DC’s newest series is only two episodes in, yet there has already been a disproportionate amount of violence geared towards its female characters.
When Titans debuted to mixed reviews last week, most people said they would give it a couple more episodes to find its footing before deciding whether or not to stick with it. I am one of those people. Teen Titans, the basis source material for the series, is comprised of some of the most powerful female characters of the DC universe, so I was ecstatic to finally have live versions of Starfire and Raven (along with possible additional female heroes throughout the course of the show). The series is very much an origin story for the most part, we find Rachel/Raven (Teagan Croft) just discovering her abilities and how to control them. Starfire (Anna Diop) appears to have possessed the body of some sort of double agent, but retains her catastrophic powers. It was announced that Hawk and Dove would appear in this week’s episode and, while I didn’t know much about them outside of their brief stint with the Birds of Prey, was looking forward to seeing yet another female superhero join the show.
In this week’s episode, we pick up right where we left off last week with Robin (Brenton Thwaites) and Rachel on the run. We see a flashback of Robin fighting alongside Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove (Minka Kelly) in Washington, DC. Apparently, this version of Dove had a romantic past with Robin, leaving Hawk a bit jealous of their interactions in the present as he and Dove are now together. Real talk, I have never been impressed with Kelly’s acting ability, but her portrayal of Dove is one of the highlights of the episode. As they grant temporary sanctuary to Robin and Rachel in their apartment, we see that the villainous Nuclear Family is torturing Det. Amy Rohrbach (Lindsey Gort) to find Robin’s whereabouts. This torture goes on for several minutes and includes getting cut and stabbed by a pair of scissors and being beaten with a baseball bat.
In the climax of the episode, the Nuclear Family has tracked Robin and Rachel down and attacks them on the rooftop of Hawk and Dove’s apartment building. While Robin is busy fighting the Nuclear kids, the mom gets the jump on Hawk by wrapping a wire around his throat, which starts strangling him. The father gets the upper hand on Dove and ends up throwing her through her bird coop and over the side of the building, where she plummets to her supposed death. Robin and Hawk grieve over what just happened but it’s Robin who makes it down to the ground to a barely-alive Dove. She knows that she is dying, despite the fact that he keeps telling her to hold on. The episode goes dark and ends.
Is this show guilty of fridging female characters? For those who don’t know, “fridging” is a term first coined by legendary comic book writer Gail Simone in the late ’90s. Essentially, it is a frequently used comic book trope in which a female character is assaulted, killed or depowered as a plot device to further a male character’s storyline. In the first episode, we see Rachel’s mom get shot in the head execution-style in front of her, thereby making the villain of the episode all the more evil and giving Rachel motivation to kill her mom’s murderer. In the second episode, we have Amy getting tortured in order for the Nuclear Family to get information on Robin. Then we have Dove’s apparent demise, with the two men who had the closest emotional attachments to her fighting together. I’m not sure we’d call it fridging in the classical sense, but there definitely is a pattern of showcasing gratuitous violence against women. Yes, there are male characters who are assaulted and even killed, but rarely are they any more than street thugs or extremely minor characters.
While we were warned well in advance that the series was going to be gritty and violent, especially given it’s trailer, but at this point it seems like the series is bordering on recklessly irresponsible in the way it depicts violence against it’s female characters. I think I’ll stick around for one more episode to see what happens with Dove and if they make it right before I make the call. How about you?
Titans is currently available on the DC Universe streaming channel and on Netflix in the UK, will new episodes released every Friday.