I admit it. Nine times out of ten I am completely out of the loop, so I wouldn’t be surprised if what I’m about to write has been written before. And better! Nevertheless I feel compelled to present my critique of a show I’ve been watching on NetFlix. Young Justice:
I’ve always gravitated to shows about young kids going on adventures while at the same time banging out their issues with vulnerability, romance, and the general awkwardness of being teenagers. Shows like Avatar, Digimon, and Teen Titans (even the goofy reboot) are my bread and butter.
Young Justice has a LOT going for it. Great sound design, good animation, a real balance of action and drama. It’s fun to watch and for the most part it’s decently written.
Enter one of the only female characters, “M’gann M’orzz” otherwise known as “Miss Martian” (she’s also just called “Megan.”) Megan is pretty rad. She can alter the shape and color of her body like an octopus, she can read minds, use telekinesis to levitate or hurl objects, she can turn invisible, and she has her own jet. Pretty awesome right? No. The problem is Megan is simply another Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Not familiar with the term? Let Anita Sarkeesian break it down for you:
I think the writers must have understood the problematic nature of Megan because shortly after her introduction another lady by the name of Artemis joins the team. I shouldn’t complain that Artemis is just another Green Arrow copy, because every member of Young Justice is simply a younger counterpart to an older hero. But I couldn’t help but think how typical it was to add another lady to join in from the sidelines while the real heroes duke it out.
I could go on a rant about the clichés and dullness of these tropes, but my real issue with Young Justice is the men.
When I was in high school I knew in my heart that the only way to attract girls was to act like a complete asshole. Not only had I seen this work on television, but sure enough the other boys acting like assholes were getting plenty of attention! So I did my best to emulate, and you know something? It worked. I got called things like “confident” and “risque,” in spite of crossing boundaries on a regular basis and essentially treating women with less respect than men.
You can imagine my shock when in college my strategies seemed to turn on me. Instead of attracting women by acting like a jerk, I was repulsing them! How could this be? It took me years to unlearn the behavior that was displayed and encouraged from my teen years, and longer to figure out where it all came from!
Let’s look at Young Justice’s “Super Boy.” He’s angry, tough, insensitive, tough, jaded, territorial, and tough. All the things that a “real man” should be. And Megan, the coolest superhero of the bunch, falls instantly in love with him.
Now let’s look at “Kid Flash.” He’s constantly ogling/objectifying women and ceaselessly coming onto Megan with cheesy pick up lines. He’s arrogant, hot-headed, sarcastic, condescending, and obnoxious. He gets a girl too, Artemis.
Is this really the behavior that we want young boys to latch on to? The answer is no. We really don’t.
Back to my experience in college, I essentially had a choice to make. I could continue behaving like an asshole and hope to “get lucky” at a bar or a party somewhere. Or I could work on me, and grow up. I chose to grow up, but a lot of guys don’t.
There’s a lot of anger you feel coming from men who don’t understand why their misogyny isn’t seen as sexy or charming. These men aren’t blameless, but at the same time when we observe popular culture, you can’t help but notice that a lot of male role models are insufferable assholes. It’s funny to be a jerk! It’s edgy! And these men are nearly always depicted as coming from a place of success.
I still enjoy Young Justice, but I do so cautiously. It’s both cool, and really not cool. And the more people (especially men) realize this, the more we can start to demand a higher quality from our entertainment.