In December 2020, Netflix released the first trailer for Fate: The Winx Saga, a live-action adaptation of the 2004 animated series Winx Club. Upon its release, the trailer was criticized for its darker and edgier tone, as well as the whitewashing of two of the main characters. Upon the show’s release, The Winx Saga was again met with backlash — this time because, to be quite honest, the show sucks.
Fate: The Winx Saga
Brian Young (creator, writer, and executive producer), Sarah Hooper and Niceole R. Levy (writers), Lisa James Larsson, Hannah Quinn, and Stephen Woolfenden (directors), Laura Morrod, Mike Jones, and Adam Green (editors)
Abigail Cowen, Hannah van der Westhuysen, Precious Mustapha, Eliot Salt, Elisha Applebaum, Danny Griffin, Sadie Soverall (cast)
Based on Winx Club by Iginio Straffi
The Winx Saga feels like yet another Riverdale-esque remake of a beloved childhood property. The difference is that while Riverdale isn’t afraid to play into how ridiculous it is, The Winx Saga is just plain bad, and fails to capture just what it was that made Winx Club good.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you have no idea what Winx Club is or why people are so upset about The Winx Saga, allow me to provide a brief explainer of both series. Winx Club was an animated children’s show about fairies with elemental powers and magical girl transformations. The show followed Bloom, a girl from earth who discovers that she is a fairy with fire powers. She befriends fellow fairies Stella, Flora, Musa, Techna, and Aisha (Layla in some versions), and together they attend Alfea College for Fairies, a boarding school in the realm of Magix. Over the course of the show, Bloom and her friends battle various enemies, the most frequent and perhaps most notable adversaries being The Trix: three witches from Alfea’s rival school, Cloud Tower.
Essentially, Winx Club was Harry Potter with all the magical girl tropes. It was bright and colourful, full of life, adventure, and an overall layer of unabashed girly-ness that a lot of early 2000s media was missing. Winx Club didn’t shy away from darker story elements, all while still focusing on the importance of the girls’ friendships, how much they cared for each other, and how they supported each other. Friendship like that between girls isn’t as commonly portrayed in media as it should be, and when you find that one show that spends time focusing on it, you latch onto it and you love it. Winx Club was a show about fairies, yes, but it was also a show about girls supporting each other.
The Winx Saga, on the other hand, is a 2021 teen drama that shares little in common with its predecessor. It’s still about a girl named Bloom who attends a school for fairies after she discovers that she has fire powers. The show also follows Bloom’s roommates, Stella, Terra, Musa, and Aisha. Over the course of the six episode first season, Bloom reckons with the secrets that those in charge at Alfea are keeping from her and others, all while attempting to learn more about her own origins. But unlike the magical Winx Club, the show features exactly one (1) transformation sequence that just doesn’t mesh with the overall tone of the show. The Winx Saga is a darker and grittier take on the familiar property, and that leaves no room for the typical staples of a magical girl show. As such, the one transformation sequence looks out of place, and ends up making a serious moment unintentionally funny.
Aside from using some of the most basic elements like the character’s names, The Winx Saga trades in everything from the Winx Club for a TV-MA rating. It shoddily attempts to have moral ambiguity, and it also whitewashes two main characters. Eliot Salt’s Terra is loosely based on Winx Club‘s Flora, who creator Iginio Straffi modeled after Jennifer Lopez. Elisha Applebaum’s Musa, meanwhile, was originally modeled after Lucy Liu. (There are arguments about whether Applebaum is multiracial, but she has not publicly spoken about her ethnicity.)
As a result of the decision to tell a darker and edgier story, the focus has shifted from female friendship to instead telling a story just like every other teen drama. Even though The Winx Saga has a supernatural twist, that does nothing to make the show feel unique or exciting in the slightest.
This is most clear in the relationship between Stella and Bloom. In Winx Club, Stella is perhaps the nicest of the girls and Bloom’s first friend at Alfea. But The Winx Saga begins with Stella hating Bloom and the others and being a stereotypical mean girl, down to the fact that she’s portrayed as blonde, rich, and underhanded. Stella is dismissive and rude to Bloom, a stark departure from the original show in which she is warm and welcoming from the very beginning. In Winx Club, Stella is the one who invites Bloom to Alfea in the first place. She’s also one of the first girls to unlock her Enchantix, a transformation that requires the fairy sacrifice her life for someone from her home realm. I find it very hard to believe that Winx Saga Stella would do the same. The characterization feels like a disservice to her; showrunner Brian Young had the opportunity to do literally anything else with Stella, and yet he still chose to make her cruel and so unlike her original self. I have doubts that this Stella would ever gain her Enchantix, should that ever be a future plot point.
Overall, The Winx Saga failed to win me over. I found it too dark and too concerned with aging up the content to feel like it shares much in common with Winx Club beyond the very surface level “fairies and magic” plot. So much time that could have been devoted to introducing this new version of Alfea was instead spent on drug use, underage drinking, and underage sex — likely all a misguided attempt to make the show feel more mature. Still, The Winx Saga is not without one interesting new element. Stella’s powers have been altered slightly to include the ability to create illusions as well as invisibility. As disappointing as her characterization was to me, I felt that this was a fun and interesting take on how sun-based powers would work, and I would be excited to see how they use this in the future. That is, if there is a future for this series; Netflix has yet to renew it for a second season.
Regardless of whether or not Fate: The Winx Saga gets renewed, I live in constant fear of the day that Netflix decides that it’s time for them to do a live-action remake of Sailor Moon.