Watching Today’s DC Animation is a Game of PC Bingo

I am, or, rather, was, a booster and supporter of the DC animated universe as seen on television and direct to video movies, and whenever I saw the DC cinematic universe making some bone headed mistake, or churn out another inferior product, I would grit my teeth and wonder to the uncaring sky, why the suits in the megacorps did not hire  Bruce Timm or the other luminaries who brought us Young Justice, or Justice League Unlimited, or Batman the Animated Series to do the project properly?

 

The TV shows and early direct-to-vid releases were really well done. They are the definitive, in my humble opinion, versions of the characters. Their voices actors are the definitive voices.

 

These animated versions of the stories understand the characters, know how to mine the best elements from the comics, and are respectful of the source material, so that when there is a deviation from the source material, usually it is an improvement.

 

I had lost track of the DC animated released over the last decade, and decided to rectify the gap.

 

So I set out to watch a number of DC animated features recently. They still showed many examples of the old skill, but something had changed.

 

  • Batman: Hush (2019): two things were distractions in an otherwise likable flick — an unhealthy amount of swearing like sailors from the mouths of characters I wanted to like. A lesbian kiss between Poison Ivy and Catwoman.  Much fornicating between Batman and Catwoman without the benefit of wedlock. Not that I blame him, but it is not as if this were the only example.
  • Justice League vs The Fatal Five (2019): not one, but two characters are neuro-atypical. Also much swearing like sailors. Managed to turn Miss Martian, a favorite character of mine, into an annoying twerp. The cowardly Green Lantern girl (whose ring only serves entities without fear) in the last scene turns all fierce, and suddenly can deck all the baddies who were going toe to toe with Superman and Wonder Woman. All female superheroines now dress in modest, if not Puritanical, garb. Cannot have the Male Gaze gazing at them, I suppose. Turned it off during the final fight, when I realized I wanted both sides to die.
  • Batman v Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019): Otherwise fine, but the sucker punch is about ten minutes in. A girl in a pizza joint it telling her lover, who is seated back to the camera, that they are breaking up. The figure speaks and turns, and it is a lesbian couple.
  • Suicide Squad Hell to Pay (2019): The lesbian kiss this time is between Vandal Savage’s daughter Scandal and her henchwoman Knockout. Otherwise fine.
  • Gotham by Gaslight (2018): much fornication between Ye Olde Batman and Corset wearing Catwoman. Not that I blame him. Surprise twist: Commissioner Gordon is Jack the Ripper. A rather ugly and unpleasant version of the mythos.
  • Batman and Harley Quinn (2017): Harley rapes Robin after binding him to the bed. After beating him in fisticuffs, because girls can beat up boys. More potty mouth, rude gestures, etc. I forget whether there is homo kissing scene in this one. Some funny gags, some unpleasantness. Harley is just kind of degraded here.
  • Justice League Gods and Monsters (2015): Justice League are sociopaths, Harley props up corpses in a mockery of a normal suburban family life, and Batman is a vampire who kills and drinks people. Ugly from start to finish.
  • Batman Bad Blood (2016): Batwoman’s love life intrudes into two scenes which do nothing to develop her annoying scowling-faced Mary Sue character, because she is perfect and problem-free, unlike Batman and Robin, who have deep psychological scars and tragic backstories. She otherwise acts perfectly super-heroically. For no particular reason, she is a lesbian, and that is put on display front and center for no other reason than to put it front and center. Check off one box on PC bingo.
  • Suicide Squad Assault on Arkham (2014): Harley rips an ear off a nurse in the in asylum, and is seen grinning, witht the severed ear dripping between her teeth. She swears like a sailor, and fornicates enthusiastically with Deadshot.Also, some heads explode while the camera does not blink. Blood and brain matter flies everywhere.

    This is an otherwise brilliant offering, and was one of the my favorites, except that I could not show it to my teenagers. It was too dark, too cynical, too graphic, too shocking. Not a single one of these added elements of ugliness added even an iota of character development or to the theme or to the plot. All gratuitous.

  • Young Justice Season 3 (2019): This one broke my heart. Young Justice, in its first two seasons, was perhaps my favorite of all DC Animated offerings. Here, one character expressly says she is not Muslim, but dresses in the traditional Muslim headscarf. Check off one box for being non Islamophobic.She is sweet on a boy throughout the episodes, but when she announces her “gender” to be be a quality she does not have, all the young heroes rush to assure her that this is perfectly normal and good. There may be some plot reason, such as that she is a Father Box reincarnated into a corpse, to explain this odd behavior, but it looked like PC pandering to me, and was intrusive. Check off another box for being gender atypical.

    Neither had any effect on the plot. The girl could have been Mormon or Monophysite rather than Muslim, or her religion could have been left unsaid, for all that it had an influence on the plot. No one else’s religion is mentioned.

    And it is Aqualad, now called Aquaman, who got the homosexual kiss this time. Check off three boxes for a triple word PC woke score.

    He is also black skinned, but since he is a member of another branch of the human family, Homo Aquaticus, I am not sure if the #woke score will also give him credit for being black. Because, technically, Kaldur’ahm is not a POC any more the Kal-El is technically a Caucasian. They just look that way.

    I assume looks are enough to get you PC points in the game of Woke Bingo. So check off five boxes, maybe six, because the homo couple is also inter-racial, which is something the Woke Scolds are really concerned about telling us we should not care about, particularly now, that the previous generation revised all of society to make sure no one particularly cared about it. You are welcome.

 

It is not that they are bad flicks. For the most part, DC still has the right stuff, and still can portray the characters in what really are the definitive versions.

It is not that any of these gratuitous intrusions are major parts of any plot. They are not. The foul language could have been removed from the airplane version of the film with no loss. The homosex kisses, with the possible exception of Poison Ivy (she uses mind control lipstick) had no plot point. They are only there to be there.

 

But they are sucker punches. Blows to the kidney. A sap from behind.

 

These stories are part of the shared mythology of the modern West. They fulfill the same role that tales of Hercules and Robin Hood did in days gone by. From a legal standpoint, they belong to whoever owns the intellectual property rights, who, legally, may do with them as he will. From a moral standpoint, they belong to posterity, and should be treated with respect. They belong to us. They are our shared dreams.

 

Superman is a symbol of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Wonder Woman is a symbol of female emancipation, but she is also, as is oddly overlooked today, a symbol of feminine allure (which is why she carries a lasso, to ensnare, rather than a warhammer, to bash). Batman is a symbol of the dark desire for vengeance that burns in the heart of the wounded. Green Arrow is a symbol of a guy who wanted to write Batman, and ripped off Robin Hood in much the same way Batman ripped off The Shadow. And so on.

 

These shared dreams are not meant to be counters in a game of political correctness bingo.

Originally published here.

John C. Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title. He has published short fiction in Asimov’s Science Fiction in F&SF in Absolute Magnitude and elsewhere. His novel Orphans of Chaos was a finalist for the Nebula Award in 2005. His novel Somewhither won the inaugural Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of 2016. In 2015, he made history by being nominated for six Hugo Awards in one year, more than any other author. Read more of his work at scifiwright.com.

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