I’ll never forget the first time I watched He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I was seven years old. My family had just moved to New Hampshire, and we were living with my aunt. There were a total of 6 kids in that household all under the age of 10. Three of them were toddlers. I expect that the adults desperately needed something for us to do.
My dad and my uncle went to the video store and came back with a two volume VHS set of Masters of the Universe episodes.
I think there were a total of 15 of these released, and each one have like four or five episodes. Talk about milking your fan base. Way to go Mattel and Filmation. But, back in the 80s, five episodes per tape was pretty standard.
Diamond Ray was the pilot episode, but it actually aired third in the broadcast run. It was the first episode on the tape, and I remember it well enough that I can still probably recite most of the dialogue from memory.
I don’t remember my sister’s reaction, but my brother and I sat transfixed, at least for the first 10 minutes. After that, my brother was running around waving an imaginary Sword of Power. I was still sitting transfixed. We rented those He-Man tapes so many times that our parents probably would’ve saved money buying them outright.
Teela was hands down my favorite character, but I wanted to be the Sorceress. I’ve always gravitated toward the mentor characters, especially the ones who have an obvious connection to magic and spirituality. (There’s nothing overtly spiritual going on in He-Man, but the magic of Grayskull has a definite mystical undertone.)
My older cousin liked the Sorceress too, and started calling himself the Sorcerer. He even tricked me into thinking he had real magical powers. That went on for months. Maybe I was a little naïve.
I loved the weird, genre-bending mishmash that made up the planet of Eternia. It was a world where science, magic, and mysticism all co-existed as naturally as different branches of science do here. There was rarely tension or conflict between scientists and magicians. Most often, they worked together to create solutions to episode conflicts. In fine 80s tradition, the world was full of bizarre, brightly colored locations and imaginative monsters.
Filmation gets knocked a lot for its re-use of stock footage. I admit that sometimes it’s annoying. The animation can be awful. Filmation was a small studio trying to save production costs. I think panorama shots like these more than make up for it.
What I loved most about the show was its sense of depth and how, even though He-Man was the protagonist, the supporting characters got plenty of time for development and attention to their own history/storylines. The Royal family of Eternia and its allies had a history and sense of being both “family” and “nobility” that felt genuine.
We can’t have a series of posts about He-Man without acknowledging the cheesy dialogue or over-the-top costumes and villains, I but don’t think those things are any more silly than (for example) a guy who runs around dressed like a bat fighting a killer clown. And cheesy dialogue? It was the 80s. The whole decade was synonymous with cheesy dialogue.
I’ll leave you with that thought, and next time, we’ll take a look at the show’s pop culture influence and my first experience as resident geek in a public school.