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Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

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Why the ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’ haters are wrong

‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’ had some valid issues, but most of the fantastic revival’s detractors completely miss the mark.

When I was little, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was totally my jam. In addition to asking my parents for the fantastic toys from the franchise, I also watched the cartoon religiously. I even tuned into the adventures of his sister She-Ra when I was desperate for a fix.

That said, I couldn’t tell you anything about the mythology beyond the obvious Good vs. Evil narrative. The most vivid memories from my young fandom involved walking around the house with a wrapping paper roll stuffed down the back of shirt, which I’d occasionally pull out to call down the Power of Grayskull. My friends and I would also attempt to jump from a giant play fort and emulate the way He-Man and his allies landed, which resulted in us falling flat on our faces more than a few times.

He-Man

As my age moved closer to double digits, my interests shifted toward franchises that didn’t end each episode with a PSA. Thundercats always featured the good guys winning, but they fought bad guys who looked genuinely scary and grotesque. The Real Ghostbusters cartoon scratched an itch for all the horror movies I wasn’t allowed to watch. Bravestarr showed a kid die of drug overdose.

Later, there were animated series like X-Men and Batman, which featured flawed and tragic heroes along with competent (and occasionally brilliant) villains. I also learned that Spider-Man, my original superhero obsession, had comics that were much darker and more complex than anything on my cartoon watch list.

I wasn’t anywhere near as cool or mature as I thought I was (which still holds true today), but I’d officially outgrown the cheesy, pun-filled animated show that dominated my early years.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation

So when I saw that a continuation of the original He-Man series had debuted on Netflix, a mix of nostalgia and boredom made me decide to check out the first episode. A few hours later, I’d burned through all five installments, blown away by the beautiful animation and complex storytelling. This was the type of story I thought I was watching when I was little and wished I could watch when I got a little older.

After reading up on fan reactions, however, I was surprised to see how much of it was negative. Like, really negative. I’m no stranger to being disappointed or pissed off by a project from Kevin Smith, but I genuinely felt this one hit the mark. A sizable percentage of online commenters vehemently disagreed.

The sentiment appeared to stem primarily from the focus on Teela, a disregard for the original series’ narrative, and a perceived emphasis on “woke” politics. This made me wonder if my wife would feel the same. In addition to being much more politically conservative than me, she’s also a huge Masters of the Universe fan. Where my memories of the show are vague at best, she can recall specific episode plotlines and is a beautiful walking encyclopedia of the MOTU mythology.

After showing her the first episode, she immediately asked me to start the next one. After watching all five in one sitting, she picked up a broom, challenged me to a fight with my Galaxy’s Edge lightsaber, and thoroughly kicked my ass.

Suffice it to say, she enjoyed the show.

Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

Guess who’s NOT getting a bo staff for Christmas anymore…

My wife definitely picked up a bit of a “woke” vibe, but it didn’t bother her – and it certainly didn’t hinder her enjoyment of the story. As for the mythology complaints, I got an earful on why those were dead wrong, which is part of what inspired me to pen this article.

Before jumping into things, I should note that there are plenty of valid criticisms to be made about Masters of the Universe: Revelation and how it was marketed. Here are a few of mine:

  • Teela defeating Scare Glow via the power of self affirmation was painfully contrived/stupid. It also ruined what should have been an awesome fight.
  • Andra‘s “No glove, no love” line made me cringe so hard I nearly pulled a muscle in my back.
  • Kevin Smith is in no place to chastise people who thought the series would center around Teela instead of He-Man, especially since that’s exactly what it did leading up to the massive mid-season cliffhanger.
  • Kevin Smith also shouldn’t portray himself as a huge Masters of the Universe fan since he’s on record saying he never liked the franchise on more than one occasion.

Also, there are plenty of plot threads and other directions the story could have taken that I could totally see a true MOTU fan pining for. Much as my wife loved the new series, she was still frustrated that She-Ra didn’t make an appearance after her brother died and magic drained from Eternia. He-Man fan Laura Legends pitched a different direction for the show that was so good I almost wish I hadn’t heard it.

