Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 25, 2023

When was the last time you went over your favorite childhood television shows, feverishly searching for hidden messages, for any ideas you never quite got a grasp of? If you never have, you should. I know I do, as I continue my fruitless search to find reasons why pop culture screwed me up. Why would I do so, you ask? So I can sue, of course. Then I wouldn't have to go to college, being rich and all.

So anyway, the other night, I was, um, studying, and it hit me: He-Man (the Master of the Universe) was one screwed-up individual, and so were all the other characters in that sword and skin soap opera. Then I passed out, because I was, eh, studying so much.

For those of you unfamiliar with the He-Man universe, I'll give a brief summary: He-Man was a big, giant, mostly naked warrior dude who fought the forces of Skeletor, the bad guy. Skeletor was a skeleton. He-Man had his allies: She-Ra, a woman; Man-at-Arms, a man; Orko, a magician; and Battlecat, a giant cat. He also had a relatively obvious alter ego, Prince Adam. I say "relatively obvious" because the only difference between the two was that Prince Adam usually wore clothes, while He-Man paraded around in this sort of S&M-looking harness and skimpy loincloth. I know, I know, it sounds creepy, but the series was British - what do you expect? When it was time for He-Man to whup a little ass, Prince Adam would pull this big sword out of nowhere and say "By the power of Grayskull," and then his clothes would disappear. No, really. That's how it happened.

I had always assumed, in my childhood naivete, that He-Man was nothing more than a vaguely entertaining, if creatively bankrupt, cartoon show. But what I realized that night was that it was really a thinly veiled treatise on the state of gay male sexuality in the eighties parading as a cartoon show.

Think about it. You have a Prince Adam, a sexually repressed closet homosexual, who never really talks to his father and is surrounded by female characters (except for Man-at-Arms, whom I'll talk about later). His character is a stereotype, the sort of obvious symbol that is hard to miss. Whenever the pent-up frustrations within him become too much to bear, he whips out his enormous "sword" and transforms into a leather-clad Adonis who parades around with his best buddy, Man-at-Arms.

Man-at-Arms is a friend of Prince Adam, and one of the few people to know his "secret." Whenever He-Man "comes out," Man-at-Arms helps him to fight Skeletor. Oh, I forgot to mention something: Man-at-Arms wears a metal suit, with a very distinctive helmet. When I say "very distinctive," what I mean is "silly-looking." When I say "silly-looking," what I mean is "the man looks like a giant penis." Honestly, his hat looks like a mushroom tip, as if He-Man's best friend is a giant phallus. How much more blatant can it get? There's Orko, the little magician that follows Prince Adam around, and always wears a shirt with a giant "O" painted on it. How many "O" words do you know that would fit the situation? Or perhaps I should talk about Battlecat, the giant "pussy"cat, and She-Ra, the half-naked woman, who constantly hang around Prince Adam as well?

All the signs are there, if you stop to look. Prince Adam is a stereotypical closeted gay male, constantly surrounded by the ideas of sex, women, and sex with women, which he finds completely unpalatable. When his frustration with his situation reaches its peak, he puts on a loincloth and harness, and runs off with his best friend, the penis, to conquer Skeletor, the "skeleton" in his "closet." It's there, man, like some Fruedian cartoonist's wet dream. I kid you not.

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