers!), but what the fuck is this? What logical sense did this make to the adults in the mid-80s who were writing and producing this show? I WANT ANSWERS. (Not badly enough to stop writing this and look them up on Wikipedia, though. Just to be clear.)
The important thing is that She-Ra and her buddies are hanging out, accidentally getting high off laughing gas released by this crazy granny lady, when Hordak’s zeppelin comes buzzing by — they try to fight it and are relatively successful, though the chick who shoots lasers with her hands gets fried, She-ra falls off a mountainside and Bow (more on Bow in a bit) gets captured by Hordak.
That’s bad news, but what’s worse news is that the magic stone in She-Ra’s sword cracked when she fell off the cliff, meaning that she’s back to being dumb ol’ Non-She-Ra. My memory, at my current feeble age, does not contain facts about why Princess Aurora clings to her secret identity (maybe she only has She-Ra powers as She-Ra?). Both identities seem committed to the fighting of evil with her team of revolutionaries — that’s right, She-Ra is Occupying… Fuck, where does she live again? Okay, I’ll look that up. Etheria. She-Ra is Occupying Etheria! Topical joke! Nailed it!
Anyways, She-Ra (or Aurora now, I guess, now that she’s wearing her Aurora leotard), needs to go get her sword crystal fixed before she can rescue Bow from Hordak. To do this, she has to find some crystal chamber hidden in a mountain; I think I am supposed to be learning a lesson about how you don’t need magic powers to do heroic things, but all I can think about is how climbing a mountain in high-heeled boots is a really really stupid idea. Also, Aurora’s hair is WAY worse than She-Ra’s. I’d transform into She-Ra all the time, just for the hair.
She-Ra goes through a strange array of challenges — sledding down a staircase on the back of a rusty shield, walking through a strange cavern lined with what Jason and Jourdan (the fine gentlemen I watched this with) tell me are penises, and talking to fire gods who tell her all the things she just did, praise her for her achievements, and fix the stone.
Meanwhile, Bow is hanging out at Hordak’s pad. Writing this has made me realize that while I remember very little about She-Ra the show, I do fondly remember my She-Ra action figures, which I played with religiously along with my My Little Ponies and Barbies, creating my own crossover adventures way before Homicide and Law and Order were hooking up episodically.
So I liked my Bow action figure, because he had a button on his back that you could press to make the heart in his chest light up, and I spent many hours fondling it. But I never ever registered him as much of a romantic hero. According to my gentlemen co-watchers, this is because five-year-old me had excellent gaydar.
And that perception isn’t helped by this scene where She-Ra swoops in, rescues Bow, and incapacitates Hordak with that laughing gas I mentioned before. I’m embarrassed to have not recognized the laughing gas from the beginning as Chekhov’s gun. This show’s plotting is tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
That’s basically the end, except that there’s this whole other fucking character who comes in and tells us about how this episode showed She-Ra’s stick-to-it-iv-ness (that is apparently a word now), and how we should apply the lessons learned from today’s adventure to doing our homework. It’s essentially just like those PSAs at the end of G.I. Joe episodes, except without the hilarious remixes, and thus grossly inferior.
Today’s PSA apparently didn’t work on me, Frank, as you can tell by how late I’m posting this humble entry. Actually, thinking back on my homework habits as a lass, it didn’t work on me when I watched it the first time, either. But I spent so much time watching this show! It was hugely formative! Except for the part where I have nearly forgotten every single thing about it.
I suppose I did grow up believing that I didn’t need a guy to solve my problems and that I was capable of fighting my own battles. And I guess that’s worked out okay in the long run. So, thanks for that, She-Ra. Sorry I don’t remember you as well as I should.
PS: I look forward to many comments explaining the bits of She-Ra I couldn’t remember to me. So looking forward to that.