When executive producer Noelle Stevenson was offered the opportunity to reboot the classic She-Ra, she was instantly drawn to one core aspect of the story. The fact Adora, the lead character of the series, was born a villain. Stolen as a baby and raised by the evil Horde, Adora spent her entire life hurting people until she discovered the powers of She-Ra. Even with those mighty powers she still had come to terms with everything she had done up to that point.
For Stevenson, who grew up in a very conservative and homophobic environment, the story instantly resonated.
“Being raised in a very repressive environment when you’re not free to be true to yourself, you don’t even see a model of what you could be if you were left to your own devices. [When I] set foot out into the world and saw people living their truth? Saw people being open and free and living as who they were? That was mind blowing to me. It took years before I felt fully comfortable expressing myself in that same way.”
Stevenson describes the moment of finally stepping outside the box she was born into as being transformative. That’s what she wanted to convey in her version of She-Ra the first time Adora picked up the sword and transformed. Even after that transformation though that isn’t the end of Adora’s journey. She has to face the people she hurt and even when she befriends some of them she’s still questioning the world around her. You don’t spend the first part of your life living one way only for it to go away instantly.
“I didn’t want to be that person anymore,” remembers Stevenson. “[I] realized that wasn’t who I was, it wasn’t who I wanted to be. I related a lot to people who were gay. I was still figuring out what that meant but I didn’t want to be [who I was before] anymore.”
Adora’s own story of needing redemption and needing to reinvent herself, to Stevenson, makes her so much more than most heroes. “She is always questioning, she’s always wondering if she’s going in the right direction because she’s already gone through this thing where everything she thought was true is not true.”
Even after that initial transformative moment for both herself and She-Ra, Stevenson is making She-Ra season 3 about re-examining yourself. All the characters will re-examine who they are, how they got to this point, and where they’re going. It’s never just one transformative moment you go through in your life; it’s many of them.
For Adora, she’s carrying all the responsibility of fixing the world on her shoulders and she’s failing. Glimmer, who no one’s taken seriously as the sparkle princess, wants more power to prove herself. Catra has been cast out of the Horde and will now have to question what it means to be the villain. Scorpia will question how far should she should go to support the self destructive Catra.
Scorpia voice actress Lauren Ash believes these topics are representative of a lot of the questions people are asking themselves in this day and age.
“There is definitely that feeling of where am I? How do I align? What do I believe in? What’s important to me? How do I make a difference? Where do I fit in in this crazy cluster that we’re living in?”
Even the location of the third season will tie into this reexamination of your self with a new location, the Crimson Waste. Characters on both sides are told it’s a pit of death and nothingness. Nobody survives the Crimson Waste. Nobody lives there. However, according to Adora voice actress Aimee Carrero, “[when the characters] get there they find this pretty thriving, established community.”
Carrero sees this as a reflection of facing your own prejudice, which is especially powerful considering it comes from the lead hero characters. “They realize, oh, you know what? There’s a lot for me to learn here. The people here are just as worthy of existing as I am. Maybe they look a little different. In that way, Noelle has an interesting commentary about what’s happening in our society.”
Marcus Scribner, voice actor for Bow, echoes that sentiment when discussing how season two of the series portrayed his character’s two dads. “I feel like Noelle tries very hard to reflect what is going on in the modern world and let a lot of kids know that this is normal and this is how life is.”
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power officially started production in 2016 when, says Stevenson, “everything changed.” For a lot of the crew the series quickly became catharsis. It was inspiring to create a world that, while not free of conflict, had characters that even through their struggles are, “always trying to do something about it. Also taking strengths from your friends, being supported, knowing that you can’t do it alone, that you need that support”
Stevenson was careful that the show didn’t too closely reflect what was going on politically in the world at the time, especially with animation being such a long process. There was no way to be instantly topical, plus she knew she didn’t want a figure like Donald Trump in this world.
“That’s not the story I want to tell. We get to escape at least this much. Even if there is still conflict, even if there is still this good versus evil and war, we don’t have to reflect what we’re struggling with everyday. I wanted it to be enough of an escape from that, but to also show that you have to be strong. You have to be brave. You have to stand up and fight. If you fail, if you fall down, you have to get up again and you have to keep going.”
As She-Ra and the Princesses of Power continues into season three and beyond, there will be plenty of chances for the series to explore the conflicts of the world through the lens of its sci-fi universe. Lauren Ash ruminates, “it’s a really interesting mirror that isn’t super on the nose but it’s almost a direct metaphor in some ways when you really start to pick it apart.”
For the kids and adults watching, that just might get them to ask their own questions about the world and their own lives. Hopefully it’ll make them change for the better.
The third season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power series will drop August 2 on Netflix. Keep up with all the news about it here.