Thursday, February 20

‘She-Ra’ characters remodeled to promote inclusivity, diversity in TV industry


Glimmer, Bow and Adora (left to right) are characters from the 1985 "She-Ra" series that underwent redesign for the 2018 reboot. The reboot was released Nov. 13 on Netflix. The new rendition's characters feature a greater diversity of races and body types to foster better representation and body positivity, said Glimmer's voice actor and UCLA alumna Karen Fukuhara. (Courtesy of Netflix)


She-Ra isn’t the only character that received a makeover for Netflix’s reboot.

Although her desexualization spurred controversy, multiple other characters, including villains and her sidekicks, also underwent redesigns for “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.”

Released Nov. 13, the modern reboot of the 1985 series “She-Ra: Princess of Power” follows Adora, who obtains a sword that can summon the magical powers of the mystical warrior She-Ra. Along with her comrades, She-Ra battles her antagonists, the Evil Horde. UCLA Alumna Karen Fukuhara, who voices Adora’s friend and sidekick Glimmer, said the new rendition infuses the old characters with new outlooks and appearances to foster better representation in animation.

“Glimmer is the heart of the series. I love voicing Glimmer because she is courageous, and she stands up for herself, and she’s determined to defeat the Evil Horde,” Fukuhara said. “She’s a symbol of body positivity, which you don’t really see in a lot of animated shows.”

Contrary to the relatively uniform appearance of slim, white characters in the original series, Fukuhara said the reboot’s characters feature a variety of body sizes and ethnic makeups. Glimmer’s new design, for instance, features a larger figure and short pink hair, as opposed to her 1985 counterpart’s thinner build and long hair. Meanwhile, Catra, Adora’s friend-turned-foe, was updated to be less voluptuous than her 1985 self. Bow, who was originally white, is now animated as African-American. The recent artistic choices are indicative of the creators’ intentions to promote realistic diversity, as well as solidarity and strength among women, Fukuhara said.

“What drew me to this version of She-Ra is that although it expands on the world of She-Ra … it really focuses on female writers writing stories about how women can come together in a positive way, supporting one another,” Fukuhara said.

Jen Bennett, one of the show’s directors, said the show’s diversity is refreshing in contrast to the idealized and homogenous characters often seen in animation. Part of the new “She-Ra” series’ mission was to create relatable characters for all types of viewers, she said.

“It’s presenting the world that we see,” Bennett said. “We wanted to show a world where any kid can watch it and hopefully see something of themselves in the characters and be like, ‘I can exist in this world and I can also have magical adventures.'”

To further reflect the world around them, many characters, including Adora and She-Ra, are made younger than their original counterparts, catering to adolescent viewers and creating a wider audience. Actress Aimee Carrero, who voices Adora and She-Ra, said many problems presented in the show center around the young protagonist. From changing loyalties to atoning for past actions and forming alliances, many of Adora’s problems that viewers can connect with deal primarily with the struggles of growing up, Carrero said.

“Some of her flaws and experiences are pretty universal. You know, coming of age, coming into your own, trying to figure out wrong from right and, more importantly, trying to figure out what you can contribute to society,” Carrero said. “These are all feelings that I’ve felt before.”

Glimmer’s character experiences with isolation, and therefore also serves to portray the difficulties of growing up, Fukuhara said. Teenagers in particular, she said, can connect to Glimmer if they have trouble fitting in and struggle with insecurities caused by the growing pains and awkwardness that accompany one’s adolescent years. Fukuhara said the diversity of characters in the show will hopefully unify viewers across the world by highlighting the fact that facing such hurdles is a universal experience.

“I want the viewers to know that if they’re struggling with something, there are other people in the world that are feeling the same way and they don’t have to be alone necessarily in feeling that way, and it’s OK to talk about it,” Fukuhara said.

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