She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s Final Season Gives The Gays Everything They Want

This post was written by Valerie Anne, Meg Jones Wall, and Heather Hogan. Huge major enormous spoilers for the entire season below. 

Heather: So, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power season five was a literally perfect season of television. It was an ending befitting an epic film saga! Every character continued to grow and each of them had their own resolution! It was funny and empowering and sweet and GAAAAAY. Let’s put a pin in Catra and Adora’s relationship for a second and talk about the other things that really worked for you in these last 13 episodes.

Which character’s stories and relationships really jumped out at you as something special this season?

Meg: I really loved watching Glimmer’s growth in this season, especially after the ways that things were left between her, Bow, and Adora at the end of season four. She apologized sincerely, but she also held a lot of space for Bow to work through his anger, to feel his feelings and process what he needed from the relationship moving forward. Glimmer demonstrated real patience through this, not pushing him to forgive her immediately but instead recognizing the ways that she had hurt him, and his justifiable anger. And especially compared to how she handled disagreements in earlier seasons, this felt like an incredible shift in maturity, a real demonstration of all that she’s learned throughout the arc of this show.

Valerie Anne: I honestly felt more of a connection to Perfuma this season than I ever have before. I always low-key worried, despite wanting to be an Adora, that I was totally a Perfuma (nervous hippie optimist), but this season I finally accepted that it’s totally fine to be a Perfuma. She has one of my favorite convictions, which is that hope is not a weakness. Optimism isn’t always easy, and in fact often requires more strength than it seems. Her being the friend that Scorpia has always needed – and deserved! – brought me so much unexpected joy.

Heather: I agree with both of these things! Glimmer and Perfuma showed so much maturity this season! I really loved that Scorpia’s arc, which got so much brilliant exploration last season, had a little more growth and self-realization and a sultry — and hilarious! — solo performance that culminated in her accepting how powerful and worthy she is. I thought it was perfect that she was their biggest foe when she was chipped because she is SUCH a force, and I loved that she didn’t change for anyone. Once a hugger, always a hugger!

Heather: It could get lost in a larger conversation, but I want to point out that there were some hilarious moments and recurring gags this season. Wrong Hordak winking, Noelle Stevenson’s trademark doodles in Netossa’s book of everyone’s weaknesses, also just Netossa’s assessment of everyone’s weaknesses. Particularly, I loved Glimmer: “That’s pretty personal compared to FIRE.” What made you laugh?

Valerie Anne: Oh my god, when Catra was like, “You don’t know my weakness” all confident and slick and then Netossa took her down with a SPRAY BOTTLE. I cackled like a buffoon. The very name “Wrong Hordak” got me every time. Catra sitting on Adora’s lap when she was trying to focus felt like something out of fanfic, it was so perfectly, adorably hilarious. And I loved every time Glimmer and Bow were like “yeah no you’re part of the Best Friend Squad” much to Catra’s feigned chagrin. Also BOW’S SPACESUIT HAVING AN AB WINDOW. I laughed EVERY TIME. And basically all of Bow and Entrapta’s “please please please” “no” “PLEASE” “ugh FINE” interactions.

Meg: Netossa was INCREDIBLE. I loved literally everything she did and said. What a treasure.

Heather: I also loved how all of Catra’s outfit changes, even her villager cloak, had cat ears. And I loved how angry she got every time Bow couldn’t stop talking about how adorable she is once she stopped fighting them. And “Why did I get the water princess???”

Meg: Those outfits! So many good looks this season! I really loved Wrong Hordak, and the ways that he brought out Entrapta’s most charming self. Entrapta has been through a lot throughout the course of this show, and it was nice to see her learning to understand how to work alongside her friends, to express her needs as well as her feelings, and to see the rest of the princesses start to understand her for who she really is. Also I loved the fancy underwater party episode, and the callback to Mermista’s noir detective murder mystery episode earlier in the show.

Heather: “Wrong Hordak” is just so fucking funny. The gag never got old!

Heather: When, exactly, would you say you started crying and didn’t stop? Around what episode?

Meg: I’m not a person that cries very often, to be honest — it’s never been how I respond to strong emotions. But when Catra apologized in episode three, I had tears streaming down my face, and it seemed like every major milestone she hit had me crying again. Catra has been incredibly important to me, and watching her discover hope, slowly open herself to softness and vulnerability and real love, affected me deeply. By the time she confessed her feelings for Adora, I was crying so hard I had to pause the show so that I wouldn’t miss anything, which has never happened to me before!

Valerie Anne: I don’t cry as easily as one might think upon meeting me (I think it’s my body’s defense mechanism; if I cried at everything that gave me Big Feelings I’d be crying nonstop), so I actually didn’t cry as much as I thought. I got pretty close around, “For once in your life, stay.” But I think I just had so much trust that this show wasn’t going to let me down that my anticipation of a happy ending kept me afloat.

