Before I start, yes, you read that right.
I wasn’t sure either, at first.
But it really says Winx.
Like the cartoon from 2004 about girls who transform into fairies à la the Japanese Magical Girl genre.
Not that I know much about Magical Girls. All I’ve ever experienced about this genre can be found in Winx Club. That, and some very confusing episodes of Super Pig when I was like, 8 years old.
I was just as surprised as probably everyone, ever when an edgy retelling of Winx Club appeared on my screen a few weeks ago.
Of course, the question on everyone’s lips is why.
Why Winx? Why Edgy Winx?
I was so scared that this was just another edgy reboot, designed to attract that oh so cherished teen girl/Young Adult demographic. And it undoubtedly aims at that audience. Because these Winx smoke weed, yo. There’s a lot of references to memes and popular culture, too, but there is another sign of this that is much, much more prevalent. It shows how much Edgy Winx wants to be the next big teenage thing.
These girlbosses are not afraid at all to drop terms like ‘mansplaining’ in the first episode and blame the patriarchy for their troubles. It gives me weird feelings, because it doesn’t feel entirely genuine. ‘Woke’ lines like these appear throughout the series so regularly, and on top of that, moments are created around them in order to give those lines more momentum. The emphasis on these lines, which do not always suit the situations they occur in, makes it a bit awkward.
These are not natural ‘asides’ actual teens say when they criticize the society they live in; it is what they proclaim when they know that older intellectual person they’re trying to impress is watching. In this case, that would be the audience. Of Edgy Winx Club.
The same goes for the fierce and pronounced battle these characters wage against their stereotypes. It’s a valiant effort, which is again a bit diminished by the attention that is called to it on a meta level.
I don’t think that Edgy Winx –I mean “Fate – The Winx Saga” is a bad show.
I enjoyed it, even.
It was exiting, even if it did pull from teenage clichés like the birth-parent search, unbridled anger at all named adults and ill-timed accusations of lying. Oh, and don’t forget my favourite: the colourful group of friends with very few common interests bound together by their sleeping arrangements.
These Winx smoke weed, yo
They adapted the heck out of this baby, and some elements were definitely changed for the better in order to appeal to a modern, and older audience. I want to pay a huge compliment to whomever it was that got the job of adapting this sparkly cartoon into something completely different.
A lot of thought went into this, and I must say they worked it all out quite well. They changed everything enough so there were no real bothersome discrepancies. That sounds like a given but really, it isn’t. The same goes for the pacing of exposition: that, in my opinion, was well done.
Then, the changes. The use of references to (among other things, surely) Irish folklore to justify the darker tone, lack of fairy wings and more nature-oriented magic system did make it believable. Adding the concept of changelings emphasized this darker vibe, and simultaneously pulled the magical element of the main character toward a very well known trope in Young Adult fiction: the need to belong.
Actually, each of the Winx girls has been ‘reskinned’ to have more recognizable problems that teens can relate to. Sad for them, but compelling for the demographic. Add to that the stunning, cloudy Irish surroundings and we have a more grounded magical world in which these Edgy Winx can roam around. It could be a lot worse, you know.
The edgy reboot-syndrome is a cliché I do not appreciate at all. Mostly because there’s usually no good reason to change a story so much, except for marketability to ‘those impressionable teens’. I still don’t get why teens would need Edgy Winx, of all things. But hey, that ship has clearly sailed. They have Edgy Winx now.
No takesy backsies.
Now while the emphasis on the teen/young adult-ness of these characters does make them recognizable, that doesn’t mean it makes them more likeable. On the contrary: especially main character Bloom gets real annoying with her teenage angst and frustrations flapping in the wind all the time. The “You lied to me- how dare you- I can never trust you now”-trope can be used well, but over the span of its six episodes I feel like I saw this progression multiple times in Bloom’s arc. Even for a tightly written show like Edgy Winx, there is such a thing as too many betrayal-arcs. It’s almost as if there weren’t that many actual conflicts in the source material…
The gender stereotypes that the cartoon endorsed are 2020-ed away, by which I mean they were updated and basically removed. This means that girls can now be specialists, no questions asked; there’s male fairies, too. So that’s good. If a little obvious. There’s only one guy who, as our designated douchebag, is being a homophobe. Though the writers had the decency to make him undeniably intrigued by the guy he accuses of being gay.
That was fun to watch.
So there is discussion of the gender norms that many teens wrestle with, but it generally does not offer too much statement as to what is right or wrong. Only that being a douchebag about other people’s sexuality is bad. Which, I suppose, is all we’re going to get this season.
Oh, and then there’s the swearing!
These fairies have picked up some new words as they moved from the cartoon towards live-action. Again, like with the ‘woke’ comments, they were a bit cringy in my experience. I’m fine with these series showing teenagers swearing, don’t get me wrong. It’s something they do. But the emphasis the scenes put on these swearwords makes them stand out way too much, prompting me to think “Wow, they really let them swear in this one, didn’t they”. Which pulled me out of the story a bit, at some points.
Just like the high saturation-level of the word ‘legit’ in some episodes.
More lore, more better?
Was it really necessary to namedrop ‘Winx’? If they had not kept the original names, it could very easily have been its own thing. So much was changed with the lore in mind, but the result was so different that the references weren’t even necessary for it to be a good story.
The question that remains is, why then? Why did they keep the names? Did they keep them for people like me, who grew up watching Winx Club? Because all that really does, is this:
- Draw attention from people who are now no longer teen girls, but probably well in their twenties. That would be weird, since I discussed earlier how hard they’ve worked to attract that teen demographic.
- Invite watchers to compare it to the original, and then get sidetracked as they try to analyse these differences and what they mean. And what happened.
Again, this last point would be weird, since I don’t expect that many teens would jump at the chance to watch 2004 Winx Club of their own free will. And it’s not like the creators of Winx would be able to make money off that, since most seasons can be watched for free on the Winx Club Youtube channel.
I did this research just for you, dear readers.
It is of course possible that the show aims at the viewers of later seasons of Winx, which would get a bit closer to the teenage demographic. However, the further on you look at the cartoon, the further it moves away from the general tone of the new Netflix series.
All aboard the adaptation train
Maybe this is just how stories are chosen nowadays. As long as there is material of some kind to build upon, there’s potential for adaptation. Is this what the world has come to; where a weird adaptation is chosen over an original concept? Do things need to be adapted from something else in order to gain a certain credibility, some sort of cultural capital?
And, now that we’re shooting broad questions into the universe in hope of answers: Does everything have to be a saga or a chronicle now? Do producers even know that those words mean? Does it even matter?
Thankfully the universe is quite big.
Room enough for all the questions Fate: The Winx Saga raised for me, and then some.
Let’s keep ‘em comin’.