Back in 2003, Teen Titans was a hit on Cartoon Network with kids and adults alike. It was a superhero show that tackled mature themes and story, while pulling from some of the darker aspects of the comics. Its original team featured Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy. With the exception of Robin, each member of the team was a lesser known commodity, launching them into significance and spawning a new generation of fans. A newer spin-off series was launched in 2013, but the real excitement brewing around the franchise comes in the form of the yet-to-be-released live-action pilot set to air on TNT.
Early reports show that Titans will stand as entirely unique in its choice of cast members. Rather than the original team featured in the Cartoon Network edition, Nerdist reports that this new series will feature six members: Barbara Gordon, Raven, Starfire, Hawk, Dove, and Nightwing. The only true holdovers will be Raven and Starfire, although technically Nightwing’s alter ego Dick Grayson is also Robin, so you could say in some ways he’s returning as well. But what sets this new version apart isn’t the new team, so much as who composes it: Four women.
The cinematic and televised superhero universe, while featuring tertiary heroines, has been short on having them exist at the center of the action as main characters, Agent Carter excepted. With four of the six members of the new Titans representing, we have a series that may very well challenge the status quo in a big way.
We’ve talked about Hollywood’s superhero sexism before, but it’s worth rehashing if not simply to demonstrate how far from the norm Titans could potentially be deviating here. Of the 30-some planned movies between Marvel and DC over the next five years, just two feature a female lead. This is something that Joss Whedon described to Digital Spy as inherent in the “genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned quiet misogyny that goes on” when it comes to giving heroines the spotlight.
A show featuring a team that’s composed of two-thirds women flies in the face of that trend, likely putting the show under intense scrutiny as it attempts to progress out of the pilot stage. Much of the justification for not featuring more female heroes has been a denial of their marketability, something that can be proven patently wrong should Titans get picked up for a full run. Meanwhile, the success of shows like Marvel’s Agent Carter have shown that there is indeed a market out there, it’s just been almost compulsively untapped until very recently.
The future holds some promise in the form of the upcoming Jessica Jones Netflix series as well as DC’s Wonder Woman, but we’re still tragically short on female leads in both the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes. Maybe all they need is a show like Titans to prove that there are people out there who want some balance in their heroes. If it gets picked up for a full first season, we may get just that.