Titans: Strange Choices
I never thought this would be my first post on this blog, but inspiration strikes when it does…
Titans: a DC property, so already out of this guy’s Marvel wheelhouse. My kids watch Teen Titans constantly, so I did have a little exposure to the characters before I started watching. However, most of what I want to comment on isn’t necessarily the material, but the way this Netflix Original makes choices cinematically and story-wise.
- Violence. This show is violent. I wouldn’t be in favour of anyone under the age of 13 watching this show, it’s really gory. Which is a surprising choice for a show that the 13 and under set will be very interested in watching because of its links to the cartoons they grew up
- This is a separate point, but it’s linked to the violence. The show tries to make its
heroes heroes, by having them get “the bad guys”. But in truth, this first season anyway, these characters are driven largely by amorality, if not immorality. Their use of violence on innocent police is constant and shocking. The police officers they break and subdue with sickening bone-crunchesand gouts of blood have done nothing to them – they are merely enforcing the law the best way they know how. The police made one mistake to receive their most likely career-ending injuries,if not death – they happened to meet a Titan. That’s a lousy message for a superhero show. I have never seen any super heroshow or movie that is so wanton in its violence towards law enforcement. Sure, many shows treat them as inept, sometimes corrupt – but this show makes no effort to justify the violence towards them. That makes the Titans not heroes. Not even antiheroes. It makes them just as bad as the villains they are fighting. Essentially this makes the show into a gang vs. gang bloodbath of vengeance, which is a surprising choice.
If I am coming across as not liking this show, don’t make that mistake. The above points only attempt to clarify what the show is and is not. It is not what most people think it is. Knowing what it is will help you to enjoy it on its own merits. Now to things I am impressed with:
- Hawk and Dove. They take two characters and make them very real. These are ordinary people trying to be superheroes, for reasons out of their own brokenness. They don’t have loads of money and technical wizardry – they only have their own skewed morality driving them. Kind of like Kickass but more mature and considered. And they break. I am glad they took a couple episodes to develop them even though they aren’t really “the main” characters.
- Relationships: they defy conventions of modern TV and film. Yes, some characters jump in the sack quick, but that’s not the rule like many programs assume. The young characters act immature with regards to relationships. Well done. Other characters (back to Hawk and Dove for a second) meet “cute” and then spend significant time together building a real relationship before they develop a sexual relationship. I haven’t seen that happen in a program in a while – actually allowing sexual tension to build instead of having them lock eyes for 3 seconds then jumping naked into each others’ arms.
- Religious matters: pleasantly, the religious themes and religious characters are not portrayed as misguided, idiotic, or evil like many shows tend to do (having been scripted by atheists and/or agnostics who haven’t darkened the door of a church in their lives and have nothing but the
newsmedia’scaricatures of pedophile priests and judgmental fundamentalists to draw upon). Though the show does fall into the trap of assuming all Christians are Catholics (seriously – America’s Christians are like 80% NOT Catholic!) at least the characters themselves mean well, whether or not their faith is effective. Even one of the main characters looks to her faith for help at one point, though it is never really clear if it provides any.
All in all, I just want to say this is a well done series. It is paced well, the characters are well thought out and developed, many secondary characters are interesting enough to beg for some solo treatment, and the show defies a lot of frustrating conventions. As I said, I’d never show it to a child under 13, and certainly the language is extremely salty (I never mentioned that but it really is), but the only real knock I have against it is the fact that at the end of the day, it isn’t a superhero series. It’s the Corleones vs. Sopranos, only with costumes. There aren’t any good guys, only bad guys with different moral codes.