“I am Adam, Prince of Eternia, defender of the secrets of castle Greyskull. Fabulous secret powers were revelled to me, the day I held aloft my magic sword and said….
Wait what? Ok as a kid as Adam would raise his sword and shout “By the power of Greyskull” and transform into He-man my heart would beat. This was the bit in the show I loved, the part I always waited for. It was only later with comments on the internet that I came across the idea of what this introduction could be read as. Secret powers reviled when I held aloft my magic sword. Could this really be a metaphor for the discovery of masturbation? The time when a boy becomes a (He) man.
As I mentioned in a previous post many of my heroes have been sword welders. Robin Hood, Angel, Ducan McLoad, the Highlander. Well let’s face it that whole series revolves around swords. Thundercats was another cartoon where a sword was pivotal. Young Lion O goes from a boy to a man, the leader of the Thundercats and at the same time is entrusted with the sword of Omens. Almost a small dagger until Lion O takes it in his hands and with a cry of Thunder, thunder thunder, thundercats HO it grows longer until finally shooting a symbol of light into the air.
Even in real life the sword has usually been a sign of manhood. Warriors would grow up learning how to weld the weapon until being old enough to go into battle. The sword becomes an extension of oneself, a part of the body.
But there have been women sword welders. He-man himself had his twin sister She-Ra. A female version of the character, to sell the toys to girls as well as boys, to give a role model to girls as well as boys. But the problem with this that while She-Ra, princess of power, was a six foot slim blond goddess she was just as strong as her brother. She worked as a role model showing girls that they could be just as strong as boys but looking back it just feels like they were adding masculinity to the character. That her powers lay in being really strong just like a (He) man. Still it’s worth mentioning that on recently re-watches just how camp He-man was and by comparison She-Ra was much much more. Is there a word for something that is more campier then camp? I don’t want to use the word worse because it implies that this was a bad thing but I think overall it certainly works as a early introduction to LGTB themes. After all the hero does ride around on a flying unicorn that has multi coloured wings.
And if that didn’t then let’s move to the nineties and the almost She-Ra like Xena, warrior Princess. Really all these princesses becoming warriors? A symbolism of girls becoming women? Or that women can be just as powerful as men. Xena not only showed a female warrior out fighting for justice but showed a friendship with her young companion Gabrielle that many interpreted as lesbian. Lucy Lawless herself became a gay icon and it had been said since that the character was gay.
But I’m veering off topic here. Let’s get back to our phallic shaped swords. You know the weapons that are used to penetrate people. Certainly to Freud the symbolism of a sword in a dream was phallic in nature and therefore a sex symbol. Traditional I would say that a toy sword would more likely have been aimed towards boys than girls. It represented a sign of manhood. Spilt blood or spilt seed.
Growing up I played a game called Hero Quest and then moved on to the more advanced Warhammer Quest. In both these games the figures were male. Ok two of them were of different races but still male. Warhammer Quest even had extra character packs you could buy. Imperial Noble, Pit Fighter, Witch Hunter and so forth. In fact nine extra characters bringing the total to thirteen and not one of them a woman. Yes there were a few female characters in the overall Warhammer range that could be brought to represent some of the characters in the game but it still says something that there was no actual female figure included in the game. Is this because it was thought only guys played the game? While I’ve never played D & D I know some women that play and at least that game is set up so you can create any gender character you wish. I do however play D & D Neverwinter where my character is female.
So maybe the sword is still a symbol of power, of coming of age but maybe it is no longer a masculine symbol. Or maybe even though we have these sword welding heroines, She-Ra, Xena, Wonder Woman, there is still something masculine attached. That is that they are seen as sex symbols. Strong Women yeah but women that can be fantasied over by men. Recently She-Ra was redesigned for a new cartoon on Netflix, aimed at a young audience but there was outrage at the change. That the new costume no longer made She-Ra look sexy. In other words they can’t longer masturbate over Maybe the concern should be more on whether the character is going to be any good. That she will be a good role model. And that maybe we can have a female hero that welds a sword without it having to represent some masturbatory fantasy.