Dec. 19 – He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special

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HE-MAN AND SHE-RA: A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
Original Air Date: December 1985

SYNOPSIS:
He-Man and She-Ra team up when Christmas comes to Eternia.

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BACKSTORY:
He-Man started life in the pages of DC Comics’ Masters of the Universe as a barbarian of a surviving tribe. The Filmation cartoon of 1983 altered his origins to that of a Prince endowed with the power to transform into a warrior.

heman-backstory

The cartoon is synonymous with a super-successful toy line, and even though it ceased production in 1985, He-Man appeared in a two more animated series and even a feature film starring Dolph Lundgren.

BREAKDOWN:
Calling He-Man and The Masters of the Universe “stupid” is like saying the current economy is “rough.” Stupid is only scratching the surface, and doesn’t begin to describe what a cultural setback this asinine phenomenon was.

heman-eterniaIt’s Christmastime in Epcot- I mean, Eternia

And let me preface this by saying I was one of the biggest He-Man fans on the planet. One of my earliest memories is of throwing a tantrum in a Toys R’ Us over a new Man-At-Arms action figure.

heman-kingdomA king looks out upon his immensely stupid kingdom

I watched every stupid episode of the dumbass cartoon show and never gave a though to its logistics, nor the fact that it was one of the crassest examples of advertising ever devised by some truly shameless and evil men.

heman-2You’re doing it wrong

I used to recall it with some reverence, but once you actually sit down and watch it as a discerning adult, without the rose-tinted nostalgia, you can’t help but get angry over the colorful travesty – it’s pretty clear that PR and marketing were given first, second, and final cut.

MARKETING: What if He-Man fought a character with suction cup hands?
WRITER: Um… he’s a “Master of the Universe” with super strength and powers… isn’t that a little beneath him?
MARKETING: Should be easy to write then. Oh, and how about an enemy who smells bad?! Think about it for next week (or you’re fired).

heman-transformYou had to have seen this before

Every single thread of the He-Man quilt is stitched together with miraculous idiocy. Nothing makes sense, every detail is anachronistic, and in spite of its wild popularity, it seems like no one is even trying.

heman-rideThe height of Eternia Engineering: A flying jet-ski with wheels

The Christmas episode is no exception. The animation is dependent on reusable frames, so there’s very little room for action and it’s built on a backbone of horrendous exposition. The stupidity has already beaten us senseless, so there’s no reason to question why She-Ra, He-Man’s long lost twin sister, is in Eternia with her matching cast of doppelgangers in tow.

heman-lift1I don’t care how gay you are, He-Man is pretty gross

You’ll forgive me if I’m not up on my He-Man canon (can’t believe that wasn’t an accessory) but I forgot that He-Man’s mother was an astronaut from Earth. She explains Christmas to the ensemble of two-dimensional characters.

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No one seems to give a shit, so we cut to Men-At-Arms, a doctor in pastel armor, and Prince Adam, who are set to launch a satellite space probe that’ll provide the good ol’ gang with streaming updates on Skeletor’s evil plans.

heman-scienceMusclebound men perform serious science

Orko, Eternia’s leading provider of comic relief, foolishly activates the vessel and is transported to present-day Earth.

heman-orkoOh, Orko! Your uselessness creates plots out of thin air!

My hat goes off to Men-At-Arms for creating such an impressive feat of technology, but if Sputnik had accidentally beamed itself to another dimension, I’m pretty sure that would’ve been considered a colossal failure of million-dollar proportions, and a likely end to the space program.

heman-kidsTechnically doesn’t count as kid-touching

On Earth, our magical misfit encounters two children lost in a blizzard after, apparently, hiking on foot to the Himalayas to find a Christmas tree. Orko provides them with shelter, and they teach him all about the Christmas holiday.

heman-siblingsCreepy!

Meanwhile, back in Eternia, the gang is figuring out how to bring Orko and the Sky Spy back. Men-At-Arms concludes that his machine is powered by a magic crystal that, o.k., might not even exist, and it’s up to She-Ra to do him a solid and go find it.

heman-mermaidEternia has its own Aquaman

Now it’s Mermista’s time to shine! All-but-useless on land, only she can retrieve the crystal from its underwater hiding place, provided She-Ra can distract a surface-dwelling, beastly monster, hastily titled “The Beast Monster.”

heman-beastShe-Ra battles The Beast Monster on her trusty steed, Horse Creature

The crystal is found, but for reasons unclear the act unearths a race of evil transforming robots *cough* known as the “Monstroids.”

heman-mosteroids“Transformers?  Never heard of ’em!”

