The Fate of Voltron Legendary Defender’s Space Prince and What It Means For Heroines in Coming of Age Stories
“Poor Allura! All the power in the universe at your fingertips and still you fear using it!” – Emperor Lotor, Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 6.
“I will not fear using my power!” – Princess Allura, Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 8.
The recent culmination of Voltron: Legendary Defender (VLD) has left many fans of the series confused, upset, lukewarm, and even outraged. The most generous Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings indicate less than 20% of audience members rated the final season 3 stars or above (Rotten Tomatoes 1). Although the season contained many problems with plot structure, unresolved plot threads, character arcs, representation, and thematic material, this essay will focus on the problems specific to Princess Allura’s Heroine’s Journey, her romantic arc with the Emperor Who Pierced the Veil, and what the death and desecration of her Dark Youth and Animus counterpart could mean for children’s storytelling. To do this, we need a basis for literary discussion.
What is a Coming of Age Story?
A coming of age story is a story in which characters who are either literally teenagers or figuratively children (i.e. characterized as being trapped in adolescence due to various circumstances) learn how to stand on their own as adults (Payette 7). The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Stand By Me fall under different subgenres, but they are all coming of age stories because they revolve around literal or figurative children moving from psychological immaturity to maturity. Many fairy tales and myths also fall under the coming of age umbrella.
VLD is a coming of age story because it revolves around its protagonists moving from immature youth into mature adulthood.
What is a Dark Youth?
A Dark Youth (DY) is a character who is usually a teenager but can be a child or adult mentally trapped in childhood. Whereas the Light Youth (LY) is almost always the hero(ine) and protagonist of the story, the DY is a character who represents the LY’s Shadow archetype. In Jungian psychology, the Shadow is the side of a person that is hidden, repressed, and projected onto others. For a hero or heroine, the DY often represents what he or she could have become given the right (or wrong, as it were) circumstances. In a Heroine’s Journey, a male DY additionally represents her Animus and sexual temptation.
However, sometimes DYs are the protagonists of the story. For instance, Shadow the Hedgehog, although he begins as an antagonist turned antihero in Sonic Adventure 2, becomes the protagonist of his own titular video game. The Dark Youth usually begins as an anti-villain, tragic villain, or morally grey character (FrolickingFizzgig), but almost always develops into an antihero if not outright hero(ine). The primary function of a DY is to demonstrate to children that no matter how far one has fallen it is never too late to change the course of one’s actions. They have a redemption arc or at least a change of heart, and this is directly influenced by the compassion of their Light Youth counterpart. In romantic (and sometimes sibling or platonic based) Light Youth/Dark Youth narratives, the LY protagonist must break the spell placed upon the Dark Youth by the evil witch or sorcerer figure and set him or her free (FrolickingFizzgig).
Sound familiar? It should, and not just because of Lotor and Honerva. The White Witch tempts Edmund Pevensie of the Narnia series away from his siblings and into her castle using “Turkish Delight”. Ben Solo is mentally trapped by the evil space sorcerer Snoke and it is Rey who must infiltrate the space fortress. Katniss must infiltrate the Capitol to retrieve a brainwashed Peeta from President Snow. In other words, you’ve seen this story before, probably countless times.
Words associated with the Dark Youth are: lost, lonely, misguided, angry, isolated, cynical, dry, mistrustful. They represent the turbulent side of puberty.
Classic examples include Bearskin of the same titled fairy tale, the Beast of Beauty and the Beast and the OG Dark Youth, the prodigal son of the Biblical parable.
Modern examples of DYs include Shadow the Hedgehog, Edmund Pevensie, Inuyasha, Selina Kyle/Catwoman (specifically the Nolanverse iteration) Tommy Oliver, Prince Zuko, Ben Solo, and Qi’Ra (a subversion of the character type because her redemption occurs when she actively chooses to stay in darkness with a worse sorcerer figure than before so that her LY counterpart, Han Solo, can escape). Prince Lotor is also a classic DY complete with a wicked witch of a mother Allura was intended to save him from.
What Is A Heroine’s Journey?
