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She-Ra Creators Face Social Media Backlash Over A Joke During Livestream Panel

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BY August 30, 2020
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After ending their Netflix original series with season 5, the She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power creators recently did a Livestream panel. Things did not go too well, as an inside joke revealed caused the She-Ra creators backlash on social media. Especially given the treatment of Black people in America and calls for police reform going ignored for the past 15 years. Creator Noelle Stevenson since apologized for her comment, but it’s worth noting how this situation began and what the takeaway from it should really be.

The Joke That Kickstarted The She-Ra Creators Backlash

She-Ra creators backlash Noelle Stevenson. Image via Netflix.

During a Livestream panel, She-Ra creator Noelle Stevenson revealed an inside joke between herself and the other writers involving the names of the siblings of Bow, the only prominent male character in a show about princesses. As a freedom fighter in She-Ra, Bow’s specialty is using a bow and lots of trick arrows that he creates. So Bow uses a bow. It’s that simple pun that landed Stevenson in hot water on social media.

At the panel, Stevenson was describing the process of how the makers brainstormed possible siblings of Bow’s. Similarly, they came up with names using a similar pun pattern, that correlated to the character’s defining traits. Woe would be a sibling very into the Goth-punk lifestyle. Then there’s musician Oboe, who, you guessed it, would play the oboe. Followed by ear-less artist Gogh and the slacker brother Woah (with a surfer dude inflection). The names are clearly meant to be puns exactly the way that Bow’s character himself came to be. However, one sibling’s name and pun sparked the She-Ra creators backlash on social media. The character in question was Sow who they imagined as a farmer since “sowing” seeds is what a farmer does.

Why The Offhand Remark Sparked Such A Controversy

Since Bow in this She-Ra series is a Black character, the farming reference inadvertently drew parallels to a dark part of America’s past. By saying “tilling the fields,” the comment sparked a connection to the antebellum south and slavery for some fans. Stevenson has since apologized for the comment, taking full responsibility for hurting the sensibilities of her loyal fanbase. In her tweets, Stevenson doesn’t try to justify or explain her actions but takes full accountability. She even goes on to try to prevent a toxic fandom situation by pleading to fans who may wish to ‘defend’ her to not harass those expressing how they felt about this comment.

Context Is Key During She-Ra Creators Backlash

Stevenson also revealed a sketch on Twitter which showed Bow’s brothers with their names beneath. So it was not just an improvised remark, but an actual concept that they discussed and then put to paper. But I should also point out that in the entire five-season run of She-Ra, Bow does not have any siblings. No brothers, or sisters, named Sow or otherwise. So at some point, the writers dismissed the idea, which never made it to the show. However, the situation points to an even bigger problem.

Many reactions on social media are pointing the finger at the fact that the She-Ra writer’s room is entirely white. The inclusion of Black or writers of color within that room may have prevented this incident. Even if Stevenson had no racist intent behind it, at best, it highlights her ignorance about the current racial climate. This is evident at how casually Stevenson revealed this inside joke during the panel. It’s as if it was a fun behind-the-scenes anecdote, that she shared without realizing the implications. Especially what it means to underrepresented voices in mainstream media, or those marching in the streets the past few weeks in America for civil rights and racial justice. And honestly, as a fan of She-Ra and everything that Stevenson has done for inclusivity and diversity in the show, I expected more from her myself.

Steven Has Pushed For Inclusivity And Diversity In She-Ra

She-Ra creators backlash cast. Image via Netflix.

Fans of the original She-Ra franchise may not understand the negative connotation with one of Bow’s siblings being a farmer. However, that’s because the original Bow from the franchise was actually a white character that Stevenson repurposed into the Bow that fans now love. A character who, by the way, has two dads in the new She-Ra show. Which brings me to the pattern of behavior that Stevenson established during her tenure on She-Ra.

Throughout the entire run of She-Ra, a show intended for a much younger audience, Stevenson pushed for a lot of diversity and inclusivity. The entire show is set in a fictional universe that is devoid of racial inequality or injustice. The depiction of one of the main characters, Glimmer, focuses on healthy and positive body image. The relationships go beyond just romantic but focus on platonic and parental ones. She even tackles the idea of a toxic relationship, and how one can overcome it.

Stevenson also created Double Trouble, a character who introduces the idea of a non-binary gender spectrum to kids. Non-binary performer Jacob Troia is the voice for the character as well. Along with Bow’s two dads, it’s incredibly common for the show to show same-sex relationships. Two of the leading princesses are in a fulfilling marriage throughout the series. And, spoilers for the ending of She-Ra season 5, even the lead hero and villain of the entire show, two women, end up admitting their romantic feelings for one another in a hugely emotional series finale. 

No Excuses. No Justifications.

She-Ra creators backlash season 5. Image via Netflix.

So as a father of two young girls, I very much appreciated She-Ra’s depiction of characters and stories that featured minorities and representation not seen in the major network or cable shows suitable for young children. Now, please keep in mind that I am in no way defending or justifying Stevenson’s comments. Nor am I suggesting that her previous instances of inclusivity or diversity should give her a pass for her recent behavior. But given the cancel culture that we live in, it would be unfair to condemn Stevenson for one comment, over an entire series where she has done her best to represent multiple minorities in touching and moving storylines. One of the things I loved about She-Ra was the themes of how different perspectives and voices matter. 

The premise from season 1 was how the hero, Adora was raised by villains, only to realize how evil they were and eventually changed sides to join the good guys. The major arc of the main hero and villain were about how, despite being raised together since childhood, the difference in their experiences resulted in them becoming different people entirely. So you would think that Stevenson could apply these same parallels to the world around her, especially given the current racial climate in the country. 

There is also some misinformation circulating about the panel and other comments made by the She-Ra creators, which is compounding the controversy even more. Take a look at the video to determine for yourself, and because it was an otherwise entertaining talk with the creators of one of the best new cartoons in recent years.

So what did you think about the She-Ra creators backlash? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured image via Netflix.

Pop CultureTV ShowsNetflixNoelle StevensonRacismShe-RaShe-Ra And The Princesses Of Power

Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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