28 April 2013

Teen Titans Go Younger

Back in 2010, I quoted Young Justice producer Greg Weisman talking about the audience that the show needed to deliver for its network: “I think, from an economic standpoint, we have to hit boys 6 – 14 for Cartoon Network to sell their ad space or whatever…”

As some viewers complained, the show’s pilot skewed heavily toward pleasing that demographic. It was all about young male characters running around and smashing things. The show introduced the female members of the team gradually, and for a long time one seemed like a sitcom caricature of a teen-aged girl.

By the second season, however, important elements of the show seemed well beyond the concerns of “boys 6-14.” Jumping ahead five years meant the characters who had been in their mid-teens were now of college age. What’s more, they were acting that age. Sex is what I’m trying to say:

  • The second Roy Harper was raising a child with his ex, the assassin Cheshire.
  • Cheshire’s sister Artemis was living with her boyfriend, Wally West.
  • Dick Grayson was apparently charming the pants off several young women, one after another. (This appears more in the comic book than the TV show.)
The show introduced less mature characters in that second season, but its complex storyline seemed most suited for older viewers, and not just boys.

The audience evidently wasn’t what the Cartoon Network was looking for because it declined a third season. Instead, the network brought back a version of the Teen Titans show from a decade ago, first in shorts and finally as a half-hour show titled Teen Titans Go.

The producers make a big deal of the same voice actors coming back, and indeed they’re welcome. But many other aspects of the show have changed. The characters have been redesigned as smaller, cuter, and more “cartoony.” Each episode consists of two ten-minute cartoons instead of one adventure (or chapter in a longer storyline). The stories are about the teen heroes in their “off hours,” not fighting villains. In that respect, Teen Titans Go resembles Tiny Titans.

What’s more, the character of Beast Boy has changed in two significant ways. As some viewers noted immediately, he can now speak while in animal form, unlike in the previous cartoon series. (Of course, nothing can stop the Gar Logan of the comics from talking.) Furthermore, he’s no longer vegetarian.

In fact, both parts of the first episode were about food. One half of the show revolved around the perfect sandwich, the other was set in a pie shop. Some of the shorts also revolved around mealtime. In other words, the shift from Young Justice to Teen Titans Go is the shift from the genital to the oral stage of psychological development. We’ll see if that brings in more boys aged 6 to 14.


Bob Buethe said...

It's been a long, long time since I was in that age bracket, but from what I remember, I hated cartoons with superheroes acting silly. I don't think I would have been a fan of Teen Titans Go. I'd have preferred Young Justice... but not by a lot. I didn't like complicated, ongoing stories, either. At that age, I liked my heroes serious and my stories straightforward.

That was the age of the Grantray-Lawrence Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, Filmation Superman and Aquaman, and Hanna-Barbera's Space Ghost and Birdman, though, just to give you an idea of how ancient I am.

J. L. Bell said...

I already miss Young Justice, but I don’t know if I would have when I was 10. It did have a more traditional mix of serious superhero battles and comic relief, but the overarching plots made it stand out.

If I were programming the new Teen Titans Go I’d try to ensure that each half-hour episode had one comical story and one about fighting bad guys. Because yes, we do want superheroes to be heroic.