Monday, July 26, 2021

Well...That Was Quite A Revelation

On July 23, 2021 the new Kevin Smith series “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” made its long awaited debut on Netflix. This was supposed to be a moment celebrated by all MOTU fans who grew up on the original cartoon and who had been starving for years for new content. Unfortunately, just like Two-Bad, this new series ended invoking the Spell of Separation and fractured the fandom right down the middle with many professing their love and approval for the new show and another equally vocal portion of fans outright hating it. Oh well….I guess you can’t please everybody.

After taking a few days to process my thoughts on the new show, I felt the best way to describe how I feel about it was through a blog post. So let’s get right to it shall we? And before we warned, there may be some SPOILERS?

Ok so lets start with some positive notes. There is A LOT to like about Masters of the Universe: Revelation in my opinion. The animation and *most* of the voice acting and visual designs are excellent. Lena Heady was fantastic as Evil Lyn. I can even appreciate the story which while quite jarring is unique and least for this property. I even have NO problem with the story’s focus on Teela as the main character, or Kevin Smith’s supposed “lying” to the fandom and pulling a bait and switch.

So let's get into the meat of things. I already said I was ok with the general story, “killing off” the main character/hero is something that is done all the time. Superman, Optimus Prime and countless other main characters have all died at some point. Aside from the “shock” value, when done right, it opens up doors for new stories and for other supporting characters to take center stage and have their “chance to shine”.

Given that, I believe that Teela is probably the most logical character to shift the focus to. She’s one of He-Man’s closest and most popular allies. She also has an important and direct connection to the Sorceress. But despite being so close to Adam and her prominence in any iteration of the show, she IS the only one in his inner circle that wasn’t in on his secret which makes her even more distinct. So as a jumping point to her character radical shift I can appreciate that.

And then we have the “bait and switch” issue. I don’t really fault them with that since I’m sure that they really wanted to do something different and ground breaking, and shocking the audience was part of it. Killing off He-Man has never been done before so yes, I think they wanted to make a statement in the very first episode that this show would be unlike ANY He-Man show ever done. But its legs were cut from right under them when this “plan” was leaked a few months back, causing people to overreact and so Kevin Smith and co. had to do some “damage control” which may have ended up digging an even deeper hole for them. It’s unfortunate really.

Anyway now that I’ve got all that out of the way, I have two main problems with this series, one minor and one major.

The minor one is how they handled Teela.

To put it bluntly, I found her to not be much of a likeable character. Adam, the greatest champion of Eternia and more importantly her best friend just died, and all she can talk about is her “disgust” at being betrayed by him. It didn’t matter that he died sacrificing his life so that she and the rest of the planet wouldn’t cease to exist. She’s pissed off at her dad for keeping said secret from her, even if he was just following Adam’s (and presumably the Sorceress’) wishes. And she’s pissed off at the King and Queen who have just lost their son. On a side note, I also didn’t like Randor’s extreme reaction and banishment of Duncan...but he lost his son so his irrationality can somewhat be justified? Anyway, back to Teela...because of the “great betrayal” she abandons everybody. Despite Eternia being vulnerable now without He-Man, and the need for new heroes to fill the void, she says fuck it...i’m pissed, I’m done. She basically pulls off a Cartman.

And then we fast forward a few later and she’s, reduced to an angsty and bitter caricature really. I just thought that it was too forced. And, I did not like how she was visually portrayed. I know you can say “benefit of the doubt”, but given today’s social climate with regards to gender and diversity...her new “butched up” appearance complete with side shaved hair seems deliberate and agenda driven. They even complete the look with a younger and more feminine companion with whom it is hinted that she may have a more than platonic relationship with. Sorry I had a huge crush on Teela as a kid so seeing her portrayed this way is tough ha ha. I’m also not a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar as the voice of Teela, no offense, but I find her voice “small” and “mousey” if that makes any sense. It would be fine for a traditional Teela, not this new version, it was quite a disconnect.

