Open Thread: Family


One of the chief themes in both Gargoyles and TMNT is family, and the argument that it need not be based on biological ties to be important, fulfilling, or legitimate.  Thus, both series are full of characters who end up forming surrogate families: Elisa is adopted into the Manhattan Clan; April emphatically declares that the turtles’ problems are her own; Katharine, Tom, and the Magus become the parents to the eggs; even villains get into the act, forming families of their own, which inevitably turn disfunctional.

Now, the question for the thread is: has there ever been a moment in either show–or any other work–which made you go “this is so my family”?  It doesn’t necessarily have be positive, although please keep in mind to please tag any material which you think might be triggering.

For me, it’s the scene in “The Ultimate Ninja” where the turtles, Splinter, Casey and April decide to have movie night, followed by an ice-cream run.  While the two things don’t usually go together for us in quite the way they do here, they are both things which we’ve definitively taken part of, and the normalcy presented in these scenes does a lot to help me buy into the concept of the extended Hamato Clan as a family.

Gargoyles, on the other hand, doesn’t really have any scenes with which I can identify in the same manner–in fact, it wasn’t until just recently that I realized that there isn’t really a scene where the entire Manhattan Clan is interacting together on a casual basis.  The closest we get is the Halloween party in “Eye of the Beholder”, in which not only are Hudson and Bronx absent, but the group has been split into the familiar Trio / Goliath+Elisa sub-units.

And yet, this isn’t necessarily unrealistic or any less optimal: families interact in various different ways, and no one way is universally ideal.  While casual familial interaction did not play as large a part of Gargoyles as I might have hoped, I do think there’s still plenty of evidence showing that they all cared for each other–just not in a way that I can directly relate to.

The rules remain the same: This is an open thread, which means that you can write about whatever you’d like in the comments, as long as it remains within the bounds set by the comment policy.  There will be an ice-breaker comment by me–see below–but one is under no obligation to adhere to it.  Discussions taking place in previous Open Threads–which will be closed after this one goes online–can also be continued here.


6 Responses to Open Thread: Family

  1. Ian says:

    Continuing from the previous thread:

    RobinChristine: Perhaps there’s a subject for a post: Gargoyles as compared to Young Justice. Or maybe one about Xanatos as a villain.
    And hearing that you heard about Owen and Puck beforehand sounds positively dreadful. That was another of those awesome, “OMFG WHAT” moments for me that I really enjoyed.

    I’m not confident I can say anything about Xanatos that hasn’t already been said before–he is such a pivotal character in the history of western animation that he sometimes feels like a dead horse, and one that doesn’t require a whole lot of defending. Still, I’ll be talking about him a bit during my review of “The Price”, and will place him on the queue for my “Why I Like X” series : ).

    On the other hand, there’s quite a lot to say about how Gargoyles compares to Young Justice, to the point where I’m not sure where to begin. One of the reasons why I so enjoy Greg Weisman’s work is because he’s one of the few people in Western Animation whose evolution as a person and creator I can track through their work, so it’s easy to see both series as benchmarks. I find it especially interesting how, thanks to the decade-long gap between the Gargoyles cartoon and the comic book: “Clan-Building” and “Redemption” at times feel a lot more like Young Justice than they feel like Gargoyles the cartoon, which is a point I plan to explore a bit more when I get to that point in the reviews.

    Isaac: I never liked Gargoyles that much honestly. I’ve watched a fair amount of it, but couldn’t quite get into it. I understand why you like it – I even understand the similarities between it and TMNT, but quite honestly, it just never appealed.

    I think part of the problem was what I like about Young Justice – and indeed what I liked about Spectacular Spider-man – was Weisman’s willingness to just create a story and run with it. Both shows are heavily serialized (which may have lead to their downfall). Now Gargoyles has some of that too, but there’s also a lot of filler, and the filler doesn’t work for me very often.

    I don’t really have a problem with filler. Of the first nine episodes of TMNT the only one that really stands out for me is the very filler-y Nano, and I think the “filler” episodes in the first half of season 4 are probably better than the main plot (which is, essentially, Leonardo is moody). Teen Titans, another show I quite like, was almost entirely “filler”. Each season (except for season 5, which was also probably the worst season), had only three or four (out of thirteen) episodes that actually connected to the season’s arc. Even in Young Justice, one of my favorite episodes was Secrets, an episode that developed the character of Artemis quite a bit while presenting a compelling villain.

    But when Gargoyles would venture into filler, it just felt to me like those stories were just there. I don’t remember much of Gargoyles truthfully, which I guess is part of what I don’t like about it. So much of it just doesn’t stand out for me. Weisman is, I think, at his best as a writer when he’s telling one single story of the course of more than 20 minutes.

    Have you watched Young Justice or Spectacular Spider-Man? If so, what did you think?

