Jan 17, 2020

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I disliked He-Man  and the Masters of the Universe (1983-85), the cartoon based on the Mattel toys.

First of all, the term "he-man" roiled me.  Whether you measure it by chromosomes, hormones, a penis, or external affect, a man is a man.  There's no degrees, there's no "he does this, so he's more of a man than you."  Everything men do is what men do, which is everything except give birth.

This particular He-Man is just a run-of-the-mill 1980s sword-and-sorcery hunk, except he has the rather Biblical title Prince Adam of Eternia (Holy Garden of Eden, Batman!).

The Elders of Eternia, who live in Castle Greyskull, decided that they needed a hero, so they chose Prince Adam.  To become a superhero, he raises his penis...um, I mean his sword...and yells "By the Power of Grayskull, I am the Power!"

He then transforms, Shazam-like, into...well, exactly the same person.  He just takes his clothes off and puts a Christian cross on his chest.

His main nemesis is Skeletor, a hyperbolic skull-faced guy with purple muscles and a bone-cross, who wants to..well, you know.

His main allies are:
1. Battle Cat
2. The Girl, aka Teela the "Warrior Goddess"
3. The Sorceress, who may be Teela, too.  All women are the same woman, the Eternal Feminine.
4. Orko, a weird ghost-thing who acts as comic relief.  If you need any.

But he also fights with the Masters of the Universe -- rather a hyperbolic title, since they really defend only Planet Eternia.  They include characters with bizarre names like Man-E-Faces, Buzz Off, Snout Spout, Sir Laser-Lot, Wun-Dar, and Sy-Klone (I'm not making this up).

Every episode is a morality play, with the moral helpfully provided at the end.

Ileena is drugged by the evil wizard Jarvon.  Moral: Drugs are bad.

He-Man and Skeletor must team up to defeat the evil plant-monster Evilseed.  Moral: Cooperation is good.

A villain named Darkdream blots out Eternia's sun.  Moral: Nightmares can't hurt you.

Often the moral had only a very loose relationship to the story:

Skeletor steals Castle Greyskull.  Moral: Overeating is bad.

He-Man is forced to fight as a gladiator.  Moral: Books are better than tv.

Adam and Teela explore an old castle and awaken its residents from an enchanted sleep.  Moral: You should go to bed at the same time each day.

Seriously, who was watching this?

Somebody was.  In 1985, a spin-off series introduced Prince Adam's twin sister Adora, who was kidnapped as a baby and raised on Etheria.  She becomes She-Ra, Princess of Power (What, no She-Woman?), with comrades named Cowl, Bow, Frosta, Perfuma, Castaspella (really?), and enemies named Catra, Mantenna (I'd like to see his man-tenna), Scorpia, and Entrapta.

In 1990, a new line of toys required a new series: .He-Man moves from Eternia to Primus, where struggles against Skeletor and his army of mutants.

Ready for the list of crazy names?  Quakke, Slush Head, Gross, Butthead, Gleep, and Karatti.

In 2002, yet another series appeared, with another toyline. Back on Eternia, He-Man fights Skeletor and his Snake-People,

There was a live action movie, Masters of the Universe, in 1987.  Dolph Lundgren (top photo) played a He-Man who somehow ends up on Earth and befriends two 1980s teens, Kevin and Julie (Robert Duncan McNeill, later of Star Trek: Voyager, Courtney Cox, later of Friends).  Critics jeered.

A new movie version has been announced several times over the years.  Professional surfer Laird Hamilton and more recently Kellan Lutz have been mentioned as potential future He-Men.


  1. The She-Ra cartoon was probably the gayest Saturday Morning Cartoon in the 1980s. Openly gay people worked on the cartoon and the gay content/subtext in the pilot episode is hard to kiss.

    1. Plenty of openly gay crew at Filmation. Toss in the obviously S&M-influenced character design, and, you know.

      I see it as part two of a trilogy: Blackstar, He-Man, and She-Ra. Blackstar's not the same continuity; it stars an ambiguously ethnic astronaut trapped on a planet in another universe. His loincloth is less fur and more leather, and he wears a collar that always made me think of Central America.

  2. And it was just before the 90s, a sort of Fall in children's media, where everyone was a poorly-drawn Frank Miller-esque antihero (ends justify the means, might makes right, and other right-wing nonsense) with "attitude". So X-TREME! Yeah, not a fan of the 90s.

    But if you were a kid in the late 80s, that tightness in your Underoos as you watched MOTU was likely a big hint yoU were gay/bi.

  3. Kelan Lutz would be a good choice because he already looks like a cartoon character- did you see him as Hercules

  4. Honestly I think he's bi or pansexual


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