Heather: I think every big moment of growth for Catra had me in tears, to be honest. For the character but also I was so overwhelmed by the grace and deftness of that storytelling! The care they gave to her! Women characters never get that kind of redemption. Any woman character who expresses her trauma and fears and insecurities the way Catra does gets punished, and only when the audience feels thoroughly sorry enough for her, does she potentially get redeemed. Usually any complex female character’s redemption is through MORE suffering. But not Catra!

Heather: I want to touch on the other non-Catradora LGBTQ characters! All of them had a moment to shine this season!

Valerie Anne: Netossa and Spinnerella, besides having two of the best names in the show, had SUCH a powerful arc! I did actually worry for a minute the corruption was going to spread too far to get Spinnerella back and I was stressed out; and these are like tertiary characters! But they’re so cute and playful and fun and I love them. Also, Bow’s dads are HILARIOUS. I can’t believe they told Bow where their apocalypse bunker was via dad joke. PERFECTION.

Heather: I love that the writers took two of the most ridiculous She-Ra names and made them into such great characters with their own nicknames. Spinny? Come on! And I love that they are each other’s weaknesses. I was thinking this morning about how the writers made the choice to show Bow’s dads getting to see his huge hero’s speech at the end of the finale, and how proud they were, and how he’d hidden his true self away from them for so long, and in the final battle, there he was! It’s such a clever trope-flip and really moving to see those loving gay dads supporting their — well, actually, Bow’s probably bisexual isn’t he?

Meg: The dad jokes, the hero speech, the wives as each other’s weaknesses — all perfection.

Heather: All right. Catra and Adora. I can’t believe they did it. I CANNOT. BELIEVE. THEY DID IT. I’m never going to be over it. Catra’s very first flashback and then her apology, like in episode three, I said out loud, “Holy cats, they’re going to do it.” I think it’s one of best — and probably my personal favorite, competing with series three of Skins — queer couple storylines EVER, and also my favorite thing of each individual character growing outside the couple. Let’s do it. Let’s just yell about Catradora.

Meg: I honestly didn’t believe that they would really, REALLY do it until Catra said “I love you.” Even after all the growth and apologies, all the blushing and teasing, all the conversations about what they both want, I couldn’t let myself believe it. I was so afraid to be let down. But holy shit y’all, THEY DID IT.

Valerie Anne: I also was sure they were just going to be just some gals becoming pals again until Catra said, “She doesn’t want me. Not the way I want her.” It was the first time the show explicitly acknowledged that their feelings were rooted in more than just a lifelong friendship and her saying that out loud, based on the trajectory of Catra’s redemption arc, I knew it right then that it was going to happen and I was on the EDGE OF MY SEAT the whole time. It was SO PERFECT.

And also I love that Catra had to earn it. She didn’t just apologize and be forgiven. And her first act of redemption wasn’t even to try to win Adora back; she sacrificed herself to save Glimmer. It was FOR Adora, yes, but Catra didn’t expect to survive. She explicitly told Adora not to come back for her. So she didn’t do it for the reward, or for the praise. She did it because she finally understood. She did it because it was the right thing to do. And the parallels between Catra punching Adora’s first Not!Catra friend in the face, then literally sacrificing herself to save Adora’s last Not!Catra friend…THE JOURNEY! THE GROWTH!

It was earned and it was beautiful. And there was also a point where I worried Adora wouldn’t be able forgive Catra, even if Catra did truly redeem herself. So it was a relief when Adora let Catra back in. Saw that she changed, truly believed it and accepted it and defended her to her friends. Also just the mere fact that a queer kiss literally saved the world. And the fact that this is just a piece of TV canon that children will grow up with? I’m so happy.

Heather: I’m never going to get over it. How many times have we been through these storylines where this happens and then it’s just Myka driving off into the sunset hanging out the window while Helena plays house with her new stupid boyfriend in the suburbs? Hem hem. Anyway. But yeah, how many times? A zillion. But I dunno, from the second She-Ra didn’t need a distraction and then Catra was in her literal lap, I knew in my bones it was going to happen. Right and these characters are animated and storyboarded, so those constant blushes and longing glances were VERY ON PURPOSE.

However! That moment when Catra says, “She’s never going to want me, not like I want her” was like a sucker punch. I gasped out loud because she said it out loud! And everything after that was like a fever dream. Like that meme of giving the gays everything they want, only for real. Again: This was epic fantasy and sci-fi on par with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and a queer love story was at its heart. I almost feel like Noelle Stevenson somehow tricked Netflix into letting it happen! Special shout-out to Adora’s dream of the future in which she and Catra are together, Glimmer’s still messing with Catra but Catra loves it, and they’re a whole family together! I cannot wait to rewatch this series a billion times. In the 12 years I’ve been writing about LGBTQ TV full-time, I’ve never seen anything like their love story.

Heather: When we wrote about this last season, I asked y’all what character you resonated most with at the time. Now that it’s all said and done, whomst? And why?

