The Worst Live-Action Adaptation of the Decade

Multi-colored fairy wings on a black background with "Fate The Winx Saga" in front.

A comprehensive breakdown by character

Like countless young women, I was so excited to find out that one of my childhood favorites, Winx Club, was being adapted into a live-action Netflix series. But as more information about the production was released, my apprehension grew; the show was quickly becoming less of Harry Potter books to movies and more like Avatar: the Last Airbender animated to live-action movie.

The basis for my review stems from a congealing of disappointment, frustration, and grief for what could have been. And to understand this, a bit of background on the franchise is needed.

Ignio Straffi is an Italian animator and comic author who created Winx Club before transforming the comic series in Italy into a cartoon that became a world-wide phenomenon. With eight seasons and at least one more confirmed before the finale, merchandise, a section of Rainbow’s theme park, musicals, and several CGI movies, to say the show was a success is an understatement. His vision for the series was based on the likeness of teen pop stars of the early 2000’s: 

  • Bloom is based on Britney Spears
  • Stella on Cameron Diaz
  • Flora on Jennifer Lopez
  • Musa on Lucy Liu
  • Tecna on Pink
  • Aisha/Layla (depending on dub) on Beyoncé
The original Winx Club animation style: (from left to right) Flora, Aisha/Layla, Musa, Bloom, Stella, and Tecna. Winx Club Fate Review
The original Winx Club animation style: (from left to right) Flora, Aisha/Layla, Musa, Bloom, Stella, and Tecna.

I began to realize something was wrong with production when I discovered where Netflix was filming: an old castle in the U.K. My immediate reaction was to think of Harry Potter and the dark ambiance of Hogwarts, also filmed in a real castle in the U.K. The Winx had always been a fun,

colorful show about fashionable teens to college-age girls who were princesses and defenders of the Magic Dimension. They each hailed from different worlds with unique cultures and backgrounds.

And then they announced the cast.

But one note before moving on: this article is in no way meant to target the cast and to “cancel” them. The idea is to raise awareness of the harm this adaptation has likely done for the Winx Club as a franchise, and the communities it has attempted to represent. Should the actresses take responsibility for their actions? Absolutely. Should they be threatened? Absolutely not. But should they be called out alongside the production team? That’s the point.

From left to right, these are Fate’s depictions of Musa, Stella, Bloom, Aisha, and Terra. Winx Club Fate A Winx Saga Review

If you raised your eyebrows at the above image, then you’re not alone. From left to right, these are Fate’s depictions of Musa, Stella, Bloom, Aisha, and Terra.


Portrayed by Elisha Applebaum, Musa’s actress is a young, white woman likely chosen for her– debatably–ambiguous features. In the Winx Club, Musa is a from The Harmonic Nebula/Harmonix which features beautiful varying Asian cultural influences. Both of her parents are depicted in the series with Asian features with Musa’s mom, Matlin, most commonly seen wearing a Cheongsam or Qipao–a style of traditional Chinese dress.
In the era of COVID-19, there have been acts of violence against the Asian community in the United States due to the horrific scapegoating of China in the spread of the virus. Conspiracy theory

plagues the world, and the timing of the release of a show with a potentially incredible character being made white instead is misguided at best and racist at worst.

Musa became a favorite of mine when I re-watched Winx Club as an adult; I loved her tomboyish charm and in the original series, she actually received the highest grades out of the girls, including Tecna. While the Asian student being smart is a stereotype–and I do not have the authority to forgive this–I did feel it contrasted well with her lax personality and expanded her character.

However, Fate chose to use a harmful stereotype of Asians commonly portrayed in the media: untrustworthy. For the first four episodes of the series, Musa hid her relationship with Terra’s brother, Sam, and snuck around the castle behind her roommate’s back. Coupled with the change from music powers to mind powers makes this a recipe for disaster and less likely to be just a careless writing mistake. There was potential for hope in Asian communities across the world to see a powerful female role model… and we got this.

Top left: Matlin in orange qipao, Top right: red and white floral qipao in real life, Bottom left: Matlin in purple kimono, Bottom right: white kimono in real life. Winx Club Fate A Winx Saga Review
Top left: Matlin in qipao, Top right: qipao in real life, Bottom left: Matlin in kimono, Bottom right: kimono in real life. Credit: myself made with Pic Collage, images obtained from Winx Club Wiki and Unsplash free images.


