Being a parent is an endlessly fascinating experience.
Being a parent of a young girl (when you are a dude in your thirties) is perhaps even more so.
I never knew that I would know as much of the Disney and Pixar library as I do.
I never guessed that I would be something of an expert on princesses of all eras, from Snow White to the Princess in Black.
And I really never would have predicted that a kids show about sparkling princesses would suck me in and become one of my favorite shows to watch.
Yeah, I’m talking about She-Ra, a Netflix original animated series that just recently completed its fourth season.
It’s a reboot of the old She-Ra from the Masters of the Universe. My mom tells me I watched the original cartoons when I was a kid, but I have no memories of doing so, so I’ll have to take her word for it. It’s a thoroughly modern reboot, too.
When my daughter first picked the show to watch together, I was skeptical. And to be fair, I didn’t much like the first season. It felt like a story that had something really powerful to say but held back in deference to a younger audience.
But as the show went on, I got absorbed in it. For one, it’s a great fantasy world, a fascinating blend of science fiction and fantasy that rarely makes it to television. Spaceships and plant magic exist side by side, with mysteries about the planet being continually uncovered.
As the show goes on, the writers seem to be willing to take more risks with the characters, going deeper into their personalities in ways that any storyteller would be proud of.
I’ve been thinking a lot about She-Ra lately, mostly because my daughter and I just finished the fourth season.
I’m not gonna lie. It’s made me tear up some lately, and I might have cheered out loud once or twice.
How is it that a show about princesses that sparkle affects me so deeply? I think a large part of it is that it wears its heart on its sleeve.
I actually think about this a lot when it comes to shows for younger audiences.
She-Ra, for all the worldbuilding and exciting action, is a show about friendship. A show about what it takes to be a friend and what can happen when you’re a poor one. It demonstrates both the highs and lows of close friendships, and does so without shame. It results in some really powerful moments.
As we get older, I feel like there is a tendency to want to complicate our stories. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Complex stories help us understand and navigate the complex world we live in.
But that complication comes with a cost. It can be hard to write a story with simple, powerful moments because it doesn’t come across as real enough to an adult. Not all problems can be solved “through the power of friendship,” because we realize that sometimes, friendship isn’t enough.
But sometimes it is, and I appreciate shows that have the ability to remind us of that so well.