“Star vs The Forces of Evil” returns to Disney XD July 11th, to the excitement of child and adult fans alike. Last year this show made huge waves for its cheerful humour and bombastic energy, but there’s a possibility that it may have passed you by. Wondering what to make of this weird and wild cartoon? Let’s take a look.
Created by Daron Nefcy, “Star” is the second animated Disney show with a female creator. It follows the titular character, Star Butterfly, the fourteen year-old princess of a magic kingdom sent to Earth in order to learn how to use the royal magical wand. The wand grants the princess near unlimited power, but unfortunately, it’s not easily controllable— and neither is Star, for that matter. Although initially unenthused, Star is quickly charmed by her new home, as well as her new friend Marco Diaz. Star and Marco must work together to navigate high school and protect the wand from an army of evil monsters intent on stealing it and using its magic for themselves.
The show is primarily episodic, following one of two major themes: Marco desperately trying to keep Star’s weirdness in check on Earth, or Star dragging Marco into magical, dimension-hopping adventures. While individual episodes can be hit-or-miss, they rarely feel repetitive. Interesting settings, vibrant character designs, and energetic comedy makes sure “Star” is never dull. Furthermore, there are longer, over-arching plots lurking beyond the ‘problem of the week’ episodes— story lines such Star’s clingy ex-boyfriend, the ominous St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, and the monsters’ true motivations for desiring the wand.
The core of this show comes down to the characters and their interactions, especially the dynamic between Star and Marco. Star is honestly a huge breath— or blast— of fresh air. Oozing personality, she’s all frantic energy and good-will, tackling life face-first then putting it in a headlock. Marco meanwhile serves as a wonderful counterpoint. Far more cautious and reserved, he often works as the ‘straight man’ to Star, bringing instead dry sarcasm to the show. The two characters work great together and share a genuinely comfortable rapport. The writer’s have captured a pretty realistic friendship— they bicker good-naturedly, and even if they don’t always understand each other, support each other when it counts.
The supporting cast are pretty enjoyable as well, though they definitely tend towards the silly side. There’s Miss Skullnick, the math teacher turned troll; the rebellious flying unicorn head, Princess Ponyhead; even the army of monstrous minions are given motivations and personality quirks. I’m particularly fond of Marco’s parents— a perpetually cheerful pair who are totally accepting of magic while utterly oblivious of the danger surrounding them.
This new generation of creators and animations grew up during the 90s, happily watching anime alongside their American Saturday Morning cartoons, and these influences are very prevalent in recent cartoons. “Star” is no exception. Heavily inspired by the magical girl genre (“Sailor Moon” especially), “Star” treads the line between loving recreation and parody. Not only does it embrace some of the superficial design elements of the genre, it also uses a lot of the same themes— the balance between the magical and the mundane, the development of self-confidence, and the acceptance of responsibility.
What are the show’s weaknesses? Well, occasionally the individual episodes’ plots can be cliched, falling into some pretty stock cartoon tropes. The clash between Star’s strict nagging mother and her bombastic, messy father has been done into the ground. While they do put some twists on it, the ongoing story thread about Marco’s crush on the popular girl is pretty generic. Overall, the show falls into some pretty heteronormative standards— no queer characters, lots of Star crushing on boys, not to mention the potential for an eventual romance between her and Marco, which could either turn out to be genuinely engaging or hopelessly predictable, depending on how it plays out.
When it’s not falling into routine patterns, the show does produce some very insightful commentary on gender roles. Star is a wonderfully vibrant female main character, allowed to be wild and silly, but also dangerous and competent. Marco sometimes fears that he’s overshadowed by her, but it never comes down to insecurity about a girl being better than him; they’re just the genuine concerns of an ordinary person drawn into a world where he’s in way over his head. The show has thoroughly lambasted the idea of the ‘Nice Guy’- the attitude some men have that superficial niceness entitles them to a woman’s affection and romantic interest. St Olga’s functions as an extended metaphor for the forced socialization of women, while at the same time not demonizing femininity, and even showing the value that can be found in it. The show has also tackled the issues of prejudice, racism, and colonization in a way that’s very approachable for a younger audience.
If you have a fondness for the magical girl genre, or if you’re just looking for a creative action comedy, with bright animation and loveable characters, then you’ll probably enjoy “Star vs The Forces of Evil”.
Author: Laura B
Lover of fantasy and science fiction, fascinated in how they impact the real world. Professional writer and science communicator.
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