And that’s why you always leave a note: “Kingdom”

“You wanna be in charge? Speak now, or hold your peace.” — Talon vlcsnap-2015-03-09-15h41m32s231 Written by: Marty Isenberg and Robert Skir

Original Air Date: February 5, 1996

Introduces: Al, Chaz, Lou

Timeline placement: January 4 – 5, 1996

TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: “Garbageman

The Beats:

  •  The trio returns from their search for their missing clan members, without success.  Broadway, in particular, has gone to Elisa’s apartment and found nothing but unattended mail and an abandoned Cagney, the latter whom he has retrieved. The clan turns towards Brooklyn, Goliath’s second, for direction, but he’s unwilling to give it.  The trio then sets off again to try and shake down new leads: Lexington will try Elisa’s parents; Broadway will ask Matt; Brooklyn, thanks to some subtle manipulation by Hudson, decides to go to the Labyrinth to see if Elisa’s brother knows something, and to see if he runs into Maggie the Cat.
  • At the entrance to the Labyrinth, Brooklyn watches Fang, joined by Claw and two human randos called Chaz and Lou shake down Al, a homeless man.  Before Al can get seriously injured, the gargoyle steps in, and is promptly attacked by Fang, Chaz, and Lou, but not Claw, who stands by helplessly.  The fight lasts it is broken up by an arriving Talon, who does little more than slap Fang on the wrist before leaving with Al and Brooklyn.  Maggie, who arrived with Talon asks if a more severe penalty wouldn’t have been more appropriate, and Talon disagrees, considering harsher punishment to be unnecessary.
  • At Matt Bluestone’s apartment, the detective tells Broadway that he’s just in the dark about their friends’ disappearance as he is.
  • Equally as clueless is Talon, who had no idea at all that Elisa was missing.  Fang suggests that the disappearances could be the work of Xanatos, who has a history of fucking with all of them.  Worked up into a rage by Fang’s provocation, Talon storms off to confront the billionaire, with Brooklyn reluctantly following him.
  • At the clock tower, Lexington returns with nothing new to report: Elisa’s parents don’t know anything either, from the looks of things. Soon after, Talon arrives, followed by Brooklyn: the mutate, righteous fury in his belly, easily convinces Lexington and Broadway to join him in his let’s-make-Xanatos-talk crusade.  Brooklyn is not as convinced, and halfheartedly suggests that while interrogating Xanatos is an excellent idea if he indeed played a hand in things, it’s a terrible one if he didn’t.  Talon and Hudson demand and ask for alternatives, respectively, and it as this point that Brooklyn gives up and just decides to follow Talon’s lead.  The trio follows the mutate.
  • The trio, let by Talon, storms into Xanatos’ castle in order to demand answers.  It goes disastrously, as they only succeed in letting their enemy know about their missing comrades.
  • Inside the Labyrinth, Chaz and Lou lead Fang and Claw to a door they found but can’t open.  It turns out to lead to a storage room, which among other things stores several energy weapons inside a reinforced locker, which can only be opened with a card key found by Claw.  The group takes both the weapons and the locker, which is large enough to hold a single man–or mutate.
  • After leaving the trio behind at the clock tower, Talon returns to the Labyrinth, only to find that Fang has instigated a coup in Derek’s absence.  As the mutate fights the would-be rulers of the Labyrinth, Maggie, who has been captured and placed in the locker, asks her guard, Claw, to release her so that she can get help.  Claw, who apparently only follows Fang out of fear, acquiesces, and a freed Maggie flees the scene.
  • Maggie makes her way to the clock tower.  When the Manhattan Clan awakens, she enlists them to help her save Talon.  All the gargoyles, including Hudson and a newly resolute Brooklyn, join her.
  • At the Labyrinth, where Talon has been placed in the locker in Maggie’s stead, Fang is gloating and terrorizing and gloating like some sort of Bender Bending Rodríguez when Brooklyn and company make their entrance.  A fight ensues, one that eventually goes Fang’s way when he takes Maggie captive.
  • With the advantage in his hand, Fang demands that Brooklyn and the clan leave; shockingly, Brooklyn agrees, but only if Maggie can come with them.  It’s only a ruse on the gargoyle’s part, however, enacted so as to give him an opportunity to give Maggie the key card, which had been in Fang’s possession until Brooklyn took it during the fight.
  • Maggie frees Talon, who quickly turns the tables around.  With his human followers’ weapons destroyed and with Claw unwilling to follow him any more, Fang is soundly defeated and placed in the locker.
  • Order restored, Talon makes two proclamations.  1) Al and Chaz are banished forevermore from the Labyrinth, and 2) no weapons of any kind will be permitted in the realm.
  • With this first test now behind him, Broolkyn, still reluctant but still just as resolute, vows that the clan will never stop searching for Goliath, but will also never forget that their first responsibility is for the people that are still there and still need their protection.