Anyway, on to my main problem with Revelation. And before I even go there, I would like to preface this by saying that I know it is unfair to judge the story on just part 1. It’s only when the whole story is over can this show ultimately be judged. But given that, moving forward it can only go down two paths.

Path number one is the He-Man returns and everything is good. And to be fair, I have read some articles saying that this is indeed the plan; that part 2 will revolve around Adam and how he recovers from the events of part 1 and builds himself back up as He-Man. If this is true then great! I don’t think most fans would have a problem with that.

But if they go down the second path and double down on his death leading to the rise of Teela or even God forbid Andra as the new main hero of the franchise, THEN we have a problem.

Let’s start with Andra. I’ll say it now, I don’t care for this character. I feel she’s a useless addition and takes up a slot that could have been given to a more established character. Kevin Smith has said that her inclusion was to serve as an entry character for new viewers to latch onto. It’s literally as if they plucked out a teenager from the real modern world and plugged her into Eternia. It’s a forced fit in my opinion. Anyway following through with this logic, I fear something even worse may result from her introduction. That being they pull off another “twist” and make Andra the new “He-Man” with Teela serving as her new “Man-at-Arms”? Maybe it wasn’t really a random choice to race swap King Grayskull. She could turn out to be the grand descendant of the King. You even have both Andra and Adam starting with the letter “A” he he. Unfortunately I think that his would be a great disservice to both He-Man AND Teela.

Anyway what’s more important to me though is this, and I know there’s no way to say this without being misconstrued as a toxic male, but please hear me out.

I wouldn’t like any path that leads to replacing He-Man in the lead role with Teela or Andra basically because they are both female. This would be redundant since we already have She-Ra. There, I said it. Sue me.

Look, this isn’t a case of He-Man is for boys and She-Ra is for girls. But what I believe in is this, He-Man is an important MALE role model in the same way that She-Ra is an important FEMALE role model. You can call me old fashioned and I know my personal views will clash with a lot of the more modern views on gender etc. but I do believe that there are two sexes for a reason. I believe the two sexes are intrinsically different both physically, mentally and so on. Yes I believe that generally speaking there are many aspects where men are superior to women. But it works both ways as women are superior to men in other aspects. But this doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. Men and women are just different. And taking it a step further they are different because they are meant to be complementary to each other.

Given that, a true male role model would be completely different from a female one, but both are equally important for boys and girls to look up to and emulate.

Growing up, He-Man was arguably one of the best “cartoon” male role models that kids could look up to. Plain and simple. And if they were to simply replace him with a “butched up” female to prove a point for equality or whatever...then that would be missing the point of what made He-Man special. It’s not about him being the most powerful man in the universe. What made He-Man special was his character, which is something this new Teela showed very little of.

Anyway, speculating even further down this road. Should Teela become the new “He-Man”, I’d assume it would be through her wielding the power sword and saying the magic words “By the Power of Grayskull…”. While I think it was a cool twist, I can’t 100% reconcile with Skeletor actually doing the “He-Man” thing and becoming “Skele-God”. This would basically mean that ANYONE can pick up the sword and become some ultra powered being. I think this in itself kinda cheapens the lore of the Power Sword...and Adam. I’ve rationalized to myself that Skeletor is actually connected to Adam by blood (hello Uncle Keldor) which enabled him to wield the sword. Making it about blood lines kinda helps clean things up.

Anyway, to end things, I’ve heard some people say that the series is called “Masters of the Universe” and not He-Man, and that the “universe” can move on without him. It’s not just about him. I’m sorry but I don’t buy that. The concept started with He-Man and the universe and all its masters were built around him. That’s a fact. This isn’t a case like Snake Eyes, Bumblebee or Wolverine. Those characters were introduced as members of a teams and they just happen to turn into break out characters. Masters of the Universe starts and ends with He-Man. That’s the way it should my opinion of course.

But ultimately at the end of the day...whichever path they choose to go, if you like win :)