From the archives: Bestial Sexuality in He-Man and She-Ra

May 8, 2008

Contributed by Lady Bast.

He-Man revolves mostly around bestial relationships rather than sexuality (although it’s there), hence all the human/animal crossovers (e.g. Beastor, King Hiss, Cobra Khan, even the Sorceress). Some are even cybernetic, brandishing nasty little built-in devices (e.g. Trap-jaw and Hordak if you want to cross into She-Ra). Most of these are the bad guys because we want to underline their bestial natures, but some, like the Sorceress, are good guys. The difference is that good guys get to “bond” with animals that are admired and not feared.

Again, this is a Medieval-type society even though technology also seems to be at a high. Most people seem to have mechanical equipment of sorts and many use blasters though He-Man uses a sword to underline his sexuality. Skeletor also uses a sword (it is supposedly the “other half” of He-Man’s) to mirror the hero, but this happens rarely. Usually, Skeletor uses a magical staff with a ram’s skull on it. This is probably meant to represent evil (i.e. horns of the devil – bestiality).

In keeping with this theme, He-Man (as He-Man) is a big, hulking, Mr. Universe kind of guy with a California tan and blond hair (really big with the girls at this time). Adam, though pale, is also a big, hulking, Mr. Universe kinda guy. The difference is that He-man wears reds and browns and golds (and no shirt) because he’s a manly man whereas Adam wears pink and lavender. In the 80s, He-Man equalled a “real” man. Adam was a pasty-faced, pastel-wearing pansy.

He-man rides this big cat, right? Looks like a tiger. Green. Why doesn’t he ride a lion? Only male lions are really associated with masculinity, most other cats are associated with the female persuasion, as is the colour green which is usually a symbol of fertility. This one’s tough to prove, because the colour might just have looked good on the background. And tigers are rather ambiguous sexually: they are not directly associated with the male, but they are muscularly powerful and this one does have a male voice, and they’re not directly associated with the female, though most cats are by default. The nitty gritty details are just something else to think about. Male or female, a cat was used because the cat symbolism was big in the 80s. Especially the big cats because they had the power of the beast and the sleekness of the sexual.

And She-Ra rides a horse. The unicorn horn had nothing to do with She-Ra’s sexuality (or lack thereof), it was there because unicorns would sell. The key here is that She-Ra rode a male horse and we all know what a woman riding a mustang represents, yes?

A word on stereotypes: women are always wimps and/or ditzes in He-Man. Teela is supposed to be this great fighter, right?, but she’s always the one who gets to sound like a total idiot with that whiny “Adam, where’s He-Man?” (or vice versa) thing that she does. And if the Sorceress is so powerful, how come she spends so much time moaning and groaning about this and that and needing He-man to rescue or “help” her (as in he does all the work)?

The only exception to this, as far as I can tell, is Evilyn. She’s one of Skeletor’s lackeys and I can’t remember a single sucky thing she might have done. Mind you, I may be wrong. I don’t remember too much about her because they didn’t use her nearly enough, probably because the presence of a female in the bad guys’ camp removes their illusion of “sexlessness” (i.e. they’re all beast).

This applies to She-Ra as well. The “evil Adora” was much more effective than the “good Adora”. When she was working for evil, Adora was respected as a general in Hordak’s army. As a good guy, she’s a wimp and needs to transform into She-ra to do anything effectively. Notice that She-Ra’s voice is deeper than Adora’s, probably to make her sound more masculine. Female heroes (I don’t use the word “heroine”, a hero is a hero no matter what the sex) are often portrayed as “men with breasts,” a sad affliction that still surfaces occasionally. In fact, the only way to make her seem feminine is to give her these empathic/telepathic animal communication and healing powers. Like a woman absolutely has to be nurturing and healing. I think that all these extra powers succeeded in doing was to make her look weaker than her brother (she needs more power to do the same job). Although I’ve often thought that He-man got the short end of the stick because his sword doesn’t change into other things (Sword to Shield!). That’s like the ultimate Swiss Army Knife.

