Remembering Teen Titans

So I like many other people between their mid twenties/pushing thirty grew up watching a lot of weird stuff on tv, I’m pretty sure I watched a lot more weird stuff than most of my friends (minus some of the anime friends). One of these weird shows that most of my peers that watched cartoons was Teen Titans.

Teen Titans was about the adventures of the team known as the Teen TItans (shocker) consisting of Robin (Dick Grayson), Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven who all had super powers and used them to defend the innocent, fight crime, and beat up bad guys. I remembering having mixed feelings about this show both as a teen and admitting to liking it as an adult because I’m not as insanely anal as I was concerning what is and isn’t anime (boy was I a nutjob).  I did like it as a teen too though, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today; remembering teen titans because I don’t really have the time to sit down and watch each season and do a review them individually. Plus the series hasn’t been sold on DVD in ages and I think only the first two seasons were released.

First Impressions

So unlike most of my peers I was fairly familiar with the DC universe beyond the Justice League cartoon and kind of knew who the titans were besides Robin; I knew Starfire was an alien, Beast Boy was actually named Garfield and went by Changeling, Raven was kind of the antichrist, and Cyborg was sometimes a member of the Justice League. When I saw previews for the show I thought ‘oh sweet, we’re finally seeing what Robin is up to when Batman is hanging out with the Justice League,’ and I was sorta right.

I liked the first episode aired where the Titans took on students from HIVE academy; it was a good way to introduce the team and give enough depth of their personalities to where viewers could get a general idea of the team. I will admit part of me was disappointed because I thought the series would start with an origins episode like Justice League; the first part would be the team meeting up, getting properly introduced and facing a big problem and not having the best team skills. Then in part two they learn to work as a team, save the day, then go out for pizza. I rolled along with the series though because I liked it.

Criticisms

Before I start, it is possible to have criticisms of something and like it at the same time; there are times I will critique Star Wars and Doctor Who over things I don’t like featured in the series/franchise, the same extends to Teen Titans. I do not hate the series contrary to what this portion may make it seem.

I’ll get this out of the way; from age thirteen to nineteen I was very convinced manga and anime were the epitome of entertainment and anyone who disagreed was ‘uncultured about how badass it was’. So seeing western animation mimic anime was off putting at times. While some series did a fair representation of it (Avatar the Last Airbender, W.I.T.C.H., and oddly Totally Spies), other series overdid it (HiHi Puffy Ami Yumi…). As a kid I felt Teen TItans was trying too hard to be anime at times and while I’m significantly more relaxed about it as an adult, some of the more zanier moments are a little off putting.

I also didn’t like how seasonal arcs were treated where three to five episodes of the season were devoted to the arc and the rest of the season was devoted to filler episodes and episodes with character development. While the later is important to have in a series, it is possible to tie in development with the plot of an episode. I do also understand that at the time and even now syndication was taken more seriously so ‘filler’ episodes had to outweigh the arc episodes so anyone just turning on the tv would be able to sit down and enjoy and episode instead of having to freak out over not being sure what is happening in a ‘animated soap opera’ (which is sadly my complaint of Young Justice).

I also felt the second season arc could have used the filler episodes to a better advantage with the character Terra and at least had two filler episodes have her be an active part of the team just to make her betrayal of the team a bigger impact. Same goes for season four (which was almost the show’s final season) where Raven is revealed to be the portal to the end of existence (it could be argued that all of her character development episodes from the previous three seasons could be added to her arc admittingly). I do wish characters outside of the main titans popped up more frequently outside of the final season where the team expands beyond the core five, but I’ll get to season five later.

What I Liked About the Series or That’s So Raven

It was fun and shockingly relatable despite the show being primarily light hearted and the target audience ranging from seven to thirteen. Despite the above criticisms of filler episodes devoted to character development, I did enjoy the character development of the series and feel that it is the strongest part of the series, particularly Raven.

I argue that Raven got the most focos in episodes of the series because she in a sense was the most relatable character. Despite being seen as ‘the goth girl’ of the group, she was designed to have viewers relate to her even if socially they were more along the lines of Starfire or Beast Boy. She had her problems about her feelings and emotions in the sense that she couldn’t express her emotions or lose control of them or bad things will happen. The solution to her episodes concerning expressing herself may seem like they’re easily resolved by Raven being honest with both herself and her friends and talking about her problems and feelings, but let’s be honest, that is a really hard thing for any teenager to do.

My personal relation to the character was tied to my sexuality (shocker x2). While Raven is portrayed as a straight female with a close friendship with Starfire, she did constantly have worries about herself. She worried that her friends would hate her if they found out the truth of her existence, would doing good things be enough to undo her evil ways and make up for her existing, was she ‘evil’ despite all the good she did, did her mother regret her existence (Raven is a product of rape in the comics and it’s heavily hinted to be the same in the series)?

