I took a day off work to watch the latest season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. A friend and I had spent months talking about the potential of Catradora becoming canon. It would be the perfect ending for a series that was never afraid to broaden the scope of LGBTQ+ representation and prove that everyone deserves to be seen, even more so in a fantasy world that builds on and surpasses the classic that inspired it.
We get our wish, with Catra and Adora saving Etheria from devastation through the power of their combined love alone. Even as it unfolded before us, it still didn’t feel real, and the conclusion we’d waited for ages was unconditionally coming to pass. However, it wasn’t just a celebratory ending, it also recontextualized every interaction between the two women who, despite going through a lot, never stopped loving each other. You’ll be surprised to know that Catra’s confession made me cry for like two hours.
Opposing sides of a war couldn’t keep them apart, and neither could the nefarious influences of Shadow Weaver and Horde Prime who sought to poison their minds and make it clear that power will always triumph over love. For them, being alone is the price of success, but Catradora was able to show that life is much more than a binary goal to be achieved. It’s about the people you meet and fall in love with, the places you travel and experience, and the lessons you learn to become a better person even after being on the brink of self-destruction. ND Stevenson directed a show that placed this lesbian relationship front and center, slowly but surely building to a crescendo he himself wasn’t even sure was possible.
Catradora is such a power couple because of everything both the creators and the characters went through to make it possible. Before discovering a mysterious sword and transforming into a magical princess, Adora’s placid existence could have taken her to the upper ranks of the Horde to live a happy and successful life. She is the golden girl, a symbol of hope and power in the midst of a fascist regime that has raised her for war and bloodshed. However, this lifestyle is normal for her, so she dutifully follows her orders until she is forced to see the other side of things. Turns out a place known as ‘The Evil Horde’ isn’t that hot when you stop to smell the smoky roses. When she suddenly becomes a princess and has the power to help instead of destroy, she walks away from Catra and falls into the arms of Glimmer and Bow.
Catra is distraught, convinced that she was not and has never been good enough for Adora in the face of impossible expectations and a relationship that is now falling apart. She and Adora could have ruled the world together, taking over the Horde and shaping their own image of it as the power structures beneath them began to fade. The headstrong catgirl could never see past that ultimatum, or reflect on a future in which she left her abusive childhood behind and sought a new life with the only girl she ever loved. She wasn’t about to accept where she had gone wrong, instead she dug a hole that only got deeper.
She-Ra takes her time developing these character arcs, pushing both of our heroines over the edge until they’re ready to accept the truth that’s been in front of them all this time. Love can save the world, but only if you are willing to accept it. That’s why her eventual confession felt so groundbreaking, a euphoric climax that she saw love expressed in a way that not even the most cynical of reactionary YouTubers could deny.
N. D. Stevenson has said after the show’s success that Catradora wasn’t always guaranteed to be canon, but he worked to make it happen whether it was in the cards or not. This was clear from the opening episode, with
Catra and Adora have an intimate trust in each other that clearly goes beyond normal friendship, even if the two of them don’t know it yet. Princess Prom is a sexually charged battle of bodies and wits, with each using their assets to make the other feel vulnerable and defeated. It culminates in a truly incredible dance sequence that I and my fellow gay cartoon queens think about at least once a day. exist so many moments throughout the five seasons that act as building blocks towards the eventual confession, with the distance making the heart grow fonder as Catra nearly reaches breaking point and Adora is asked to grapple with a fate that unfairly sits on his shoulders.
Catra and Adora are very different people, almost opposite personalities fostered by the same abusive environment that expected them to be little more than war machines. It took her separation from her for everything to change, for Adora to leave her troubled upbringing and her childhood friend to help save the world and face a fate she’s not prepared for. She was raised as the perfect soldier who excelled at everything, so of course she would have trouble abandoning an eventual demise at the hands of fate instead of loving herself and realizing the importance of striving to survive and acknowledging her own value.
She is no longer alone, and she never really was. Now she and Catra can move forward as lovers instead of childhood friends turned bitter rivals who would tear entire realities apart to avoid talking about things. It’s still hard watching Catra grow up so isolated that she ruins the only friendships she has left, realizing that ultimate power means nothing when there’s no one to share it with, and the only girl you’ve done all this for has come a long way. . she leaves and never comes back. He even got a chance to join her and refused.
Catradora is one of the best romances animation has ever seen because it felt real, earned, and unapologetically queer in every way imaginable. Catra and Adora are flawed people with a lot to work out, but together they are stronger and come to recognize the value of accepting love instead of being in perpetual conflict. Their kiss saved the world, but they also saved themselves and paved the way for a future together.
Years from now, I’ll still remember She-Ra and the Princesses of Power as a watershed moment in queer representation of the medium. It sits alongside Steven Universe, The Owl House, and a handful of other shows that are steadfast in their intentions, with the creators fighting very hard for these stories to be told without compromise. Adora and Catra sit at the center of this diverse success, waving the flag for us all as we go.
Next: The girls do not “graduate” from animation, the networks are failing them