Blog: He-man and women in his cartoons, Opinions & Blogs News

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The He-Man fandom recently got filip with a brand new Netflix Masters of The Universe series. Fans who have followed the character’s development over the decades had a new excuse to watch the frenzy.

He-Man is considered by many to be a character representing hypermasculinity. But for fanboys like me, it was a Sunday privilege to watch an episode on Doordarshan in the early 90s. It was a much older production.

The iconic melody, the reverb “I HAVE THE POWER! Has become a legend in the fandom.

He-Man was THE guy. It all worked out when he arrived. Skeletor’s ploys fell apart and everything was fine at the end of each episode.

Along with He-Man was the Warrior Princess Teela. She has been hailed as one of the fiercest female fighters.

I remember one Sunday when the 5 year old joined me a bit late to watch the episode. Teela was on a quest that day.

“All alone,” my friend told me.

“Wow, who is she beating?” ” I asked.

“Nobody. Because girls are weak,” my friend replied.

The episode showed Teela fighting valiantly. But He-Man finally had to save her.

She used to start her quests. But He-Man had to save her every time.

She was trained in various fighting arts. But He-Man had to save her every time.

That her costume looked a bit like a monokini didn’t help young viewers form healthy ideas about a woman, her body, her choice, her physical strength and abilities.

His costume was not the problem. Her portrayal of needing to be saved every time was.

The cartoon series has had several productions over the decades. The one broadcast in India in the early 90s was produced by Flimation. It was made in the early 80’s.

The fandom got another boost in 2002 when He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had some kind of reboot and were made using more recent animation techniques.

Teela, the Warrior Princess was true to her name this time around and was not the damsel in distress. She led the troops, went out on her own in search and even on her arduous journeys, if she did get caught by the enemy, she fought hard to break the chains and was successful.

It’s not that she needed validation and that she MUST “fight hard” to prove her credentials in the first place. But its portrayal was almost a world of its own, and the young fans watching the series in 2002 faced fewer dilemmas than their early ’90s counterparts.

The latest Masters of the Universe has a more daring take on Teela. She’s no longer for the male gaze but goes on her own terms (doesn’t need to fight hard to prove her credentials). The deal is like take it or leave it.

Evil-Lyn is another character who has drawn criticism for being “supersexualized” in the Filmation series.

The He-Man craze in the 90s sparked a demand for He-Man action figures. Even then, the Evil-Lyn figure was considered “too racy” and Indian parents refrained from buying it for children.

In the latest He-Man series, Evil-Lyn doesn’t compete for male gaze but is a woman in her own right. Yes, she is affiliated with Skeletor but her travels are hers.

As children, we subconsciously absorb subliminal messages about assigned gender roles and assumptions about who is capable of what, just like my friend did.

To this extent, such broadcasts are the first steps in establishing and subsequently reinforcing stereotypes from childhood.

But in recent years, more and more superheroes have revealed their vulnerable sides, and superheroes going beyond the ‘damsels in need in need of rescue’ mode.

Maybe He-man is adjusting to such changes as well. Because we live in an evolved comic universe where even superhumans are presented as, after all, humans. If production houses are removing predictability from gender roles, that’s a good thing.

(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent those of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also do not endorse the views of the author.)

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