Meg: I originally said Catra and Scorpia, and I still think that that’s right. But after watching Catra’s arc this season, and in seeing how it fits with her growth over the course of the show, it’s more true than ever. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen myself so clearly in a character before — the intensity, the determination, the desire to control situations and relationships, the fear of vulnerability, the pain of loneliness. Seeing her softness with people she trusts really reminds me of myself.

Valerie Anne: I cheated and said a little of everyone. I already talked about why I identified with Perfuma more than I anticipated, but I also feel very emotionally attached to Adora. The way she feels responsible for everything and everyone, the way she has a hard time asking for and accepting help, the way she is fiercely protective of her friends. How far you have to push her to lose her loyalty, and how hard it is to win her back once you have. It’s not often I end up relating the most to a lead character — in fact, the only other show I can think of off the top of my head is Supergirl. So the fact that Adora is also queer? It helps me relate even more to her, and think maybe there’s a She-Ra in me too.

Heather: One thing I write over and over is that queer people need all-ages queer stories because: a) We come of age over and over because our lives don’t exist on the same kind of timeline as straight people; we have a lot of ways to get rebirthed. And b) A lot of queer people do have a lot of trauma, especially childhood trauma, even if it’s “just” the knowledge that we’re different and so we live in more fear because of that. I don’t think a show has ever pushed on or applied a balm to my trauma like She-Ra has. Did you feel that with any of these characters or storylines?

Valerie Anne: I talk a lot about things that reach back and heal younger versions of myself inside me, but this one healed me in ways all throughout the timeline of my life. I have a lot of what I call “mommy issues” because reductive humor is how I deal with things, and a lot of shit surrounding it I don’t deal with or confront enough, but stories like She-Ra’s make me feel less alone; it’s a safe way to process my pain. So Adora’s arc struck such a deep chord with me. At one point she realized that the people raising her didn’t actually have the best intentions for her, and didn’t have all the answers, even though they thought they did on both counts.

So then she’s rocketed out into this world that is unfamiliar to her, with this new outlook that everything she thought she knew was wrong or skewed or an all-out lie, and she’s also alone. I moved to New York for college and I didn’t know a soul here. I barely knew myself. I just had to leave. But over the years, much like Adora, I went on a journey to figure out who I was and what my purpose was, and along the way I found a family of my own choosing; a family that chooses me back in the ways that matter. (I feel like there’s a longer metaphor about my mother/ShadowWeaver in there but I’ll unpack that some other day.)

When Adora was unable to summon She-Ra for a while in this last season, because she was putting too much pressure on herself, but was able to call her when her friends needed her most; that’s what my depression looks like often. I can’t show up for myself, no matter how hard I try, because it feels too hard, too scary, too real. But I can show up for my friends. Which reminds me how to show up at all; so eventually I get back to remembering how to show up for myself, too. Because I know my friends will be there for me, fighting by my side until the end.

Meg: Whew, okay. Content warnings here. I think one of the reasons that I resonate with Catra so strongly is that I see her as suicidal, something that begins to feel clear at the top of season three, after Shadow Weaver leaves her for Adora and the Rebellion. I think the trauma and abandonment and abuse that Catra has endured for her entire life just hits her in a new, even heavier way once this figure leaves her behind for the person she loves the most, and she copes by planning to end her life, eventually pulling everyone down with her by attempting to open the portal. I see season four as a time of intensive, ongoing self-harm, as Catra intentionally punishes herself for still being alive by refusing comfort or kindness, lashing out at anyone that attempts to show her care in spite of her desperate need for affection.

She believes that she’s beyond saving, beyond redemption, that Adora hates her, that she’s worthless, and hits absolute rock bottom. She even invites Glimmer to kill her at the end of the season, with no efforts to save herself. So when season five begins and Catra sees an opportunity to save Adora and simultaneously remove herself from the world, certain that she’ll experience the torture and death that she deserves at the hands of Hordak Prime, she takes it. And while both of Catra’s suicide attempts fail, I think her intent is both clear and heartbreaking. Even at the very end, Catra is willing to die alongside Adora, because she has never felt that her life has real value, real meaning.

As a person with major depressive disorder, who has survived trauma and self-harm and two suicide attempts myself, seeing Catra slowly release her self-hatred and find healing in community felt like a journey that I hadn’t really seen before. We don’t often get to see characters show their deepest darkness as well as their light, but Catra was allowed to be awful, to harm herself and literally everyone she’s ever known, to show anger and sadness and anxiety and PTSD and deep, profound loneliness — but she was also allowed to heal, to grow, to ask for forgiveness and evolve into a person capable of friendship, of love. And seeing that evolution, that true transformation, has started to heal something in me in a way that years of therapy have not. I’m so profoundly grateful to this show for showing me that this kind of shift is possible, for giving me a character to love that has been deeply broken but has also begun the process of recovery.