The crystal works, and Orko and the Earth children are beamed back to Eternia.

heman-upskirtPlease enjoy some upskirt action

But the presence of the kids and their innate Christmas cheer creates a disturbance in the balance of good-to-evil. Horde Prime orders Skeletor and Hordak to eliminate any presence of Christmas, as it irks him ever so.

heman-hordak“Tonight, on Larry King Live…”

The children are kidnapped by Hordak, only to be re-kidnapped by the Monstroids. Wait a minute… are they… I think they are?!

heman-hordack2Monstroids?! Exit, stage left

The audience is informed that the Monstroids are in constant battle with the insipidly saccharine race known as the Manchines…

heman-manchines1Retail heroes

…tiny neon Precious Moments endowed with household abilities.  They’re seemingly unfit for battling giant robots…

heman-manchines2Note: You’re still watching He-Man

…but perfect for a new toyline!  YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES.

heman-manchines3THE BALLS?

Now, many a Christmas special has served as a pilot for a new franchise, but He-Man was already a shameless vessel for new toys. So while this hour-long special was already showcasing action figures for two shows, they brazenly saw fit to try and introduce an entirely new line of nonsense blatantly ripped-off of Transformers and The Care Bears.

heman-rope-swordAlso stupid: She-Ra’s rope sword

Skeletor is good example of the “writing” process of the show. Originally, he was a clear-cut arch nemesis to He-Man – the embodiment of pure evil, to be feared by all. But he eventually proved to be likable, even comical.

heman-badsThey may as well break out in song

There was an internal mandate not to portray Skeletor as “too evil,” and that usually provided the “writers” with the perfect excuse to parade around a new action figure in every episode.

heman-skeletor1Even the animation is undignified

So when the kids are re-re-kidnapped (are you following this?) by Skeletor, his bizarre transformation is almost acceptable, given how much he was marginalized. Although, I’m probably not the most credible judge right now, what with the sheer number of lame “Christmas Spirit” plot devices I’ve had to endure of late.

heman-skeletor2Fashion magic from the ram spear!

He provides the kids with coats and is and is eventually brought back to life by a puppy’s kiss. Seriously…

heman-puppyAddicted to lick

So Skeletor’s heart grew two sizes that day…

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And Hordack, Skeletor, He-Man, She-Ra and Horde Prime finally clash in a colossal explosion of stock animation. Robots are thrown. Some lasers happen. Who gives a shit…

heman-swingA rare, punchless fight

Most notably, Skeletor saves the children – and thus the day – by lasering a skill-crane claw, even though Horde Prime describes it as “Ow, my engine!” and crashes anyway.

heman-doneSigh…

Back at the castle, the gang engages in obligatory celebration.

heman-elephantEternian tradition dictates that the stupidest character gets to top the tree

He-Ma… I mean, Prince Adam, dons a Santa suit and gives the kids flight belts as presents, and with that they’re beamed back to Earth.

heman-beam

I was originally infuriated by the idea of He-Man having such abundant access to the power of flight, even though he always had to ride around on dick-shaped jet skis… but then I got to thinking about Queen Marlena.

heman-flybelts“That’s nice, now float your ass to bed”

If the kids could be sent back to Earth so easily, why didn’t she return as well? How low would your self-esteem have to be for you to fall in love with an alien before securing a ride back to Earth… I’m just saying, I developed a newfound sense of pity for the woman… Merry Christmas!

jesus-magoo

There are some Christ-like observations on Christmas, but Eternia is basically another dimension, so for all we know Jesus is still alive and rewarding people for their sins.

heman-santa

Santa doesn’t make stops in Eternia, so Prince Adam will have to suffice.

heman-santa-headMan, the animators really went all-out

heman-spirit

Utterly stupid, and a thinly veiled commercial for an entire warehouse full of new and preexisting toys.  I deserve a fucking Pulitzer for devoting as much time to this shit as I have, as I’d gladly take an embedded assignment in Iraq over watching He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special ever again. While I’m never in support of our government butting in on our television shows, at least they were aware of the “Catch ‘em all” brainwashing before I was: the FCC mandated that if 80’s cartoons such as these were going broadcast synergistic drivel over the public airwaves, a certain percentage had to be devoted to something “educational.” Which is why He-Man – and more notably, G. I. Joe – concluded every episode with a moral lesson presented directly to the viewer.

heman-endA Very Mattel Christmas

In this case, Prince Adam and Orko have a brief discussion on cultural holidays and tolerance, then fade out while laughing uproariously at something that wasn’t even remotely funny. So I’m giving it one ball just for that.

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the site!)

I’m of the belief that He-Man and The Masters of the Universe is one of those shows that’s better left to memory. (But what do I know? Millions of people seem to love those idiotic Transformers movies). That said, the DVDs are actually pretty good, featuring great transfers with some substantial bonus features that I vastly prefer to watching the actual show. A Christmas Special is available on a standalone disc and features lots of goodies. You can find the entire series spread out across four volumes, although I highly recommend the Best Of set, since it features the episodes you remember best, as voted by the fans, along with some legitimately insightful supplemental features from the creators.

18renYesterday’s Christmas Special
REN AND STIMPY: SON OF STIMPY

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