Should Teen Titans GO! be Stopped?
All right everyone, buckle up. This article has been a long time coming, and has one of the scariest things I’ve ever written in it: AN UNPOPULAR OPINION. And that opinion is this: Teen Titans GO!, the revival/reboot of Teen Titans, is not a bad series. In my opinion, it’s actually had a few really interesting ideas, done some good, and has been given too much bad press.
Now, before anyone shouts me down, let me just say that I adored the original Teen Titans animated series. I collected all the seasons of it on DVD, bought the Playstation 2 Game, the action figures, heck, I even bought the card game that literally NO ONE played. So, when I say that I enjoy Teen Titans GO!, I am in no way a lesser fan of the original series. And yet, many people on the internet want the goofy spinoff of the beloved animated series stopped and taken off the air. Should it be? Well, to answer that, we have to look at why the series is so hated, and what it’s done while it’s been airing these past few years.
A large part of why Teen Titans GO! is hated seems to be due to the nature of the original series’ ending, or rather, a lack thereof. Teen Titans’ fifth season finale, “Things Change”, focused on one of the Teen Titans, Beast Boy, finding a girl who looks just like Terra. Terra was a superhuman Beast Boy fell in love with who later sacrificed her life, turning her body to stone to defeat the Titans’ nemesis, Slade. In “Things Change”, Terra’s stone body is missing from her final resting place, making Beast Boy further suspect that the girl he found is somehow a revived Terra, although the girl has no memory of Beast Boy or anything relating to the girl he thinks she is. Meanwhile, the rest of the Titans are fighting a monster that none of them can beat without Beast Boy’s help, but he is absolutely dedicated to getting “Terra’s” memories back. The episode progresses and it all comes to a head when Beast Boy confronts “Terra” about her memories, and it’s strongly implied that the girl he found actually IS TERRA, but Terra doesn’t want to acknowledge her old life, preferring to ignore it and live out her life as a normal teenager in Jump City. Beast Boy is crushed, but finally responds to his teammates call for help, and runs out the door, with a fade to white.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people were dissatisfied with the way “Things Change” ended, especially being the unintentional series finale. A sixth season was planned, but never came to be. Why that is is relatively unknown, but as it stands, “Things Change” is the final note that Teen Titans ends on, and you know what? I think it’s the perfect note to end on. Throughout season two, when Terra was active, she couldn’t control her powers, and they ended up causing a lot of problems for her and the people around her. When Terra finally did learn to control her powers it was only through the help of Slade, who twisted Terra’s mind and convinced her to do terrible things with her powers to Beast Boy and the rest of the Titans. Eventually, Slade took over her body and forced her to use her powers against her will. So, for the majority of Terra’s life, her powers have brought her and others around her nothing but misery. So, it’s understandable that Terra would want to close herself off to the life she had with those powers, even if it means hurting the boy she loved.
Not only that, but from a thematic standpoint, “Things Change” is the perfect bookend to Beast Boy’s story in Teen Titans. Throughout the series, each season of Teen Titans focuses on a particular Titan and their personal struggle throughout that season, with the unfortunate exception of Starfire. To me, Season Five of Teen Titans is all about Beast Boy growing up, and finally coming into his own as a hero. The season begins with “Homecoming”, a two part episode that shows us Beast Boy in the past, as a member of the Doom Patrol. There, Beast Boy was earnest, but too subservient. He would only act when the leader of the Doom Patrol, Mento, ordered him to. Beast Boy never had the courage to act on his own, until he was faced with a choice – destroy the Brotherhood of Evil’s doomsday machine, or save the rest of the Doom Patrol from being killed. Beast Boy chose to save his team, an act that let the Brotherhood of Evil escape, but saved the lives of his friends. Throughout the season, Beast Boy makes more decisions as an individual, including leading the last remaining Titans against the Brotherhood of Evil in a final showdown. He acts on his own and becomes more and more of a hero, but being a hero requires sacrifice. And Terra ended up being one such sacrifice Beast Boy had to make. Losing someone because they died is painful, but having to let go of someone you care about because it’s painful for them to be around you is a much, much harder thing. Something only a true hero could do. And that’s why I think that “Things Change” is a perfect end to Teen Titans, because in the end, doing what’s best for the sake of others is the essence of being a true hero.
With all that in mind, how does this relate to Teen Titans GO? GO is a shorter form, more comedic reboot of the original Teen Titans, complete with the cast from the original series. There are several main complaints people have about TTG, and I’m going to address them here, one by one. Firstly, people hate on Teen Titans GO! because it’s not the sequel people wanted. Not the sixth season of Teen Titans. But as I’ve expressed, the final episode of Teen Titans is a brilliant look into what a hero has to sacrifice to be called a hero. Not only that, but the penultimate episode of Season Five, “Titans Together” ends with the Teen Titans victorious over literally every villain in the show’s history, aside from Slade. It’s the most triumphant ending I can recall in an animated series of that era! So I believe the ire is unfounded.