Heather: Last fall, I was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition that caused me to lose a terrifying amount of mobility and strength in the left side of my body. Luckily, intense physical therapy multiple times a day for months helped me get a lot of my strength back and reduce a lot of my pain. Just when I was finally really starting to get back into the swing of my life, I got COVID19. I’m now on day 52 of having symptoms and this journey has, in many ways, shattered me. Now that my body has managed most of the lung and chest issues, I have post-viral fatigue syndrome, which means that if I don’t spend most of every day in bed, I will crash to the point that I can hardly lift my arms above my head. Some days I can walk ten minutes in my back alley behind my house in the sunshine, but some days even that’s too much. It’s not just physical energy — it’s mental and emotional and social energy too. I’m operating at like 20% of my pre-COVID capacity as a human being. And on top of all that, my panic disorder has flared up worse than ever. I’m averaging at least one panic attack a day, usually more. Sometimes I just jerk awake in the night hyperventilating and shaking.

Over the last six months, I’ve lost the ability to do the things that have always been integral to my identity, like overachieving in my career and cloaking the people I love in my empathy and taking care of my family in every way and riding my bike and just, you know, being the person other people go to when they need someone to open a jar or get something off the top shelf or carry an entire team of people through a crisis on their own shoulders. I’ve always taken care of everything. All my life. Mostly alone (often, in recent years, because I refused help, not because it wasn’t available to me in the form of people who truly love me). I’ve related to She-Ra since I was a kid watching the original series, and this incarnation more than ever. I can do it. I can do it. I’ll make the sacrifice. I can handle it. This is my calling. I’ll take care of it. I can do it. Let me be the one. I will save us. I will make it okay. I can do it. Alone. Thank you for your love, but I will carry this alone.

Watching She-Ra make real friends, a found family, and learn to trust them and accept their help, to rely on them, and to understand that’s how relationships work, and that she isn’t a burden to them — that’s been transformative to me. But boi, watching her navigate the Heart of Etheria just did something to me that I can’t even fully articulate yet. When Mara told her, “You’re worth more than what you can give to other people. You deserve love too” I, like Meg with Catra, had to pause the show to get myself together. Tears are rolling down my dang cheeks even now as I write this!

I have my own Catra, my partner of ten years who’s been through so much of her own trauma that has forced her to be hard in so many ways in the world, to wear an armor she will not let down outside of our home, and who had such a propensity toward prickliness and an impulse to bolt before she could be abandoned when I first met her. Seeing She-Ra desperately confess to Catra that she needed her really punched me in my heart’s face. And then accepting it, at the end, when Catra simply refused to leave no matter the cost to herself. I have needed my partner more than ever this last half a year, in ways that have shocked and terrified me. Sometimes when I can’t get out of bed, I just sob because I feel like my body and spirit are broken, and I’m afraid I’ll never feel like my old self again, and Stacy’s there and she’s not going anywhere, and seeing that kind of love and commitment reflected back at me in a queer relationship on a show targeted at kids, it reached out for the wounded child in me where all these fears are rooted, and I’m going to let it help me heal them.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. Hard agree with everything here – as close to a perfect season of TV as I think we shall ever witness!

    I think a number of things contributed to the pay-off landing so sweetly. The stakes were really upped in a way that really did credit to it being the final season, and I was genuinely unsure if everyone would make it to the end. Even when it became increasingly clear that they were going to go there with Catra expressing her feelings, there was en ever-looming threat that someone was going to actually follow through on their self-sacrifice by the end.

    With all the attention on Netossa and Spinny I felt like that could have been a way to amp up the queer rep without taking Adora and Catra there. The fact that all this stuff happened and they STILL got a happy ending is pretty unprecedented. The universe was literally saved by lesbian kisses!

    In summary, I cannot cope.

    Also – Wrong Hordak!!! /wink

    • What made me tick, I mean made me understand that something was coming was the way Horde Prime kept saying “your Adora” and “Your catra” why would he say that? WHY WOULD HE? So I knew then that somerhing was in reached. And then it kept going and going further.

      Jesus… While I’ve always had the uptmost trust in NS & She-ra, I’ve never dared to hope because it’s not about intentions. Even if it’s queer creators in command, they don’t get the freedom they should. Rebecca in Sugar had to fight too for Steven Universe.
      But we got it. Noelle did it. And Adora got to want something, to hope for more than what she gives and what she feels she has to do. To want and to be given too. The key wasn’t her duty but herself. Which is beautiful, not only did we get the romance, but it’s what drove them to succeed in the end.
      A lesbian love saved the day, kids.

      On a queer note, Scorpia and Perfuma are seen as a romantic paring by Noelle, even if more subtle. Since they weren’t the main focus, and it’s even more the beginning for them.

      Oh and Jewelstar was voiced by a trans actor, and the character is presumably trans also.

    • Ah damn, sorry. It sent my comment here instead of the global thing. I don’t get why. I can’t even supress it.

  2. This season was AMAZING. I truly have thought about little else since late Friday night when I finished the series. Thanks for this insightful and vulnerable commentary!