    It’s interesting that you consider Gargoyles to be full of “filler”. I don’t agree, but I can totally see where you’re coming from, because originally felt something similar while watching the series for the first time.

    Personally, I blame Xanatos. With episodes like “Awakening” and “City of Stone” positioning him as the closest thing the series had to a Big Bad–and a rather awesome one at that–episodes in which he was absent for a long time felt like “less than”, which made extended absences—see “World Tour, Gargoyles”– feel especially unbearable.

    But this isn’t actually the case. The gargoyles’ story isn’t really about their conflict with Xanatos and Demona, nor does it end with their defeat; classifying stories that don’t involve them as “filler”, as I used to do, eventually began feeling less than accurate. While there are a bunch of episodes which I consider lackluster, and there are a ton of recurring characters I’m not especially fond of, I still feel they’re vital parts of the story.

    (Although you’re free and right to consider it filler, if that’s how you feel.)

    There’s also an additional factor, which is the fact that Word of God is so pervasive in this series, meaning there’s a whole lot of text that doesn’t get to show up in the actual work, which means that for those who keep up with it, there’s several additional levels of context, which allows them to have a clearer idea of where things are going. However, this is a double-edged sword, since the show really does need to stand on its own without relying on supplementary material.

    In any case, you’re also right that Gargoyles the TV series is considerably less serialized than TMNT, Spectacular or Young Justice. Part of it is because they had no choice for a lot of it: the production of season 2 was so sprawling, and assigned to so many different animation houses working at such a rushed schedule—if you look at the Wikipedia page for the list of Gargoyles episodes, you’ll see that when things were working at optimal capacity, they were airing four new episodes per week—there was no guarantee that the episodes would be finished or air in the proper production. Thus, the tent-pole system, which allowed them to fill in the gap between multi-parters with one-shots that while crucial, could be aired in more or less any order. And while it worked well enough, it’s clear that it set limits on what the show could do.
    Also important is the fact that, at the time, the people behind Gargoyles didn’t really have a playbook to help them craft a serialized story, as they were writing large parts of it themselves and experimenting to see just how much of it audiences would be willing to take. I can forgive some timidity in that context.

    Still, no amount of historical importance will change the fact that Gargoyles the TV series is no longer the last word when it comes to serialized storytelling. The bar has been raised, and depending on one’s tastes, one can rather easily argue that the TV show no longer meets it.

    The comic book, though, is another story.

    The Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice, I feel, are natural evolutions of Weisman’s style, and make excellent use of the hindsight that comes from adapting an existing story. If there’s one complaint I have about the former, it’s that Peter’s female classmates never quite manage to step outside the “love interest” box; I’d have to rewatch with more detail to make sure, but I don’t easily recall any instances in which their conversations pass the Bechdel test, which is especially disappointing given how high the actual number of conversations between female characters is and how Weisman generally makes an effort at being progressive in his shows—see, for example, all of the characters he’s made into People of Color here. The show also suffers, I feel, from what I consider one of Weisman’s greatest weaknesses, and that’s his tendency to make his stories too airtight and too efficient. Every scene has to mean something, which means that there’s little space to let characters breathe, which makes it hard for me to get invested in the various character relationships.

    Young Justice, meanwhile, I can’t help but love, because it does a couple of things I’ve wanted in my super-hero stories for ages: concrete timelines that allows for actual, measurable progression—something that has increasingly become a Weisman trademark—and heroes that actually feel like professionals. It’s a rather experimental series, and while some of the stuff doesn’t work—several characters fall through the gaps, and I really really don’t like Impulse becoming Kid Flash, which gives me bad Teen Titans flashbacks—I think its run had far more successes than failures.

  2. Isaac says:

    On the topic of the thread at hand: I can’t say that there’s any one moment from TMNT that makes me say, “that’s my family”. Then again, I grew up in a two-parent home as a single child, pretty much the exact opposite of the Turtles’ lives. I will say though that the Turtles’ relationships always felt like a real family.

    On Spectacular Spider-Man. As far as the female classmates go, I have to agree with you, it’s a weakness – one built into Spider-Man. Weisman made a big deal about not creating any new characters for the show. Every single character who gets a name already existed in some form or another, which leaves us with a serious character imbalance (you can’t tell me that Spider-Man has a great history of gender dynamics). I would say there’s an exception – and surprisingly enough it’s Mary Jane. MJ doesn’t function as a love interest for Peter for more than five seconds, and while she plays matchmaker, she also has more than a few moments outside of that role in the high school scene. MJ also receives a love interest – as opposed to being used as someone else’s love interest.

    I find it odd that you say that the show had very little scenes that didn’t mean anything toward the greater plot, because I would say that half of the scenes that occur in the high school are pretty irrelevant toward Peter’s life fighting crime.

