Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Revealing Agenda

When the first part of Masters of the Universe Revelations show made its debut on Netflix back in July, it elicited such a split reaction from the fandom. And while I never intended for my blog to be about reactions and reviews, I felt the need to chime in with my own thoughts on the show. Not that my opinion carried any weight in the overall fandom, it was just a personal exercise for me to process how I felt about the show.

Anyway, if you didn’t check out my original post on the matter, please do so before going any further. But in any case, here’s just a quick recap of what happened in part 1 and my basic reaction to it all.

In the first episode, the premise of the series is established in a big way. He-Man and Skeletor “die” in an epic battle and the rest of the characters, and more specifically Teela have to pick up the pieces and move on. That’s basically the first part in a nutshell. And fans either loved it or completely hated it. I found myself somewhere in the middle.

Storywise I was OK with what they set out to do. My main gripe was Teela. I didn’t mind that they made her the focal part of the story (in many ways, it made the most sense), it’s just that I really didn’t like how she was portrayed. She wasn’t a very likeable character in my opinion. To me she was just a caricature of the angry female stereotype. And I wasn’t a fan of her newer “butch” look. It all felt just a little too “agenda” driven.

Anyway, despite all that, whether you liked it or not, the bottom line was that this was still just the first part, and to judge the show without knowing the whole story would be completely unfair. So that’s where we were at. I was overall OK with the first part with one huge caveat. And that was that the second part of the show HAD to go down one specific path in order for the entire story to work for me.

He-Man had to come back.

I didn’t want a new show called Teela and the Masters of the Universe. By the show’s end, He-Man had to be back as the center of this show. Period.

So fast forward a few months later and the second part has finally aired and now I’m back...just to give this topic a little bit of closure. So...spoiler, He Man DOES return and Teela becomes the new Sorceress...so in broad strokes, you could say that got it right. On the surface, there is a lot to like about this show, mostly in the form of easter eggs and appearances of many familiar and not so familiar characters that only hard core fans would recognize and appreciate. But after processing things a little bit more, I find there is more in Revelation that I am not very happy with.

First and foremost Revelation introduced a lot of big ideas with regards to the power sword and the power and lore of Grayskull. And while they were interesting, I’m not sure I was 100% on board with where they went.

A major...revelation was that apparently any joe schmo could wield the power sword and call on the power of Grayskull to become some ultra powered being. Sure Adam managed to call down the power without the sword which I guess would make him special, but this for me just made the power sword and the mechanics of Adam/He-Man a little ….cheaper. I think that this new dynamic between the sword and wielder needed to be thought out more and explained.

And then you had the power of Grayskull itself. When Adam wielded it to become He-Man he basically became a glorified muscle man. When Skeletor wielded it, he became so powerful, he could snuff out souls with a thought. And when Evil Lyn had it…she basically wiped out the entirety of Preternia. Sure raise the power to raise the stakes of the show, but at some point it just became too ridiculous for me. And when you establish that Evil Lyn can completely destroy the heavenly plane, doesn’t it seem rather silly that both Skeletor and Adam are able to engage her in traditional combat and kinda hold their own?

So yeah, their whole redefinition of the power of grayskull was just too sloppy and lazy for my taste.

Ultimately though the major issue that brought down this show for me was once again the seeming agenda driven nature of the show. In the first part I already said I wasn’t a fan of Teela’s butch look…and yes I get it, this is a subjective thing…so I’m pretty sure you can guess how I felt about HE-LYN. But for me the problems go beyond just my own personal tastes regarding a female character’s appearance.

I’m all for female empowerment, but not at the price of bringing down the male characters. In almost every instance, many male characters are just shoved into this dumb (at best) to abusive (at worst) male stereotype that is just rather tiresome at this point.

Poor Fisto and Clamp Champ are reduced to one dimensional characters and basically possessed, blown up and have their souls unceremoniously banished to Subternia (hell). For those who aren’t aware, in the previous show, Fisto was actually Duncan’s (Man-at-Arms) brother and more importantly, Teela’s biological father which basically made him a more interesting character. But thanks to this series, he’ll be forever known for saying “I’d sure like to FIST him”. Dumb.

Adam is special because he calls down the power of Grayskull without the sword, which I thought was cool…but then he basically becomes this violent and mindless savage version of He-Man. As a result for the majority of the show he refuses to call down the power again. It’s an interesting premise that is introduced but never explored or explained. And it goes nowhere.

