Okay, let me get this out of the way first. SPOILERS! Spoilers abound! I just cannot talk about the new Netflix series from Kevin Smith, Masters of the Universe: Revelation and properly address the so-called “controversy” that’s been flittering about for the last few months, without revealing epic spoilery things that happen in the first five episodes. But those come later, you still have time to watch the first five episodes (AKA “Part One”) on Netflix right now!
CONTROVERSY Surrounding Masters of the Universe!
First thing’s first: let’s address the “controversy” that has been floating around the internet for a while now.
I am upset about all the controversy fanboys have stirred up on the internet. So the following few sections are going to be dripping with irreverent sarcasm. Take note.
I first heard about the nerd-rage coming out about Smith’s take on the He-Man universe after I had already seen the first five episodes of the Netflix series, for science purposes. This included talk from He-Man fanboys about all kinds of “red flags” that Kevin Smith was going to “ruin” He-Man by turning it into a “woke” show by making it *gasp* female character driven. After all, the show is HE-MAN. Emphasis on the “He” and also the “Man.” This show is about men, for men, by men. And when I say “for men,” I clearly mean that the original series was for children, particularly heteronormative boys, which was the target audience and primary demographic of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe when the original 130 episodes first ran between 1983 and 1985. (Bet you didn’t realize you were getting a low-key history lesson).
Okay, maybe I’m being a little unfair. But as with any conspiracy theory, there’s a lot of things about this that don’t add up.
Follow the Money
The first thing that I heard that was upsetting fans was that the series was a “bait and switch”. That Smith had promised classic He-Man and even constructed a teaser trailer (below) which showed an action-packed tale full of He-Man flexing his muscles and also having nipples now (nipples were conspicuously missing from He-Man’s bulging pecs in the original series.)
An epic trailer, to be sure. One that appears to be a clean and shiny reboot/continuation of the original series that so many grew up on. However, then the rumors started swirling. This teaser wasn’t a true representation of the program we were going to receive. In fact, He-Man was barely going to be in the show at all! Reports of “red flags” were popping up all over the internet. Bloggers and posters were coming out of the woodwork, citing their “research” and extrapolating half-thoughts they heard in chatrooms and on YouTube videos. Let’s call this collective of nameless, tireless internet-sleuths MOTU-Anon.
The first evidence was a tweet, excavated from the depths of the internet. Kevin Smith himself, the series’ Showrunner, tweeted:
“I wasn’t a He-Man fan, but Gallery 1988 is running an awesome MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE art show.” Check that again: “I wasn’t a He-Man fan…” Not a He-Man fan, eh?! What a joke! They got this rube to take the reigns of the greatest television program of all time, and he doesn’t even know anything about He-Man, or Masters of the Universe! FAKE FANBOY!
“The suits over at Netflix are trying to pull one over on us. Taking our sweet, sweet subscription money and laughing all the way to the bank. Crapping out some piss-poor knockoff, produced by some guy who doesn’t even know what he’s doing!”People On The Internet
And Kevin Smith, that bastard, is over in the corner, twirling his mustache, rubbing his hands and counting all of his sweet Netflix money.
Because we all know that’s exactly who Kevin Smith is. A guy who hates nostalgia. A man who despises fandom. A creative whose single-minded aim is to get money by ruining all the things that we love.
The tweet in question is from as recent as *checks notes* eleven years ago…
MOAR Red Flags!
Then the red flags started popping up! And by “red flags” I mean that people were saying stuff. Promotional photos started appearing, showing He-Man, Skeletor and other beloved Masters of the Universe (MOTU) characters in all their glory! But then there was one image. One image in the mix, and it showed adopted daughter of Man-At-Arms, Teela, sporting *gasp* muscles! And *double gasp* a short haircut!
How dare Kevin Smith, that bastard, try to ruin all our childhoods by giving Teela any kind of storyline! Whispers began swirling that He-Man was going to be replaced by Teela. That the whole thing was some kind of “woke” bait and switch, forcing us He-Man Woman Haters to watch a storyline about some sort of cootie infested, gross girl!
And just like the totally justified boycott of Solo: A Star Wars Story the internet collectively decided that something they hadn’t even seen yet was terrible, and that Kevin Smith and Netflix were evil masterminds, out to kill our boyhood. How dare they try to shove their wokeness down our throats with girls! EEEEEWWWWWW!
What We Know About Masters of the Universe
So, let’s run down the information we have already.