A Heroine’s Journey is the journey a female hero undergoes. A Heroine’s Journey is NOT analogous to a Hero’s Journey, but unfortunately many casual viewers and even some modern writers mistakenly believe the insertion of a heroine into the stages of a Hero’s Journey constitutes a Heroine’s Journey. It does NOT, which is why doing this does not ultimately resonate with the audience. Rather, a Heroine’s Journey involves its own distinct sequence of stages different from the Hero’s Journey. Even a cursory glance at the stages as a whole indicate Allura’s arc follows (until Season 8, that is) a very conventional Heroine’s Journey (Miyamoto 1).
its heart, a Heroine’s Journey is about a young woman learning to
balance the masculine and feminine qualities within herself. In Jungian
psychology, this is known as the Anima and Animus. The Anima is the
unconscious feminine aspect of a man while the Animus is the unconscious
masculine aspect of a woman. The more mature she becomes, the more
mature her conceptualization of her masculine side becomes. Although not
all heroine’s journeys involve a romantic partner, in Beauty and the
Beast (romantic Light Youth/Dark Youth) narratives, the Dark Youth or
Beast character appears as the masculine and sexual part of the heroine
that has not yet been awakened because she is still a child. The
heroine’s challenge, transformation, and integration of the Dark Youth
into herself constitutes the awakening of her sexuality and feminine
power and her own balance of the Anima and Animus within her, and her
ascent into holistic womanhood.
Well intentioned but misguided individuals with valid social concerns often mistake the “bad boy” aspect of a Heroine’s Journey for a woman’s fantasy of trying to tame the Bad Man of real life and promoting toxic relationships, when this comparison is simply not valid. The Dark Youth of a Beauty and the Beast narrative is more than just a “bad boy” other. He represents the dark side of the young woman herself and therefore MUST be integrated, as symbolized by marriage or union, in order for her to come of age. These Jungian and Freudian influences on children’s coming of age stories are especially evident in Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast, where Belle gets hints about the Beast’s past by literally traveling upstairs (symbolically into her own mind) to a forbidden wing (repressed unconscious desires) to discover clues that beauty exists within that which seems frightening and monstrous, her fear of which is keeping her trapped in childhood. In other words, Lotor is not just Allura’s love interest and he is also much more than her physical other half. Lotor is Allura, or at least a symbolic aspect of her own mind, hence the “dark entity” showing up as Lotor’s tempting apparition in Season 8.
In this section I will briefly recap what I covered in depth in my essay “Rise of the Emperor Absolute” and on the Six Degrees of Kylo Ren episode “Reylo and Lotura”, further expand upon a few points, and relate these points to the outcome of Season 8.
Lotor and Allura’s romantic pairing is foreshadowed by the following:
Imagery of baby Allura being gifted then wearing a traditional Galran helmet that looks strikingly similar to the Viking-esque helmet worn by Lotor in Voltron: Defender of the Universe, as a gift specifically from Lotor’s parents.
Pidge’s line to Hunk suggests they will be married with children one day.
Pidge’s “throwaway” line about Galran and Altean subroutines and axiom inhibitors being one for one while fitting two connectors together is part sexual innuendo, part anima/animus commentary.
Lotor himself is insistent they are “meant” to be together.
B. Romantic Pairing Attributes
In both pieces I discussed the striking differences emphasized between heterosexual pairings in most romantic narratives, but particularly female centered ones, which indicate to an audience a pair is, as Lotor says, “meant” to be together.
During our podcast, I briefly mentioned that the only type of story in which sexual dimorphism is not emphasized for romantic arcs are “Seth Rogen type” movies, but our conversation did not veer further this direction. Allow me a moment to further discuss. Several of actor/writer/director Seth Rogen’s movies are geared toward a male audience and focus on a heterosexual male driven sexual fantasy specifically revolving around an average looking, bumbling male obtaining a female who is both physically and personality-wise more competent than him. For instance, in Knocked Up, the plot revolves around an average looking, goofball protagonist who accidentally impregnates a woman much more attractive and competent – both mentally and career-wise – than him. At one point in the story, (in what constitutes male driven fantasy at its finest) the female love interest even helps him get his porn site, a compilation of actresses’ nude shots from films (the protagonist’s dream career goal) off the ground. This type of narrative is also often used in American sitcoms such as King of Queens, and is satirized in Family Guy through the marital relationship between Peter and Lois Griffin.