While thankfully looking like the original character, Hannah van der Westhuysen portrayed Stella and had the unfortunate worst writing out of all of the Winx. Before she arrived back at the school after her “poor display of magic,” Stella had not given the rest of her suitemates one reason to miss her.

Between her manipulation of Sky, tormenting Bloom, fat-shaming Terra, and childish bullying of Aisha and Musa, Stella might as well have been the villain. In fact, I think that the betrayal–albeit more obvious–might have stung more because they knew her better than Beatrix.

I think that the potential for Stella to grow as a character is there; I don’t count her change of heart after getting dragged home because all of that development was off-screen. I also have my theories about her position in the Solarian royal family, but time may tell.

To make matters worse is Stella’s big secret: she accidentally blinded her best friend/roommate Ricki with her out-of-control emotions flaring up her magic but tells people she did it to enact revenge against someone flirting with her boyfriend. Where was Ricki for the entirety of the show? Was she injured so badly that she had to leave school? Or can you not study at Alfea if you’re blind? If the former, they sure didn’t emphasize it, but if the latter, this is a poorly handled case of ableism at its worst. This was a more personal blow for me, being hard-of-hearing myself and made me worry about the implications of disability services at a school of magic for the first time in my life.


Bloom was a character I related to in childhood the most and my personal favorite. Portrayed by Abigail Cowen, Bloom’s journey was surprisingly similar to the original character: her father was a fireman, her story begins in a fire, and she never fit in at home or school. The problem stems more from her mother, the implications of her birth, and where her character goes.

In the flashback of the fight with her mom, Bloom accused her of being disappointed that her daughter wasn’t a cheerleader, social, or “normal”. Rather than her mom matching her in tone or yelling, she tells Bloom that she’s right. Then, her and Bloom’s father took her door off its hinges and told Bloom to hit her, ultimately causing the fire, and the mother’s burns.

This moment is gaslighting–ironically. Bloom is told by her parents to be ashamed and guilty for being who she is, and then feels guilty when her emotions get the best of her, making her feel guilty for being guilty. She blames herself, and it eats her alive during the first few episodes until she opens up about it to Aisha. To make matters worse, she eventually sees her parents again, and they’re a big happy family. The show blames the entirety of it on Bloom’s emotions and magic, further emphasizing the stigma against mental health issues like anger management and anxiety.

A still of Bloom in Fate: The Winx Saga starting to burn her house. Winx Club Fate A Winx Saga Review
A still of Bloom in Fate: The Winx Saga starting to burn her house.

As if Bloom’s traumatic upbringing wasn’t enough, when she discovers in this version of Winx that not only was she adopted, but a changeling-a magical child placed in the human world on purpose to bring chaos–she questions her self-worth and falls apart at the prospect that her parents didn’t want her. While these feelings may be felt at initial discovery of adoption by children, this was reinforced through the entirety of the show.

Lastly, Bloom drugged Sky to help the villain’s henchmen. That’s right, the entire second half of the season, Bloom believes the lie of a girl, Beatrix, she’d only ever interacted with via Instagram when said girl lied and told Bloom she was born in a wiped out village. It was only when Bloom almost attacked Terra and Aisha that she finally came to her senses and only with Terra’s coaxing.

Did I mention that one of the central conflicts was that an entire village of people was murdered? But don’t worry; people villainized the leader only up to the point they discovered it was a race of magic users called Blood Witches? No, they don’t explain what Blood Witches are. We just know that it’s a group of people they don’t like and it’s forgiven that they were wiped out… Yeah.


Likely the only character not in complete shambles was Aisha, brilliantly portrayed by Precious Mustaph. Fit, competitive, a perfectionist, and loyal to Alfea, Aisha quickly became my favorite character in this iteration of Winx. When Bloom felt lost, she was the one to let Bloom confide in her and explain the mystery of her birth. She encouraged Bloom when she struggled with magic and helped her solve the mystery of her past to the point of exhaustion.

My main critique of Aisha was toward the end of the season when the girls knew Bloom was going to free Rosalind and Aisha told the Headmistress. I felt like that could have easily been resolved if Aisha had gone before they approached Bloom and all of them worked together to have the Headmistress as backup. But apparently the writing didn’t call for any semblance of a plan.


