Catra and Adora’s Relationship Almost Didn’t Happen in ‘She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’
In recent years, animated shows have gotten a lot more positive attention and have proven they can be more than just “cartoons.” And Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a perfect example of a show aimed at kids that also resonates with adults. It has so much heart, teaches lessons, and has such strong LGBTQ representation. But it turns out that the biggest ship almost didn’t happen. [Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for the entirety of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power].
Despite a lot more LGBTQ representation in animated shows, they couldn’t make Catradora canon too soon
With shows like Steven Universe bringing such prominent LGBTQ representation into kid’s animated shows, it’s still not the norm. Plus, there are a lot of “powers that be” that might not want to invest in a show with the lead being gay in the end. With this in mind, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showrunner Noelle Stevenson had to be strategic about Adora and Catra’s eventual feelings for one another.
“My big fear was that I would show my hand too early and get told very definitively that I was not allowed to do this,” Stevenson told Io9 on May 18. “I sort of had a plan and it was like: If I can get them to this place where their relationship and that romance is central to the plot, and it can’t be removed, can’t be noted-out or it can’t be something that’s cut later, then they’ll have let me do it.”
Adora, who finds her calling with her sword and becomes the powerful She-Ra, has a lot going on. She’s a Horde soldier who’s been taught that the Rebellion and Princesses were sworn enemies, all built on lies. Once she realizes that the Horde is the bad guy, dead-set on capturing all Etheria and destroying these people, she uses her newfound She-Ra powers to fight for the Rebellion.
Catra, on the other hand, was her best friend throughout their lives. When Adora leaves, Catra takes it personally and sticks with the Horde. While Adora is being her selfless self, Catra sees it as Adora not wanting to be on her side and throwing their friendship away. After four seasons of this animosity, the two find themselves on the same side. And their relationship is solidified in the Season 5 finale.
Showrunner Noelle Stevenson wanted to get their relationship right
While it took until the last season to actually see Adora and Catra — Catradora, if you will — actually act on their feelings, it was something that fans clung to from the get-go.
“Just as I had hoped, people started picking up on this tension and getting really passionate about it,” Stevenson told Rolling Stone on June 12. She explained that that’s when she “showed [her] hand” and why their relationship was necessary. “… Not just because I want a moment that everyone’s gonna talk about. It’s the logical conclusion of both their character arcs. They need each other.’”
When speaking to Io9, Stevenson also pointed out the flaws in other gay rep in media. It’s why she strove for Catradora, not just for their characters’ sakes, but also because she wanted to do it right.
“It’s kind of bothered me in the past when it comes to two characters who are gay or queer in a queer relationship or are theorized to be in a queer relationship,” she explained, saying that sometimes it just happens or is spurred on by fans when the material isn’t always there. “That always seems to be the conversation around gay characters because it’s like, ‘Oh, I want these two characters to kiss. I ship them!’ Which is great… But for me, I was like, why can’t it be a relationship that is central to the plot… The way that so many straight characters have gotten to be, without it being the end-all-be-all.”
Without making She-Ra a “romance show,” Adora “got the girl” and a kiss at the end, like so many male protagonists before her. Plus, it’s more than that, because Catra and Adora’s bond is so central and so strong.
Catra and Adora were always meant to be together
Again, it wasn’t always a “sure bet” that Catradora could become canon, at least not as love interests. But looking back on the whole series, Catra and Adora were always meant to become something more than best friends from the Horde.
“This moment of confession is the climax of the show. It is everything we’ve been building to,” Stevenson told Entertainment Weekly on May 19 about the Season 5 finale. “I’m really grateful that we were able to, and have that literally be the protagonist: She-Ra, Princess of Power… I hope that now that it is clear that this is textual, it reveals how that arc has been built over the last few seasons.”
There are a lot of moving parts that make up She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, but for Aimee Carrero, who voices Adora, that warring relationship between her character and Catra is the story.
“They had to go off on their own to deal with their own individual toxicity and also learn who they are before being able to come together,” Carrero told Entertainment Weekly. “So Adora needed to learn many, many lessons, especially about her hero complex and her sacrificial complex. And then also Catra needed to deal with her abandonment issues.”
And that’s why Season 5 is so special as well. It culminates with their kiss and the resolution that they’re together after the war, but we couldn’t get there until after all the fighting, the betrayal, and the heartbreak. Proving that this show is one of the best things to come from Netflix in a while.