    I think I knew they were gonna go there when She-Ra found her new form to heal Catra, then beat up all the clones carrying Catra like she weighed nothing. (And then they got back on Darla and Catra “hey, adora”d and purred and hugged back!!)

    • Oh, that Purr ! I absolutely died. That’s when it clicked for me that, yes, this was not going to be platonic.

  3. I appreciate what Heather said about queer folx “com[ing] of age over and over because our lives don’t exist on the same kind of timeline as straight people; we have a lot of ways to get rebirthed.” I actually felt that Catradora’s story was wrapped up a little too quickly, though that is likely partly due to the very short season length. (Her redemption arc did not feel as earned to me as, say, Zuko’s did from ATLA.) I think that both Catra as an individual and Catradora as a couple would have needed more time to heal and grow and love, but I suppose that process can continue post-credits!

    Regardless, I will be forever grateful that Catradora’s story was able to be made (especially considering how just five years ago, Korrasami was forced to be visually subtext despite the creators explicitly desiring them to be maintext). The incredible goodness of this show and its positive impacts on queer folx young and old (and non-queers, too) makes this one of the most astounding shows I have been grateful to witness in the current times.

    • I just wanted to say, we have to keep in mind that well, the stories we get also don’t exist on the same timeline that straight storylines do.
      How is a comparaison fair when ours are hindered in the way straigth stories aren’t. Noelle Stevenson had to fight tooth and nails to be able to give us what she did.

  4. Thank you so, so much for this article! I’m so appreciative of other people articulating the impact of this show so beautifully. I also found it to be a really emotional watch and as the climactic scene develops, even to the last second I was thinking “no, they couldn’t” and I felt all the echoes of my fundamentalist upbringing ringing in my ears about how crucially important it was to protect children from the gay agenda and how to have even the tiniest bit of visibility would be normalizing an evil lifestyle. My jaw literally dropped at that kiss, but it wasn’t until I read this interview with Noelle Stevenson in the LA Times right after watching the finale that I totally lost it. She talked about how hard she had to fight to get that ending and how impactful she knew it could be, and I just sobbed, thinking of how different it would have been to grow up with this type of show, to have someone or something telling me it was going to be okay, and that I was normal. It was like a sort of grief to know I needed this type of thing so badly as a child, but didn’t have it, and at the same time being deliriously happy to feel like things are getting better for the younger generation, bit by bit, even if there’s still a long way to go. I’ll always be so grateful for everyone who brought this story to life.

    • Noelle herself grew up in a really evangelical family, and Horde Prime’s ship etc. were based on the architecture of mega-churches.

  5. I just wanted to say thank for this review, it pretty much got into everything I absolutely adored about this season. As you start off with … it was pretty much the perfect season of TV.

    I’ve identified damn strongly with Catra the whole series (though with a bunch of Adora’s dorkiness, but I principally see myself in Catra). I binged this season all in one go. I got home from a 20km hike on Saturday afternoon New Zealand time (after it dropped on Friday night for us) and immediately started watching, only stopping to grab some food, finishing it later that night, with tears streaming down my face.

    I cried for a while after that final episode. I just couldn’t believe that they’d given it to us. I am so so used to seeing subtext and shipping queer women couples, and it never ever becoming canon. You kinda build up defences to let you deal with the constant disappointment by not allowing yourself to hope too much. But then this. I couldn’t believe it, and even now days later I get feels thinking about it.

    I was sitting there afterward going “I’m an academic in her mid 40s and I’m here with tears running down my face over an animated TV show” but it didn’t matter at all, it was that powerful. We’d finally gotten it.

    The thing that blew me away was that through this entire final season, when Adora let herself care and embrace her love for Catra, she was able to become She-Ra. Whenever she pushed aside those emotions, she couldn’t. She was stronger FOR her love for Catra, for embracing it, rather than denying it. It was all throughout the season.

    Oh, and I now SO want that Princess Ball 2.0 that Adora flashed forward to in a brief vision/dream that Horde Prime witnessed and mocked her over … not in the least because I want Catra’s outfit in that :)

    Maybe they’ll give an epilogue movie at some point with that flash forward scene of Adora and Catra together as an established long-together couple. Plus more of Catra’s outfit, I am just saying.

    Goodness, I still have feelings here.

      • I wants it so much! If the entire universe wasn’t cancelled at the moment, I’d totally be tempted to cosplay for the first time at a con … victory for us soft-butch lesbians! :)

        • Speaking as a 40-year-old cosplayer myself: Please please cosplay Catra! Cons will happen again someday, and in the meantime you can get it perfect and take lots of selfies!

      • I mean, I feel guilty & a little selfish for asking for MORE after Noelle just provided us with a masterpiece, but still, that wee dream/flash-forward of Adora’s just left me wanting it fleshed out more in epilogue :)

  6. Been eagerly waiting for this article! Thanks so much for your heartfelt and personal words.

    I thought I had a lot to say, but maybe I’m still at aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    I want to shout out what Valerie Anne said about healing younger versions of yourself – I’d never thought about it that way, but it’s so true. Thank you.

