Adora and Her “Friend” – Cameron Mumford

While reading through Cavell’s work I noticed that some of his early definitions such as: “the central drive of the plot is not to get the central pair together, but to get them back together”[1]; and “the achievement of human happiness requires not the perennial and fuller satisfaction of our needs as they stand but the examination and transformation of those needs.”[2] applied very well to Adora and Catra in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Noelle Stevenson, 2018-2020, US) and in the process, gave his definitions a queer twist.

Granted Adora and Catra are not married or even in a romantic relationship at the start of the show, however, the thrust of the plot is still “to get them back together”. We can see the same structure: they start off together; they separate, and then they realise they are meant to be together and re-form the relationship but in a stronger and truer form. The only difference here, outside of the lack of actual marriage, is that from a queer perspective the reunion stage is more of a transitional stage. With a straight relationship, there is an unspoken acknowledgment of romantic attraction from the outset, so the reunion is more about moving from a weak relationship to a strong relationship. However, with a queer relationship the existence of romantic attraction is not an assumption, due to heteronormativity, so part of the journey “to get them back together” is to find the queerness inside themselves, thus, the necessity for them to start out as friends.

This discovery of queerness brings me onto the second Cavell quote. When Cavell says this, he is talking about You Can’t Take It With You (Frank Capra, 1938, US) and the realisation that what we think we want (his house) is not what we need (to be with his granddaughter). However, Cavell is thinking from the perspective of material versus emotional. This makes sense since he is talking about primarily depression era films, but I think his definition can be expanded. The key part of his statement is “the examination and transformation of those needs.” Adora and Catra need to examine their assumed needs of friendship, which they do throughout the show’s five seasons. Then in the last episode, and the clip attached, they realise their true needs and are transformed with a kiss.

 

 

[1] Stanley Cavell, “Introduction: Words for a Conversation” Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1981), 1-42 , p. 2.

[2] Cavell, “Introduction: Words for a Conversation”, p. 6.

 

Bibliography:

Cavell, Stanley. “Introduction: Words for a Conversation” Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1981), 1-42.

Filmography:

Heart Part 2. Netflix. Directed by Christina Manrique and Roy Burdine. 2020. Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHJBF3fPCOI

2 comments

  1. Really cool read and such a great perspective on the placement of queer relationships in the discussion of marriage! I think you brought up a great point about trepidation in externalising queer relationships, or acting them out, which as you say is developed by the emotional rather than the material. Queerness in this instance is about a crystallization of a bond or union rather than in ‘The Lady Eve’ which focuses on the aspect of a solidification of wealth or material stability. Also the idea of a divorce or separation from each other to proceed with this revival of a stronger relationship is a strong point! And you best believe that this show is getting binged.

  2. Loved this commentary on the self discovery required in order to be in a queer relationship compared to that of heteronormative ones! You show how queer relationships are represented in genuinely a deeper way through your explanation of Cavell’s quote in which he separates the material needs v. emotional needs in terms of a heteronormative relationship. In the queer relationship between Adora and Catra, however, we see how their emotional needs are essentially versing even deeper emotional needs, friends to lovers.

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