Continuity Notes:

While the World Tour era cast of Gargoyles continues to be one of the more singular in Western Animation, it also had an issue in that its members were all built in the Hero role: they’re all Cyclops, with no Wolverines in sight.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing–Goliath, Elisa, and Angela are fantastic characters, and having them together allows to the show to denote more subtle differences between the three–ignoring the rest of the cast in favor of this dynamic is the sort of thing that can easily get grating with time, just from a sheer monotony.  Fortunately, the writers knew this, and so interspersed a handful of New York-based episodes between all the world touring.  “Kingdom” is the first, and deals with the world Goliath and Elisa have left behind. Because they did not have George Bluth Sr. as a parent (and also, because Tom the guardian is the worst, taking them to Avalon without indicating first that they might want to prepare for the possibility that it’d be months before they could return and no I will not stop complaining about it) Goliath and Co. left New York without a trace, leaving the rest of the clan out of sorts.   While they’re not caught completely unprepared–Goliath appointed Brooklyn his second for just this sort of eventuality–those measures were designed for a future that they all hoped would never happen, not the actual, terrifying now.  And so, Brooklyn in particular knows what he has to do in the most general of terms, but has absolutely no desire to do it. Meanwhile, we also revisit Talon, Maggie, and the other mutates, in a story that is meant to parallel Brooklyn’s, as Derek is forced to deal with his own burden of leadership.

Gargoyles isn’t the sort of series that likes to have lots of things happen off-screen, with characters sort of hitting pause whenever we don’t see them; when Goliath and the World Tourists return, they’ll find the world to be largely the way they left it months ago.  This is not the case with the mutates, as we find that they’ve actually been rather busy since we last saw them.  Not only have they apparently dealt with all the transformation angst seen in “The Cage”, they have spent their time since then turning the Labyrinth into a community for those discarded and ignored by human society.  In the few months since its establishment, it has grown large enough to make the form of anarchy theretofore practiced unsustainable.  Like with Brooklyn, the expectation is that Talon will adopt some sort of leadership role, and like Brooklyn, Talon is deeply reluctant to do so. With no one with the power or authority to check them, aggressive elements within the community have begun to extort and terrorize the powerless.

Leadership and responsibility are subjects Gargoyles tackles with some frequency; this episode is a thematic sequel to “Upgrade”, and there are clear parallels between Talon’s arc here and Natsilane’s last episode.  Here, it’s the crux of both arcs, and the solution to both crises turns out to be the same; just do the job you signed up for. This story is quite effective in Brooklyn’s case; we not only know why he was selected leader, but also both why he doesn’t want to do it and why he should.  Enough information has been provided for the viewers to understand why they should see Brooklyn’s undertaking of his responsibilities is the optimal outcome for the Manhattan clan. Talon’s story is less successful.