But the bulk of complaints appeared to be coming from “fake” fans or outrage addicts. It felt eerily similar to the braindead horde who complained about Star Wars’ Finn being a black stormtrooper because all the clones were supposed to be white. Never mind that by that point in the franchise, clones had aged/phased out of the Empire decades beforehand, replaced by volunteers and conscripted soldiers from across the galaxy…or that the actor who portrayed the clones (Temuera Morrison) wasn’t even white.

Not only was it an illogical complaint, but it made me have to defend something about the severely disappointing Sequel Trilogy.

So are the MOTU haters in the same bottom dwelling class? Not really, but they still shouldn’t be taken seriously. Let’s examine some of their primary concerns and why they shouldn’t keep you from watching Masters of the Universe: Revelation when it returns November 23.

Teela was a side character and shouldn’t be the focus of the new series.

Masters of the Universe Revelation

If you want to argue that fans were misled about her being the focus of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, then fine. But claiming that Teela isn’t important to the MOTU mythos means that you likely have no idea what you’re talking about.

In addition to being arguably He-Man’s closest battlefield ally, Teela is also destined to become the guardian of Castle Greyskull. She learned this at the same time she discovered that the Sorceress was her mother during an early first season episode. Both of these revelations were wiped from her memory by the Sorceress, but the love and pride she had in her daughter was often alluded to.

For those of you who struggle with subtlety, this plot point was heavily alluded to in Masters of the Universe: Revelation‘s first and third episodes. Sorceress all but confesses it before nearly dying after the orb is cracked. Later, Man-at-Arms is on the cusp of telling his adopted daughter about her heritage when he’s interrupted by an impatient Evil-Lynn. It’s also worth noting that the trailer for Master of the Universe: Revelation’s second half hints at Teela not only learning of her parentage, but embracing her destiny.

If you don’t like the focus on Teela, then fine. Just don’t say her importance isn’t canonical or in line with the original series when it absolutely is.

Teela quitting the Royal Guard and berating everyone after He-Man/Prince Adam “died” makes her completely unlikable.

Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

Unlike the original Filmation series, Masters of the Universe: Revelation doesn’t fit its characters’ personalities into neat little boxes. Teela is still good at heart, but her reaction to what happened in the first episode was not only believable, but totally justified.

Teela laid her life on the line in battle countless times for the very same people who she just learned had been lying to her for nearly her entirety of existence. These people (which included her adoptive father) knew the secret of He-Man’s identity, but withheld it despite the vital role she played in defending Eternia.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Prince Adam was supposedly her best friend and someone she clearly had a crush on. She then watched this same man die in front of her seconds after learning he’d been lying to her for years, as well.

To make matters even worse, King Randor commanded Teela to continue her duties by expelling her father from the castle, all while Queen Marlena (who’d also been lying to her for years) wept. Yes, Teela was all types of pissed at Man-at-Arms, but he was still her dad.

That’s a ridiculous amount of hurt, anger, and betrayal to process at once. I doubt anyone would handle it well, especially someone in Teela’s position. Yes, King Randor was grieving his dead son, but Teela was also grieving Prince Adams death on top of additional layers of pain that would make anyone’s head spin and heart break.

Considering her well established rebellious streak, a muted/understated reaction would’ve actually been much less believable than what we saw.

Andra was only written into the story to make it more diverse.

Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

First off, there’s nothing wrong with inclusion, especially in speculative fiction. Everyone should be able to see themselves in stories from their favorite genres.

I’ll never forget watching one of David Vonner’s segments in the He-Man episode of The Toys that Made Us. Here’s a guy whose geek cred as a brilliant toy designer is off the charts, but was first drawn to He-Man as a kid because the character’s tan made him the closest thing to a black action figure he’d ever seen.

On the flip side, however, I fully recognize that the push for inclusion can occasionally steer a story or franchise into suffering from Christian Music Syndrome.

For those who aren’t familiar with this concept (or who’ve been mercifully spared from listening to “The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong), modern Christian music is generally considered to be pretty bad compared to its secular counterparts. While there are some Christian artists still churning out absolute bangers (like NF), we’re a long way off from the time when songs praising Jesus Christ (like Handel’s “Messiah“) also represented the pinnacle of music achievement. One cause of this (at least in my opinion) is a troubling pattern within the Christian music industry and much of its target audience, who is all too willing to forgive lapses in quality due to the importance of the product’s message.

