In the season two She-Ra and the Princesses of Power episode “Reunion,” Bow struggles with the decision to be open with his parents about the person that he has chosen to become. Although the identity that he’s concealed from them isn’t his sexual orientation or gender, the narrative is nevertheless a “coming out” story: not only is it coded to allude to the issues faced by those sharing their true selves with their family for the first time, it explores the complicated relationship dynamics that can come into play when a closeted person is forced to ask those who know who they are to keep facts from those who don’t.
Bow’s Mysterious Past
At the beginning of the episode, Bow has semi-mysteriously vanished from Bright Moon. While he did leave a note explaining that he would be gone for a few days, Glimmer is panicked at his absence. When Adora asks Glimmer where Bow goes when he isn’t at Bright Moon, Glimmer is at a loss as how to answer, saying that Bow values his privacy and has seldom spoken about his past in all the years they have been friends – in spite of the fact that Bow’s personality tends toward the outspoken.
Deeply concerned at the absence of their friend, Adora and Glimmer follow Bow’s trail. They become even more worried when they discover his trick arrows stashed beneath a bush. As Glimmer points out, Bow would never leave his arrows behind. Overall, Bow’s pattern of behavior has been extremely out of character, and his friends are desperate to discover what it is that could possibly have made him abandon his customary habits.
Adora and Glimmer enter the building near the bush where they found Bow’s arrows to discover that it’s a library. But when they find Bow inside, Glimmer is immediately shocked by the fact that Bow is not wearing his usual attire – namely, his midriff isn’t visible. The confusion is compounded when Bow’s parents appear and he immediately hides the arrows.
Bow implores that Glimmer and Adora play along before announcing to his parents that they are his classmates from the Academy. As Bow explains later in the episode, his parents aren’t aware that he’s a freedom fighter. Instead, they believe he has been studying history in preparation to take over management of the library.
Adora protests that she assumed that Bow had been quiet about his past because it was painful, but his dads seem normal and nice. But Bow explains that the situation is more complicated than it appears. According to Bow, his parents have thrust their expectations that he would comply with the life role they assigned him onto his shoulders. Bow tells her that his dads decided he would take over the library when he was very young and have pushed him toward fulfilling the expectations they developed for him ever since.
When asked why he didn’t simply explain to his dads that he didn’t want to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a historian, Bow explains that he did try to tell them he wasn’t interested, but that they refused to listen to him. Instead, they simply assumed that they knew what he wanted and “supported” him accordingly.
Choosing the Closet Over Coming Out
In response to Bow’s inability to be his true self when in close proximity to his parents, he leaves home and concocts a cover story for his absence. He tells his dads that he has enrolled in a boarding school where he is studying history in preparation for his assigned role as heir to the library. But while Bow still mentions Adora and Glimmer in his letters home, he has to lie to explain how he knows them.
In order to maintain his cover, his not only needs to misrepresent himself, but he also needs to misrepresent those closest to him. While both Adora and Glimmer attempt to maintain the charade out of loyalty to their friend, lying both overtly and by omission in order to ensure Bow’s cover story is maintained, it is clearly emotionally taxing for both of them. Furthermore, the subterfuge hinders Adora’s ability to help Bow’s dads gain a deeper understanding of their primary field of study – First Ones tech – because to conceal Bow’s true self, she must act as though her alter ego isn’t She-Ra.
The relationship between Bow and his dads suffers from the misrepresentation, as well. At one point, his parents explain that Bow has always been extremely shy and doesn’t have many friends. This is in sharp contrast to the personality with which Adora and Glimmer are familiar – Glimmer even mentions Bow’s outgoing personality earlier in the episode. In order to keep his dads from discovering his true self, Bow has had to conceal more than just the fact that he is a freedom fighter from his fathers. To remain in the closet, it has been necessary for Bow to hide other significant and defining aspects of his personality, as well.
Glimmer questions the decision, asking Bow if he simply intends to remain in the closet indefinitely. While Bow insists that he plans on coming clean with his dads about his true identity eventually, lying has proved effective so far, and he intends to continue for the time being.
Moment of Crisis
When an Elemental is accidentally activated inside the library, however, Bow is forced to make a decision: either he continues to conceal his true self from his family, or he comes out of the closet and saves the day. By tearing the midriff away from his shirt as he leaps into action, he abandons the subterfuge that he has been hiding himself behind and comes out to his dads as a freedom fighter.
Bow tells his dads that this is who he really is and that he can’t keep lying about it, even if the truth breaks their hearts. But Bow’s concern over the reaction his parents might have is unwarranted, as they immediately embrace their son, telling him that they will support him no matter what path he chooses.
Furthermore, Bow’s parents welcome Glimmer and Adora into the hug as well, demonstrating the foundations of a community that had been denied due to Bow’s inability to be honest about his true self. The benefits are immediate: without the need to conceal their true identities and motivations, the freedom fighters are able to avail themselves of the knowledge possessed by Bow’s dads, immediately providing the answer to a key tactical question with which they had been struggling.
Coming Out as a Freedom Fighter
While Bow’s story in this episode was a coming out narrative, he wasn’t coming out as queer. It isn’t unusual for genre stories to explore social issues through fantasy narratives, but in some instances, attempting to tell the story of the kind of challenges faced by real-world demographics can lead to erasure.
“Reunion” avoids this pitfall thanks to the fact that Bow’s parents are queer. While the coming out story concerns Bow admitting that he’s a freedom fighter, the story still ensures queer people are represented thanks to Lance and George, who are depicted as a healthy and happy couple. By including a queer couple in the narrative and having the coming out story concern Bow’s “true self” as a freedom fighter, She-Ra strikes the perfect balance between representation and fantasy allegory.