- Kevin Smith hates He-Man
- Netflix doesn’t know what they’re doing
- Girls are grody
- Kevin Smith has ruined our childhood
A fair assessment. Considering all these facts were compiled by *checks notes* conspiracy theorists on the internet who hadn’t seen the thing they were complaining about. Seems legit!
I saw all of these arguments and evidence over text-message by a friend, let’s call him “Mickey,” well over a month ago. Mickey had grown up loving, loving He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The original program was a key component of Mickey’s developmental years and he could even consider himself a super-fan of He-Man and the stories and characters of Eternia.
Now let me sympathize for a minute. Or is it empathize? I’m not sure. Let me know in the comments. But as a superfan of a handful of things myself, I can understand the internal freakout and anxiety attack when you hear about a reboot or remake. A remake of a property that means the world to you, only to then hear sensational reports of the franchise being “ruined” and catastrophizing the whole thing.
But it is the nature of our modern media cycle. Nothing is just another press release. It is the greatest, most exciting thing that’s ever happened! Yet, it just takes a handful of internet trolls to hear something from their “reliable source” to crap all over everything. For them to turn it into, you guessed it, the worst, most horrible thing that’s ever happened.
But that’s what we get when nostalgia is the biggest selling point in our current market. You are messing around with people’s childhoods. The things we loved during our formative years are special and even sacred to us in one way or another. To revisit it with hopes to improve upon it, is to play with fire.
A Conversation Over Text Always Has The Best Context
The conversation involved Mickey telling our group chat about how fans were generally unhappy hearing about the show being “female led” and effectively relegating He-Man himself to the sidelines. Mickey attached the second trailer that was put together to promote the show, which featured plenty of big-chested He-Man action. Allegedly this had made the fan base happy, but there were still fears that all this footage were only from “the first ten minutes” and that the rest of the show was still going to be a “woke mess.”
The word that repeated was “fear”. Fans “feared” that the show would be female led. Fans “feared” that He-Man was sidelined or replaced. They “feared” that some liberal concept of “wokeness” was forced onto their favorite boyhood characters.
Fear. There is fear that fans will somehow lose He-Man. Or that he would be taken from them. More explicitly, when I asked what the “fear” was, Mickey explained that it was:
“That He-Man is pushed aside to make Teela the hero, forcing a female in to take of the He-Man storyline.” Again, this all was since “they put all these great images out and then one woke pic with Teela with her hair cut off, etc.”
One woke pic of Teela with her hair cut off, etc. That and a tweet that is over a decade old are the basis of this collective freakout. That “etc.” by the way was “they made Teela have big muscle arms, refuse to show cleavage cuz it’s ‘offensive’.”
I’m personally more fascinated by fanboys seemingly finding a female character with muscles and no cleavage offensive. We need our cartoon cleavage, dammit! It’s our right!
Side Note: Did I miss the episodes where Teela had her tits out? Because I do not remember Teela’s cleavage at all.
What In the Name of Castle Greyskull Is Going On?!
So, did all of the fanboys worst fears come true? Was this really a woke hack job by out-of-touch non-fan Kevin Smith that… I don’t know… deleted all the previous He-Man cartoons from existence?
In my opinion, no. Absolutely not.
Who The F*** Is Kevin Smith?
Let’s remember, for a moment, who Kevin Smith is. He is the ultimate Fanboy. We have seen what this man is capable of for the better part of three decades. Just because he said he “wasn’t a fan” of Masters of the Universe, doesn’t mean that he was completely ignorant of the property or its massive impact on popular culture. The man is an encyclopedia of late 20th century pop culture references and fun facts. You can be “not a fan” and still have knowledge and respect for a property. Anyone who has worked in Hollywood or the entertainment industry and gets involved with established Intellectual Properties knows that once you’re asked for your take, or you’re connected to a project, you do everything you can to become a superfan of said property.
This whole idea that Kevin Smith somehow just got pulled off the street by Netflix and handed the keys to the MOTU franchise without having any knowledge or respect for the source material is not only offensive and insulting to Smith and Netflix, but to the fans purveying these ideals themselves.
In Silent Bob We Trust
In my sit-down with the man himself, Kevin Smith explained to me how this wasn’t simply name recognition on his part. He had to work for the honor of developing the continuation of the adventures in Eternia.
Smith was handpicked by Rob David at Mattel Television to make a pitch on the series. Not only does Rob work at Mattel, but he has been writing MOTU comics for DC for years. So this guy knows his stuff when it comes to the Eternia mythos.
Smith was shocked when he was asked to pitch a story for MOTU. However, being the creative professional he is, he took the time and came up with the story we eventually got in Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Not only that, but Smith had pitched shows to Netflix several times and had been passed on each time.
