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She-Ra's Noelle Stevenson Tells Us How Difficult It Was to Bring Adora and Catra Home

Adora and Catra share a memory in the season one episode “Promise.”
Adora and Catra share a memory in the season one episode “Promise.”
Image: Netflix

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power may be about Adora’s fight against the Horde, but it’s been just as much Catra’s story. The friends-turned-enemies have spent the entire show in a game of cat and mouse, and it was unclear what would happen at the end of the road. Now we know and io9 had the chance to talk to series creator Noelle Stevenson all about it.

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Illustration for article titled iShe-Ras/i Noelle Stevenson Tells Us How Difficult It Was to Bring Adora and Catra Home

Double spoiler warning for the series finale of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

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Seriously.

Illustration for article titled iShe-Ras/i Noelle Stevenson Tells Us How Difficult It Was to Bring Adora and Catra Home

It’s official: “Catradora” is endgame. Adora and Catra confirmed their romantic feelings toward each other in the final episode of Netflix’s She-Ra, “Heart Part 2,” with the two of them sharing a passionate kiss that literally saves the world from Horde Prime and restores magic to Etheria. It’s the culmination of five seasons of growth and change for these two women, with the final season focused on healing the wounds of the past. Adora came to terms with her inner strength, while Catra strived to atone for her mistakes. Eventually, their personal growth brought them together.

“It’s been this secret that I’ve had to keep for years now, as everyone [was] theorizing about what’s going to happen,” Stevenson told io9. “And I’m like, I don’t want to ‘like’ all the fan art [because] I don’t want to tip it too early. But to finally have it be out there and for people to know what it is that we’ve been doing, it’s a big deal. It’s amazing.”

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As part of a larger interview with io9 (more to come this week), Stevenson said the final season was always going to be about Adora and Catra’s reconciliation. However, that didn’t mean they were going to become a couple. Stevenson always personally imagined them together, but she didn’t want to force the relationship on the characters if it wasn’t right for them. As time went on, it was clear that Adora and Catra were destined to end up together. That’s when the hard work began.

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“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,” she said. “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.”

Stevenson said she worked to plant seeds over the course of several seasons, weaving different threads that intertwined Adora and Catra’s storylines to the point where it couldn’t be anything else but romantic love. Once everything was in place and the crew had been informed, Stevenson told the executives her plan to end the series with Catra and Adora confirming their mutual feelings.

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The “Princess Prom” episode was one of the early signs of Adora and Catra’s relationship.
The “Princess Prom” episode was one of the early signs of Adora and Catra’s relationship.
Image: Netflix

It wasn’t easy for Stevenson. She was afraid the studio wouldn’t let her portray a same-sex relationship between the lead protagonists of a children’s animated show. After all, She-Ra is a beloved character with a dedicated fanbase, and some “fans” have been vocal in the past over the type of hero and woman they think she should be. “It’s very vulnerable—especially as a gay creator—to be like, ‘Here’s what I want to do. I want to take She-Ra Princess of Power, a classic iconic character, a legacy character, and give her a female love interest. And a romantic ending,’” Stevenson said.

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It’s been a long road getting to where we are now. Until recently, queer couples in television and film were either hinted at or barely part of the story (this was even an early criticism of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power when it came to Netossa and Spinnerella). It meant that fans have had to pick up the pieces, creating non-canonical queer ships for characters they’d like to see together.

Stevenson said shipping has been a great tool for fans—especially queer fans looking for the representation they’ve been missing. But she doesn’t want shows and films to think the occasional glance between characters is enough, forcing fans to do the legwork while they sit back and avoid the One Million Moms emails. Nor does she want folks to dismiss Catra and Adora’s relationship as an attempt to placate shippers, because that does the show a disservice.

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Stevenson gave us a long answer when asked about “shipping,” and we’ve decided to feature her full response here because it’s fantastic.

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“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. And the way that it always seems to come down, the way it’s covered, that it is a shipping thing? Or it is something that, you know, bored kids on the internet do that’s not real—or it doesn’t have real merit and real value and real storytelling and meaning,” she told io9. “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. I love the fandom that is passionate about these things. But for me, I was like, why can’t it be a relationship that is central to the plot, a romance 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.”

She continued, “The show’s not a romance show. It is about a lot of things. It’s about choice, destiny, fighting, tyrants, you know, all of these other things. I grew up with so many stories—like sci-fi and fantasy—that I was so passionate about. And it would be considered no big deal to have the hero get the girl and to have a kiss at the end, without it suddenly becoming a romance or ‘Oh, the shippers got what they wanted.’ It was just a part of the story. And to actually see it be a central part of the plot and to fulfill the arcs of the characters in a way that felt satisfying. I really want to take it beyond ‘Oh, the shippers got what they want.’ Like, it’s not just a ship for me. It is a plot point. It is the necessary conclusion of each character’s arc, separate and together.”

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Adora and Catra kiss in the series finale of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Adora and Catra kiss in the series finale of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Image: Netflix

More shows and films are embracing queer characters and relationships, especially in animation. There was the moment The Legend of Korra ended with Korra and Asami, hand in hand, walking away together toward their new life. Then, of course, there’s Steven Universe, which has paved the way in LGBTQ representation onscreen—including its beautiful wedding between Ruby and Sapphire. And now, we’ve taken another step forward. This is one of the first stories of its kind where the lead protagonist falls in love and shares an onscreen kiss with her same-sex partner. A relationship that doesn’t stop with a glance and a visit to AO3.

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But there’s still more to be done. Stevenson said she wants to see where else we can go, building on the foundation of shows like Steven Universe and She-Ra to see how else queer representation can be improved in media.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how that conversation evolves, and what it looks like in the next show and the next movie and the next story and the one after that,” she said. “What can we ask for? What can we look for and what can we imagine for ourselves and for others that are represented on our screens and in our stories? And I’m excited for what that conversation will be.”

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All five seasons of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are currently available to watch on Netflix.

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For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

So, anyone else a little bothered by how quickly this season smoothed over Catra’s obviously toxic behavior towards Adora? For most of this series Catra went about hurting Adora and other people because the person she wanted to be with took her life in a different direction and in the process made new friends. Catra risks her life to save Glimmer for the purpose of saving Adora and says apologizes, and now they’re all friends, and a short time later Adora and Catra are a couple?

As a counterpoint look at Harley and Poison Ivy in the Harley Quinn show. I haven’t watched all of the show yet, but from what I’ve seen the two have had a relatively healthy relationship. Catra seems less like a Poison Ivy and more like a Joker in this series. Maybe I’ve missed something, maybe on a rewatch Catra won’t seem so toxic in the earlier seasons. But I can’t help but feel the show didn’t earn Catra’s redemption here.