We are talking about She-Ra and the Warrior Princesses, the animated series of Netflix which should be taken as a virtuous example to tell the toxic relationships.
Now, as a social justice warrior (but perhaps social justice paladin, a good lawyer, it is more suitable!) It is very strange that I have not yet talked about She-Ra and the Warrior Princesses. In short, it is still an animated series with a majority of female characters and a lot of queer people: what am I waiting to talk about?
Quite simply, I found myself with too many things to say. I think at this point I could talk about She-Ra for hours. Because She-Ra it is truly a work well done, and deserves to be not only seen, but also taken as an example by any work that one wants to define, even remotely, progressive.
However, if I had to list all the things I did She-Ra it's good, I should write a very long essay. So I'll keep this series' great approach to topics like queer relationships and inclusivity for other articles!
Today, however, we will focus on one of the most cured features of She-Ra: its representation and management of toxic relationships.
A quick introduction: what it is and what it's about She-Ra?
As many and many of you will know, She-Ra and the Warrior Princesses (aka She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) is an animated series for children distributed by Netflix and DreamWorks. Instead, the award-winning cartoonist designed and produced it Noelle Stevenson, creator of already Nimona and Lumberjanes.
Obviously, She-Ra is inspired by the series She-Ra: Princess of Power of the eighties, twin of the most famous He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. While shooting many of the characters and part of the original setting, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power it turned out not so much a reboot of the original, but a real rewriting and re-interpretation of the work.
Obviously the biggest difference lies in the fact that the Stevenson animated series is not tied to He-Man. And, right now, you have no idea whether thejust announced Netflix series on He-Man will have some connection with She-Ra! As a result, this animated series took the basics of the original, for then develop independently, proposing new characters and exploring new themes.
The plot of She-Ra In short
She-Ra and the Warrior Princesses starts when Loves, a young orphan girl trained by the Horde to fear and hate the Alliance of Princesses, finds a mysterious sword in a wood. Thus, Adora discovers that she is the person chosen to embody She-Ra, a mythological figure who was believed lost. While meeting the princess Glimmer and his friend BowAdora realizes that she has been indoctrinated by the Horde and that she is not fighting against dangerous terrorists, but generally against civilians.
Thus, Adora decides to turn her back on the Horde ea Shadow Weaver, his mentor, to help the Rebel Princesses fight the Horde. But most importantly, Adora turns her back on her childhood friend, catra, who feels extremely betrayed. So, despite Adora asking her to follow her, Catra makes the defeat of Adora and shows that her ex-friend is wrong in her life mission, becoming her main enemy.
She-Ra and toxic relationships
One of the great leitmotives of She-Ra and the Warrior Princesses is the management of toxic relationships.
Given the amount of debate that sparked the our article about Snape's toxic love in Harry Potter, it must be said that this is an anything but trivial topic. However, also considering the target of She-Ra, I think it is very important to discuss which relationships are really positive and based on mutual respect. Too few adults really know how to recognize a toxic (even friendship!) Relationship, so it is essential to teach it to younger people.
She-Ra addresses and inserts many toxic relationships not because of the desire to be edgy. Or to pursue the lazy philosophy that even the good are secretly evil, so good and evil don't exist. The fact that some Princesses have toxic ways in which they bond does not in any way mean that they are worse than the Horde as a result.
The reason for toxic relationships in She-Ra
The presence of these toxic relationships underlines, however, how the world is one complicated place and how difficult it is to pigeonhole people into uniquely good or uniquely evil people. Anyone is not immune to wrong actions. IS She-Ra he wants to emphasize that bad things happen not because people are evil, but because they make bad decisions. It would seem to be a sophism, but it is not so.
In fact, demonizing a person because he is evil will never allow him to understand why he is acting destructively. On the contrary, understanding the motivations behind his actions can help resolve the situation and prevent this person from continuing to do so. However, understanding the motivations of people who act in a toxic way does not in any way justify or forgive them. Anyone can change and become a better person, but forgiveness and trust can never be easily earned.
In She-Ra we see this approach put into practice several times, especially towards two characters: Catra and Shadow Weaver. Shadow Weaver in particular is used to explore relationships toxic parenting. In fact, this enchantress raised Adora and Catra, but she manipulated them by sipping her affection, so as to make them dependent on her approval.
Shadow Weaver: a toxic parenting figure
Second in command of the Horde, during the first season Shadow Weaver was the main antagonist. During the first few seasons the changes that Catra and Adora experienced show two different paths to freedom from a toxic parenting relationship.
The manipulation of Adora
Loves rejects Shadow Weaver's influence relatively early in Season XNUMX, rejecting the manipulations of the sorceress thanks in part to the support of Glimmer and Bow. This shows the younger audience how important it can be the support of external friends to break the vicious circle of certain manipulations.
In fact, if Catra is subjected to physical and verbal violence from Shadow Weaver, Adora will realize that she has been manipulated in a more subtle way through moral blackmail. Additionally, Shadow Weaver's frequent praise and support were meant to blind her to just how evil the Horde really was. Only by forming healthy relationships with Bow and Glimmer will the protagonist be able to truly understand how wrong Shadow Weaver's conditioned affection was.
The manipulation of Catra
catrainstead, it takes much longer to free itself from the need to impress one's mother figure. Although she was the one who defeated Shadow Weaver at the end of the first season, Catra actually fails to close the ties with the enchantress.
