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It’s that time of year again where Hollywood sprinkles a dash of hype here and a pinch of news there right in the middle of San Diego for the yearly celebration of fandom known as Comic Con! What does this mean for everyone who CAN’T book a ticket for California and drop ridiculous amounts of money on hotel rooms and cab rides? Why trailers of course! And this year we start the event off with something BIG! DC and Warner Bros have been teasing us with a new Teen Titans live action show for some time now, and they’ve finally released the first trailer for it! Let’s see how far we can get into this before I find something to criticize!
*ONE SECOND IN*
NOPE! Sorry, DC and Warner Bros! You couldn’t have missed the point harder if you actually FOUND the point and then threw it into the Mariana Trench so that no one could ever find for all eternity! Now look, I don’t want this to be a rant about COMIC BOOK ACCURACY (mostly because I’ve never read a Teen Titans book) or about how it doesn’t match my nostalgia for that original Teen Titans cartoon (something we’ll talk about soon enough). No, my problem is that this trailer is cynical garbage. It’s a list of bad ideas that you could only make if you were TRYING to be this awful, and maybe in a cynical way that’s what they’re going for here. It’s no accident that the trailer takes great pains to show you Robin straight up murdering dudes (he stomps that dudes’ neck, shoots a gun, and gushes someone like a sprinkler; I don’t care if they explain in the show that they were “just injured”) and to also have him shout FUCK BATMAN while covered in blood. This is what a very immature person sees as COOL and MATURE (never mind that maturity is not the ability to withstand and consume dark material but to learn to empathize with your fellow people and take responsibility for yourself and those you care about) and it hews far too closely to the toxic nightmare that comic fandom has become in recent years (or at least has revealed itself to be now that its victims have platforms available to them). Who would want to see Robin snap someone’s neck or Starfire set criminals on fire? Probably the same “upstanding folks” who wanted Batman to kill people and are yelling at everyone about a Snyder Cut.
Even if we take this at face value and ignore its sickeningly nihilistic and immature tone, what does it ACTUALLY have to offer people who are fans of these characters? Well we’ve got Dick Grayson as a cop which… actually might be interesting. Doing about three and a half minutes of research, there doesn’t seem to be THAT much about him when he’s NOT in Super Hero mode (apparently he was a bartender, a male model, and MAYBE a cop briefly?) and it’s angle that works pretty well for The Flash, so sure; I’ll take it as a decent way to ground this series. The big problem though is that he’s still ROBIN in this despite the series being about the adult (or adult-ish) versions of these characters, and by now he should be Nightwing! Is he still donning the Robin gear just so he can do that terrible Batman line? I have no idea, but at least I can still recognize this guy as THAT character even if they pumped the obnoxiousness up to ten billion. The one that’s throwing me off the most though (and the only other one we get a decent glimpse of) is Raven who has the whole TRAGIC BACKSTORY thing front and center and she doesn’t even seem to be aware of what her powers even are! Just how far off script are we going with this character and for what reason!? Look, every adaptation should be allowed its own interpretation of the characters it has, but for those who were fans of the show (let’s face it, the original cartoon and Teen Titans Go are where most people know this character) I don’t see what this Exorcist knockoff interpretation will do for them. She’s supposed to be a HERO, yet the trailer gives no indication of her doing anything THAT proactive with her powers; just the occasional outburst followed by immense fear and regret. One of the defining features of Raven, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that she’s NOT a bad guy or evil just because she has dark powers and is the daughter of a demon. She gets to choose who she wants to be an got that way through discipline and opening herself up to others. As a fan of this character, I’m just not sold on this interpretation of the character which seems to go all in on everything she isn’t.
