“I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: Ah, Lord – the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands – we have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from your commands and ordinances.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the things I have encouraged you to do time and time again when it comes to the media content you consume, is to not watch it uncritically. I understand there are times you simply want to disengage and zone out in front of a screen, but media is intended to send a message. That’s why it exists. We absorb these messages whether we are conscious of that or not. For the sake of our souls, it is better if we engage with them aware of what we are consuming in the same way you don’t (or shouldn’t!) eat junk you can’t identify. If you are a follower of Jesus, this means you watch and read and listen with a Christian worldview lens in place. Well, this is not just something I preach. It’s something I practice. That’s why I do these reviews on Fridays. So today, I have another review for you. And because I’m a nerd, this one is another superhero show. This time we’re talking about HBO’s flagship superhero series, Titans. Let’s dig into it.
Titans is a live action telling of the DC Comics storylines related to what were originally called the Teen Titans. The team first appeared in print in the 1960s and featured various younger iterations of the older, more established members of the Justice League. The first series on screen was a Cartoon Network series called Teen Titans that premiered in 2003. It was really well done for the most part. This was followed in 2013 by the spin-off series Teen Titans Go! which was absolutely horrible (at least in my opinion). About the same time there was another in the Justice League series animated universe, Young Justice, which was absolutely fabulous. The live action Titans first premiered in 2018 and is helmed by Greg Berlanti who has quietly become the Kevin Feige of the DC live action TV series universe.
The core members of the Titans are Robin (who later changes his name to Nightwing and allows the “Robin” moniker to pass to various other characters, two of whom have appeared in the series), Batman’s famous protege, Starfire, an alien from the planet Tarmaran who can produce fire from her body, Beast Boy, who is able to transform into various different animals (although the Titans’ budget has so far only allowed for a tiger), Raven, a girl with mystical powers stemming from her father who is an interdimensional demon bent on conquering the earth, and Superboy, a clone made with DNA from Superman and Lex Luthor. Cyborg was an original member of the group, but he got called up to the big leagues with the Justice League movie and has not been mentioned in the HBO series. Other members of the team include Hawk and Dove, a co-ed superhero duo whose abilities include advanced fighting skills and great on-screen chemistry, Wonder Girl, an Amazon from Themyscira (think: Wonder Woman), Jason Todd, a Robin Batman adopted after Nightwing went solo, and Krypto, a dog enhanced with Superman’s DNA.
Having watched two and a half seasons of the show so far, I have really enjoyed what I’ve seen. The writing and characters are all a lot of fun, and storylines have mostly been really sound. Being on HBO, it’s a whole lot grittier than either of the animated versions of the series were. The language is pretty rough. The sexual content is fairly light. But it is very violent. Basically, it is par for the course in terms of what you would expect from a superhero series produced by HBO.
Over the course of nearly three seasons, though, I’ve been thinking through exactly how to respond to the series through the lens of the Christian worldview. I’ll be honest: It hasn’t been easy. All of the storylines have been pretty self-contained and haven’t obviously wrestled much with the big questions of life the way something like The Eternals did (or practically anything released by Marvel, for that matter). But as this season has unfolded, something has begun to occur to me. Maybe this just makes me late to the party, but I’ve had the thought before. This season has simply confirmed where my thinking has been developing.
All of the Titans characters have a past. That may not seem like such an earth-shattering revelation to you. Of course they do. We all have a past. No one was just plunked down from out of nowhere, fully-grown and ready to start living life with a completely blank slate. Let me be more specific: The various Titans characters all have tragic pasts. They have all endured pretty intense trauma. Nightwing’s parents were murdered by mobsters, and he was taken in by Batman who molded him into the leader and fighter that he is, but was not so much the nurturing father he needed as he grew. Starfire is running from the duties of being the queen of her home planet which, to her knowledge is currently under the tyrannical rule of her sister, Blackfire, who murdered their parents to take the power for herself. Beast Boy was experimented on by a mad scientist as a child. The experiments saved his life from some jungle disease which had already killed his family, but they also gave him his powers. Raven has an interdimensional father who wants to destroy the planet by using her as a conduit to achieve his full power in this dimension. Hawk and Dove both came out of situations of abuse and addiction. Superboy is a clone who was bred to help Lex Luthor take over the world. He did kind of come out of nowhere, fully-grown and ready to start living life with a completely blank slate, but that serves for him as its own kind of trauma. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. All of these characters have trauma in their past.
