As part of pop culture's current quest to reboot, reuse and recycle every piece of pop culture from the last 50 years, Netflix is working with DreamWorks on a TV series about animated 80s icon She-Ra. Over the weekend, the first images of the new-look She-Ra were released and she and the other Princesses of Power look brilliant.
But, in a sentence that now seems to accompany any article about geek culture, some men aren’t happy. They aren't happy because the new She-Ra looks, in their words, like a "boyish lesbian". I have no idea if she's going to be a lesbian and, frankly, who cares, but boyish? Sure, what with her long, flowing hair and pretty white and gold dress.
I suspect the real issue that the men who are angrily complaining about how She-Ra’s “femininity” has been stripped away have is that she doesn’t have enormous boobs on prominent display any more. Instead of a backless, strapless mini-dress and a body that Barbie would be proud of, the new She-Ra has a high neckline, flat boots, a pair of shorts under her skirt and a body that matches her supposed-to-be-16 backstory. She still looks fabulous, but her clothes now make sense for her character and her twin goals of swinging around a big sword and beating up bad guys. Whether or not heterosexual men can get off while looking at her really shouldn't be an issue, especially considering this is a cartoon for children.
And this is the thing that’s really quite worrying about all the furore. Although it’s funny to laugh at furious men reacting to a drawing of a cartoon lady by making videos with the title “The Attack On Strong Beautiful Women Continues With The Public Disgracing Of She-Ra. Everything Pure From Our History Is Getting Beaten With The Ugly Stick For What?” (seriously, men, are you OK?), the outrage is a symptom of something darker – namely, these ridiculous, entitled men not being able to accept that their wants and desires aren’t the most important thing in the world.
It is baffling and enraging to these men that something can be made without them in mind, and the way they react is dark and dangerous
It’s the same reason some men call themselves nice guys yet verbally abuse and threaten women who don’t want to have sex with them. It’s why the cast and crew of Star Wars have received death threats, and why some fans who didn’t like The Last Jedi are trying to remake it. It’s why little girls who like My Little Pony are at risk of stumbling across drawings of Twilight Sparkle covered in semen when they search for it on Google or Tumblr. If something isn’t tailored to this type of man’s specific tastes and desires, it becomes ugly or it is twisted into offence, no matter if that hurts the original audience or perverts the original meaning. It is baffling and enraging to them that something can be made without them in mind, and the way they react is dark and dangerous.
When it comes to things like She-Ra and My Little Pony, it’s especially ugly because it’s teaching young girls that being sexually attractive to adult men is something that should always be taken into consideration. Although anyone – no matter their gender or age – can and will enjoy She-Ra, it’s made with girls in mind and this response shows them all too clearly that, to a large section of society, sexual appeal comes first.
These fanboys need to accept that not everything is for them. Girls and women have been enjoying male heroes for decades, recognising that these stories are not created for or about them, but still finding in them something that resonates. It’s entirely possible for men to do the same with female heroes, even when those female heroes don’t sexually excite them. Times have changed and we must all change with them – and, if we don’t, I have a feeling we’re going to miss out on some incredible culture in the next few years.