Ah, childhood obsessions. They certainly leave their marks.
I can still see remnants of them around my room: my unfinished pig collection from sixth grade, forgotten sketches of Neopets, piles of stuffed animals that I haven’t the heart to let go… But some of these obsessions have carried me through the years; “Teen Titans” is one of them.
To this day I attribute my knowledge of good and evil, the importance of the choice, and the power of the individual (as well as the team) not to “Harry Potter” or the “Eragon” series (although both of these series are quality), but to “Teen Titans.”
“It’s simple: there is good and there is evil. There are those who commit crimes and those who stop them. The two sides are opposite, as different as day and night. And the line between them is clear… Or at least, it’s supposed to be.” – Robin, “X”
Robin teaches that vices and virtues are not as black and white as some children’s stories would have it portrayed. We have both good and evil inside of ourselves, and it is our decision upon which part we will act. When Robin decides to adopt a new persona, Red X, to gain inside information on his arch nemesis, Slade, he discovers inside himself a darkness that he had previously denied. Robin’s internal struggle makes for an interesting debate on the evils of man. That, and he looks quite attractive in his Rex X getup. Just sayin’.
As one of the most controversial characters on the show, Terra definitely left an endearing lesson: we always have a choice. She tried to run away from her problems. She even tried to blame other people for her decisions, citing that she was helpless and that she “didn’t have a choice.” But in “Aftershock, pt. II,” after serving as Slade’s apprentice and nearly destroying the Teen Titans in a stunning act of betrayal, Beast Boy reminds her that it is never too late to make things right:
Terra: You have to stop me Beast Boy. Please….I don’t want to fight anymore…
Beast Boy: Then don’t let Slade control you anymore!
Terra: I have no choice…
Beast Boy: That’s a lie! You’ve always had a choice! You chose to work for Slade, you chose to betray us, and now you’ve chosen to give him control. Slade isn’t doing this Terra, you are!
It’s your life, Terra, your choice. It’s never too late.
Terra subsequently takes this advice to heart and sends Slade into a pit of lava. Unfortunately, she ends up being turned to stone in the process, but her story is immortalized: we always have a choice.
Of course the Teen Titans work as a unit, but there are certain circumstances in which it is up to the individual to determine their fate. Such is the case with Raven, the darker, more mysterious member of the team. During season 4, we begin to unravel Raven’s past. Her father, Trigon, is the root of all evil. (And you thought you had daddy issues…). Raven was designed as a portal for Trigon’s takeover of Earth, and it seemed as if she could not stop this event from happening.
But that didn’t throw her. In “The End, pt. III,” She vows to stop running away and takes matters into her own hands. In her final confrontation with her father, Raven stands up to fight for her fate and to stop Trigon from furthering his evil deeds. When Trigon reminds her that as her father he could take away her powers, she replies: “You may have created me. But you were never a father! Father’s are kind! Father’s protect you! Father’s raise you! I was protected by the Monks of Azarath. I was raised by my friends! They are my family!” She blasts Trigon for a final time, banishing him from Earth, and saves the world in one heroic sweep.
While watching this show may have set unrealistic expectations for how awesome teenagedom would be (seriously, I’m still waiting for my powers to arrive or at least for Professor X to enroll me in his School for Gifted Youngsters), “Teen Titans” taught me important lessons that continue to impress me in my older years. Even the somewhat goofy episodes have some tidbit of life wisdom woven throughout (sans the cheesy, “Full House” type atmosphere). “Teen Titans” is one childhood obsession I am proud to still have today.