It starts with five simple words:


And then it comes. The music builds. Lightning from the sky strikes the man with the upraised sword. Does it hurt him? Just listen to what he says next:


You remember. Electric bolts of pure energy crackle around his muscled body. Hands that can punch through solid steel grip the sword that transformed the bumbling prince into the most powerful man in the universe. You remember the way it felt to grab hold of a plastic sword or a stick or even empty air and say those same words: I have the power.

We all want the power. But the world seems to be short on magic swords these days. Believe me, I've checked. (You think I'd be writing this if I had a magic sword? No way. I'd be out battling shadow beasts and seven-headed monsters, saving nubile red-haired maidens from guys with skulls for faces.)

So what do we do? Well, I suppose you can grow a mustache and build weapons devices and adopt an orphan who grows up to be captain of the guards. But let's face it. Not everyone can grow mustaches. And even if you can, do you really want to? Basically the only people who can have mustaches without looking silly are those who've always had mustaches. (Having a mustache attached to a beard doesn't count, by the way. It's still just a beard. That's a whole other story.) It's something set from the time of adolescence, something you have to choose. Either you're a mustache guy or you're not. Once you've decided, it's locked in. (It works both ways, too. Suddenly you shave off your mustache and bam! You've got a lip coming from nowhere. Scary.)

Okay. You don't have a magic sword, or a mustache, or skill with weapons or space technology in a barbarian sorcery world. You can't be He-Man or Man-At-Arms. I'll assume that, like me, if you can't do any of the above, you also cannot fly, ram into buildings with your head, or transform into a mystical falcon. Is this reason to despair? Will your life be meaningless from now on?

The answer to all of these questions is: NO! You can have the power without the magic sword. No, I don't mean you'll be able to pick up Castle Grayskull and throw it into the air using your bulging muscles. I'm talking about the real power that He-Man wields. His morality.

Fast forward to the end of the show. The battle with Skeletor was fought and won. Old skullface runs off, shaking his hands in the air, vowing eternal revenge. Like we're scared. Next time we'll just beat him again. No matter who he brings along! (By the way, who has a skull instead of a face? How can he even see without eyeballs?) After all that the show should be over, right?

Wrong! Now comes the most important part. The moral.

You've heard the expression, "the moral of the story." No doubt your 11th grade English teacher had you combing all the pages from "Call me Ishmael" to "Finis" so you could explain, in your own words, just what Moby Dick really meant. He-Man would never lead you on such a pointless chase. At the end of every single episode, He-Man (or one of his faithful and heroic friends) tells you plainly and simply what you should know about how to live a good and happy life. That knowledge, my friends, is real power. With it you can master the universe. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Man or Superman

He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe, is mostly found in the body of the lazy prince of Eternia named Adam. (Note: He has no last name. Nobody has last names on Eternia. Apparently there aren’t many people living there.) Only when danger intrudes does he become the bristling, buff, blond bombshell He-Man. Which makes one wonder: who is the real person? He-Man? Or Adam?

On the one hand, He-Man is strong and revered by everyone. (Especially Teila, captain of the guards.) He can lift boulders. Bend steel. Shrugg off freeze rays. Whereas Adam is widely believed to be: a) lazy; b) clumsy; c) a coward; and d) always hungry. Which would you choose?

Adam/He-Man provides an answer in the episode entitled, “Prince Adam No More.” He wants to tell everyone that he is actually He-Man so that all the respect He-Man receives is transferred to him. The Sorceress warns him that to reveal his secret identity would bring great danger to his loved ones. (Let’s examine this old superhero prohibition for a moment. Would Adam’s father and mother be any more at danger from Skeletor than they are already? Skeletor has tried to harm the King and Queen on any number of occasions. They are already enemies! I don’t think it would make any difference.) He tries to be strong as Prince Adam (to impress his father) but fails. Scolded by Man-At-Arms, he transforms into He-Man and saves the day.

To protect his family - needlessly, as I believe, but let that pass for the moment – Adam retains his secret identity and must deal with the reputation of Adam he’s created. Is this just an example of being selfless? I don’t think so. The real lesson is that knowing what kind of person you are is more important than what other people think of you. After all, you’re the only person who will always have to live with you. Even if you wave a sword in the air and have your clothes reduced to a harness and hairy underwear, it’s still just you.

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