    Also, why wasn’t Netossa in charge this whole time?

    Also, Catra’s butch underwear 😭

    Also, Scorpia and Perfuma <3

    • Oh yes, Catra’s butch underwear! This is what happens when you have queer women on staff and can tell you what underwear Catra would wear :)

      • Tbf I would not try to sleep in a sports bra, but you gotta take some licence with TV.

        I love how gay every new outfit was :) I thought they were speaking my language the previous seasons, but no, they’d barely started <3 Every time I think "this is it, we're here, we've made it" i realise there's further we can go

        • lol, in mid-summer I totally sleep in one of my sports bras rather than a t-shirt :)

          But yeah, I think you’re right in how they’re speaking our language. It’s not just about having queer characters (because of course it’s about having queer characters) it’s about having a universe where our experiences resonate. They’re just there as part of the background like of course they would be. And then you realise how much they’re missing from the backgrounds of everything else we see.

          • That’s exactly it. Like for us queerness is a universe, it touches everything. And you don’t realise how rare it is to see that reality in media. Like I keep thinking I’ve seen it, and then something like this comes along and makes me realise what came before didn’t come close.

            All my adult life I’m constantly having “I didn’t realise we were missing, but now I’ve seen us be present, that gap is suddenly so clear” experiences. It’s a lot.

          • lol, yeah, I really need to get some more sports bras, as sweating through them each morning for my run really starts to destroy them after a time, and I have a bad habit of putting up with them in that stage for longer than I should! But then, I’m only a B-cup so I’m not too worried :)

            But yes, for many of us being queer isn’t merely a matter of who we love (and/or have sex with), it’s a part of us, and stretches to our whole world. You feel it when you go ‘home’ to see your family, and that world is no longer there. And we feel it in how we don’t feel included in so much of the media we consume.

            I started reading scifi/fantasy/urban-fantasy that only included queer characters as part of the cast in the books (preferred primary, but could be secondary) in 2019, and I read only that that year. Reading the occasional book now in 2020 that doesn’t do that feels exactly like you say “I didn’t realise what I was missing till it I saw it, and now I don’t want to be without it”. I’m now virtually never reading SF/F/UF now that doesn’t include us.

          • Ooh, do you have a blog or goodreads with recs? Although I’ve not managed to pick up a book the whole of lockdown so far…

          • I’ve been kinda terrible at keeping my Goodreads updated … I did however keep a record in an Apple Note of what I was reading (with a rather chunky/lumpy rating system) so if you’re on Twitter or IG you can DM me: @sarahhbickerton (same on both) and I can share some screen shots :)

  7. Man. You guys made me start crying again.

    So SO many things about this show and this season just hit me like a gutpunch in such a cathartic, positive way and I have been looking forward to reading Autostraddle’s reaction since I finished watching on Friday. I loved reading what you all had to say.

    For me, so many things were amazing and I could pick out so many favorite moments, both funny AND angsty from every single episode of S5. But I think the part I really started to lose it at was when Catra stood up for Adora, first in front of the failsafe (“Shadow Weaver is sacrificing you, why can’t you see that?”), and then again and again after that pushes her to try to figure out what it is she actually WANTS for herself. That’s something I don’t think Bow and Glimmer have ever fully understood that Adora needed, and when Mara actually explicitly says “You are worth more than what you can give to other people. You deserve to be loved.” OOF. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF. Sometimes you don’t realize you need to hear something until a reboot of an 80s cartoon created to sell action figures just comes out and slaps you in the face with it, huh?

    I think the reactions I’ve felt personally and seen expressed online really say a lot about the many struggles and disappointments that queer communities have experienced in dealing with representation. It’s true there has been a lot of progress and positive changes in a relatively short time but good lord is it also true that so many of us seem to have trained ourselves to expect and accept less than being seen in complex nuanced ways as the driving force of our own lives and stories.

    It’s so clear that Noelle Stevenson and the team she assembled for this show understood this and it is such a balm to experience a story like this from someone who understands.

  8. If nothing else, I really appreciate the fact that a non-trivial part of Catra’s redemption arc was explicitly getting therapy (in the form of Melog, and, to a lesser extent, Perfuma). The work that goes into learning how let other people in is rarely shown in media, and having Catra fully acknowledged it was so refreshing.

    • Yes! Catra and Melog was honestly probably my personal favourite relationship out of the whole season. So good and pure and healing. SO CAT. And the shot of them both all spiked up in the water had me rolling :D

  9. What made me tick, I mean made me understand that something was coming was the way Horde Prime kept saying “your Adora” and “Your catra” why would he say that? WHY WOULD HE? So I knew then that somerhing was in reached. And then it kept going and going further.

