Oct 13, 2021

The 2021 Netflix "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" Reboot: Any LGBTQ Representation?


 


I have reviewed He-Man and the Masters of the Universe twice. first in July 2016.  Then again a couple of years later.   That's a lot of reviews for a program I never actually watched.  In case you don't want to read the reviews, it was a 1980s sword-and-sorcery cartoon/toy commercial featuring Prince Adam of Eternia, who raises his sword, yells "By the power of Grayskull," and turns into the superhero He-Man.  Yuck.  In spite of the obvious beefcake, yuck.

But recently I read an interview with the writers of new 2021 Netflix animated series, who are both queer, and note that in their childhood, He-Man was an essential gay icon.  Other than the beefcake, he had an "inner fabulousness" that he had to keep secret from the world.  Isn't that every witch, alien, vampire slayer, and superhero?  So, with the permission of the Mattel Company, they are trying to be "inclusive."  

We'll see. Episode 1:

Scene 1: Eternos, a futuristic planet, with flying cars and thin towers.  King Radnor is grumpy and depressed.  Meanwhile, Green Monster, his bumbling teenage apprentice Duncan (Antony Del Rio, top photo), and Snarling Lady Villain discuss Teela's mission to steal the Sword of Grayskull, which will give them infinite power. 

Teela sneaks past the guards and searchlights.  She hypnotized a soldier into giving her the key to the armory, grabs the sword, and runs out.  That was easy -- or not!  The royal guard squadron is on her tail!

Lady Villain sends a purple blast to annihilate them, but Teela objects: "They're just doing their job!"  She uses magic to protects them. 

"Whatever.  Now give us the sword!"

A mysterious voice hypnotizes her into not handing the sword over; instead, she must bring it "to the champion."  Um...a little more detail?  Who's the champion?


Scene 2:
Adam (Yuri Lowenthal), a dreamy teen idol type, is rescuing a sarcastic cat.  He botches the job, but his best friend Krass (a girl) rushes in to save the day and belittle him.  

They are out looking for the missing Cringer (David Kaye, a green tiger who talks like a Klingon: "To hunt will bring me honor".  He;s been captured and caged by poacher robots ("It is not honorable to capture a warrior!").  Wait -- tigers are sentient.  They talk.  They live in villages.  This isn't animal poaching, it's slavery!

Adam and Krass find his flying transport vehicle, disable the slaver bots, and spring him.  

On the way home, Cringer gives us some plot exposition: Adam has been adopted by the Tiger Tribe, but he's hesitant about giving up his metallic cuff for "stripes," tiger tattoos, because the cuff is all he has from his old life, before he was lost in the jungle. That cuff better be important later; they spend an Eternia of plot time discussing it.

Scene 3:  The hypnotizing voice has led Teela and her sword to the Tiger Tribe, but she's afraid of cats!  She's hiding in a tree! Adam points out that cats can climb trees.  They have a love-at-first-sight moment.  Then she uses magic, and the tigers freak out and throw her in tiger jail (which is human sized).

Meanwhile, the Evils are using Snarling Lady Villain's psychic powers to track down Teela.  Apprentice Duncan feels guilty over the crimes they're committing, but Green Monster -- Kronis --- explains that they're actually the good guys, out for revenge against the evil King Radnor. 

Scene 4:  Adam, visiting Teela in jail, complains that she wouldn't be interested in him because she's a sophisticated big-city witch, and he's just a jungle tiger.  But she doesn't like the big city, either, with King Rador being all tyrannical and oppressive.  They do some Sam-and-Diane insult/flirting.

Scene 5:   Kress, Adam's platonic bff, complains that now that there's a sophisticated big-city witch in the tribe, Adam is going to get all goofy and forget her. Ulp, this is the plot of every teen nerd movie: glamorous girl-of-his-dreams or plain-jane girl next door who supported him all along?

Teela explains that the hypnotizing voice ordered her to come to the Tiger Tribe and deliver a "package" to "the champion."  But what champion lives in the jungle with tigers?  Adam just happens to know the Champion Code: "being a champion means helping those who can't help themselves."  Then he says: "Excuse me -- I have to go help someone."  Got it figured out yet, Teela?  Obviously Adam is the boy King Arthur, about to find Excalibur.  No doubt he's King Radnor's long-lost son.

