She-Ra, Fandom, and Diversity in Media at ECCC

Entertainment Geek Culture Television

Last weekend at Emerald City Comic Con, I managed to chat briefly with Noelle Stevenson on fandom safety, and diversity in animation. Stevenson has worked on the comics Nimona and Lumberjanes, has won Eisner awards for both, and is the current showrunner for DreamWorks’ She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

Sean Z (GeekDad):
One thing near and dear to me is fandom health and safety. Last year, I spent several months researching harassment in fan spaces. And, we saw this kind of explosion of fans threatening fans. Largely over fictional pairings in works of media.

The biggest group that I’ve covered were called anti-shippers, that attack fellow fans in ways that can go from basic cyber-bullying to mailing death threats to other fans. So I wanted to ask, based on your time on Tumblr, for starters, and as your time as a showrunner, have you seen kind of this increase in negative fan behavior?

Noelle Stevenson:
I haven’t been an active member of fandom for a while, as a creator. I have found, when I was a member of fandom, I found a pretty positive culture on Tumblr. I haven’t followed very closely the phenomenon that you’re talking about.

I think that it is the responsibility of fans in communities to make sure that the conversations that they’re having are constructive, in a way that is… it is okay to voice criticism or to even disagree with each other, but to make sure that those conversations are happening in a constructive way.

And to that end, what steps are you and DreamWorks taking to try to make the She-Ra fandom safer and more positive? Is there, for instance, some kind of oversight or management that you guys are doing to kind of monitor harassment in the fandom?

For the most part, I’m trying to just put out positivity on my social media channels, to curate a positive space, and also to make sure that we’re not giving a platform to people whose point of view might be, or whose arguments might be in poor faith.

Seth Fowler (DreamWorks PR):
Beyond monitoring our own social media platforms for safe and respectful speech, we don’t have any overall initiatives to address that.

Thank you. And, since I know we’re pressed for time, I want to switch gears to diversity and representation.

As you mentioned, LGBT rep is intrinsically part of the She-Ra. It’s been heavily featured in the show’s marketing.

One thing I’ve seen from other shows is that a lot of showrunners say, “we thought it would be would be great for queer representation to do this thing.” Or, “it was our vision to help queer people by showing this…” But it’s very rare that you see showrunners actually say, “We spoke to gay fans, we spoke to the gay community, and based on those discussions we decided to do—”

What I would say for us, because so many people creating this show are queer, or are non-binary or trans, it is something that is very close to us because it’s very personal for us. So, it’s not something that is … it’s something that we all believe in very strongly.

And, to that end, are there processes that you believe at DreamWorks that are helping ensure diversity? For example, let’s say you want to depict a person of color, but you don’t have a person of color on your writing staff, is there a sensitivity reader who will be called in? Is there some way to ensure that those depictions that might not be in your writers’ room are positive and respectful?

It’s on us as creators to make sure that we are being as thoughtful and as respectful as we can be. It’s not something that is necessarily mandated by DreamWorks. Each show, each situation within each show, is its own specific thing that needs to be treated individually.

So, it’s something that we have tried to do very carefully and very thoughtfully, to make sure that we are representing the characters. That we are representing them in as thoughtful a way as possible, and making sure that those characters feel like real characters who create positive representation, along with complexity of character and story, and everything else that we try to achieve with this show. It isn’t something necessarily that there’s a mandate for from the company. It is a case-by-case basis.

For your show in particular then, do you actively seek out those additional voices? Or do you believe you already have a lot of diversity, you’ve already mentioned a lot of your writers are queer … that you’re safe enough there?

There’s a diversity consultant that productions work with from time to time if there’s ever an issue that needs to be addressed.

I believe we try to do our best in everything that we do. It’s definitely something that we will make mistakes on. But you know, if we do, we’ll always try and do better the next time. So it’s something that, we can only do the best we can do.

