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Meta: The Parentification of Adora

When it comes to understanding Adora's damage, parentification is the name of the game. For those of you who didn't cut their fandom eyeteeth reading Dean Winchester meta, parentification is when a child is forced to take on age inappropriate responsibility for the physical and emotional needs of their parents and/or siblings. Once we understand the nature of Adora's parentification, the source of her perfectionism, anxiety, responsibility, and dedication become clear. And so does the troubled relationship with Catra.

We actually see the moment Adora's parentification begins in the episode "Promise." Adora and Catra sneak into Shadow Weaver's sanctum and are caught spying. The following exchange happens:

[Shadow Weaver] Insolent child. I've come to expect such disgraceful behavior from you. But I will not allow you to drag Adora down as well.

[Adora] Shadow Weaver, it was my idea.

[Shadow Weaver] You have never been more than a nuisance. I've kept you around because Adora was fond of you, but if you do anything to jeopardize her future, I will dispose of you myself. Do you understand?

[Adora] Please, stop. She didn't mean to.

[Shadow Weaver] Adora, you must do a better job of keeping her under control. Do not let something like this happen again.

In this moment, it is made clear to Adora that, unless she is perfect and well behaved, unless she keeps Catra well behaved, then Shadow Weaver might very well kill her friend. Up until this point, Adora and Catra had been mischievous children together. From this point on, they can not afford to be or Catra will die. Let me stress that again. If Little Adora gets into trouble, her best friend will die. If she 'allows' Catra to get into trouble, her best friend will die. That's an insane amount of pressure for a small child to be under, especially since she has little power to control Catra's behavior and no ability to control Shadow Weaver's.

When we first meet Adora in the first episode, she's an incredibly responsible person. She's a team leader up for a promotion. She covers for Catra and provides her emotional support, even when she herself is upset. When she finds the sword and becomes She-Ra, she immediately does everything she can to fulfill that role and protect Etheria. She takes responsibility, not only for her own failures, but for Mara's and even attacks by the Horde against her. This is not uncommon for parentified children. They tend to grow up to be excellent caregivers or to get involved in careers which allow them to serve others. [source]

Unfortunately, parentified children tend to suffer from anxiety, a lack of self-care, trouble handling rejection or failure, and/or a tendency towards co-depended relationships which recreate the original relationship dynamic. [source] [source] Adora displays many of these traits. She anxiously over plans for the Princess Prom and practically has a panic attack just discussing it with Glimmer. For much "Flowers for She-Ra" she hides behind the mask of She-Ra rather than face being rejected as Adora and repeatedly beats herself up for not mastering healing. In this same episode, she's unable to articulate her needs or ask for help when suffering from insomnia. She recreates the mentor/mentee handler/tool relationship she had with Shadow Weaver with Light Hope in her desperation to find someone to tell her who she's supposed to be and what she's supposed to do.

Adora's parentification has strongly effected her relationship with Catra. Parentifcation can warp relationships between siblings. [source] One child caring for the other creates an uneven power dynamic, even as the care-giving child lacks the authority to enforce set rules or boundaries. We see this in Adora's relationship with Catra. Catra accuses Adora of 'playing the hero' to rule over her and hold her back. Adora, meanwhile, is clearly frustrated with Catra slacking off in training, disrespecting Shadow Weaver, and otherwise undermining her efforts to keep her safe during the first episode. Throughout their childhood, Adora was Catra's only emotional support, and she resents Adora for abandoning her, even though Adora repeatedly asked her to join her. Both of them blame Adora for Catra's behavior and failures, at least until the season 3 finale when Adora finally accepts that Catra is responsible for herself.

While in many ways Catra has regressed and become less stable over the course of the series, Adora has actually managed to heal. Thanks to Glimmer and Bow, she's starting to learn it's okay to ask for help and that they will actually give her what she needs. She's finally able to express anger at what was done to her and what was taken. She rejects both Shadow Weaver and Light Hope when they try to convince her she exists to be a tool for others. In the final episode, she not only rejects the blame for Catra's actions, she actually lets someone else sacrifice themselves for her. I look forward to seeing her continued recovery, especially since it is likely to be complicated by Shadow Weaver's presence at Bright Moon.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Shake up anything from your own childhood trauma? Is it time for season 4 yet?


year of the cat

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