Not only do they have trauma in their pasts, but the various storylines of the series so far have all been directly related to the fact that they haven’t dealt with that trauma. They haven’t dealt with it and so it keeps popping up in their present causing all manner of problems. And if these problems were all limited to just these characters, while that wouldn’t be a good thing, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for anyone else (and it wouldn’t be a very exciting show). But the problems caused by unaddressed trauma in their past don’t affect only them. They affect all of the people around them. And, because they all have superpowers, they tend to have super-powered problems that threaten life on an even greater scale.
Here’s the connection point for us: Just like the Titans, we have baggage in our past. All of us do. Now, no, our problems may not be on anything like the scale of the problems facing these characters, but that doesn’t mean their impact on our lives is any less significant. And, just like the Titans, if we don’t deal with the trauma and baggage of our past, it will manifest itself in our present. Still again, if the impact of our past on our present only affected us, while it wouldn’t be a good thing, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for anyone else. But just like the Titans have experienced in one tragic way or another in each season of the show (and, really, in each episode of the show), our past trauma working itself out in our present doesn’t affect only us. It affects everyone around us.
Parents who carry wounds from the past that haven’t been allowed to heal, tend to hurt their kids, who carry similar wounds with them into the next generation and beyond. Maybe you bear the scars of rejection and so work yourself to the bone to surpass the expectations of the people around you. The result is that you’re hard to be in a relationship with because you’re never really available. The truth, though, is that it is your own expectations that are the hardest to meet. Perhaps you were made to feel insufficient in some way. As a result, you live your life now with a chip on your shoulder anytime anyone does anything to make you feel unappreciated or not up to the task before you. It could be that you experienced a tragic loss, and so now try to hold too tightly to things that are important to you for fear of losing them. We could go on describing the various forms your particular baggage or trauma takes for another hour and not cover all the possible ground out there.
Near the end of Daniel’s life, he became supernaturally aware that the time of exile for his nation was coming to an end. While he was excited about this prospect, he was also a bit leery of it. If his people didn’t deal with the baggage of their past that resulted in their exile in the first place, going back home was not going to be the happy and exciting time it should have been. Maybe it would have been at first, but eventually they were going to fall back into the same patterns and problems that got them in trouble and history was going to repeat itself. As a result, when he was led by the Spirit to understand the season was about to change, he did his part to deal with his nation’s past by repenting of the sin that had gotten them sent into exile. His prayer of repentance is worth your time to read in its entirety.
Here’s what all of this means for us: If you have baggage or trauma in your past, you need to deal with it. And the truth is: You have baggage or trauma in your past. It may be big, or it may be small, but if you don’t deal with it, it will serve as an anchor in your present, preventing you from doing and experiencing all that God has planned for you. Running from it will do you no good. It will catch you eventually. Denying it won’t work either. It will make itself known, forcefully if need be. You have to deal with it. Offer forgiveness to whomever hurt you. Seek forgiveness where you have been the victimizer. Repent of sins you have committed. Get with a counselor who can help you work through the scars your family dealt you. Whatever it is you need to do in order to deal with your past, do it. Not only will you be glad you do, but so will everyone around you. Your kids may not thank you, but their future lives will be a glowing testament to the work you did to make yourself whole. Where you have patterns of brokenness, put a stop to them. Don’t let things go forward any further beyond your life. Don’t let them go any further beyond today. Allow God’s Spirit to lead you – even through scary and dangerous ground – to experience the joyful abundance of His kingdom. There’s a whole eternity of living to the fullest ahead of you. Get started on it now.