Saturday, July 19, 2014

Teen Titans Go!: "Pirates"

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Cartoon Weekend "Pirates", Directed by Luke Cormican, Written by Adam Tierney

Aqualad made a big guest appearance on a recent episode of Teen Titans Go!, so let's take a look!
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"Pirates" opens under the sea, with Aqualad chilling out and watching a Spongebob-esque show on TV. Suddenly, he gets an urgent message from Robin, demanding Aqualad's presence topside pronto. Oh, also: "Bring lots of shrimp."

Aqualad grabs some of his finny friends and heads to the beach, where he finds not an emergency, but...a Teen Titans cookout! And Aqualad's shrimp pals are the "guests" of honor. Garth is horrified by the Titans are gleefully gulping down the shrimp, but gets distracted by the hooded cutie-pie known as Raven. As he tries to put the moves on her, Beast Boy (who also has a crush on her) is aghast, but Cyborg tells him to be careful, because Aqualad is a pirate, and pirates are tough:
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Robin wonders (heh) why Cyborg thinks Aqualad is a pirate, and Cyborg confidently states that anyone who comes from the sea is a pirate. Fair enough.

The wooing continues, and Aqualad simply won't take no for an answer. He takes Raven to a trip under the sea, but arranges something that the dark-souled Raven might like: a battle royale among Aqualad's finny friends, featuring sharks, whales, an octopus, a turtle, and more. It's not pretty, but Raven is, and she loves it:
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Beast Boy wants to fight Aqualad for Raven's affections, but it's mostly just a lot of insults back and forth. Raven doesn't want two boys fighting for her, unless it's for real: a battle to the death!
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Aqualad refuses to fight, but Beast Boy has no such compunction. Using his shape-shifting abilities, he mops the floor with the Prince of the Sea, leaving Aqualad a bruised, crumpled heap on the floor. As he is carted off to the hospital, Raven gives Beast Boy a smooch: he's won this round!

Back at the hospital, Aqualad has been saved, but he's a slightly different guy than how he started:
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...what is it with members of the Aqua-Family and hooks for hands?!?


Of course, it's great seeing Aqualad get such a spotlight on Teen Titans Go! I don't watch the show regularly, but I have found it charming and funny, and a real pleasure to look at. I think it's a funny adaptation--a very loose one, to be sure--of the situations first created by Haney, Cardy, Wolfman, Perez, etc.

That said, and I'm probably taking all of this way too seriously, but it really bothered me that so much of this episode's humor revolved around cruelty to animals. The Titans gleefully eat Aqualad's self-described pals, he pits a bunch of them against each other for Raven's amusement, and a running gag involves Garth walking on a small turtle, who clearly is in pain because of it. I don't know, maybe it's my years of vegetarianism combined with my even more years of Aqua-Fandom, but it bothered me seeing Aqualad written as someone who would allow and participate in violence inflicted on his finny friends. It's the opposite of pretty much everything I like about Aquaman and related characters, and I wondered what I would say if a child of mine watched this show and thought it might be funny to, I don't know, step on a turtle.

I realize that violence against animals is a staple of animated hi-jinx, reaching back to the 1930s, but seeing adults do this to animals really wiped the smile off my face as the episode rolled on. Still, there are some funny gags here, and the episode moves at a lightning pace (the segment is a little over ten minutes, so it's over before you have time to get bored). It has been previously established that Aquaman exists in this universe, maybe he can make a return appearance to teach his protege the error of his ways?


4 comments:

Anthony said...

Didn't know you were vegetarian! Guess that'd explain part of the Sea King's appeal (in versions where he's not treating his sea pals like a giant Red Lobster... :-p ).

Been awhile, but is Beast Boy still vegetarian in this show, or was he chowing down on some shrimp also? Figure he'd be less gung-ho about such, but the show's highly goofy tone seems to have thrown any semblance of characterization out the window...

Earth 2 Chris said...

Put me in the "I didn't know Rob was a vegetarian" camp as well!

I saw parts of this episode while walking back and forth through the house while the kids were watching it.

The humor is VERY broad, but I understand where you're coming from with the animal cruelty. I think Adult Swim has definitely spread it's snark deep into Cartoon Network.

I'm not a pitch-fork parent that thinks every show has to teach a moral and set a good example, but I think we've swung too far the other way in many cases.

It's a far cry from when the Super Friends would tell you how to approach a strange dog properly!

On a similar note, a commercial for CN's new show, Clarence, depicted that rather large child standing on top of an exterior air conditioning unit, while air blew up his shirt and shorts.

If some kids imitates this....

Chris

Anthony said...

Adult Swim is one of the few success stories for the CN channel these days (other than Adventure Time and Regular Show and, well, Teen Titans Go). Thus, a lot of CN's direction feels like "Adult Swim Lite" nowadays, unfortunately... though they seem to be trying harder with some shows (I like Steven Universe).

As for older cartoons, animals were often the lead characters (vs human children the near-sole focus of most modern kids' cartoons) and thus often would've fought back against being mistreated (Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd, Tweety vs. Sylvester, etc.). A turtle in Looney Tunes or early Hanna-Barbera would've probably bitten/fought back or said something snarky after being used as a stepping stool. :-p

For cartoons the opposite end from animal cruelty, there's PBS' "Wild Kratts," which is a show about nature. There, the two heroes fight to save various often-rare animals from villains and can assume animals' abilities with "Creature Power Suits," including various ocean-based adventures. It manages to teach facts about a featured animal in each episode, and doesn't have a "Captain Planet" tone to it. Would enjoy seeing the Kratts team up with the Sea King (the villains teaming up with Black Manta or Ocean Master would probably be a riot...).

rob! said...

I've been a vegetarian for almost 20 years, but since it's not something that naturally comes up in conversation so a lot of people who don't end up eating meals with me don't know. The whole pro-animal thing is definitely one of the reasons I have always liked Aquaman so much!