Another common problem people take issue with is the frequency the show is aired. This is absolutely a valid concern, or at least it was. There was a time when I’d wake up at nine AM for work, and see Teen Titans GO! on television. I’d be back at nine PM and lo and behold Teen Titans GO! would STILL be on. Now, I don’t profess to know anything and everything about broadcast schedules, but I believe I have an idea of why GO! saturated Cartoon Network’s schedules. Teen Titans GO! first became popular in 2014 to 2015. Back then, Cartoon Network was in a weird place. Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time, stepped down as the series show runner, and the series began losing steam with its fanbase. Weird shows like Uncle Grandpa and Clarence had their fans, but weren’t traditionally “marketable” to a general audience. And lastly, Cartoon Network’s two best modern series, Steven Universe and The Amazing World of Gumball, were on hiatus too often due to the time it took to write or produce the episodes. So, in comes Teen Titans GO!, a short, easy to produce series about superheroes – one of the single most “in” things right now in pop culture. So, while I don’t agree with the week long marathons that Cartoon Network did, I can certainly understand them.
And thirdly, the last most common problem people have with the show is that the characters are annoying, and nothing like their “original” selves. This is a rather facile argument, as at the end of the day, this is another adaptation of the Teen Titans from their comic book selves, not strictly from the first animated series. So of course things are going to be different from how you remember it, especially in a reboot like this. I’ve watched a lot of Teen Titans GO! and honestly the times when the characters get the worst is when they’re pointing out how annoying other people think they are. A lot of GO!s irritating character traits can be attributed to how much hate and bile people spewed about Teen Titans GO! after it became popular. Unfortunately, instead of rising above the hate and telling the stories they wanted to tell, the writers of certain GO! episodes decided to be reactionary and lean into the hate, which really can only breed more hate. There’s even an entire episode of GO! that’s literally just an overdub of the first Teen Titans episode. Doing things like this only ruffles more feathers, but at least it’s publicity I suppose.
Okay, so after all that, you’re probably thinking, “what good could possibly come from Teen Titans GO!?” Well, for starters, Teen Titans GO! was the first piece of media outside of comics to portray Terra as she was originally written – as an unrepentant villain. On August 20th, 2013, the episode “Terra-ized” premiered and introduced Terra as a spy for a villainous organization bent on infiltrating the Titans. Beast Boy is still hopelessly in love with Terra, but the feelings are outright rejected. The spinoff series created an entirely new dynamic between two established characters, which is EXACTLY what a good spinoff is supposed to do. Not only that, but in portraying Terra as an out and out villain, Teen Titans GO! became the first piece of media to accurately depict Terra’s character, an entire four years before the film Teen Titans: The Judas Contract came out.
Teen Titans GO! also adds new elements to the world of the original series, by bringing in characters like Rose Wilson, Slade’s daughter, who can mesh perfectly into GO! as she’s not held back by any preexisting animated adaptation, save for the unrelated Crisis on Infinite Earths film. Rose is snarky, sarcastic and a breath of fresh air among all that GO! and appears to borrow from the series it spun off from. Plus, the upcoming film, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies looks to completely rework the character of Slade for the GO! universe, making him an actually threatening super-villain in a world where the superheroes do nothing but goof off, eat pizza and “be annoying”. In doing that, Teen Titans GO! once more adds new depth to familiar characters and their relationships.
Speaking of which, Teen Titans GO! also addresses a lot of the original series fans’ curiosities when it comes to relationships. Multiple episodes are dedicated to Beast Boy and Raven or Cyborg and Jinx, pairings that fans of the original series loved but were never made canon. It allows the folks who wanted to see these characters get together see a bit of how their relationship could go. Plus, with the original voice cast, it makes it even more authentic. Oddly enough, the only canon relationship in the original series, Robin and Starfire, is never explored in GO! Which is probably for the best, since that relationship was done excellently there, to the point where you probably couldn’t write more about it without running the risk of repeating past arcs or episodes. GO! knows what relationships to explore, and which to leave alone.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Teen Titans GO! has done some genuine good in the world, both large and small. In the episode “Slumber Party”, Cyborg briefly highlights a song called “The Night Begins to Shine”, an awesome ‘80s rock song that was literally discovered by accident in the Warner Bros. Music library. Because Teen Titans GO! brought this obscure, amazing song into the spotlight, it allowed the band that sung it, B.E.R. to reunite and create two new, equally great songs, “Forever Mine” and “Rise Up” for the show. In addition to reigniting creativity, GO! also helped a young boy achieve his dream. William Walter Thompson, a teen battling Barakat Syndrome, was able to live out his lifelong dream of becoming a voice actor by starring in an episode of Teen Titans GO! entitled “Wally T” (See below)..
With all of this in mind, I hope I’ve convinced some of you to stop hating on Teen Titans GO!. While it may not be for you, that doesn’t mean that it’s without merit, or that it doesn’t deserve to exist. I, for one, am glad it exists. It explores new dimensions of the characters I grew up with, inspires others to create, and even helps out those in need. Anything that does that is nowhere near worth hating in my book. Honestly, the upcoming film, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies looks like it has some clever writing behind it, at least from the latest trailers. The film’s interpretation of Slade as well as the way the film openly mocks the abundance and varying quality of modern superhero films makes it at least worth one viewing, at least in my opinion.
So, should Teen Titans GO! be stopped? No. I don’t think so. It’s had some new things to say with the characters many of us grew up with, and it’s helped to create more art. At the end of the day, that’s the best thing a cartoon or any piece of media can do. And hey, if you still dislike the show, don’t watch it. It’s really that simple. As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing where these Titans go next.