Whereas female driven romantic arcs, especially Heroine’s Journeys, revolve around a woman finding and uniting with her physical, intellectual, and spiritual equal (her Animus), male driven romantic arcs often (unfortunately) revolve around men obtaining women as prizes.
Entire essays have been written on this subject in and of itself, but for the purposes of this discussion, let us leave it at this: In literature, one stage of the Hero’s Journey involves Seizing the Reward, which is often a weapon or elixir, but can also be a woman. In film, male fantasies up until the 1940s typically involved powerful, intelligent, sexy women paired with powerful, intelligent, sexy men, but in the 1950s suddenly male fantasy in literature and film fell into a Dark Age of sorts in that vapid busty bimbos paired with intelligent men became the norm. This eventually reversed with long-suffering intelligent beauties paired with unattractive, incompetent if not outright stupid males. The trend for beautiful bimbos paired with competent men developed alongside the push for women to move out of the war effort and back into the home at the end of WWII, and is likely at least partially a result of a patriarchal effort to reinstitute itself after women joined the workforce and war effort alongside men.
Lance, story gods love him, is consistently portrayed as being intellectually unequal to Allura, even outright labeled “the dumb one” by other characters in later seasons. To his credit, he did seem to finally hit a growth spurt during the kissing scenes of Season 8, but otherwise he is never cued to the audience as the mental, physical, or spiritual “match” to Allura, even with her male guardian and father’s patriarchal approval. In Pidge’s word, “Weird.” In essence, Voltron shifted from a female centric romantic arc to male centric wish fulfillment in which its heroine and central protagonist lost her Animus and became a prize to be won in her own story. This is both confounding and unprecedented in a narrative arc that presents itself primarily as a Heroine’s Journey.
What’s more confounding, the story itself seems to acknowledge (albeit in a meta way) that Lance is not Allura’s “true match”. Allura tells Lance he has no idea what it is like to search for her people for thousands of years only to have them reject her. Lance himself acknowledges that this is true, while the narrative establishes per Season 6, which we are reminded of earlier in Season 8, there is a character who can relate on this account. Lotor spent thousands of years searching for his Altean heritage and reestablishing the found Alteans into colonies who revered him as a godlike figure. In spite (or perhaps because) of this, the one Altean he grows close to emotionally is Allura, who rejects him in the most stupendous manner possible, accusing him of being exactly like the abusive father he has worked since his exile to distance himself from.
in what is either complete tone deafness or the most egregious case of
breaking the fourth wall since Snoke’s “Skywalker I presumed – wrongly”
in The Last Jedi, Lance, who in seasons prior imagined himself as a
classically “heroic” figure with Allura clinging to his leg,
tells Allura early on in their dating relationship “winning prizes is kinda my specialty”,
referring to winning her a prize at a carnival but subtextually
referring to how he relates to her. And as a reminder, this is the same
character who in a prior season fantasized about Allura clinging to his
leg as she admires him. Curiously, in this same episode, while Lance is
away “winning prizes” Allura is visited by a “dark entity” that has been
captured aboard the ship and first appears above her bed in a dominant
position drawn to appeal to the female gaze as none other than… you
guessed it: Lotor.
her first reaction is to attack him, his response is that he thought
she would be happy to see him. He then spends his time tempting her into
allowing the dark entity inside her, even whispering into her ear, with
his sharp, dangerous looking Galra teeth on full display.
he insists that she already has all she needs. Literally he is
referring to the dark entity, but this is an incredibly on the nose
reference to Jungian psychology and the concept that everything the
heroine needs is already within her own psyche. The Last Jedi, which
director Rian Johnson directly stated was influenced by Jung, has Yoda
make a similar statement about its heroine Rey. The entity also appears
briefly as Lance and then as Allura’s dead mother Melinor before
ultimately switching back to Lotor, who says “Follow me!” and leads her
into a state of unconsciousness, the dream world or underworld.
This type of imagery is commonplace in Heroine’s Journeys, beginning with resident OG heroine, Persephone,
and in modern Heroine’s Journeys such as Labyrinth (in which the Goblin King’s realm is literally called The Underground)
and The Force Awakens (See my first meta on this topic, Female Sexuality Awakens).
