He-Man: How Skeletor’s Meme Status Influenced Netflix Series

The creators of the new He-Man Netflix series couldn’t escape the pressure of Skeletor’s legendary memes.

Skeletor in Netflix's He-Man
Photo: Netflix

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’s most popular character should be He-Man, right? His name is in the title! Anyone who’s watched almost any incarnation of the franchise though knows who the real star of the show is. Skeletor, the big bad of the series. Even if you’ve never watched an episode you’ve now doubt seen a gif rendition of Skeletor’s iconic laugh or heard his “Nyeh!” Compilations of his insults have racked up millions of views on YouTube and his face graces endless memes. The character is etched in pop culture history.

Jeff Matsuda, Co-Executive Producer of the new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series on Netflix, felt the pressure of bringing a new version of the iconic character to life specifically because of all the memes. With this in mind he knew the team behind the series had to not stray too far from his iconic look, in order to make sure their Skeletor resonated visually in the same way the original did while also making some adjustments. His hood is sharper than before and gives the character a slightly different silhouette but he still has the distinctive Skeletor skull and mouth.

Showrunner Rob David was keenly aware that Skeletor is thought of as one of the greatest villains ever and made sure the team ticked certain boxes to keep the character rooted in his iconic past portrayals.

First off? He’s a jerk. 

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“You don’t want him redeemed,” David explains. “Even in the great Filmation Christmas special, where he’s like the Grinch, he starts to say, ‘I’m not nice.’ And by the end he’s still back to being a jerk and you want him to be a jerk.”

Second, he’s funny. The Skeletor in the new He-Man series has quips for days, taking even the most serious of situations and finding the snappiest insult that even he can’t help but chuckle at. Third? 

“You understand him,” David says. “Even if you don’t agree with him, even though he’s a jerk, you understand.” 

The new series takes a lot of time to set up why Skeletor is doing what he does. There’s a reason he has no flesh and there’s a reason he’s specifically going after Adam/He-Man.

Even with Skeletor’s meme status this element was key to the creative team so that even when Skeletor is cracking jokes he’s still menacing. One of the best parts about the new series is how Skeletor can go from funny to commanding to threatening to tragic all in one scene without losing what makes the character so much fun. Voice actor Ben Diskin’s portrayal helps that tremendously, his delivery of the lines owing a great debt to Alan Oppenheimer’s original performance while still bringing a more sarcastic and modern flavor to the character.

If the Internet is doing its job correctly it won’t be long until you start seeing memes of the new Skeletor that rival the old.

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is available to stream on Netflix now.