While my teenage problems at the time are not as extreme, I did often wonder along the lines of ‘am I evil for being gay? Would me praying and doing good things in the world make up for my existence? Would all my friends hate me if I told them I was gay?’ plagued my mind at times and little did I know at the time the series was airing sitting down and talking with my parents, being honest with myself and conversing with my friends would also be the solution to some of my internal conflict in life. Also we both read a lot of books, listened to Evanescence like crazy, and wore lots of black and blue.

No Raven isn’t the ONLY relatable character; I have friends from different countries who felt they could relate to Starfire who was the fish out of water for most of the series doing her best to fit in with her new friends on earth and slowly learning the customs of the planet, poor thing also went through puberty. I’ve had goofy friends that related to BeastBoy and sometimes even friends that related to Cyborg and Robin.

While I was disappointed that the series was not officially part of the DCAU of Justice League, I was very relieved to see that the art of the show shifted away from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Where Justice League had near cookie cutter character designs for all of it’s male characters (so many broad square shoulders….), Teen Titans gave varied body types for all the characters and presented most of its cast as actual teenagers.

I also have my own favorite episodes beyond Raven centered ones; my personal favorites being Switched (Raven and Starfire switch bodies and become bffs for the rest of the series), Cyborg the Barbarian, and all of season five because the whole season is arc centered. Also it was always cool that there were immensely silly episodes right before a season finale multiparter.

Season Five

I liked season five since it was what I had wanted from the series, an arc! As I mentioned above the series was originally going to end after season four, but Cartoon Network requested that Teen TItans go for another season and the creators figured ‘let’s go all out!” Past allies of the titans were brought back, new heroes were introduced and brought onto the team, the brotherhood of evil is playing the long game against the titans only giving the illusion that the titans are constantly victorious. We have the villain Jinx switch sides because Kid Flash is just that dreamy of a guy every girl (and some guys) watching the series wanted.

Then a crazy thing happens and all hope seems lost for all the teenage heroes across the world, but Beast Boy steps up and uses his resources to save the day (along with his other teammates outside of Robin also bringing along a few allies to save the day)! That should certainly be a good series finale right? Well it is, but oddly it isn’t.

The final episode to the series is Things Change and boy did it drive fans crazy. The synopsis is that the Titans are fighting a new villain and struggling while Beast Boy is distracted by a girl who strongly resembles a character thought dead named Terra. Beast Boy spends the day with this girl hoping to awaken Terra’s memories and continue his life with the girl he loves. Beast Boy is let down to discover that this mysterious girl doesn’t have Terra’s powers and is cryptically told ‘the girl you’re looking for doesn’t exist anymore.’ The girl in question requests that she be allowed to continue her life as an ordinary girl and leaves Beast Boy to continue his life as a hero with his friends.

Fans were…pissed to put it mildly. Trust me, I frequented tvtome/tv.com forums alot at the time of the series finale; they weren’t happy for the following arguments. Starfire should have had her own seasonal arc, Beast Boy already had a seasonal arc (some fans argue that season was Terra’s arc), and that Things Change was a weak series finale compared to Titans Together. While they have every right to these arguments, I am satisfied with season five and the series finale.

Yes Starfire didn’t really have an arc of her own, but her ‘arch nemesis’ of a sister had already been taken care of and her issue with being a princess from another planet was already solved. No crazy big arc to be solved. I mean I guess you can consider the direct to dvd movie Trouble in Tokyo her arc since she and Robin finally do get together. Okay fine Starfire got screwed over.

In terms of Things Change being a bad series finale, maybe? I saw it as appropriate for the character of Beast Boy who was booted out of the first superhero team he was part of for choosing to save his mother figure of a teammate over finishing the mission, joined the Titans and spent most of his free time goofing off, then proved to his former teammates that he was a competent hero and faced the Brotherhood with his own ‘team’. Change had Beast Boy attempt to revert to his previous self rather than continue on with his character development and be told by ‘Terra’ that he needed to move on in life. (Concerning the mystery girl in the episode, it is meant to be ambiguous the true identity of the girl who Beast Boy hangs out with. From what I’ve heard in the comic book counterpart to the series that is indeed Terra who was apparently restored to human form after Raven restored the earth in the season four finale, but just doesn’t have her powers anymore and desires to just live a normal life as a normal girl).

I think Teen Titans is a great show from my teenage years and really wish they reran it more often on tv. Who was your favorite Titan? Who did you relate to? What was your favorite episodes? All the questions and more will be answered in the comments of this blog! 😛

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