I want to speak to that more at an industry level. As discussed, this is a show that has been marketed as very LGBT friendly. However, you’re working on a licensed property and those have always been a little bit harder to push new content and new boundaries. Do you believe that situation is improving?

I think so, I think every time a show tries something new, creates a new character that isn’t often seen in the media, it makes it a little bit easier for the next show to come along. You know, we can point to other shows and say “you know they managed to do this, lets try and do this”.

It’s something that it’s always going to be something that depends on the situation, depends on who you are talking to. There will be different challenges, there will be different struggles, it’s not something that should be taken lightly. But it’s … I do think that every time a show succeeds in having positive representation, all other media also benefits from that and benefits from an expanded amount of opportunity.

And this is again, more speaking in the general industry. If you wanted to today, if you wanted to depict a same gender relationship with named foreground characters, do you think we’re at that stage yet in children’s animation where you could? Or do you think we still have a ways to go?

I think that remains to be seen, and I think … that’s something that, you should watch the show. You should see the storylines that we pursue in the future.

This is not necessarily for She-Ra, but animation in general.

I think that it’s something that a lot of people are working very hard towards. And I’m very excited to see what steps we make just in the next few years.

As far as She-Ra is concerned we try as hard as we can to further those ends to reflect those sorts of characters as often as we can, and create a world where they are intrinsically central to the storyline. So it’s something, I think that, I’m personally very excited to see going forward. I think that those opportunities, while they might not be necessarily … not necessarily something that just comes totally easily, it’s still a fight worth fighting and it’s still something that a lot of good people really are fighting hard for.

Alright. And as a gay person myself, I really do appreciate that we have showrunners that are fighting for us. That’s the end of my questions, thank you so much for your time.

Awesome, thanks so much.


DreamWorks’ She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is available on Netflix. The second season will be released on April 26th.

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6 thoughts on “She-Ra, Fandom, and Diversity in Media at ECCC

  1. Where was this sensitivity reader for Voltron? I wonder if this an example of them learning from past failures. And on that note, still no statement from Seth Fowler on queer concerns over Voltron!

  2. It’s incredible to me that Noelle apparently doesn’t know what antis are when several staff members of She Ra have been actively joined VLD antis in trashing VLD on twitter. I hope there’s some kind of communication there about why that behavior shouldn’t continue, for the sake of pretty much every fandom going forward.

    And I agree with Saasan. Assuming there wasn’t a sensitivity reader for VLD, hopefully this will be a good change for future properties. I wish there was something that could be done about Voltron but I’ve given up on getting any sort of apology or even an explanation for what on earth happened with that.

    Always nice to have people like Sean ask these types of questions. I read a lot of pop culture reviews that take any representation at face value because they from writers who, however well meaning, might not be able to truly understand the intricacies of whatever they’re talking about, be it LGBT or gender or race issues. Hopefully having a diverse staff will help She Ra in that department. Just wish some of their behavior on twitter reflected Noelle’s desire for positivity.

    1. She knows, she just lied and that is why I refuse to let my family support this show, if they want to watch it they can just not on netflix. A storyboard artis who works on the show is a known militant Lance stan and KLantis who has tweeted, liked, and retweeted hateful things about the Voltton cast and crew until some people decided to tweet Noelle about it and shortly after the storyboard artist’s Twitter was set to private.

  3. Seeing how you did a story about how the Voltron showrunners lied about the LGBT rep are you going to do one about how Noelle lied to you as well. One of the storyboard artists is a militant Lance stan and a KLantis. She would tweet, like, and retweet things about Lauren Montgomery every time something would happen to Lance that she didn’t like and she has called Sheith shippers pedophiles. Shortly after season 1 aired the She-Ra fandom would constantly attack the Voltron fandom, so the voltron members of the voltron fandom tweeted Noelle and DreamWorks what she was doing and shortly after her Twitter account was switched to private. The link I posted has some of the tweets she liked, you can find other links that have more of what she has done but I will not share them because they are on people’s tumblr accounts and the She-Ra fandom can be just as bad as the Voltron fandom

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