Like many of the boys in my incoming second grade class, I was very much into the show Teen Titans when it came out in the summer of 2003. I found out about it through Cartoon Network’s gaming website, where they were advertising the upcoming show by luring and subsequently addicting innocent children to their newest game—a crime-fighting, action-packed trip through multiple settings of the new Teen Titans cartoon. Many of the kids at my summer camp (mostly the boys and I) would play the game and discuss favorite characters and their “moves”. I was especially drawn to the character Raven because her magic powers had me mesmerized.
When the show first aired later on, I fell in love at once with the 5 main characters: Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and most of all, Raven. I remember taking a “Which Teen Titan are YOU?” quiz on the Cartoon Network website over and over again with different combinations in my attempts to “be” Raven. I also remember pretending my favorite color was orange for a year because that was one choice that led me to becoming Raven in the completely legitimate quiz. Yes, orange was definitely the blue-and-black-obsessed heroine’s favorite color. Good logic, young Zoe.
I don’t think I could articulate why Raven was so important to me back when the show was on air, but at this point I’m well aware that, though my personality is more closely aligned with the excitable Starfire, I had a special connection to Raven. We both felt alone. We were different, and liked being different, but that isolated us from others. We would unintentionally self-sabotage our friendships because our expectations of them were never aligned with reality. We were judged for whom people thought we were, rather than for whom we truly were inside. We didn’t understand that people wanted us in their lives, so we pushed others away. We had more inner strength than anyone would ever know, including ourselves.
But my connection to Raven was just the beginning. My love Raven and the other wonderful characters became a years-long intense obsession with the series. I played make-believe games as the Teen Titans with my little sister, Gabi. The two of us also created an entire Broadway-esque musical dedicated to the show. I drew Raven over and over again in my sketchbooks. I even wrote disturbingly dark fan-fiction as an 11 year old with my favorite pairing, Raven and Beast Boy.
But the show went off air when I was in middle school, killing my hopes and dreams of seeing my favorite couple get together or even just getting another season of my most treasured television show. I went through a 13 the Musical phase, then a Glee phase (which I’m admittedly not quite over), but Teen Titans was always hidden away in the back of my mind.
And then, in 2014, I saw the second episode of Teen Titans Go playing on TV while I was flipping channels during the summer before I was entering college. I heard my favorite voice actors, and I was immediately speechless. It felt like my heart was about to spontaneously combust with shock and joy. The animation style was different, as was the premise, but I had so much hope renewed in me. Perhaps this was the start of something beautiful, my mind whispered as I watched the rest of the episode, glassy-eyed.
My mind was very, very wrong. It became more and more obvious how wrong it was as each new episode of Teen Titans Go came out.
My favorite characters were still voiced by the lovely voice actors from the old series, but that was the only similarity that seemed to stay in place. The series became less of a joke-teller and more just a big joke; until it became almost offensive with how poorly my old favorite characters’ traits were rendered. Cyborg and Beast Boy became dumb, rude, and completely obnoxious. Robin became silly, pathetic, and completely obnoxious. Starfire became flat, superficial, and completely obnoxious. And Raven? I didn’t recognize her at all. Everyone was an exaggerated, poorly written caricature of whom they once were. Maybe it was supposed to be funny, but I for one wasn’t laughing.
I think what actually angered me the most was that they paired my favorite Titans, Raven and Beast Boy, together as a couple in this new series. It was something I had wanted for so long, and now I technically had it; but I had it in the worst way possible. Their voices were the same, their coloring was the same, but they weren’t really the Beast Boy and Raven that I had always wanted to get together. The relationship now felt fake and forced. Most of all, it felt like something I should be happy about. They were still my favorite couple, right? I should be excited that they’re finally together, even in a different form, right? Wrong.
I think it was a big mistake to bring back the Teen Titans in Teen Titans Go. The writing is terrible: they once had an episode involving a talking bathroom named John that came from a planet of alien bathrooms. The old Teen Titans addressed the feeling that so many children like myself have: being different but learning to love and embrace your differences. The new Teen Titans Go characters are all very, very similar: all of them are, I repeat, completely obnoxious. No differences to report there. I idolized the old Titans for their bravery and friendship. I can’t imagine any child feeling the same way about the new Titans.
It’s a slap to the face when someone takes your characters and completely scraps what made them THEM—and subsequently markets them as the very same characters. That is why Teen Titans Go has ruined everything. Well, everything for us Teen Titans fans.