But the heroine doesn’t just go on some arbitrary descent into the underworld so she can symbolically bonk her evil ex-boyfriend while her new beau is off winning prizes. She descends to the underworld to face her Shadow, her dark side, that which she represses and hides about herself and projects onto others.
Like Rey descends into the Dark Side Cave on Ahch-To and finds the truth she has been repressing about her parents, this is where Allura should logically descend into her own mind with Lotor and see the symbolic scene of the destruction of Altea, a destruction that is designed to mirror the siphoning of quintessence from Alteans, ending with her mother telling her she is proud of her. But WHY would Allura’s mother say that only Allura can save them and then be PROUD of Allura for symbolically undertaking what is presumed to be Lotor’s heinous crime of mass murder? And further, given he is only ever exonerated with the cheap, last minute line that he “meant to preserve life” even if he was “misguided”, why are we essentially told we should forgive him through Allura’s honoring of him and then his afterlife family reunion?
We shouldn’t. At least not in the iteration we were given. But if we use the Heroine’s Journey as a guide, that cannot have been the original narrative. The context of the scene is that Allura is confronting the Animus as her Shadow, hence how dangerous and sexual he is made to look.
there, she is put into the position of doing something she does not
want to but in order to save her people she must, and further her own
mother approves of this sacrifice.
she does it while piloting one of the mechs Honerva has been using
Altean colonists to simultaneously power and pilot. From this, we can
draw the conclusion that this is likely what Lotor was doing with the
second colony. He was developing a military defense force to protect the
New Alteans. This also gives better context to the narrative purpose of
Episode 2 depicting Lotor’s egalitarian leadership on his first colony
and his devastated reaction to his father destroying the planet.
It makes no narrative sense to characterize him this way unless we are meant to apply what we have learned later in the story, but this application never happens in the product we got. The sensical conclusion is that in the original narrative, after his exile Lotor’s “master plan” became the prevention of anything like this from happening again via a) restoring a thriving Altean civilization, b) overthrowing Zarkon and claiming the Galra throne, and c) reuniting the two civilizations and taking out anyone who threatened the peace, hence the need for mech pilots. This is something that Allura, as well as the audience, should have directly learned, and where our heroine should have been forced to realize that given the same circumstances she would have done the same, and as it turns out she is not so different from the Dark Youth, her Shadow and Animus, after all.
C. Artful Misdirection in Storytelling
In this section, I detailed major conflicts that were left unresolved in Episode 6. Here is how they have been either resolved or left unresolved in the remaining seasons.
Lotor and Allura’s unresolved feelings for each other: Unresolved. He shows up as a tempting “dark entity” and although we witness his Sincline mech pause on battling when it sees Allura, Allura reacting with dread when she sees Lotor’s Sincline and thinks he is alive, zero reaction from anyone over seeing tHe CoRpSe in Honerva’s mind, and then Lotor with his family in the afterlife, we don’t actually witness Allura’s process for making peace with the unresolved feelings between she and Lotor.
Lance’s unrequited feelings for Allura: Allura comes to develop feelings for Lance, even stating she loves him. This, however, feels forced because of how quickly she goes from disinterested in him to “loving” him after the loss of Lotor.
The Altean Colony: Not satisfyingly resolved. Allura states Lotor was misguided but his goal was to preserve life. The story never addresses why Alteans had to be specifically used and “he had good intentions” is not a satisfying enough exoneration for a family reunion in what is essentially the afterlife.
Would it make sense for Allura to end up with Lance if she does not return his feelings and still pines for Lotor? I guess it does if the story gods don’t allow her even a grieving process and instead have her “just move on”.
Would it make sense for Lotor to remain power hungry or Allura to remain convinced he is a monster? Neither of them are depicted as such, but then again they aren’t depicted reacting to each other that much in general.
Ah… my favorite. Would it make sense for Lotor to remain dead? Not with the dramatic tension pointing toward his return, not in a Dark Youth story, not in a Heroine’s Journey in which he is her Animus, not when there’s foreshadowing toward a rebirth with repeated references to and visualizations of Allura as a life giver (the trees, anyone?) and Keith not giving up on “he thinks there is still good in you” Shiro and then the transfer of his soul to the clone, not when for some reason there’s footage of Sincline choosing not to take out the paladin when it sees it’s Allura. No, it wouldn’t. But now we all get to graphically remember for the rest of our lives how that panned out.