While the series’ attempts to position the Labyrinth complex and its people as a pseudo-gargoyle clan (one which would later include actual gargoyles), and could have claimed that the mutates were just such a thing in “The Cage”, the same is no longer really true in any meaningful term, by “Kingdom”.  Any comparison between the Manhattan Clan’s situation and the Labyrinth complex is, at best, strained, which makes the episodes’ arguments rather eyebrow raising. First of all, is leading a community of homeless people the job Talon had implicitly signed up for?  It’s impossible to say, since we have no idea what the circumstances behind the expansion of the Labyrinth are. One could say that he’d signed up for the job back in “The Cage”, but again, that is not the same job he is expected to hold in “Kingdom”.  A more interesting question: is this a job he is suited for? To a certain degree, yes. Thanks to his police training, Derek would have at least some knowledge about the various ways to maintain order within a society and in that sense, he does make sense as leader.  As a mutate, he also has the advantage of being able to enforce his directives, to a degree no other single person within the labyrinth can.  Similarly, he is probably the single best person to call in order to defend the Labyrinth from outside forces.  In short, if the priority is survival and stability, Talon is a better choice than many.

It is not clear, however, that survival and stability are in fact the main priorities in the Labyrinth.  They face no external threats that we have seen.  We have no evidence of any internal strife aside from that shown here.  The complex’s population growth would seem to speak to its ability to–somehow–provide for its people’s basic needs (or at least, to do so better than simply living outside, but given the utopian bent of the place, let’s assume that it does indeed meet them) which means they don’t exactly need to make the sort of hard, urgent choices that would require strong central leadership.  No: although it lies unstated in the actual episode, the actual priority in the labyrinth isn’t survival, but management, something that that requires a completely different set of skills, which Talon has yet to display. In fact, given the state of the complex, I’m not at all convinced the Labyrinth needs strong central unelected leadership at all.  So why is Gargoyles arguing for it, aside from “because parallel”?

Especially interesting in this view is a detail I’d forgotten about: Talon’s proclamation that weapons of any sort were forbidden in the Labyrinth.  It’s a very “children’s cartoon” bit, and one that deserves to be explored further, because its implications are fascinating. First of all, there’s the fact that Talon didn’t say guns, or knifes, or anything specific, but weapons, which in theory includes things like hammers, pepper spray or socks full of quarters.  How he plans to enforce that is a mystery and a half, and one the series never deigns to explore.

Talon’s decree also seems to suggest that he is either a politician who makes pretty-sounding promises he cannot and does not intend to keep, someone with a whole boatload of unexamined privilege, or somehow, despite everything we’ve seen about him, optimistic to the point of delusion.  Or all of them, possibly. Consider the people he is telling these declarations to.  These are the homeless, a group of people who a) often feel insecurity of various kinds, and often find their lives threatened, particularly if they fall within other axes of oppression like being mentally ill, transgendered or not white b) have little to no reason to trust the people who are ostensibly there to protect them–i.e. cops, the government, Talon.    While homeless people tend not to carry weapons, choosing to so is perfectly justified, more often than not.  And yet here is Talon, who currently has very little reason to worry about being assaulted or raped, and whose origin, one can assume, is unknown to the human denizens of the Labyrinth, telling them  that no, it’s all right: he can and will defend them.  Al, from the beginning of the episode, would probably disagree.

Now, it’s hard to know with any certainty just how large the population of the Labyrinth is–particularly since those numbers would likely be very fluid–but from the way it is presented in this episode, it seems to be somewhere around thirty by the time Talon solidifies his leadership in this episode–fifty tops; it will likely get larger until it becomes unsustainable to continue doing so, at which moment they’ll have to think of what to do.   Until then, though, it might indeed be possible for a single person, to actually keep things in order. And yet, even if it’s possible, it doesn’t feel plausible; the mutates can’t be everywhere at once, and Cyberbiotic’s complex appears to be quite large, given that it took months for the weapons cache to be found.  Talon cannot protect everyone, as we will eventually see in the comic books. And yet there he is, not only vowing that very thing, but also assuring that nobody else (or at least, no humans) will be able to protect themselves if he’s not around, something that at the very least deserves some sort of discussion, I would think.  That it doesn’t happen–there’s not even talk of it happening–suggest that Talon has taken Fang’s comments literally, and plans to run the Labyrinth as his own kingdom.  And that’s really interesting.

