In early December, Netflix released a teaser trailer for their latest 2021 series, Fate: the Winx Saga. Given the title, viewers were immediately drawn to the reboot of the beloved 2000’s cartoon The Winx Club that focused on five teenage fairies attending Alfea School to hone their skills and save the universe. The showrunner of the reboot, Brian Young, states that this live action series will not differ much from this storyline, with the absence of mean girl tropes and unrealistic beauty standards the original cartoon presented. To put it simply, the reboot will be a more ‘realistic’ version of the fantastical cartoon show.
Despite all this, the immediate reception to the teaser was overwhelmingly negative, with the absence of much-loved POC characters and the repetitive dark and edgy backdrop Netflix continues to use in their young adult series. The general online reception of the teaser is disappointed to say the least in the styling choices of the series; Winx Club were known for their bright and flashy styling, and while it was a cartoon, their flamboyance would have been exciting to be seen in the crossover to live-action.
Social media criticised the serious take on the series as the same ‘grim teen angst’ tone used in numerous other Netflix teen shows, such as Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. While that tone may have worked for those shows that have inherently dark storylines, Winx Club rejoiced in their fun-loving and rainbow-coloured schemes – this contrast just doesn’t make sense. The generation that grew up seeing girls being girly – for lack of better term – could be disheartened in seeing the young adult version of their favourite show suggest that these hyper feminine girl-power characters cannot exist in real life.
The original Winx Club was a mix of girls who came from different backgrounds and came together to work as a team. Going from that to a largely white cast is a significant change that viewers were quick to point out and take offence to.
However, Fate: The Winx Saga does appear to succeed in their realistic portrayal of female body types, with Young stating that he wants the show to be realistic in terms of how young women are physically presented. This significantly differs from the cartoon, from hyper-unrealistic body standards to a cast of different body types, one being plus sized. Unfortunately, this is the only positive reception the show has received amidst the backlash.
From the teaser fans were quick to point out that certain original main characters did not appear in the group, such as Flora, a Latina fairy. It was revealed that Flora’s character was cut to make a new fairy in the group, Terra, played by a white woman. Beside the disappointment in not having fan-favourite characters make the cut, the decision to cut POC characters is upsetting to viewers. The internet has accused the series of white-washing these characters and it appears they are correct. In making room for more body inclusive characters, the series has oddly enough removed some POC characters, resulting in more division. It is important to note that Fate: The Winx Saga has not removed all their POC characters; Aisha, the fairy of waves, remains played by a Black actress, and Musa the melody fairy is played by an actress who is ¼ Singaporean. That being said, the original Winx Club was a mix of girls who came from different backgrounds and came together to work as a team. Going from that to a largely white cast is a significant change that viewers were quick to point out and take offence to.
Representation on screen is important, especially to audiences who once had this rare representation of themselves now taken from them. Representation on screen for many people of colour in western media was very limited in the 2000s, especially in children’s television. The fact that Winx Club had Latina, Black and Asian characters was a rarity in western television, and the decision to remove these characters is a step back for the inclusive and realistic portrayal of society on screen. Despite all the uproar at the reboot, Netflix has yet to respond to the backlash. Fate: the Winx Saga will continue to be released late January this year on Netflix internationally.
Words by Maddy Bos