D. Theme and Messaging
I stated that it would be highly irregular for an abused and neglected Dark Youth in a children’s coming of age story to die, especially unredeemed. I stand firmly by this, and further assert that the desecrated corpse imagery revealing a mother has been psychically controlling her textually abused son’s dead body to control his Sincline ship is disturbing and wholly inappropriate in theme for the genre and target age group of a Y-7 rated US produced cartoon, and it is especially inappropriate after depicting a character as a lonely but compassionate child from a drug addicted and abusive household whose circumstances many children can relate to.
I stated that although cautionary tales are common to the genre, writers must be conscientious of signalling to girls that they cannot trust their own instincts and that they must wait around for the “nice guy” who was always there. Not only does S8 do just this, it is sexist in a manner that is so over the top it cannot be construed as anything but purposeful. In the context of the series, Lance’s attitude and behavior is set up for both a reversal within the character himself and to be subverted when Allura chooses her own partner rather than stay Lance’s prize. Further, Alfor and Lance’s distaste for Allura having taken the “dark entity” (Lotor) inside her comes off as symbolic slut shaming. Coran, her male guardian, puts Lance through a traditionally patriarchal interview for dating Allura and then Alfor gives his patriarchal seal of approval to the match. In the context of subverting these occurrences by having Allura’s choice to storm the palace and do battle with the toxic witch for the soul of her son, they serve as an empowering narrative for our heroine in which she – and the audience – learn she can trust her own instincts and, as Allura states in a direct callback to Lotor’s admonition in Season 6 that makes little narrative sense outside of having accepted the Dark Youth as part of herself, Allura will no longer be afraid to use her power. However, without the context of the heroine’s choice to save her Animus, the line feels out of place and hollow. Because she does not choose to save her Animus, rather than subverting a sexist narrative, a glaringly sexist, disempowering narrative is pushed.
E. Conflict and Dramatic Tension
In this section I discussed why internal conflict always leaves the audience more emotionally satisfied than mere external conflict. It felt as though a lot of the internal conflict was stripped from the story. We have build up toward a Lotor and Allura confrontation, a couple scattered reactions to seeing the Sincline and the entity but nothing once Allura has seen tHe CoRpSe in Hoverva’s memory. There wasn’t even internal conflict over whether or not she should date Lance so soon and she was unequivocally determined to put a stop to Honerva’s madness. In essence, there was very little internal conflict driving the plot forward, which added to the story’s hollow feeling.
I summarized a three act narrative structure that would make sense given the elements that were set up. The Heroine’s Journey and the reorganized and fleshed out story presented by @leakinghate fit that structural narrative precisely. The product we ended up with is jerky, nonsensical in areas, does not answer questions raised by the plot, and fizzles out with an anticlimax that does not culminate in a true “turning point” for the protagonist.
The climax of a story, contrary to common perception is not “the most exciting part”. In a well written story, the climax is set up to answer the question the inciting incident causes the audience to ask. The inciting incident is the event that upsets the status quo of the exposition by introducing conflict to the protagonist. As the conflict builds so too does dramatic tension toward a “turning point” for the protagonist. The “turning point” means either the protagonist succeeds or fails at the goal she has undertaken due to the inciting incident. Allura’s “climax”, as presented in the show we got, feels hollow because the question we ask ourselves because of the first two episodes is “will Allura and Lotor overcome Honerva?”. We may not directly ask ourselves a question and we may not necessarily think of them working “together” at this point. But reintroducing Lotor’s tragic backstory at such an early point in the narrative specifically serves to reestablish audience empathy for and a “hey where is that guy anyway?” as well as a desire for him to experience better than what we just saw. The climax the dramatic tension should then build toward as our heroine learns she must storm the palace and free her animus is “Allura succeeds or fails at saving Lotor and her world”. But it doesn’t. Instead, Allura’s “climax” is winnowed down to dying in order to save the universe, and it feels every bit as anticlimactic as it is. Especially with her teammates standing around her bleating out platitudes at Honerva, who Zarkon called a psychopath a couple episodes prior.
