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Home > ‘He-Man: Revolution’ Gives Fans a Positive Male Role Model

‘He-Man: Revolution’ Gives Fans a Positive Male Role Model

In a time of tyrants far worse than Skeletor, is He-Man a measurable standard for all men to live up to? Chris Wood voices He-Man in "Masters of the Universe: Revolution."

Muscles Don’t Maketh the He-Man

Masters of the Universe: Revolution is a direct sequel to Masters of the Universe: Revelation and a continuation of the 1983-1985 series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Created by Kevin Smith, the series lovingly continues in the soapy and over-the-top tradition of the animated series that came before. No stranger to championing characters long past their expiration date, Smith nevertheless breathes fresh life into the aging space opera with a fresh take on the virtuous barbarian. As an embodiment of male virtue, He-Man represents the best of all Eternians, but does he also represent the best of men in general? In a time of tyrants far worse than Skeletor, is He-Man a measurable standard for all men to live up to?

The Paragon Test

Though coined in the 80s, toxic masculinity is a term that has gained prominence in recent years, a catch-all for negative traits ascribed to misogynistic men. While hundreds of articles have outlined numerous traits associated with toxic masculinity, an article from November 2022 on verywellmind.com defines toxic masculinity in three areas: toughness, antifeminity, and power. 

Per the definitions in that article, toughness is the notion that men should be physically strong, emotionally insensitive, and behaviorally aggressive. Antifeminity is the idea that men should reject anything considered to be feminine, such as showing emotion or accepting help. Power is the assumption that men must work toward obtaining power and status (social and financial) so they can gain the respect of others.

Using these as a launching point and without attempting to emasculate men, let’s generate three virtues for an aspirant, positive male iconic, and see if He-Man passes this paragon test. We’ll briefly focus on each of these and how He-Man embodies them. Those virtues are being protective, meaning he uses his strength to defend others. He is expressive, meaning he is in touch with his emotions and able to communicate them to others. Lastly, he is respectful, meaning he is respectful to others, but specifically towards women. 

Protective 

Time and again, viewers witness He-Man battling the minions of Skeletor; it’s a staple of the show. He puts himself at risk to save the people of Eternia and, in fact, dies in the line of duty in the first season, only to return to Eternia and recommit to his duty. The foes he faces in the defense of Grayskull are dangerous and tough, and his strength helps him to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Almost every person on this show, man and woman, is cut; even Robot, a metal man, is rocking biceps.

Strength is often a direct result of a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and choice. In fact, for some men, it’s a job requirement. Zak Efron recently underwent a remarkable physical transformation for his role in The Iron Claw, a sports family drama centered around the Von Erick family. That character was an excellent example of a character that is strong but not hurtful. Efron’s character was a showman, and while physically quite capable, he never used his strength to harm others. Many other excellent male actors like John Cena, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Sylvester Stalone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who played another iconic barbarian, Conan), as well as the only man to ever play He-Man in a live-action film, Dolph Lundgren are excellent examples of men that are strong, but not violent. And like Dolph, He-Man is a paragon of strength.

It’s not the size of the muscle that is the problem; no one chides a horse for being strong enough to pull a wagon. It’s how you choose to use that strength. If a firefighter carries a victim out of a burning building, strength is a virtue. By the same token, we expect our soldiers to be healthy, capable, and yes, strong, both mentally and physically, as safeguards of our livelihoods, just like He-Man, who spends most of his time defending Eternians from Skeletor, Hordak, or any other threats the writers can hurl his way.

Expressive

The trailer for Masters of the Universe: Revolution frames the season around identity; Adam’s father, King Randor, has passed on and left Adam to rule over Eternia as his only son. Adam must decide whether he will rule as Adam, now King of Eternia, or as He-Man, champion of Greyskull. This conflict will be at the heart of the season. At the funeral, Adam struggles to find words to express his sense of loss. Adam has always been stoic as a character; growing up under the shadow of King Randor, he is at a loss for how to live up to his father’s fine example. 

In a time of tyrants far worse than Skeletor, is He-Man a measurable standard for all men to live up to? Chris Wood voices He-Man in "Masters of the Universe: Revolution."
Chris Wood voices He-Man in “Masters of the Universe: Revolution;” image courtesy of Netflix and Mattel.