    Spectacular remains a favorite of mine, largely because I’m fairly certain it doesn’t contain a single bad episode. I haven’t watched through it in some time but I don’t remember a single bad episode. Admittedly, there were only 26 episodes in total, but that’s still quite a feat.

  3. DarthEmpress says:

    I don’t recall anything in either series that reminded me of my family :3 Hmm, I suppose April and Casey’s bickering reminded me of my parents lol

    I’m sad the 2k3 series didn’t continue because I would’ve loved to see Shadow introduced and how the turtles handle Splinter’s passing. It seems inevitable that after their father’s death, the turtles split up and go their separate ways, and I would’ve liked to see that and how they would eventually come back together, perhaps because of Shadow.

  4. Looking forward to the review of “The Price,” then. 🙂 And to any Young Justice discussion. I still can’t believe it’s not on anymore…

    If I may weigh in on the whole “filler” topic, I think it comes down to how one jives with the series in general. As I said in the previous open thread, I fell very hard for Gargoyles, very quickly and I simply loved being in the world. I can’t objectively say whether or not I find the series to be full of filler because, for my part, I generally just didn’t care. I’ve often said about the Harry Potter series (and I’m talking about the books, here) that my favorite of the installments is Chamber of Secrets because of the pieces of it that are snapshots of the characters simply existing in the world, without being in constant awe of the magic-factor as they were in the first book. It doesn’t really amount to anything except character-building, really; Ron and Hermione bickering on the way to History of Magic doesn’t really do anything in the grand scheme of things, but I enjoyed it as a reader anyway. And I enjoyed much of the filler in Gargoyles for the same reason. Not everything, of course; I wasn’t a big fan of The World Tour, but even that had a lot to do with Angela, who I always felt was a bit dull and out of place in the Gargoyles cast of characters. But most of it I liked, simply because I liked being in their universe, no matter how simplistic the plot. In the case of Xanatos or Demona’s absences, yeah, sometimes they went on hiatuses for a little too long, but I certainly appreciated it whenever they did return and at least they never got old.

  5. Ian says:

    Isaac: I find it odd that you say that the show had very little scenes that didn’t mean anything toward the greater plot, because I would say that half of the scenes that occur in the high school are pretty irrelevant toward Peter’s life fighting crime.

    Well yes. But to me, Spider-Man stories have always been about Peter’s civilian life just as much as it is about his super-heroic identity, which means that anything dealing with high school is super-relevant. : )

    As pertains to your other point, I dunno: while a lot of the dynamics in Spectacular are inherently baked into the Spider-Man cake, I don’t think the level of boy-centrism seen in the show the was as inevitable as you suggest. Perhaps it’s because I’m most familiar with 80’s and current Spider-Man, set when the characters were out of college, had careers and for the most part having established romantic partners, but I do think it’s possible for the show to have portrayed the female characters as having multiple interests while still being perfectly accurate to the source material. And I really don’t see Mary Jane as being much different: I’ve been watching reruns on the CW for the past few weeks (starting with “Intervention” and currently at “First Steps”) and the only scene I can recall where she’s not an outside party commenting on other people’s romantic woes or a player in romantic woes herself is the one where she warns Peter about Eddie in the Season 1 finale. I like the character, and love that her playing the field is presented as a positive choice for her, but from what I remember, she’s part of my problem.

    On the other hand, I do feel there’s one of teen girls who does manage to seem multi-faceted: Liz. While she’s at the center of the love subplots, she also gets to display interests outside it, and is passionate about them. Things like her comments on misdirection in the season 2 premiere or her anxiousness about doing well on her final exam, and even her happiness at still being able to go to Flash’s party, all help sell her as someone whose interest in romance, while important, is not all-encompassing. In contrast, we have a character like Gwen whom we’re told is interested in science, yet is rarely or never portrayed as someone who is passionate about it. Her internship at NYU is a source of plot, rarely of happiness; it’s just something that allows her to participate in the plot.

    Then again, maybe my impressions will change, once I go through season 2 again. The school play subplot is still up ahead, so I’m curious to see how that feels this time around.

    In any case I would agree with you that the series is superlative. Even with my various issues, there’s not an episode I would say I dislike, and I would have given much to see it continue.

  6. Ian says:

    DarthEmpress: I’m sad the 2k3 series didn’t continue because I would’ve loved to see Shadow introduced and how the turtles handle Splinter’s passing. It seems inevitable that after their father’s death, the turtles split up and go their separate ways, and I would’ve liked to see that and how they would eventually come back together, perhaps because of Shadow.

    Yes! All of these are stories I would have liked to have seen, and would have made much better directions for season 7 than what we got. They’re all things which I want to tackle in fan fiction, were I gobs more disciplined than I actually am.

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