Titans: Is the show mature enough to tackle darker subject-matter?


The only thing mature about DC Universe’s Titans has been its pervasive language and violence. But does the latest episode suggest it’s ready to tackle more?

DC Universe’s Titans has quickly earned a name for itself as being edgy and dark. Understandably, some people love the tone of the show while others don’t.

We at Show Snob have definitely struggled with some aspects of the show, most of which is down to haphazard writing that strays far from its source material.

There hasn’t been much that we can consider fun or entertaining about this show but, I am the first to admit that not all good shows need to meet such criteria.

Titans is well within its rights to be gritty and mature, but only if it is brave enough to deal with the mature subject matter.

Related Story. DC Universe’s Titans season 1 premiere recap. light

The latest episode of the show, “Doom Patrol“, suggested that all is not fantastic in the land of superheroes. For one, the members of Doom Patrol, especially young Garfield Logan (Ryan Potter), were at the receiving end of verbal abuse and controlling behavior from their savior and leader, Chief (Bruno Bichir).

It’s to be noted that Gar in the comic books hadn’t had much luck with unconditional love from either his parents or his stepfather — the people in his life were usually abusive or negligent. It was only in his adoptive Titans family where he received affection.

Garfield Logan in Titans — Ep. 104 — Photo Credit: Christos Kalohoridis / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Chief is shown as controlling and hot-tempered, and it is evident he sees Doom Patrol as trophies rather than people who deserve better.

Robotman struggles with his half-life; Negative Man wishes to be himself again, and Rita Farr is suffering from depression. Yet, Chief only talks about how he prolonged their lives, not caring about how he could better their quality of life.

He’s made Doom Patrol dependent on him and reprimands them if they stray. These are all symptoms of an abusive relationship and presumably will be explored further in the spin-off Doom Patrol.

This is the kind of mature theme viewers would have expected from Titans, but the episode also suggests there may be something deeper for another character on the show.

The first episode of Titans introduced us to Dick Grayson’s (Brenton Thwaites) Achilles’ heel. He can’t stand injustice, especially when it comes to children being abused. He brutally attacks a man for sexually abusing his own daughter and warns him against doing it ever again.

Dick has been a raging storm this whole season. Much of it is down to his struggles with his former partner, Batman. According to Thwaites, Dick hates Batman because Batman’s a killer and was afraid he was becoming too much like him.

Also, we know that the second Robin, Jason Todd (Curran Walters) will appear on the show at some point.

From the clip that was released, Dick had no idea that Batman had replaced him. This could be a source of his anger, as could be the possibility that Jason’s death at the hands of the Joker (as per the comics) deeply affects Dick and his relationship with his mentor. But, could there be more to this anger in Dick?

In the fourth Titans episode, Dick launches an unprovoked attack on a man he believes has not only captured Rachel (Teagan Croft) but also may have hurt her.

When confronted by Starfire (Anna Diop), he explains that his actions result from the fact that he went through something when he was a child. He trusted in the wrong people and he’s afraid Rachel will do the same thing.

We know that Dick saw his parents murdered when he was a child and was subsequently fostered by Bruce Wayne and groomed to become the vigilante hero, Robin. So, what does Dick mean when he says he ‘trusted the wrong people’?

Setting aside the 80 years of comic book lore, which this series has been doing so far if this conversation is taken at face value, one could logically conclude that Dick may have suffered some kind of abuse as a child, either sexual, verbal or negligence.

Negligence is highly likely the most possible form of abuse that Dick suffered as a child, seeing as Bruce Wayne would likely be away a lot and by grooming Dick to become Batman’s sidekick, he directly put the child’s life in actual danger.

In the comics, older Dick Grayson (operating as the solo superhero Nightwing) often jokes about how his early years as Robin consisted solely of him making puns and being kidnapped. In hindsight, it would be understandable if he were angered by this state of affairs — the only reason Nightwing is able to joke about it is that nothing significant happened to him during those many kidnappings.

Had he been tortured and killed (like Jason Todd or Stephanie Brown) — or even worse — he would unlikely be as forgiving or as affectionate towards his foster father.

Could this be what troubles Dick Grayson in Titans?

