When I was growing up in Rock Island, we were constantly policing ourselves and each other for lapses into the feminine: even seemingly minor deviance, like buttoning the top button of your shirt or failing to cut off the "fruit loop" on the collar, revealed that you were not a "real man." Your friends would forever be ashamed of you, and you would never get a girlfriend (we assumed that all boys wanted girlfriends).
But even real men were shamed by the "he-man," the super-strong, super-powerful übermensch who sneered and strutted across the quad as he tried to decide which twelve girls he would steal from their boyfriends tonight.
With all the negative connotations to the term, I was not at all interested in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
(how's that for a pretentious title?), a toy series spun off into a Saturday morning cartoon which ran 65 episodes from 1983 to 1990 (there have been a lot of spin-offs since). Gender stereotyped macho alpha-male nonsense!
The premise: The ruling house of the planet Eternia (which is not eternal, in spite of its name) is bedeviled by various mages and monsters, with a big bad named Skeletor (because he has a skull face).
Skeletor wants the power of the Castle Greyskull (because he has a skull face?), which will allow him to take over Eternia. He also tries various subsidiary schemes to make the royals and their subjects miserable.
Enter Prince Adam, heir to Eternia. When trouble brews, he lifts his sword, yells "By the power of Grayskull!",and...um... takes his clothes off? And becomes He-Man.
I guess it's a Clark Kent-Superman thing. As a member of the royal family, the Prince wouldn't be allowed to fight the forces of evil on his own, so he has to adopt a secret identity. Except he doesn't even wear glasses; no one would doubt for a moment that He-Man is Prince Adam doing Conan the Barbarian cosplay.
He-Man's posse (the Masters of the Universe?) are not at all beefcake-heavy, maybe so no one draws attention away from his magnificence.
1. Cringer, his Snagglepuss-like pet, who transforms into Battle Cat (and actually looks different).
2. Man-at-Arms, a middle-aged warrior who invents the team's non-lethal weapons.
3. The Sorceress
4. The comic relief Orko, a bumbling magician from another planet who has no legs and never shows his face.
Later they added Princess Adora, Prince Adam's twin sister,who morphs into She-Ra (not She-Woman?).
Every episode ended with a 1980's "the more you know" moral, usually connected to the plot, like "friends who laugh at you for doing the right thing aren't really your friends."
It sounds dreadful, but I have an open mind, sort of, so I watched an episode on youtube: "The Good Shall Survive"
The Bee-People, who look like muscular bald drag queens, produce honey for sale. But the Tycons, evil wasp-creatures, emerge from the caves and eat all their honey, which will cause an economic crisis, maybe even a Stock Market crash. Skeletor is there, egging them on.
He-Man to the rescue!
He subdues Skeletor by pushing him into a stream (off-camera). Sort of a wimpy villain. Then he uses his sword to deflect the beams of light emerging from the Tycons' eyes. But he is hit and falls asleep.
When he awakens, He-Man returns to find the Tycons sick from over-eating. He easily convinces them to make friends with the bee-people and ask to share their honey.
The owners of the means of production are always happen to share with the proletariat. No problem at all.
Representatives of the two species confront Skeletor, because he's been taking the honey, I guess. They deflect the light beams coming out of his hands, and he cringes in defeat. Again, wimpy villain!
He Man announces the moral: don't take things that aren't yours. Ask to share instead.
I was right; this was dreadful. But at least He-Man doesn't display any heterosexual interests.
Oh, wait...I understand that he sparks a bit with Teela, Man-at-War's daughter.
Well, he's nice to look at anyway.
A 1987 movie brought He-Man (Dolph Lundgren, top photo) to Earth, where he helps some human teenagers (Courtney Cox, Robert Duncan McNeill)
A new movie is scheduled for 2021, with Noah Centineo as He-Man.
He gets a girlfriend.