The logical resolution to a heroine’s coming of age story is bringing her two sides – light and dark, feminine and masculine, anima and animus – into balance.
Does this image look familiar?
That’s because it is.
They are the light and dark, the Anima and Animus in balance. But instead of bringing our heroine into balance, Season 8 kills her Animus and desecrates his corpse, effectively trapping her in childhood with men still telling her whose prize she should and shouldn’t be. Oh and without even a castle and crown fit for a Queen. No wonder when the time came to give her life, she practically raced Honerva there.
III: A Confounding Narrative
The narrative we are presented is disjointed, hamfisted, and at times seems to break the fourth wall to the extent it reads as flat out trolling. Whether that trolling is of the audience or of those in positions of authority forcing the story into a mold it was never meant to fit into, I cannot say for sure. But I can identify, from a textual standpoint, what sticks out the most egregiously and why.
* Pidge’s reaction to Allura and Lance’s date, “Weird”, is an odd reaction outside of any context. Why does Pidge care if Lance goes on a date with Allura?
* Lance’s “prize” comment followed by the Ghost of Boyfriend Past and his “follow me” does not get resolved with Lotor.
* Coran’s courtship interview in the year 2018.
* Alfor and Lance’s disapproval of the “dark entity inside Allura” with no follow up commentary to that.
* Alfor’s fatherly approval of Lance during the storming of Honerva’s mind.
* Allura’s direct callback to Lotor’s S6 power commentary during his villainous breakdown, stating she will not be afraid to use her power. This only makes sense in the context of her using her power as it relates to Lotor.
* Allura’s date with Lance episode juxtaposed with Lotor and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Abuse and Addiction Coded Back Story serves to highlight just how quickly Allura moved into a new relationship with Lotor having never experienced love and connection… except with the woman now kissing another man. Oh and bonus – remember the tree and its branches that Allura gave life to? Where was that supposed to lead? Do the branch shapes look familiar? That’s because it is a visual cue and foreshadowing for what we should have seen later with Lotor.
instances of characters mentioning Lotor’s manipulation after we are
shown his incredibly sympathetic back story and before Allura states he
had good intentions, leads me to believe there was originally supposed
to come a moment intended to subvert the manipulation narrative,
probably when Lotor’s story was revealed to Allura and he became a key
element in Voltron’s defeat of his mother.
- And for
those wondering why our beautiful Princess lost everything, including
her own castle and crown, since it makes no sense in the current
iteration for her to lose literally everything only for these items to
be treated like they never existed, here’s the context in a Heroine’s
Journey: She needed to lose them. Those things represent childhood and
Allura is becoming a woman. She had to lose them in order to gain the
castle and crown of an Empress. Yes, complete with the previously
foreshadowed white haired babies.
IV: How It Should Have Looked
As I analyzed Allura’s arc under the lens of the Heroine’s Journey, it was readily apparent that her character arc up until Season 8 followed the model closely. Season 8 is where the ball drops, but utilizing the Heroine’s Journey model we can very easily fill in how the original narrative arc of 8 should have been arranged.
Allura’s Heroine’s Journey
ACT I (Seasons 1 and 2)
1. Separation from the feminine: The feminine has become corrupt and the girl is led away from it. Haggar and Zarkon destroy Altean civilization, Allura is separated from her mother.
2. Identification of the Masculine and Gathering of Allies: Allura begins her journey ready to viciously fight the Galra for the destruction of her world. She meets the paladins of Voltron and takes up the sword to save her universe.
3. Road of Trials, Meeting Ogres and Dragons: Allura works at training the team and they have their Initial battles with Sendak and Zarkon
ACT II (Seasons 3 – 6)
4. Finding the Boon of Success: Lotor/the Animus arrives on scene. Allura becomes an adept pilot of blue, facing off with him and adapting quickly to his maneuvers. They come to develop trust in one another, with Allura even ensuring he is able to take up the Galra throne after he kills his evil father. She and Lotor travel to Oriande where they both face the Altean trials. Lotor fails his trial by attempting to wrest away the guardian’s secrets while Allura succeeds at hers by “giving her life to gain life”. Through their trials on Oriande, Lotor and Allura are able to gain access to the quintessence field, where they have “an experience they will never forget”, culminating with a kiss.