And the worst one is Skeletor. While in the original Filmation series, Skeletor was more of your typical cliche bad guy (like almost any 80’s villain), later iterations of Skeltor made him into a more complicated and interesting character. He wasn’t just a BAD guy. He was an intelligent, cunning…and arguably charming character who was a victim of discrimination and possibly robbed of his birthright as firstborn heir to a throne. While it is not made clear if this iteration of Skeletor still is Keldor (and it doesn’t have to be), what we get is basically another one dimensional evil male character. Despite possessing the powers of a god, he is still driven by one simplistic one dimensional motives (kill He-Man) and he is EASILY outsmarted by Evil Lyn with the promise of sex because you know…all men only think wih their d*%ks. It’s just lazy writing….and not to mention the most cringe worthy scene my eyes have ever been subjected to in a looong time.

On the flip side though, despite their best efforts, the main female characters don’t fare any better and come off even more unlikeable.

First we have Queen Marlena. In part one we find out that apparently she knew Adam and He-Man were one and the same as well. And when King Randor finds out about the truth, he was understandably resentful of her. You know…just like how Teela was mad at all for friends for keeping Adam’s secret from her and stormed off in a huff. Anyway instead of asking for his forgiveness for keeping this all from him, she starts resenting him as well. Fast forward to part 2 and they’re on the verge of separating, but based on their interaction it is implied that it is she who is more mad at him than he is at her. WHAT? Ok benefit of the doubt, Randor could have been a prick to her all these years but at the end of the day, this was on her.

Then you get Evil-Lyn. She’s portrayed as a victim of Skeletor's abusive nature. Once she gets the power of Grayskull she decides that there is nothing good in life and seeks to destroy….everything. Wow, that is truly deep characterization. And after all that she did or sought out to do, (RIP Panthor and Preternia), she gets off scot free and has a happy ending….because you know, she was the victim.

And finally…Teela. I’m not quite sure what the resolution of her story was. SO all this time, giving up your Worldly attachments to become the Sorceress of Grayskull was a choice? You didn’t HAVE to bind yourself to the Castle like the Sorceress (and all those before her) did? What? Look I get the “lesson” learned by Teela, that the power is better shared and that the true power is having friends yadda yadda…..but it seems like her choice required no sacrifice on her part. There is nothing compelling about her choice. It’s basically like she got her cake and ate it too. Her character would have benefitted more if she did make the ultimate sacrifice and bind herself to the Castle just like all the Sorceresses before her.

So moving forward, yes He-Man is back, but with the all powerful Sorceress Teela who can harness the power of Grayskull anywhere she chooses….is he really necessary? Does the new Teela actually need…a champion? I’m sure this is what all the agenda pushers ultimately wanted…a female just as or even more powerful than He-Man. And I am not ok with that.

I already said this in my previous post but He-Man is and should be the central point, the CORE of Masters of The Universe. If you want a powerful female centric show, we have She-ra, who is equally important in the grander scheme of things.

So yeah….anyway while the show ends with a teaser for a possible second season, I can’t say I’m too excited for it. Given how the first season went, we’re probably looking at another female centric “Motherboard” led Horde….at the expense of Hordak himself.

To end, I'd just like to highly recommend another He-Man show that also came out on Netflix in between the two parts of Revelation. This new show is more of a radical departure from the classic Masters of the Universe franchise and it is targeted towards a much younger audience. Despite this, I think that there is a lot that older fans like myself can appreciate. On face value, there is almost nothing in common with the original cartoon visually, but what is important is that despite all the changes, the writers didn’t forget that the true heart of the MOTU franchise is Adam/He-Man, this is HIS story. It says it all in the title of the show:”HE-MAN and the Masters of the Universe”. And THAT is why this show ultimately works way better than Revelation. I watched it with my 6 year old daughter…and while I thought I might have been slightly too scary for her…she LOVED it!

Anyway as always if you liked Revelation…then great! Like I said in the beginning, there are elements that can be appreciated, but ultimately it didn’t work for me. I’ll stick to the original Filmation or better yet the 200X MYP series. And if you do crave for something new, I highly recommend trying out He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. If this will be the show that will bring the franchise forward to a new generation of kids, I am perfectly OK with that!