The new season’s first episode is aptly titled ‘Even For Kings,’ meaning death comes to all men. In a heartfelt monologue, Adam relates a touching story about how, when Adam was young, his father sat up for four nights building him a boost bike, which Adam was too embarrassed to ride because of his father’s lack of skill as a craftsman. Adam explains the bike looked homemade, bringing to mind memories of hand-me-down clothing and threadbare backpacks. Adam admits his folly and states that he would give anything to go back in time and ride that bike, just once, before breaking into tears. 

Look, Shakespeare, it is not, nor would that be appropriate for this sort of show. But the monologue is about the most Prince Adam has ever said on screen at one time. The speech is relatable, telling, and personal. Adam relates his experience, his regret, and his sense of loss. It would have been easy to have shown Adam being strong for the people and skipping this personal aside or standing off to the side, looking mournful but saying nothing. It is the combination of crying and his speech that allows Adam to be vulnerable in a way his counterpart, He-Man, cannot be, which is why it appears at this moment that Adam has made his choice.

This monologue does an excellent job of clarifying how Prince Adam sees himself. He-Man is a mantle of power, a mantle he wears proudly and willingly, but it is not who he is; it is a role he serves. Like a president or a king, He-Man is a steward, a protector of Grayskull who, yes, one day will die and pass on the charge to another, one equally worthy to carry the burden.

Respectful

Treating others the way you wish to be treated is still the golden rule of advice and can be applied evenly to either gender. But in regards to He-Man specifically, does he show respect towards women? The Masters of the Universe franchise sheds a little light on female characters, though the new show does an excellent job in trying to balance the cast both in terms of gender and representation. Of note, He-Man actually has a girl boss, so to speak, in the form of Sorceress, played in both seasons by Susan Sarandon. 

Like He-Man, the Sorceress of Grayskull is a mantle of power, a sworn duty. The Sorceress provides aid and guidance to He-Man as champion, a relationship of partners where both rely on the other. Adam has a long friendship with Teela, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in Revelation and Melissa Benoist in Revolution, which is a central part of both seasons. In Revelation, Teela is hurt by Adam’s secret and, in the early season, abandons her station as Captain of the Palace Guard. Adam struggles to explain why he felt he needed to keep this from her. While Adam is sullen, he is at no point disrespectful to her; he listens, asks for forgiveness, and hopes to reconcile. 

He-Man has limited interactions with Andra, a new tech-savvy mechanic character invented for the show and played by Tiffany Smith, or Evil Lynn, played by Lena Heady. In the world of He-Man, which is full of violence, heroes and villains both treat each other with a certain soap opera level of quippy respect; while they are trying to stop or even kill the other, they don’t have to be spiteful, doing it. While Skeletor is certainly a malicious character, this is by design, and He-Man never lowers himself to the same standard. He mostly just lets Skeletor prattle on for a moment before he shows the cerulean sorcerer the business end of his sword. So, is He-Man respectful? Yes, even to his enemies, but especially towards women. 

The Power is Yours 

What does it mean to be a man? How do we define it? In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Michael Ian Black lamented: “To be a girl today is to be the beneficiary of decades of conversation about the complexities of womanhood, its many forms, and expressions. Boys, though, have been left behind. … It’s no longer enough to ‘be a man’—we no longer even know what that means.” But as long-time fans of Masters of the Universe well know, men are Protective, Expressive, and Respectful. He-Man is a man for our times, a righteous hero for all to look up to, and a positive male role model in an age of tyrants. 

In a time of tyrants far worse than Skeletor, is He-Man a measurable standard for all men to live up to? Chris Woods voices Prince Adam, and Melissa Benoist voices Teela in "Masters of the Universe: Revolution."
Chris Woods voices Prince Adam, and Melissa Benoist voices Teela in “Masters of the Universe: Revolution;” image courtesy of Netflix and Mattel.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution (2024) Official Netflix Trailer

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Caleb aims to write high-concept genre pieces that focus on broken families. His works have been recognized by the Nicholl's Fellowship, the ISA, Screencraft, Launchpad, and Nickelodeon.When not writing Caleb enjoys video games and tabletop RPGs, camping, and is a connoisseur of fine bourbon.

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Elke Simmons' writing portfolio includes contributions to The Laredo Morning Times, Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears, Extinction Rebellion (XR) News/Blog, and Dead Talk News.