5. Awakening to Feelings of Spiritual Aridity; Death: Success in the new way of life is temporary or illusory. Romelle arrives on scene with a shocking reveal about Lotor that causes Allura to literally thrust him out of her life. When he pleads with her twice to join him, she goes to battle with him.
6. Initiation and Descent to the Goddess: The new way of doing things – relying solely on the masculine – fails her and she falls into despair. Allura does battle with Lotor after a shocking reveal about the Colony. Although she wins, this feels like a loss when she abandons the first man she has ever had feelings for in the Rift.
ACT III (Seasons 7 and 8)
7. Urgent Yearning to Reconnect With the Feminine: The heroine is ready to throw in her towel and go home, back to how her world was before. Allura struggles to connect with her team out in space, but after what has apparently been 3 years, they manage to find Earth. Allura begins dating Lance.
**Important** Here is the point at which we can piece together how the original plot of Season 8 was likely constructed.
8. Healing the Mother/Daughter Split: The heroine reclaims some of her initial values, but views them through a new light. Allura mentions several times that she has learned her life giving powers because of Lotor. After Lotor visits her as a “dark entity” she allows it inside her and has a vision of herself in Lotor’s position. Her mother approves. This vision having to do with Lotor should have been made explicit in the text. This would be the place for Allura to learn the real story behind Lotor’s Colony. Allura comes back to the team with her knowledge that she needs to infiltrate Honerva’s mind. Throughout the journey Allura sees Honerva’s past memories leading to her deepest desire about her family. Lotor’s actual physical state in his Sincline is discovered.
9. Healing the Wounded Masculine Within: This is where Allura should have realized she was right all along and they should not have abandoned Lotor, contrary to Keith’s assertion he made his choice. She should have stormed the witch’s pyramid and had an alchemist on alchemist battle for Lotor. Allura rebirths Lotor, most appropriately with a kiss of life. Honerva tries to persuade Lotor to stay with her rather than go with Allura. Lotor disavows Honerva as his mother. The witch goes on a destructive rampage, tearing through realities until she finds the one where she can live with her husband and son. Child Lotor in a different reality rejects Honerva as his mother, recalling Lotor’s earlier rejection of her. The witch decides to destroy all realities.
10. Integration of Masculine and Feminine/Union: Allura and Lotor (Anima and Animus, Light Youth and Dark Youth) unite with Voltron to challenge Honerva and save the universe. After the battle and reconciliation with the Mother, Allura and Lotor, fully integrated Anima and Animus, are King and Queen, the Adam and Eve ready to remake their world, which includes the foreshadowed “white haired alien babies”. She should have the crown and castle of a Queen to replace the ones she lost as a Princess. At the tail end they are shown to have ascended to a higher plane.
In my nearly thirty years of children’s programming consumption, twenty some odd years of adult literary consumption, and continuous education in the subjects of literature, creative fiction writing, and secondary education in English Language Arts, this is the first time I have experienced not only the death of a Dark Youth, but the grotesque display of his desecrated corpse on a program rated Y-7 in its country of production and therefore geared primarily toward seven year olds and up. The message it sends is this: If you are a child from a troubled or abusive household, you are doomed to become like your parents and will only find respite through death. Such taboo imagery and thematic material is both effective and appropriate for adult oriented literary genres like gothic horror and grotesques, but they have no place in children’s coming of age stories. What was depicted in Season 8, an evil mother heavily implied to be using her dead son’s rotting body to control his Sincline ship, is beyond the pale.
Unless that imagery, which is glowing just like Honerva and Zarkon’s eyes when they come back from the Rift and Shiro’s before he dies, was not originally purposed as a corpse. I stand with @leakinghate on this front and several others, including her restructure of the original narrative from the fragments we were left, which perfectly fits the final stages of the Heroine’s Journey.