Whether or not people want to admit it, that absolutely happens in the important, necessary, and well-intentioned push for a more diverse entertainment landscape. It’s how a movie like 2016’s Ghostbusters can waste an amazing cast on a dreadfully bad script, but still receive glowing reviews.

Andra, however, is a great example of how diversity can be seamlessly woven into an existing narrative via a great character.

Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

For starters, she’s a brilliant engineer who’s also a total fangirl about magic and the history of Eternia. That dichotomy alone makes her interesting, but it also juxtaposes perfectly with Teela’s disdain for her former life.

Andra also gives the audience a voice. Whether it’s pointing out how cheesy the old school puns were or her disbelief/frustration at Teela’s behavior toward magic, she sees the world of Masters of the Universe: Revelation in a way the established characters can’t. Combine that with her being a badass fighter, and I’m at a loss to see why some folks don’t like her.

To be fair, though, that’s just my opinion. Let’s discuss to the complaint’s about Andra’s skin color, which are much less subjective and infinitely more stupid.

The character was VERY roughly based on an extremely minor character in a short-lived, non-canonical comic series. Like nearly all of the original human characters in Masters of the Universe, Andra was white. The Andra from Masters of the Universe: Revelation doesn’t share any of the other Andra’s history–not that many of us would know it. For all intents and purposes, she’s a brand new character who also works as an obscure easter egg.

That’s the problem, though. Most of the people who complained about Andra being shoehorned into the series for the sake of diversity were under the impression she was a completely new character, as well. To them, I ask why it’s so terrible to add a black character to a cast where the humans are almost exclusively white? If you want to be a complete sociopath about it, then take out any effort for inclusion on the basis of empathy and making the world a better place. You’d still have a marketing decision that makes the MOTU franchise much more attractive to a large demographic.

Unfortunately, logic and reason typically won’t work with people who wail like hungry toddlers when something looks different than what they’re used to. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the folks who get up in arms and established characters being race or gender swapped, I can at least understand where they’re coming from. This time a non-white female character who was essentially brand new got added to the mix and they still threw a tantrum.

It’s always the ones who call everyone “snowflakes” who are the quickest to melt down.

The show is shoehorning gay representation by having Teela and Andra in a lesbian relationship.

Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

Forced inclusivity complaints aside, let’s say the haters are right and Teela and Andra do have a thing (or did at one point). It was certainly implied a few times, although never confirmed.

If that ends up being the case, however, then the pair’s chemistry with each other would definitely make their romantic relationship authentic — and I say that as someone who still holds out hope Teela will end up with Adam/He-Man. If you really want to go down the Freudian rabbit hole, Andra likely reminds Teela of her father, only without the baggage of his recent betrayal.

It might also be the case that Teela has feelings for Andra while still “carrying a torch” (as Evil-Lyn said in Episode 3) for He-Man. Bisexuality often gets fetishized in entertainment so much that people forget or disregard the fact that it’s real. The reality is that there are many people who feel strongly attracted to both men and women, which could certainly be the case here.

Unfortunately, that suggestion does little to assuage the rustled jimmies of some folks, who remain incensed that their favorite franchise starring a chiseled, bare-chested man in fuzzy pants surrounded by characters in S&M-inspired clothing would have even a hint of gayness in it.

At this point, I think the best we can do is hope this particular subset of “fans” eventually seek therapy for whatever repressed issues they’re dealing with.

THE SERIES ISN’T EVEN ABOUT HE-MAN!

Why the 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' haters are wrong

Putting aside He-Man’s central role the second half of the season, his presence was a major part of the first five episodes. Even without all the flashbacks, the idea of He-Man and what he represented to the characters (along with the rest of Eternia) is what drove the narrative forward.

And it’s totally fine if you didn’t like that.

I fully admit to looking forward to He-Man playing a bigger role in the series, but I also loved seeing how the story of Eternia unfolded after its champion fell. It was a fresh perspective that also payed homage to the one I developed watching his adventures on my family’s TV.

It’s completely understandable if you didn’t want to see that same story, though. Just because I loved Masters of the Universe: Revelation doesn’t mean there aren’t perfectly valid reasons a diehard MOTU fan wouldn’t — especially considering the way it was marketed.

Just make sure you aren’t discounting a series you might love because a bunch of fake geeks decided to make it their misplaced outrage buffet of the moment.

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