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  • Writer's pictureJen

Why Skeletor is Still One of My Favourite Fictional Villains (Yeah, I'm really Going There)

It's nearly Christmas so what the heck. Today I'm going to talk about the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special (1984) and, more specifically, Skeletor's villain / redemption arc. Why? Because it highlights how you can give a villain character development and show that they have a heart, without changing their essential agenda.

First, if you've never seen it and you're curious, you can catch the whole Christmas special episode here on the official Masters of the Universe YouTube channel: He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special.

The Plot (Summarised):

The plot takes place on Eternia, He-Man's home world. He-Man and She-Ra decide to come together to celebrate Christmas with their friends but, unfortunately for them, Skeletor has other ideas and plans to harness the power of Christmas for his own nefarious purposes. I mean, we wouldn't expect anything else, right? Our anti-hero Skeletor manages to capture two Earth children, Miguel and Alisha, intending to exploit their Christmas spirit. But as the story progresses, he finds himself inadvertently caught up in the joy of the holiday season (lol).

The Earth children, along with He-Man and She-Ran, attempt to teach Skeletor the true meaning of Christmas. And it's hilarious. Through his interactions with the kids, Skeletor experiences moments of humour and genuine connection that challenge his villainous nature. Ultimately, Skeletor chooses to redeem himself by saving the children from danger and restoring the Christmas cheer that he initially sought to ruin.

No but really, there are some epically hilarious Skeletor moments in this special, so it's well worth a watch if you're at all familiar with the character.

Skeletor's Villain / Redemption Arc:

This Christmas special really stands out as a nostalgic and iconic piece of holiday entertainment, with the added bonus of Skeletor, the perennial antagonist of the series, becoming the story's heart.

Skeletor as the Archetypal Villain:

Old bony-face has long been established as the archetypal villain of the He-Man and She-Ra series. His thirst for power and domination over Eternia is a constant driving force, making him a formidable adversary for the forces of good. However, the Christmas Special takes a surprising turn by casting Skeletor in an unfamiliar role—one that challenges preconceived notions of his character. Many years later as an adult, it has always fascinated and pleased me that they went there in a kids' TV show from the 80s. Most villains back then were just, well, villains, with no major redeeming qualities and incredibly predictable actions. Skeletor's journey through the Christmas special is so different from anything we've seen before.

This is one of my favourite exchanges in the entire special, which happens fairly early on once Skeletor is stuck with the kids:

Skeletor: "Tell me more about this, uh... this Christmas."

Kids: "It's a wonderful time of the year. Everyone has lots of fun."

Skeletor: "You mean they get in fights?"

Kids: "No! No, they have fun."

Skeletor: "Fights are fun. I like fights."

Kids: "And they give each other presents."

Skeletor: "And when you open them they explode, right?"

Kids: "No! They're nice gifts."

Skeletor: "Nice?! Doesn't sound like much fun to me..."

This is made even better by Alan Oppenheimer's voice acting and inflections.

Skeletor's Unlikely Quest for Redemption:

Kidnapping two innocent Earth children (and a cute dog) is consistent with Skeletor's usual nefarious behaviour, and it sets the stage perfectly for his unexpected transformation. You just know that those kids are going to affect him in some way with their candidness and ability to see the good in him--even as he tries to maintain his bad guy cred. His interactions with them inevitably change him. Most of the time he tries to convince himself that he's only helping them so that he has leverage, but you can see him gradually melt throughout the show.

The juxtaposition of this iconic villain participating in festive activities and attempting to understand the meaning of Christmas creates a humorous and heartwarming dynamic. Skeletor's journey from malevolence to reluctant goodwill challenges the traditional narrative structure and provides a unique perspective on his character.

Skeletor's Interaction with the Christmas Spirit:

Through comedic sequences and genuine moments of connection with the Earth children, Skeletor experiences emotions outside the realm of villainy. His encounter with the holiday season prompts moments of introspection, and you witness a nuanced and multifaceted Skeletor rarely seen in the series.

Redemption and the True Meaning of Christmas:

The climax of the special sees Skeletor making a surprising choice—to save the children from danger and restore the holiday cheer he had initially sought to exploit. This unexpected act of redemption showcases Skeletor's capacity for change and growth, even if fleeting. It suggests that the Christmas spirit has the power to touch even the most hardened hearts, challenging the notion that some characters are irredeemably evil.

Skeletor's redemption arc is a unique and unexpected twist that adds depth to his character without fundamentally altering his long-standing agenda of seeking power and domination over Eternia. Yes, his unexpected journey prompts Skeletor to question his own motivations and opens a window into his character that goes beyond the typical villain archetype. However, while Skeletor experiences a temporary transformation, it's crucial to note that his redemption arc doesn't fundamentally alter his core agenda. His actions are driven by self-interest, even in the moments where he seemingly aligns himself with the holiday spirit. Skeletor's decision to save the children and restore Christmas is portrayed as a fleeting and reluctant choice, rather than a permanent shift in allegiance.

This nuanced approach to Skeletor's redemption allows the narrative to explore the complexity of characters and the potential for change, even in those traditionally viewed as irredeemable. Skeletor's brief foray into goodwill is clearly a nod to the transformative power of the Christmas spirit but it doesn't compromise the essence of his character. In the end, the special maintains the balance between humour, heartwarming moments, and Skeletor's underlying agenda, which creates a memorable and thought-provoking storyline within the context of the MotU universe.

Did I Mention That Skeletor's Scenes Are Hilarious?

Skeletor's scenes are a delightful departure from his typical malevolent demeanour, infusing the narrative with a unique blend of silliness and entertainment. From awkward attempts to understand Earth's holiday traditions to reluctantly participating in the goodwill of Christmas, Skeletor's interactions with the Earth children and the holiday spirit are filled with comedic charm. His perpetual scowl and menacing presence are cleverly contrasted with the lightheartedness of the season, making his reluctant involvement in the holiday festivities a source of amusement.

Watch the entire special here on the official Masters of the Universe YouTube channel: He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special.

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