Scene 6:  The Evils appear with an army of reprogrammed robot slavers, and command "Give us the Witch."  She's a criminal, so why not hand her over? But the Tiger Tribe goes on the defensive.   If it's a tiger tribe, why are all the fighters humans?  

The Evils order Apprentice Duncan to have the slaver...um, I mean poacher bots kill everyone, but he refuses -- that would be, like, murder.  So Green Monster grabs the control device.  Fire spurts out of the poacher bots.  Duncan rushes over to the Tiger side, and coincidentally saves Cringer.  

Teela (who could have broken out of jail at any time) orders Adam to take "the package" far away and hide it, while she confronts the Evils.  He insists on fighting, too.


Scene 7: 
 The Evils and their bots approach Adam and Teela.  He opens the package; it conveniently contains a sword!  When he wields it, holographic runes appear: "By the power of Grayskull, I have the power."  A burst of light from the sky transforms him into a muscular adult (bare arms only).

Watching from a distance, Bff Krass gasps: "He's a...Man!"  You almost got to He-Man there, girl.

Meanwhile, in a secret castle, a new Evil Guy (black beard, glowing eyes) notices that the sword found its champion.  "The power of Greyskull belongs to me!" he yells.  Lightning flashes.  The end.


Beefcake:
  None.  Where's the mostly-naked He-Man of yesteryear?

Gay Characters: None specified.  

Heterosexism:  Adam will spend the series torn between Betty and Veronica...um, I mean Platonic BFF Krass and Sophisticated Big-City Witch Teela. Duncan had a moment of jaw-dropping "love at first sight" when he saw Krass, so he's heterosexual, too.  And that's all of the human good-guys.  

Representation: I don't see any LGBTQ+ representation.  So much for queer writers trying to be "inclusive."

Will I Keep Watching: I've fast-forwarded through a couple of episodes, to see if Duncan and Krass turn into a couple.  They don't appear to.  Duncan's most important buddy-bond seems to be with the tiger Cringer.

7 comments:

  1. No beef? Seriously... 🙄 In He-Man?

    Well, that's surprising. 😏 And disappointing. 🤷‍♂️

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is another example of switch and bait- yes it would have been fun to have to open gay characters in He-Man- after all this a show about a muscle bound hunk

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  3. It's weird. Apparently Teela has a subtext girlfriend.

    I mean, this is Kevin Smith, so the Jersey movies are a record on his history with gay material.

    But no beefcake?

    (But I should've mentioned he's a comic book writer, so "What happened to that minor character?" comes with the territory.)

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    Replies
    1. ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’ is the name of the Kevin Smith series on Netflix, made fir an older audience. This review (and the pictures) are from Netflix’s ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’, which is a totally different series that was designed for children.

      Delete
  4. The show you watched is not the He-Man series written by the gay writers. That series is called ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’. The show you watched and the pictures you posted are from the other He-Man series on Netflix, which is meant for younger children. Probably explains the lack of beefcake haha.

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  5. Well, I was a young adult during the 80ies in Brazil. But since the original (subbed in Brazilian Portuguese, of course) "He-Man, The Master of Universe" was shown here on TV during lunchtime just before the midday tv news, I watched it frequently. Even then there was a lot of talk about the gay subtext in the animated series, perhaps, but not at all exclusively, because both Prince Adam when not He-Man and also his pet cat were dubbed with very sissylike voices. And there was, of course, plenty of gay subtext as you already know. What you do not know is that the phrase "[B]y the power of Grayskull" when translated in the Brazilian Portuguese "[P]elos poderes de Grayskull" [yes, "Grayskull" was not translated] sounded very similar to Brazilian ears to "[P]elos poderes de gay que sou", that is, "[B]y the powers of the gay that I am" and was so hugely mocked and a widely known "jeux de mots". So despite its huge success in Brazil, this simple fact clearly demonstrates that almost every Brazilian teenager and many adults, were very, very aware of the gay subtext in the original "He-Man, the Masters of Universe" series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very interesting. I imagine that many kids misheard the line, and thought he was actually saying "By the power of being gay."

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No comments that use abusive or vulgar language or point out that a character is Not Wearing a Sign. DO NOT use the term "homosexual." Don't worry if a photo does not depict the person mentioned; beefcake is beefcake.

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