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Netflix's Fate: The Winx Saga feels like a wannabe CW YA drama

  • Former The Vampire Diaries producer Brian Young's live-action adaptation of Iginio Straffi’s Italian cartoon Winx Club feels overly familiar, says Caroline Framke. "The characters, setting and plots all feel like the show took Harry Potter, put it through a Pretty Little Liars filter and multiplied it all by The Hunger Games," says Framke. "And on that score, to be fair, Fate: The Winx Saga has some modicum of self-awareness. When Bloom first meets Aisha, for example, the two immediately ask each other which Hogwarts house they identify with the most and size each other up accordingly. (Aisha is a well-meaning if slightly judgmental Gryffindor; Bloom, naturally, is a self-identified Slytherin.) That the series knows from whence it came can make even its silliest moments tolerable, though not particularly interesting. Since it’s following such a well-established set of tropes, Fate: The Winx Saga is rarely surprising — but it is strange, in a way that’s also becoming too familiar. While adapted from an animated show about friends that was largely targeted at pre-teens, it takes a page out of the Riverdale book by giving everything an ominous sheen of sexy intrigue. These fairy teens don’t just steal way to the woods to flaunt their powers, but also play beer pong, curse each other out and joke about 'butt stuff.' So, it’s not exactly appropriate for the child audience the original cartoon was, but it also leans so hard on the most basic aspects of the YA franchises that preceded it that Fate: The Winx Saga might not be all that intriguing to the older teen audience it’s looking for, either. Netflix has long been the wild west of streaming networks, filled to the brim with more shows than anyone can reasonably keep up with. There’s no doubt that even if Fate: The Winx Saga doesn’t light the service on fire with millions of viewers that it’ll eventually find an audience bored enough to devour its six episodes whole. But by rejecting the aesthetic and vibe of its source material entirely for a pale imitation of other YA properties, Fate: The Winx Saga might just end up slipping through the cracks."


    • Fate: The Winx Saga is an insidious, mean-spirited homophobic mess: "There’s something bizarrely mean-spirited about the show, which may be thanks in part to the masculinized vision the showrunners have for Fate’s overall vibe," says Austin Jones. "Winx Club’s original art director Simone Borselli once said his inspiration for the girls’ clothes came 'from being gay.' The show is obviously a campy show for young girls with a spotty budget, but as a property, it continues to be important for LGBT folk, who make up the bulk of the franchise’s continued following. The original Winx Club reveled in sparkle and fun—the characters were inspired by glamorous women like Lucy Liu and Beyonce. Conversely, there’s almost no glitz to Fate. In fact, the show goes out of its way to masculinize as much as they can, perhaps to widen the demographic to a general young adult audience. The show is careful not to portray male characters as anything but strong, military-esque warriors, complete with armored cars and all-black tactical gear. Meanwhile, Winx Club’s specialists were running around in gogo boots and capes. This is especially disappointing given how the show prides itself on being inclusive and updating some of the outdated elements of the original Winx Club, meaning the all-male specialists now include female warriors, and some of the fairies are male. Unfortunately, it does this at the expense of cutting out much of what made Winx Club resonant, while also playing into problematic tropes and only featuring heteronormative relationships."
    • Unlike the brightly colored animated series, the new show takes a more grounded visual approach, but fails to define a distinct look of its own: "The characters are more mature and edgier than their animated counterparts — in the same way that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina warped the plucky sitcom lead into a stubborn, defiant witch, Fate: The Winx Saga gives the family-friendly heroines harder edges," says Petrana Radulovic. "....That generally antagonistic attitude between the girls marks the deepest contrast with the original show. The pleasure and power of magical girl shows comes from the camaraderie between characters. In Fate: The Winx Saga, the friendship feels obligatory."
    • Fate: The Winx Saga wants to be Harry Potter for Generation Z: "There’s a magic school surrounded by gorgeous landscapes (courtesy of filming locations in Ireland), a group of students trying to uncover a conspiracy protected by the teachers, and more than a couple of secrets about the origins of our main character," says Caroline Preece. "If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The 6-episode series borrows liberally from its predecessors, but none more so than J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Now, while many of us would welcome a new iteration of those particular ideas, the homage it pays (the first episode contains a scene in which two characters share what Hogwarts house they’d be sorted into) is often so heavy that it distracts from anything new the show is trying to do."
    • Fate: The Winx Saga isn’t bad -- in many ways, it's decent: "The writing is serviceable, giving us some of that Vampire Diaries and Legacies teen magic drama that Young is known for," says Beth Elderkin. "The smaller character moments between the girls were the strongest, as the actresses seemed to genuinely like each other. Though the highlight was the fact that it was shot on location in Ireland. We get some gorgeous shots and vistas that are, to be frank, magical. Makes me lament not being able to travel. Damn covid."
    • Fate: The Winx Saga's whitewashing is really grating: "Part of the criticism it has faced is due to the generic, dark-young-adult-fantasy look of it all," says Lyra Hale. "Winx Club was vibrant, colorful, and unapologetically girly. Stripping that away and replacing it with an edgy vibe is not the way to go and not what fans wanted at all. Also, who wants another Riverdale-esque show? Not me. But the core reason why fans old and new are upset with Fate: The Winx Saga is due to the whitewashing of the characters. Musa, who was designed with Lucy Lui in mind, is played by Elisha Applebaum, who doesn’t appear to be East Asian. And Flora, who was designed with famed Latina Jennifer Lopez in mind, has been completely erased from the story. As a Latina, this news made me mad. When I found out that she had been replaced by Eliot Salt’s character Terra, a white character with similar powers, I was even more mad. Just to clarify, I wasn’t mad at the body positivity that I saw. That’s always grand to see, and I’m a big girl myself. What I was mad about is that the show decided that Latinx people like me didn’t matter, so why bother paying attention to that aspect of the character in adaptation?"

    TOPICS: Fate: The Winx Saga, Netflix, Brian Young