Really, nothing else in here is catching my eye. I’m sure comic book fans can figure out who Bird Lady and Helmet Guy are (maybe they can also explain how those ridiculous R shaped throwing stars are supposed to work), but I’m just too distracted by how much screaming is in this thing and how blunt the lyrics are to the song. It’s a dark reinterpretation of the characters, so let’s pick a song that shouts MADNESS over and over again! Honestly I’d rather take the music cues from Suicide Squad which was no less blunt but at least decent tunes. Oh, and of course we have to talk about the two and a half seconds we see of Starfire and Beast Boy which on the plus side means they don’t stick around long enough to establish their awful new characterizations, but on the other hand they don’t actually DO anything so there’s not much to get excited about either. Beast Boy actually looks fine with Ryan Potter certainly looking the part and I like that they cast a woman of color to play Star Fire (Anna Diop), but I can’t really bring myself to care about either of them going grim dark; especially since the ONE THING the trailer lets us see Starfire do is immolate some mo-fos for whatever reason. I’d honestly give them credit if grim dark Starfire turned out to be Blackfire in disguise, but who wants to guess that show with the line FUCK BATMAN (and not because he’s a fascist rich dude taking the law into his own hands but because… I guess he’s not hard hardcore ENOUGH for Robin?) wouldn’t be capable of doing something that clever?
Now as negative as I am about this terrible looking trailer, I will give it a compliment. A BACKHANDED compliment to be sure, but a compliment none the less! The best thing about this trailer is that it single handedly redeemed Teen Titans Go for me which is a show I never really gave a chance, but really feel the need to at this point. Two reasons. First, they did an episode in 2015 (THREE YEARS AGO!!) that perfectly identified the problem that this series is running into; namely how pretensions of seriousness often signify a lack of depth more than anything else. Seriously, DC. This is a show that YOU MADE. This is using THE EXACT SAME CHARACTERS. How do you go from making fun of the SERIOUS SUPER HERO trope to make the absolute worst possible version of it!? I mean sure you’ve made Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League, but even THIS goes beyond the level of cluelessness you displayed in those messes!!
The other reason, and this ties back into the idea of Toxic Fandom from earlier, I think that I and WAY too many other people weren’t willing to give it a shot in the first place because it wasn’t what we remembered from all the way back in 2003. There were rumblings of a new series for a while there and we all got excited for a continuation of that first great show, but instead we got Teen Titans Go; an irreverent send up that didn’t really continue the original in any way and felt utterly disposable to boot. Now I’ve seen a few episodes already and aside from a few gems (Operation Dude Rescue was decent enough and even had a solid appearance from Terra!), I never really fell in love with it and always held it up against the original show. Remember when they were fighting Ron Perlman and NOW they’re just making a sandwich? Pshaw! The thing is though, the hate for the series was WAY over the line and it got so bad so quickly that the show had to almost constantly hang lampshades about it; basically turning the big one hundred episode event into a self-deprecating bit about everyone who works on the show. I wanted a season six as much as everyone else, but no one should have lashed out as hard as many people did when they took the franchise in a new direction and aimed it a different audience. Not only does it make you look like an absolute creep, but it might be one of the reasons this NEW series is overcorrecting so hard to the point of having Robin be a murderous asshole and Raven a powerless waif in the face of her unspeakably horrifying powers.
We live in a time where toxicity in fandom is the rule rather than the exception, and while there’s certainly an argument to be made that fandom’s have ALWAYS had its problematic elements, there’s no doubt that social media and the internet have only exacerbated the issues. Whether it’s the weirdos calling the new She-Ra too manish (do you not know what women who AREN’T super models look like!?), the upset over the new Thundercats art style, or the oh so pleasant folks trying to remake The Last Jedi, there are just too many people who will not just act a fool over things they supposedly like, but try to attack others over it as well. DC fandom has become notorious in the last few years because of this astounding sense of entitlement and hostility they have towards critics of the movies, and to me this new Titans series looks way to much like a direct appeal to them. Maybe I’m wrong and this will be another great television show from DC who have been knocking it out of the park in that department, but giving the Snyder Cut fanboys another sacred cow to circle the wagons around seems like a depressingly expected move from DC. I hope I’m wrong about this and that the show will succeed or fail based on its merits rather than by how many angry fanboys can be persuaded into defending it (by which I mean harassing people), and until then I guess I’ll just try to catch up on Teen Titans Go; especially with their movie coming out soon. Who wants to bet that’ll be WAY better than Batman v Superman!?