COLUMN: 'She-Ra' embodies educational diversity

When the first look at the new character design in the TV show “She-Ra: Princesses of Power” was leaked, the internet was ablaze with men complaining that She-Ra was not sexy enough. There were cries that she looked “like a boyish lesbian.” So, I obviously had to watch it as soon as it came to Netflix.

I first started watching it just to see what everyone was complaining about, but I was quickly sucked in by the amazing character design, the breathtaking landscapes and the compelling characters. I ended up finishing all 13 episodes in just a couple days.

Yes, the new “She-Ra” design is quite different than the original, but it keeps all of the qualities that define the ensemble. Every character is able to be identified with their '80s counterpart. And, even if they weren’t, it really wouldn’t matter. The art style is beautiful, and it has the best art in any current U.S. cartoon.

But the rebooted “She-Ra” is much more than its art style. It presents a racially diverse group of women played by a just-as-diverse group of voice actors. The characters of color don’t fall into the lazy stereotypes often shown in other cartoons. They have their flaws, but so does every other character. Along with racial diversity, there is also a wide variety of body types in the show, and none of their personalities are reduced to their features. There’s even a casual queer romance between two of the power princesses.

Having this vast array of characters in a children’s show allows children of all kinds to be represented on screen. Children seeing someone who looks or acts like them being portrayed in a positive light is great for self-esteem and feelings of inclusion. 

Some people are calling this “social justice warrior propaganda.” In reality, this just mirrors real life. This sort of diversity also exposes children to the sort of differences they will notice in people in the real world. Knowledge of people who are different than you is what builds empathy and tolerance — something sorely needed in the world. It helps to prevent the sense of superiority someone may feel over someone else from a different background, gender or sexuality.

“She-Ra” also teaches children important lessons without being preachy. These lessons are as simple as “friendship is important” to as deep as “morality is much more than just black and white.” The original He-Man series ended every single episode with a fourth-wall-breaking recap of the lessons learned, so the new series is similar in spirit.

Children’s cartoons always have lessons woven into them. The only difference is that these lessons are coming from the mouths of a diverse cast, so they make people angry.

When it comes down to it, the new “She-Ra” is amazing. Don’t listen to the spoil-sports out there who are mad that a 16-year-old cartoon girl doesn’t have a massive amount of cleavage and an hourglass figure.

Check it out. Or don’t. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your time. Regardless of whether you personally watch it, “She-Ra” is a great children’s show that gives kids strong, realistic, flawed and diverse female characters to look up to.

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