So, I just want to make it clear. Kevin Smith didn’t just show up to the Netflix offices one day and say “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a He-Man show”. To which Netflix replied “Go for it!”. He was selected by the company that created He-Man. His pitch was not only approved, but celebrated by He-Man superfans Rob David and Netflix Creative Executive Ted Biaselli. People who tasked Smith with not writing a cynical and sarcastic take on the characters; but to respect them for who so many of us loved them for being as children.
More on this in Part II, where I was actually able to sit down and ask Kevin Smith about the development of the series.
So, What Did We Get?
SPOILER ALERT!!! You have been warned. I advise that if you haven’t watched episodes 1-5 (IE Part 1) of Masters of the Universe: Revelation that you stop reading now and go watch it, unless you want to be grossly spoiled on the happenings of the episodes.
Still here? Alright, buckle up.
What did we end up getting?
What Kevin Smith and his team ended up delivering was exactly what we didn’t know we wanted, needed and deserved. Instead of giving us ten more episodes of the same basic story that we had in the early 80s for 130 episodes, Kevin Smith wanted to respect everything that had happened leading up to this point in the story of Eternia, and take the next step.
Skeletor was always trying to defeat, even kill He-Man and take over the power of Greyskull. But in 130 episodes he never succeeded. But now that all of those little kids who needed that hope that good would always triumph over evil are adults, what if we saw that next step in the adult version of this story.
What if He-Man died?! How would that affect Eternia? What would happen to Teela? What would happen if Teela, the closest person to both Prince Adam and He-Man found out that they were the same person in the worst way possible. On top of that, what if she found out that the three people closest to her knew, and never told her. What would all these revelations do to Teela and Eternia as a whole.
Possibilities Abound For Masters of the Universe
That’s exactly what we got! Instead of leaning on the central story that we’ve had over a hundred times before – Skeltor attacks and tries to take the Power of Greyskull, Prince Adam uses the Sword of Power to turn into He-Man and a cast of colorful characters battle each other (without actually committing anything resembling violence) He-Man wins, Skeletor slinks off and everything is right in Eternia again – Kevin Smith and company provided us with the answer to “what if the opposite happened?”
What did we get? A damn story! Character development! The next step in maturing and evolving the Eternia mythos that we, as adults, need to keep us engaged with this story. Do you think all of the fanboys – angry at these rumors that Kevin Smith arbitrarily turned their favorite childhood memory into some woke bullshit social justice propaganda for no reason – would have been satisfied with “just five or ten more episodes of the same thing we already had for 3 years in the 80s?”
Maybe some of them would have, but I guarantee you that the internet would have exploded with cries of “Kevin Smith failed to deliver” on what they wanted. I would argue that Smith absolutely delivered on, as I said, what we never knew we wanted, needed, or deserved.
The Future Is Bright For Masters of the Universe
So yes, we do get a storyline about Teela, reeling from the drama of learning that a huge part of her life was a lie. We get to see what an Eternia without He-Man or the Sword of Power looks like. Yes, Teela has huge muscles, and isn’t showing off her cleavage, because that’s not the point. The point is to continue this story, which does not relegate He-Man to the sidelines, even though he doesn’t appear for a couple of episodes. The story centers around returning Eternia to it’s previous state. After all, isn’t that the whole point of what the fanboys wanted?! Bringing back what they had so long ago?
In Kevin Smiths take on MOTU, we get a wonderful follow-up to the show we enjoyed as kids. We get to develop some of those great characters who simply filled roles in the early 80s. And we’re introduced to new ones to add to our toy collection! We even get more insight into Prince Adam’s internal views and struggles with the concept of being He-Man and the wielder of the Sword of Power.
Watch All The Way Through, Please
Allow me to make one demand of you, original He-Man fans: WATCH TO THE END OF EPISODE FIVE!
And remember that there is a back-five to this season. Because after what I’ve witnessed in the front-five of season one of Masters of the Universe: Revelation I feel like we’re going to see so much more of He-Man, Skeletor and the whole Eternia crew growing and developing in amazing ways in the back-five episodes, and I am ecstatic!
In short, don’t listen to the bullshit rumors and don’t subscribe to the He-Man hysteria that’s gripped the MOTU corners of the internet the last few months. Watch the damn show, and see that Kevin Smith has delivered to us that which we didn’t know we deserved.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part One (episodes 1-5) is streaming on Netflix RIGHT NOW! Go watch it!
Episodes 6-10 come out later this year.
For more Masters of the Universe news, keep checking back with That Hasthag Show!