Maybe just because she had always been belittled and openly insulted by Shadow Weaver, Catra constantly seeks approval, even when, with the sorcerer his prisoner, he seems to have the reins of the situation. And in fact, taking advantage of Catra's need for approval, Shadow Weaver manages to circumvent her to be freed.
Catra, her self-esteem problems and resentment towards Adora
The way in which Shadow Weaver gives or denies his approval to Adora and Catra is the basis of the latter's toxic behaviors. Constantly compared to Adora, Catra, despite the affection she feels for her friend, has always felt treated as if it were inferior to her. This is further compounded by the fact that Adora, protective by nature, feels responsible for Catra and her behavior. And, in that sense, Shadow Weaver is responsible again, constantly urging Adora to control Catra, for the sake of the latter.
For all these reasons, Catra is convinced that she is not appreciated and that she can never really trust anyone. For this reason, she feels obliged to be the first to make relationships only for her own personal advantage. Thus, Catra ends up alienating even people who genuinely want to be her friends, so much is she convinced that she doesn't have to get attached to people to be successful in the Horde.
"It's all Adora's fault"
But it is the desire to defeat Adora and prove better than her once and for all that truly moves Catra. To consolidate this goal, in fact, Catra becomes the main antagonist of the series and is ready to sacrifice anything, including her own happiness. Therefore he does not hesitate to sacrifice even a person who considered himself his friend, like Entrapta. Or to risk that their reality collapses on itself.
Over time and with the constant rejection of his abilities by Shadow Weaver before and Hordak after, and with the discovery that Shadow Weaver escaped from Adora, Catra becomes obsessed with the desire to "show her" to her childhood friend. All to prove that Shadow Weaver was wrong to treat her as the black sheep of the group.
The relationship between Catra and Scorpia
And yet, let's see how Catra actually gets attached to certain people, like Scorpio, another Horde officer who feels (and shows!) considerable affection for Catra. It's not even wrong to talk about crush, actually, because the way Scorpia loves Catra is portrayed quite explicitly as romantic. However, Catra, in her obsession with looking strong and destroying Adora, feels compelled not to reciprocate Scorpia's affection and, confronted with problem after problem, ends up acting as if the other woman's attentions were a nuisance.
And here, where other shows would have pushed for Scorpia to persist indefinitely until Catra deigned to behave decently, She-Ra takes a much more interesting path. Because yes, Scorpia perseveres and it is said that it is only her fault that Catra is not kind: Obviously Catra is stressed about her responsibilities and it's up to Scorpia to be an increasingly kind and supportive friend, so that Catra doesn't get mad at her! However, over time, as Catra's behavior becomes even more self-destructive and aggressive and Entrapta's betrayal is revealed, Scorpia will decide to have had enough.
When Scorpia decides to leave
As is often reiterated in She-Ra, friendship has the enormous power to join forces and positive qualities of people. And if it is right to be close to a friend who is going through a bad time and if it is important to know that you have to work hard to keep a friendship alive, it is still true that you can't stand everything from your friends. For this, it was important to see Scorpia reject her toxic relationship with Catra.
Scorpia, like Catra and Adora, was raised by the Horde and convinced that the Fight Zone was the only, and the best, home she could ever have. Additionally, Scorpia was denied her birth rights, as she never inherited her place among the Princesses. Indeed, surprisingly and despite its claws, Scorpia is de facto a princess. But the Horde convinced her that the other Princesses would never accept her for her monstrous appearance. However, seeing Catra's descent into total paranoia, Scorpia decided to risk confrontation with the other Princesses in order to leave.
Because, and this is the important thing that Scorpia understands, it is not his job to redeem Catra or save her from her demons. As much as Catra, deep down, really loves Scorpia, her constant insults were too much to bear. Thus, Scorpia proves that friendship cannot solve all problems and being kind to others will not automatically win their respect. If there is no effort on Catra's part to keep their friendship going, then Scorpia has no reason to stay. And Catra takes Scorpia so for granted that she doesn't even realize she is leaving, not even after Scorpia walks away from her saying, with the simplicity that characterizes her, "You're a bad friend".
When Adora decides to leave
Similarly, in Season XNUMX, Adora also got over the idea of having to be responsible for Catra's actions and having to redeem her. Although in fact Catra blames Adora for all the evil she does, in reality the responsibility lies only with Catra herself. And the latter is a very important lesson for a young and not so young audience, because it is essential to remember that no, if another person behaves in a toxic or destructive way they are not doing it "because of us": the responsibility for their actions can fall only on her, not on others who “caused her”.
CATRA: You broke the world, and it is all your fault.
ADORA: No, it's not. I didn't make you pull the switch, I didn't make you do anything. I didn't break the world, but I am gonna fix it. And you? You made your choice. Now live with it.
Toxic relationships must be understood, not accepted
She-Ra, showing numerous toxic relationships (parenting, friendship and romantic) offers an extremely important teaching for the new generations.
Toxic relationships have reasons, and must be understood, but this does not mean that you have to suffer them. Catra has a very wrong approach in her human relationships because she had a terrible childhood and suffered heavy physical and emotional abuse in turn. However, Adora and Scorpia are not required to sacrifice their happiness to "redeem" Catra, especially if the latter does not want to change. Although, in fact, an outstretched hand to help can be fundamental to change, the first people to want to improve and heal must be us.
In our bookstores, there are too many children's stories that "teach" us to spend all our strength to be nice to people who hate us. For examples, who remembers the terrible Arcobaleno, the most beautiful fish of all the seas? Compared, She-Ra adopt an innovative, instructive and courageous approach. If only for this reason, the animated series by Noelle Stevenson deserves to be seen.