Why Raven and Starfire Suck in 'Titans'
As always, DC disappoints.
I told myself that I wouldn't watch Titans because recently DC has taken many beloved characters and completely butchered them. I didn't want to pay for DC's streaming service and I didn't feel like being disappointed by them again. However, since I currently live in Thailand, Titans is available on Netflix, so I took the plunge.
Growing up, I loved Starfire and especially Raven. They were two of the coolest heroes on TV. On the playground in elementary school we would play Teen Titans and I would always play Raven. Which is why Titans is so disappointing—dammit DC, stop proving me right! Raven and Starfire are weak, vulnerable, and are the only two characters with no control during the series.
We open the show with Raven/Rachel (played by Teagan Croft) having a nightmare; her room is unassuming enough, but when her mother leaves after soothing a distraught Rachel, you can see that this is not a normal household. Crosses and other Christian symbols cover Rachel’s door and there is lock on the outside to keep her in. We learn that this isn’t a Stockholm situation; Rachel’s been informed of why she is the way she is… sort of. It seems that she’s aware that she’s dangerous but has no idea why, or where her powers come from; she’s completely clueless. Which is my first issue with the show. Raven’s backstory in this show effectively takes away all her power.
Raven grew up in a realm/planet (the technical location changes) called Azarath where she learns how to control her emotions and her powers. She was born to open the door for her demon father, Trigon, to release Hell on Earth and basically start the apocalypse. In almost every iteration of Raven, she knows who she is and why she was born. Her struggle is compelling because she is a good person at heart who was born to do great evil. In the Cartoon Network series Teen Titans, Raven releases Trigon and with the help of her friends defeats him.
In this version, Rachel grew up on Earth where she learns basically nothing and controls nothing. When she becomes forced to use her powers, they explode from her eyes and mouth like a plague of weird flies. She doesn’t know what she’s doing and often causes more harm than she intended to cause. Since she cannot control her powers, she becomes an unreliable player in the fight against her own father. This is devastating because Raven is now a passive character. She seeks out Dick Greyson for help and is on the run from the organization that is hunting her down. When plot happens, it happens to her and not because of her.
Raven is smart, caring, cunning, independent, seemingly emotionless, and incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, this version of her is easily manipulated and reliant on others. She can't make her own decisions and is a version of herself that most wouldn't recognize.
The same thing happens to Starfire. When we meet her, she has amnesia of all things. She has no idea why she came to Earth and evidently she’s a spy and killer. However, we have no real idea why; as a viewer we suspect it has something to do with Rachel, but most of the season Starfire is left in the dark. The only other female character in this show now has a similar issue of not knowing her own strength and having their powers “weakened” by being in the dark.
This takes away an element of Starfire’s autonomy because she can’t be herself because she doesn’t know who she is. Starfire is often characterized as a fun, lighthearted alien who is the most powerful person on the Titans team. With no knowledge of who she is, she cannot use her powers to their fullest abilities. It takes the entire season to get her memory back just to find out the girl she’s been protecting? Rachel? Oh yeah, she needs to kill her to stop the apocalypse on Earth for some reason.
If you haven’t already realized, I am not happy with the treatment of the women in this show. Arguably the women on this team are the most powerful, especially in the show. Dick Greyson is a vigilante with no powers and Beast Boy/Garfield can only turn into a tiger (his powers are actually that he can become any animal). Both men seem to have very lackluster abilities in comparison to Rachel—whose powers include levitation, telekinesis, telepathy, etc.—and Starfire, with fiery blasts that come from her hands, she can fly, and she has incredible strength. Putting so many blocks in their paths makes them more vulnerable and is ridiculous. The season starts with their most powerful players in vulnerable positions to make Dick—and to a lesser extent Garfield—the saviors.
Season 2 has begun streaming, but I'm not sure if I'm going to watch it yet. I might come back in a couple of weeks with an update on how it's going.