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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Teen Titans vs. The Breakfast Club

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 3:40 PM

click to enlarge titans2.jpg

In anticipation of next week's big-screen release of the Batman epic film The Dark Knight, July 8 saw the direct-to-DVD issue of Batman: Gotham Knight (reviewed here), a moody, inventive anthology film with Japanese anime filmmakers presenting their interpretations of the Caped Crusader. The same day also saw the release of another DC Comics video adaptation with a distinct anime flavor: Teen Titans: The Complete Fifth Season.

Airing on Atlanta's Cartoon Network from 2003-2006, "Teen Titans" featured a theme song by perky Japanese twosome Puffy Ami Yumi and a peculiar but effective blend of serious, arcing episodes and zany comic relief. Funny scenes would draw on manga-style caricature: throbbing veins would appear on angry characters' heads, hearts would bubble up for lovesick ones, and even odder exaggerations would appear that gave the show's humor a fresh, funny attitude. The show's fifth and final season is my favorite, as it pits the Teen Titans against an iconic supervillian team called The Brotherhood of Evil; pop references come even more quickly (including nods to Doctor Who's Daleks and The Incredibles). Plus, it reinforces my theory that the show's creators patterned the five Titans after the main characters of John Hughes' beloved 1980s film, The Breakfast Club.

Both the teen crime fighters and the high school detention servers comprise a quintet sharply delineated “types,” each of which is familiar from high school experience (or movies and TV shows about teen life). Sometimes the comparisons fit perfectly, others are more of a stretch, but here they are. For convenience sake, I’ll use the Breakfast Club actor names rather than dig up their characters.

Raven = Ally Sheedy. This is the most obvious one. Although Sheedy’s character is not an extradimensional witch and Raven is not a “basket case,” they’re both Goth stereotypes to a T, with dark clothes, dark attitudes and deadpan wit. Plus they don’t say much and tend to keep to themselves. (Incidentally, Raven’s voice actress said she based her performance not on anyone you’d think of, but on Zelda Rubinstein’s diminutive paranormal investigator from Poltergeist — you can hear a similar quaver in the voice if you listen for it.)

Beast Boy = Anthony Michael Hall. OK, shape-changing, green-hued Beast Boy isn’t a “brain” like Hall’s Breakfast Club character, but they’re both the “geeks” of the group, and the characters have nearly identical nervous, self-deprecating senses of humor. Possibly he’s more like Hall’s “Farmer Ted” role from Sixteen Candles.

Cyborg = Emilio Estevez. Estevez was the jock; Cyborg had been a jock before the crippling accident that led to the mechanical replacement of much of his body. True, Cyborg’s personality is a little more confrontational, so you could make a case that he’s more like Judd Nelson in the movie. (Incidentally, I’ll bet if The Breakfast Club were remade today, the five students would be a little more diverse.)

Starfire = Molly Ringwald. Well, Starfire is an alien princess and Ringwald’s character is identified as the “princess” of the bunch, and Starfire is outgoing, apparently likes the mall and would probably be popular. Their personalities are kind of dissimilar, though. Since Starfire’s a alien and has kind of the comedic awkwardness of a foreign exchange student (she was apparently written that way for the show), she might be more accurately pegged as the Teen Titans’ equivalent to Sixteen Candles’ Long Duck Dong.

Robin = Judd Nelson. OK, this is might be a reach, since Robin doesn’t make an obvious “criminal.” But on the show, he’s not the wisecracking sidekick that he used to be with Batman (ceding the comic relief to the other characters). He’s actually got a pretty significant dark side: on the first season he masquerades as a thief to entrap the mystery evil-doer Slade, and later, Slade blackmails him into becoming his criminal apprentice. The Robin vs. Slade dynamic represents “teen independence vs. adult authority,” which is basically the same as Judd Nelson vs. Paul Gleason’s nasty school principal. Plus, Robin’s the leader of the Teen Titans, and Judd Nelson’s character, if not the stated leader, is the catalyst that spurs the Breakfast Club into action.

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