Other aspects of this stereotype manipulation are all the supposedly strong females in She-Ra who swoon over the male ones (as Glimmer did with He-man in “Secret of the Sword”) and let them take over, or who surrender/run away when confronted with a male opponent (e.g. Catra of the Horde who wimps out every time she loses her mask). Again, only Shadoweaver is of any interest although why she doesn’t just kill off Hordak (who’s too stupid to have been Skeletor’s mentor, I don’t care what the movie says) and take over is a mystery to me. The only really great female characters Filmation comes up with are almost never used… such a pity.

As you can see, He-Man and She-Ra don’t walk the sexual/bestial barrier that Thundercats does. It does use a greater amount of stereotypes, though I’m sure they thought they were quite advanced in using female fighters and lead characters.

Again, I don’t want to imply that the animation companies were trying to project these messages or used such symbols on purpose because they didn’t. And it certainly isn’t what us children picked up on either. The creators of these shows just used the images that were popular at the time, symbols that were created and used by advertisers/designers to represent the facts that already existed and those facts were that people in the 80s really, really wanted sex and bestial imagery and that, in this case, we haven’t yet obliterated all the stereotypes.

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When Does Monster House Take Place?

April 25, 2008


Contributed by The Editor.

Thou Art DeadOne of the best parts of the delightful animated movie Monster House is that it is essentially undatable. The film relies on character and situational humor rather than modern pop-culture references. A movie like Shrek, which relies heavily on pop-culture references, is pinpointed at a certain date. Twenty years from now, will people get references to Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible? However, just because a movie doesn’t rely on overt pop-culture doesn’t mean that we can’t determine when it takes place. Even without the caption at the beginning of the movie, we can tell that The Iron Giant takes place in the 1950s.

So, when does Monster House take place? I contend that the movie takes place c. 1987. I also believe that the exact date was made deliberately fuzzy, so it wouldn’t quite feel like it’s taking place at any precisely definable year.

  • Technology:
    • Z uses a cassette tape, not a CD.
    • Skull uses a pager, not a cell phone.
  • Cars: The cars in the movie are decidedly not modern. Furthermore, they look much like late 1980s car models.
  • Video games:
    • Thou Art Dead is graphically similar to other platform arcade games of the late 1980s (c.f. Ghosts ‘N Goblins (1985), Altered Beast (1988)).
    • There is a short clip of Chowder playing a home game system, the graphics of which resemble the quasi-abstract style of some Atari 2600 or Intellivision games.
  • Tone: The tone of the movie seems highly influenced/inspired by 1980s “kids in danger” movies. (c.f. Explorers (1985), The Goonies (1985), Monster Squad (1987)) Hallmarks of these types of films are:
    • The kids go on an adventure without their parents. Often adults actually hinder or interrupt the adventure.
    • Supernatural or sci-fi elements are common. The filmmakers were not afraid to make these elements somewhat scary, even at the risk of frightening younger members of the audience.
    • The kids are in real danger of getting killed.

The staff here at The Journal of Cartoon Over-analyzations encourages intelligent readers to add examples or counterexamples of the principal thesis in the comments section.

Ex Situ: The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80s Cartoons

April 8, 2008



Most of the staff here at J. Cart. Overanal. spent their childhoods basking in the Rubik’s cube-colored glow of the 1980s. When we weren’t playing Burgertime on our Intellivisions, we were plopped in front of the TV, enjoying the most toyetic entertainment DiC had to offer.

Let me remind you that we are talking about the 1980s: Thriller. Ronald Reagan. Trapper Keepers. ALF ran for four seasons.

So this Ex Situ is what we consider a warning. When all of the young white boys who were watching cartoons of the 1980s become old white men in charge of our nation’s government and economic infrastructure, humanity is surely doomed.

Without further ado,

The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80s Cartoons
>Catena Ex Situ


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