The mangling of Season 8 constitutes an
emerging pattern of miscarried Heroine’s Journeys that not only
effectively castrate the heroine and keep her trapped in pre-pubescence,
constituting a failure to launch into adulthood, but fail to resonate
on a deeply emotional level with the intended audience because we are
forcing our heroines into a phallocentric narrative in which rather than
blossom into womanhood she is effectively castrated. The other most
recent occurrence was in this year’s Nutcracker and the Four Realms,
which also tanked the Tomatometer with a 37% audience approval and a
whopping 34% from critics (Rotten Tomatoes 1). If you have not seen the
film but wonder why, look no further than the failure to seal the
romantic arc set up between the heroine and the Nutcracker soldier, and
the removal of the original story’s antagonist, the Rat King, who is –
surprise surprise – symbolic sexual interference between the girl and
her secret prince (who isn’t even a secret prince in the Disney
iteration, but I’ll hold the salt on that one…) in favor of a saucy,
bitter female toy turned villain who makes jokes about her sexual
proclivities (I wish I were joking) and keeping the heroine trapped in
childhood by having her, instead of kiss the boy, come home to dance
with her father. Papa Freud would be so proud.
lest we forget the culprit of this essay, another travesty of the
Voltron Season 8 writing is the failure to execute the neat, clean story
arc set up structurally in prior seasons. Season 6 was not popular with
many fans of either Lotor or the Lotor and Allura pairing, but from a
writing standpoint Lotor’s fall provided an opportunity for both a truly
stellar redemption and the pinnacle of Allura’s journey. Their entire
arc could have been fixed with a single dramatic reveal about Lotor’s
use of the second colony to protect Alteans and the universe, and why
there was no other way. I am personally inclined to buy the Alteans as
Mechs theory, although I’m not sure I buy that it was wholly voluntary
given Bandor’s statements. However, reasons could also have been given
for why this was the only way. Under this light, the Dark Youth is still
wrong in his villainous breakdown and must atone, but his exoneration
does not feel cheap and the heroine has the opportunity to feel guilt
for her abandonment of him and her all too easy judgment (which is set
up as part of her overall character arc with the Galra in general as
well) and thus the opportunity for growth into mature adulthood. A
single directly stated reveal would have thus set up high stakes for
Lotor’s rescue from the Evil Witch Mother and his literal and figurative
rebirth, which was foreshadowed with Keith refusing to leave Shiro for
dead and Allura rebirthing Shiro’s soul into a clone.
Instead, for reasons we can at this point only speculate, we were left with a dessicated Heroine’s Journey as ugly as the melted corpse of Allura’s Animus and Dark Youth counterpart. What hope I have results from the target audience’s reception of the story. Perhaps the gruesome death of a Dark Youth (and the story’s plot in general) will pave the way for a rebirth in great Heroine’s Journeys. My greatest fear is that the audience upset will be written off by critics as mere “shipping woes” while male-centric fan review shill sites laud it as the spectacular product it is not and more of these miscarriages of Heroine’s Journeys and grotesque treatments of Dark Youth characters will continue to be written. For the sake of both women’s and children’s storytelling, I hope instead that writers will follow through on the female centric arcs they initially set up.
Farrah, Stephen (2016). The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus. Web article. Retrieved from https://appliedjung.com/the-archetypes-of-the-anima-and-animus/ December 19, 2018.
FrolickingFizzgig (2016). “The Hero, The Villain, and the Modern FairyTale: Why “Reylo” Will Be Canon in Exactly the Way You’re Hoping”. Tumblr. Retrieved from https://frolickingfizzgig.tumblr.com/post/140633462530/the-hero-the-villain-and-the-modern-fairytale December 19, 2018.
Jung, Carl (1917). The Psychology of the Unconscious, Dvir Co., Ltd., Tel-Aviv.
Miyamoto, Ken (2017). “Why Screenwriters Should Embrace the Heroine’s Journey”. Screencraft. Retrieved from https://screencraft.org/2017/06/18/how-screenwriters-can-embrace-the-heroines-journey/ December 19, 2018.
Payette, Patty (2018). “Heartaches and Hard-Won Wisdom: Exploring Coming of Age Short Stories”. Slideshow. Louisville Free Public Library. Retrieved from http://www.lfpl.org/mylibraryu/pdf/coming-of-age-session1.pdf December 19, 2018.
Rotten Tomatoes (2018). “Nutcracker and the Four Realms”. Website. Retrieved from https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_nutcracker_and_the_four_realms December 19, 2018.
Rotten Tomatoes (2018). “Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 8”. Website. Retrieved from https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/voltron_legendary_defender/s08 December 19, 2018.