    Jesus… While I’ve always had the uptmost trust in NS & She-ra, I’ve never dared to hope because it’s not about intentions. Even if it’s queer creators in command, they don’t get the freedom they should. Rebecca in Sugar had to fight too for Steven Universe.
    But we got it. Noelle did it. And Adora got to want something, to hope for more than what she gives and what she feels she has to do. To want and to be given too. The key wasn’t her duty but herself. Which is beautiful, not only did we get the romance, but it’s what drove them to succeed in the end.
    A lesbian love saved the day, kids.

    On a queer note, Scorpia and Perfuma are seen as a romantic paring by Noelle, even if more subtle. Since they weren’t the main focus, and it’s even more the beginning for them.

    Oh and Jewelstar was voiced by a trans actor, and the character is presumably trans also.

    • I picked up on the Scorpia and Perfuma thing and tbh I would rather have seen Scorpia end up with Entrapta, but that is a minor complaint in an utterly wonderful cornucopia of queer pairings

  10. AAAAHHHHHH I have so many feelings about this show but my overriding feeling for the moment is AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH

    They made She-Ra gay! They actually made SHE-RA GAY! QUEE-RA! BY THE POWER OF GAYSKULL!!

  11. Also Heather, about feeling like Noelle Stevenson had to trick Netflix into it – from the sound of things that’s exactly what happened:

    “My big fear was that I would show my hand too early and get told very definitively that I was not allowed to do this,” she said. “I sort of had a plan and it was like: If I can get them to this place where their relationship and that romance is central to the plot, and it can’t be removed, can’t be noted-out or it can’t be something that’s cut later, then they’ll have let me do it.”

    Stevenson said she worked to plant seeds over the course of several seasons, weaving different threads that intertwined Adora and Catra’s storylines to the point where it couldn’t be anything else but romantic love. Once everything was in place and the crew had been informed, Stevenson told the executives her plan to end the series with Catra and Adora confirming their mutual feelings.

  12. I am someone who was a kid in the 90’s who grew up on what I like to call action cartoons like reboot, marvel and DC cartoons, beast wars, dragon ball Z, etc. What I am trying to get at here is that out of all the many cartoons I have watched only Sailor moon, and the power puff girls were female driven. My favourite genres are psi-fy and fantasy. To get a show that is a psi-fy fantasy space opera is a real treat. To get a psi-fy fantasy space opera that is female and queer driven was a dream come true.

    Also this show was perfectly executed with a perfect balance of fun and serious moments. The battle scenes were explosive; especially near the end. That final battle had really great urgency and I rank it up there with my favourites; like when Goku fought Freeza, and Sailor moon defeated Queen Beryl.

    All the characters were great with fully realized emotions, personalities, and back stories. There was not one character on the show that I wanted to kick off because I thought they were a pointless dumb character or because I thought they were poorly written. They all got good endings, none of the characters just dropped off the face of the earth or got throw away endings not deserving of their character. Also the conflict between characters was deep and real and was thought out. It was not just something randomly made up to add conflict for conflict sake. There were no characters doing uncharacteristic things, all there actions and emotions were true.

    This show also has the best most satisfying tv show endings I have seen. They held nothing back, and they did not try to be smart and cute like a lot of tv creators try to do. I want to hold this series ending up to the creators of the Game of Thrones and any other creators doing ambitious action adventure shows with lots of characters and plot pieces and say this is how you end a tv how.

    In conclusion She-Ra and The Princesses of Power hits all the desirers I wanted from a show as a young girl such as diverse female heroines being friends, going on large epic fantasy space adventures, saving the universe, and getting the girl.

  13. This show was so perfect in so many ways and my heart is shinier and lighter for it.

    All you wonderful people have so wonderfully expressed how I feel (especially AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH !)

    The difference between the Glimmer-Bo declaration of love, and the Adora-Catra declaration of love, was beautifully nuanced.

  14. MY HEART!!! I’ve always wanted to see Adora and Catra make up (and make out), but I wasn’t sure it would really happen. The turning point for me was definitely when Catra sat (purring!) on Adora’s lap, and they looked so cute and happy together. I kept asking myself if they’d really let us have this, an actual queer romance at the center of the show, and I’m overjoyed that the answer is YES.

  15. I have never felt more seen or satisfied by the end of television show. At 30, and having been a fangirl my whole life, I have been let down by so many tv shows refusing to take the risk and give us a the queer story lines we deserve. Even though I have been a fan of Noelle’s for a long time and read most of her comics, it never occurred to me Netflix would allow Adora and Catra to happen in a show “geared for kids.” I cried most of the last season partly because Catra makes me cry, but also because we were getting the set up for a beautiful story and history made me assume we would never get the pay off. Even without Catradora, She-Ra was a diverse epic sci-fi show and I’m so happy for all the kids who are going to get to see it and relate to it.

  16. I just love this article. I am going to have a good think about which She-ra character I have identified with, because I have not considered it.

  17. This series was a phenomenal one and I loved it so much.

    The character notes were wonderful. I never got tired of the business they did with Catra’s ears and tail – the way her tail puffed out when she got a fright was just laugh out loud hilarious.

