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In Defense Of 'Teen Titans Go'

Guest Contributor Jeremy Harrison thinks Cartoon Network's Teen Titans Go gets too much hate.

In 2003, Cartoon Network adapted a DC comic book property called New Teen Titans from George Perez and Marv Wolfman that started life back in the 1980s. And that show became the fan favorite Teen Titans.

The show had character development, action, humor and great voice acting. In addition, each season would focus on a particular main character of the team with their own antagonist. It ran for five seasons and had one TV-Movie, ending in 2006.

Nearly a decade later, Cartoon Network decided to reboot the series with the same voice cast but this time, make it a sketch comedy show, much to the fans of the old series chagrin. Instead of having a progressive storyline with continuing character arcs, each story would now be episodic!

No style is particularly better or worse than the other, and each has their pros and cons. But from a pure business perspective, episodic shows can potentially make you more money. Or at least, that's what conventional wisdom would say.

Teen Titans Go gets a lot of hate from fans of the original. But is it bad, or is it just aiming for a different audience?

Now, Teen Titans Go is a show designed to appeal to little kids and make them knowledgeable of the DC Universe (and this is a good thing). The first thing they do really well with is coming up with songs like: Waffles! Yes, that song is annoying but little kids love it because it has a catchy beat and the lyrics are easy to remember. Teen Titans Go has a lot of these ear-worm songs for the kids such as: Fade Away (actually written by Beast Boy’s voice actor, Greg Clipes,) Crane Kick, parodies Karate Kid (1984), and Night Begins to shine which has a very 80s feel to it.

This leads me to my second point that the Teen Titans Go does well: References! References from the 80s (in particular). Cyborg, for example, talks about shows like  Small Wonder,  Golden Girls and The A-Team. The show also shamelessly parodies popular games/movies/show from the 80s like, The Goonies,  The Neverending Story,  Oregon Trail and in a particular early episode called, Missing there is a reference towards  Duck Tales.

These are references that likely went over the head of not only little kids, but also of viewers of the original 2003 show now in their teens or twenties.

And there are three episodes seemingly aimed directly at adults that come to mind
  1. Finally, a lesson where Robin teaches the Titans about how to buy rental property to earn equity.
  1. Who’s Laughing now ?” where Beast Boy decides to go to college and they actually talk about the advantages and disadvantages of going to college (for real)
  1. Oregon Trail” which parodies the popular educational game of the 80s “Oregon Trail”

Now why mention: Rental Properties and Equity, Oregon Trail, and Ducktales and all other numerous references from the eighties? The answer is simple: those episodes are for the parents of the kids who grew up with those movies/shows and games.The reason they are going after the parents with all these 80s references is that market research has convinced companies like Cartoon Network that they should go after parents as well as kids.

Third, Teen Titans go is actually funny! Comedy is subjective depending on the person and the generation they’re from. The creators of Teen Titans Go (Aaron Horvath born 1980, and Michael Jelenic born in in 1977) have admitted to just trying to write low-brow comedy that appeals to them; men who are in their mid to late 30s (actually, Jelenic just turned 40). Also, bearing in mind that they have to produce 50 episodes plus a season, statistically speaking, not every sketch is going to be funny. Even if it was funny, ( and your mileage may vary) then could it be possible that the jokes are more likely hitting an older audience than intended? A few sample comments from “GeekMom.com” on the subject of Teen Titans Go seem to suggest that's just what's happening.

Jay Boaz says:

I love watching Teen Titans Go both with and without my son.

Michael Rand says:

Not since gravity falls has ended has satire at my kids level been so well written.
Bill says:

My son and I watch this show together. I actually look forward to watching TTG. The show is one if the best on TV.

And then, of course, there's this:

That’s the rapper 50 Cent that dressed up as Cyborg because of his son’s request because his son is a fan of Teen Titans Go and his mother joined the party as Starfire. She writes on a post in her Instagram

“I think the best thing about being a mom and overall a parent, is getting to relive all those fun kid moments!” -- Daphne Joy
If nothing else, TTG is something parents can use with their kids to bond over and at the same time share memories of their own childhoods. I do think a lot of superhero shows today are more geared towards a darker tone. TTG does lighten things up a bit for kids and we should have a mixture of superhero shows that will appeal to any age group. Adults, Teens, and kids. No one should be left out. Teen Titans Go may not be for everyone, but it seems to have found its audience.

Jeremy Harrison is a long time fan of animation who was born and raised in the Windy City of the United States of America. Works at the City Colleges of Chicago as a Science and Math teacher. He not only talks to the students about science but current animated films and the history of animated films in general as well. When he can, he volunteers at the Adler Planetarium and at Facet theaters in Chicago. He has also helped write articles for the Nashville Pride covering various sporting events, art Showcases, Science Talks and of course a number of conventions dealing with comics and anime when he was earning his master's degree at Fisk University in Nashville TN. Currently, the mild-mannered professor is going to be learning how to animate with ToonBoon, this summer to create his own science animation videos.