Robin in Titans Ep. 101–Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie / ©2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

Of course, part of Dick’s rage against the hunter in “Doom Patrol” may just come from his own guilt. He had already betrayed Rachel’s trust in the second episode by promising never to leave her, only to abandon her with his acquaintances.

This betrayal led to Rachel implicitly trusting Starfire, a stranger but the only person other than Dick who wants nothing from her. Under Starfire’s watchful eye Rachel was safe, but the moment she left Rachel in Dick’s care to complete her investigation, Dick somehow thought it necessary to track down his car rather than protect Rachel.

Then all hell broke loose. So, had the hunter actually harmed Rachel it would have been Dick’s fault.

Titans renewed show for second season. light. Related Story

Having said that, the succeeding conversation between Dick and Starfire appears to suggest his anger at the hunter came from something else.

Sexual abuse, gender-based violence and trafficking have always been perquisites for female characters’ backstories in popular media.

When it comes to comic books, there is nary a female character in sight who hasn’t faced some kind of gender-specific violence in her life, either during their tenure as a superhero or before. Most female heroes in media have a rape storyline to motivate them, or worse, to motivate their male partners.

We can’t just blame the past, either. Fox’s The Gifted had a similar story for one of their heroes. Lauren Strucker (Natalie Alyn Lind) tells her father that her powers manifested when a boy tried to grab her.

It’s such a cliché trope but somehow it wound its way into a 2018 show.

THE GIFTED: L-R: Natalie Alyn Lind and Stephen Moyer in the “afterMath” episode of THE GIFTED airing Tuesday, Oct. 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Quantrell Colbert/FOX.

While social issues and topics like sexual violence need not necessarily be eschewed in entertainment media, it is the way they are handled in mainstream media that has always been a problem.

In comics, a female character being raped is a plot device usually meant to propel male heroes into action. Prostitution is seen as shorthand for a female character’s struggles, yet the same is never true of male characters.

Were the tables turned in Titans and it was Starfire spouting the same dialogue as Dick, would we not have immediately assumed — and probably been proven correct — that she speaks from her own experience of facing abuse?

In the comics, Koriand’r was a slave on an alien planet. I don’t remember any comics specifically mentioning anything about sexual abuse but many have assumed as much by reading between the lines.

Titans’ Dick is overprotective of children, supposedly because of his own experiences as an orphan and a teenage superhero, but are the Titans showrunners brave enough to tackle other aspects of this issue? And would they be willing to explore this through a fan-favorite male comic book character?

Dick Grayson in Titans — Ep. 103

It would be a bold move by DC Universe to actually examine male sexual abuse and the repercussions of the same. But, it’s unlikely that their maturity would extend that far.

For one, there is no way to include such an event in Dick Grayson’s past without tarring and feathering other beloved characters. Had Dick faced abuse in the circus then his parents would be seen in poor light. That would not sit well with fans.

And, if something happened to him while he was Robin? That does not bear thinking about.

Admittedly, in light of modern sensibilities, it becomes harder and harder to understand why Bruce Wayne would bring a child into his home, and how Child Services could allow it.

Were we to read this story today, we would think something fishy was going on and keep close tabs on Bruce. Batman was created during “simpler times” but the character has been updated since. Wouldn’t it be natural to update some of its central conceits?

The most controversial thing to happen to Dick Grayson in comic books was when anti-hero Tarantula took advantage of him while he had a nervous breakdown.

This was in the ’90s and Tarantula was drawn as a gorgeous Latina, which meant the writers of the story treated it as an act of passion rather than what it actually was — rape. The incident has never been mentioned again in the comics, but those who read that storyline haven’t forgotten it.

Look at it another way – Rachel Roth, a teenage female character, has gone through several failed trafficking attempts in just four episodes of Titans.

Gotham, the other superhero show with underage characters, didn’t put its version of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) through half as much trauma in four seasons as Rachel has gone through in as many episodes.

Next. Titans season 1, episode 4 recap: Doom Patrol. dark

If this is the extent of Titans’ maturity — putting an underage girl in constant peril — then, that is truly disappointing. It would be far more mature, and hard-hitting, to deftly handle a relevant and oft-neglected global issue facing countless people through a beloved character.

The ball is in your court, Titans writers.