    I haven’t shipped a straight couple for I don’t know now many years, but I was there for Entrapta and Hordak, just as long as they could rein in the megalomania a little. And Wrong Hordak was just beautiful.

    I liked the way that all the characters grew and had arcs. And Catra had a great redemption arc, yay. Even Shadow Weaver did.

    The flirting and blushing and some VERY sultry voices from Adora and Catra.


    The homages to Revolutionary Girl Utena and Person of Interest (😢) were wonderful.

    The universe being saved with a gay kiss, Noelle Stevenson, you’re brilliant.

    I would love to see more of their future lives, but that little glimpse in Adora’s vision was beautiful. And wow, having a crush on a cartoon character is so weird, but honestly, I’m a sucker for Catra.

    Here’s a cute little cast video that went up a few days ago:

    And Heather, I’ve been reading your stuff for years and I’m so sorry to hear what an awful rough time you’ve had these past months. I hope things improve as quickly as they may. I really appreciate your perspectives and the quality of your writing.

  18. This really was the perfect finale in so many ways! I felt so light and happy watching it. They wrapped up the show in the best possible way and went out on their own terms! I love all the thought and work that went into building catra and adora’s relationship, and that kiss was incredible! Ahhhhh! Finished the whole season in a couple days. Just beautiful.

  19. Thank you so much Heather, Meg and Valerie for this wonderful roundtable! Heather, I hope you feel better soon.

    There are so many things to love about the show, but one that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is Shadow Weaver’s redemption arc.

    Shadow Weaver is the archetypal toxic maternal figure: she is a power-hungry, world-class manipulator who shows attachment and affection to the children in her care in which she detects high power and ability (Micah, Adora, Glimmer to some extent), and is cruel and cold to the ones she finds lacking (Catra, Castaspella).

    And yet Shadow Weaver is also Light Spinner, a woman with her own dreams, ambitions, and nuanced understandings of magic and the people around her. She has the emotional skill to understand Catra and Adora’s intense feelings for each other. She also knows that her cruelty to Catra has created a wound in her that makes Catra yearn for her approval, and mostly she uses this as a way to use Catra to access the person they both love: Adora.

    By season 5, however, Shadow Weaver is essentially alone and cut off from magic. A short scene also suggests she is drinking to cope. And yet when the planet needs her most, Shadow Weaver finds the wisdom and the self-knowledge to redeem and sacrifice herself.

    She, a grown adult, still has a maturation arc: she comes to understand that her hunger for magical power is actually her biggest weakness. She can finally appreciate magic for what it is: the life force of Etheria, destined to be free rather than controlled by the First Ones *or* herself.

    She becomes humble enough to enter a pact with Castaspella, a woman she considers an inferior pupil, to free the magic together and for Casta to strike her down if she attempts to take the magic for herself.

    The most emotionally striking moment of the last episode, for me, wasn’t even the kiss – it was Shadow Weaver redeeming herself as a mother figure and sacrificing herself to save Catra. She finally has the wisdom to understand that Catra’s love is essential to Adora, and she attempts to settle her debt to Catra by giving her what she always deprived her of: her praise, love, and approval. “It’s too late for me, but it is only the beginning for you. I am so proud of you, Catra.”

    Her dropping the mask before Adora and Catra and giving her signature “You’re welcome” – without the bitterness she usually injects into the phrase – highlights the way she decides to die in front of Catra and Adora as a fuller version of herself.

    In that moment she is both Shadow Weaver and Light Spinner, and she gives her former foster children the gift of her humanity. When she drops the mask that hid both her emotions and the scars of her unsuccessful power grab, she erodes the memory of the terrifying, domineering sorceress of their childhood.

    Her last words to Catra also indicate something else: that she sees herself in Catra and probably always did. Like her, Catra is highly intelligent and capable, but also wounded and angry about being a sidekick to more magically gifted people. In the last season, Shadow Weaver is able to see that her life path was not inevitable, but a consequence of her not addressing her feelings of inadequacy that are at the root of her hunger for power, her arrogance, and her cruelty to others. (To Casta: “You could never hold a candle to Micah’s power. Neither could I.”)

    To me, her real redemption is not that she helps Adora and Catra save the world – we already knew she would do anything for her favourite child. It’s that in her final moments, she does what she can to prevent Catra from nourishing the same feelings of inadequacy and abandonment that lead to her own demise, and to finally accept and praise Catra for who she is.

    I really loved this arc, because it is a wonderfully healing one for those of us who have been raised by complicated, broken women who were dangerous mother figures. It’s also incredibly rare to see an older woman have a maturation/redemption story.

    Did you like it too? Please let me know your thoughts!

    • “wonderfully healing one for those of us who have been raised by complicated, broken women who were dangerous mother figures”.

      Wow so beautifully worded. As the child of a narcissist mother, there is something so healing in Shadow Weaver’s arc. The apology and acknowledgment I will likely never receive.

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