These are some messy, messy teens.
Today, via a conversation with some friends on Twitter, I discovered something that might, to the most serious She-Ra stans out there, be old news, but is new to me, and that absolutely deserves to be talked about. It’s this: Noelle Stevension has a series of playlists on Spotify devoted to the most important starring characters of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
My friends, the best part? These playlists are public. And they are incredible. They paint a profound and immensely entertaining subtextual portrait of She-Ra as a story about a bunch of sad, angry teenagers getting together and breaking up and holding onto the few friendships that last through the melodramatic chaos of it all.
It’s She-Ra as high school social clique, and it both uncovers the emotional depth behind the excellent character dynamics that are the core of the show while also making them look just delightfully overwrought.
Me: being a showrunner is a very serious job
Also me: *Blink-182’s I Miss You comes in the radio* oh this is such a Catra song
— Noelle Stevenson ????✨ SHE-RA (@Gingerhazing) November 29, 2018
According to Spotify, all these playlists are fairly new, though they often reflect the characters as archetypes, and seem less tied to their arc in any particular season. They still reveal a lot about the characters. Also, they’re immensely entertaining. Let’s go.
Let’s start with Bow, She-Ra’s nicest boy. Bow and Glimmer both have short playlists, compared to other characters; Bow’s clocks in at just eight songs, a scant half hour of music. And it’s… well, it’s nice. In a world of drama and danger, Bow is the rock on which the Friendship Squad rests. Sure, he has his own problems, but his good cheer and positive demeanour keep his friends going.
And his playlist reflects that. It’s just… nice. Every other playlist on this list is full of drama and defiance, but Bow’s is just lovely. Beginning with a soft, heartfelt Of Monsters and Men song about care and friendship, it continues in that vein. Bow’s a good boy. Bow loves his friends. Just don’t ask him about his parents when he’s in a bad mood.
Now we’re talking. Glimmer’s playlist is as jovial as it is moody, as defiant as it is insecure. Full of odes to impostor syndrome and telling your parents to go to hell (heck, I suppose, this is a kid’s show after all), this playlist is Glimmer as a powerful young magical heroine who doesn’t know how to make friends or channel her strength or get out of the shadow of her worried mother and the loss of her father. In short, it’s season one Glimmer, but it’s also Glimmer as big archetype: yearning and overwhelmed and maybe a little power hungry?
Like, this is a playlist that begins with “Master Pretender” by First Aid Kit, a truly sadsack song about loss and not feeling like you’re good enough, before moving shamelessly into tracks like “all good girls go to hell” by Billie Eilish and Lorde’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Is Glimmer a hero, or is she the teen who’s sneaking out of their parents’ window to go look menacing with her friends in a parking lot somewhere on the edge of town? The answer is, of course, she’s both. That’s why we love her.
Scorpia is a wonderful, complicated character who deserves better than she gets. The only person trying to be Catra’s friend after everything she’s done, Scorpia finds herself caught in a bad situation and her character arc has been her slow realisation of just how much better she deserves.
True to form, then, Scorpia’s playlist is about getting over a toxic relationship. With classic post-breakup anthems like “Dancing On My Own,” this is a playlist about breaking up, moving on, and looking at the wreckage. Like, the subtext here is not subtle. Three out of the twelve songs on this playlist, a full one fourth, are from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. You know, an album about how the whole band was in a series of awful toxic love affairs with each other. Noelle Stevenson knows what she’s doing.
OK, now that we’ve gotten to the main duo, the drama quotient of these playlists, each pretty lengthy, increases twentyfold. If there’s one thing to learn about the characters of She-Ra from this playlist, it’s that Adora and Catra are the biggest drama queens in Etheria. Adora’s playlist? It’s about the drama of trying really really hard.
While there are absolutely hints of Catradora angst in this playlist, it’s mostly focused on moving on, growing up, and trying to be the best you can be. And trying. And trying. And trying again. Nearly every song is about living up to the expectations of others, about trying until you die and then maybe also trying some more. It’s possible Adora has a saviour complex. It’s also possible girl needs a vacation.
Particular shout out to the choice of “A Better Son/Daughter”, a (beautiful) anthem of such self-indulgent sadness in the face of adversity that its inclusion here can only be described as an own. But is Adora embarassed? No, she’s too busy trying to save Etheria. You probably wouldn’t understand.
Oh, man. If Adora’s playlist is a bit of a loving own, then Catra’s playlist is, in the words of the friend who inspired me to write this blog, a character assassination. And I mean that in the best way. Catra’s playlist is nothing more or less than the most dramatically Chaotic Evil lesbian breakup playlist in the world.
This is a playlist that begins with “I Miss You” by blink-182 before seguing straight into “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift, a two-song progression that deftly explains Catra’s relationship with Adora as a simple progression from “I want you back” to “So that’s why I’m going to murder you.” And that’s not even the only blink-182 song on this playlist.
This playlist also includes “No Children” by the Mountain Goats, a famous drunken ode to divorce, murder, and burning the entire planet down if you have to, and “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. It’s extra, is what I’m saying.
Together, these playlists paint the portrait of a dysfunctional, thirsty, angry, defiant group of friends and enemies who are, for everything else they are, absolutely incredibly angsty teenagers. They all also really seem to love Lorde, which has me fantasizing about She-Ra going full One Tree Hill and featuring a fictionalized Lorde concert where she’s, like, a goth lizard princess or something.
Oh, and then there’s Bow. Bow’s honestly doing pretty good. If you’re in Etheria and you have problems, maybe go talk to Bow.