Where to start? Portrayed by Eliot Salt, the character Terra spits in the face of the original depiction of both Flora and Tecna. Being an earth fairy, Terra uses the same types of powers Flora had while also being the most nerdy, quirky character of the group like Tecna. The problem is that Terra is white, and there is no Flora or Tecna.

This controversy is one of the most difficult to navigate. Although Terra is not explicitly Flora-and the show even claims that Flora is Terra’s cousin in a throwaway line–it is obvious that her bubbly attitude, obsession with plants, and mother figure of the group makes her most in line with the Latina character she replaced.

Cartoon drawing of Flora sitting on the forest floor with Terra practicing magic. Winx Club Fate The Winx Saga Review
A cartoon depiction of Flora and Terra by @qba016 on Twitter.

In addition to this, Terra is also overweight which becomes the central point of her character’s conflict and is not handled delicately. Almost every character-barring some of the Winx-has commented on her appearance. This comes to a head when she sees the Instagram story of Beatrix, showing her crush, Dane, getting high with her and Riven. They all kiss, pass the joint around, and fat-shame Terra. 

As if this isn’t bad enough, Riven is constantly asking Dane if he’s gay when he clearly likes both Riven and Beatrix. Why does he have to decide? That’s called biphobia, and it’s especially worse because he is the only LGBT representation on the show that we know of, (I have my suspicions about some of the Winx, but maybe they’re just putting the queerbaiting cherry on top). Of course, when Dane comes around, the apology is half-hearted and he instead winds up on the villain’s side.

And Dane isn’t the only character who does not face consequences for his treatment of Terra. When Stella is gone, Terra admits to Musa that she misses Stella and does not provide a reason. This may be the worst depiction of Stockholm syndrome I’ve ever seen, with Stella’s only interactions with Terra being: making fun of her outfit, appearance, or passions. And suddenly when Stella returns, she was nice to Terra because of that offscreen change of heart.

The implication is that it’s the fans and critics of the show that are wrong and not the implication that they replaced Latina and Asian representation with a white girl, same character exactly or not manages to make this worse.

Fate’s Fate

There have been droves of articles bashing the series, and the main cast has closed comments on their Instagram accounts. Abigail Cowen came forward before the show’s release to do an interview about the controversy. And while stating that “if the series does go to a second season, I think hopefully these concerns are something that can be addressed, because I do think diversity both in front of and behind the camera is vital and much-needed throughout the industry and internationally. So I think it’s important that we are having these conversations.” However, she does defend Elisa Applebaum’s portrayal of Musa and reiterates that Terra is not Flora while also stating that “Flora is actually not in our series. I know that there is some confusion about that—in the first season, she’s not. Eliot’s character is actually Terra, who was created specifically for the show.” The implication is that its the fans and critics of the show that are wrong and not the implication that they replaced Latina and Asian representation with a white girl, same character exactly or not, manages to make this worse. These comments likely provoked the ire of the show’s biggest critics even further.

Elisa Applebaum also shared in an interview that she has shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and is quoted saying, “I think it’s so important to have the conversation. If something is brewing, if something is not being talked about, you talk about it. That’s the only way you can make it non-alien.” But this feels hollow given the hypocrisy of her taking on the role of Musa.

In order for a second season of Fate to be successful, there has to be large changes made. The show cannot go forward without the following:

  • Recast of Musa by an Asian actress
  • Recast of Terra or an appearance of Flora as a Latina actress
  • Holding Stella, Dane and Bloom accountable for their actions
  • Addressing or appearance of Ricki
  • Addressing what happened in the village properly
  • Addressing the poorly handled depiction of Bloom’s mental health
  • Addressing that Bloom’s mom was abusive
  • Addressing that adoption does not mean you are unloved

But most of all, the show’s production team must apologize, and so must the cast. Without this as the very least they can do, the show will forever be remembered as the worst live-action adaptation of the decade. It is appalling that in the year 2021 that we still need to be having these conversations, and it goes to show that these issues are not only international but that they can still happen even in popular media with Fate trending as the number one show on Netflix.

Cringe-worthy, fourth wall-breaking, drunk teenagers, and cursing like they’re cool, the show-runners outdid themselves to have every scene make your eye twitch. While you are entitled to consuming enjoyable media, it is important to watch with some critique and to consider whether what you’re viewing is just harmless fun, or something more.

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