And yet the question remains: why?  Why is the series arguing that this particular status quo, where an unelected, arguably unrepresentative, dubiously qualified single person gets to lead a group of extremely vulnerable and powerless people?  Why does Talon, who clearly does not want the role, not make these arguments?  Is Greg Weisman a secret monarchist (he asked, only half joking)? Is this just the first act in a longer story that never got to play out, rather than a conclusion?  I don’t know the answers to these questions, but an enterprising fan writer could do fantastic work answering them.

There are a lot of things about this section of the gargoyles-verse we have to take on faith.  How the Labyrinth can remain self-sufficient.  That Talon is a good leader.  That he is well-liked and that people have a reason to like him.  Showing how these things come to be the case remains probably the most interesting thing the series has no desire to explore, and a good showcase about how problematic writing (in this case, writing that takes the homeless and makes them into window dressing, existing only to allow Talon his growth) and bad writing reinforce each other and / or are actually the same.  While this episode is by no means bad, it could have been a lot better, and part of the reason it isn’t stems, I think, from the fact that it simply doesn’t consider the homeless as active agents.  Once one starts thinking of them that way, and start thinking about how they would likely feel faced with the situations they face, the path towards a much more more complex and interesting story becomes clearer.  It might not be a story that pushes forward the themes and characters Gargoyles wants to push–or, to be fair, one that can be done justice in twenty-two minutes–but it’s one I’d be much more interested in seeing.

 

Random Thoughts: 

  • Xanatos has adopted Macbeth’s anti-air defense set-up, and it continues to suck just as much as it ever did.
  • Where scouring Xanatos’ computer for evidence of the billionaire’s involvement in Goliath’s disappearance, Lexington notes that he can only find evidence of the usual shady dealings.  Nothing really comes from this, which suggests that both the characters and the series have given up on trying to actually put a stop to Xanatos through anything resembling legal means.
  • I’ve mentioned before that Gargoyles, intentionally or not, has a tendency to invalidate anger, usually by tying it to “wrong” decisions and unproductive outcomes.  This episode presents an example of just that thing, as the middle portion of the episode is largely spent with Talon being angry about Xanatos, and thus making a slew of mistakes because of it.
  • I run hot and cold on Maggie’s role in this episode; she gets some nice moments and isn’t entirely without agency, and yet, she gets to be.  I’d be more happy about it if we’d seen more of her perspective throughout, especially as she tried to reach the Clock Tower.  However, this episode is not about her, so she doesn’t, and that’s a pretty darn big missed opportunity, in part because she is a more natural leader of the Labyrinth Clan 2.0 than Talon is, given that she’s actually been homeless in a way that is actually comparable to the experiences of most Labyrinth denizens.
  • Actually, Claw is also someone whose role in this episode I’m largely unsure about.  After implying in “The Cage” that his muteness was due to unspecified emotional trauma, this episode utilizes it as an opportunity to have him be comic relief in a way that feels uncomfortable, largely because we don’t know much about him or how these various things intersect, and because both the episode and the characters treat it in such a matter-of-fact way.  What, exactly is it that we’re meant to believe about him?  What is his behavior supposed to say about him, other than “he’s afraid of Fang”?
  • One of the things I really wish this episode had done is to have gargoyles actually have an opinion on the Labyrinth and what it’s attempting to do.
  • In case anyone cares to wonder or ask: while I don’t think “Garbageman”, TMNT‘s own episode that deals with the homeless, does an especially good job in its portrayal of the homeless–for one, it also has a problem with giving them agency, at least until the very end–I think it does a considerably better job of actually focusing on them.
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9 Responses to And that’s why you always leave a note: “Kingdom”

  1. Amarie says:

    Ian! My darling friend, Ian! 😀

    I have prepared a Customary Amarie Wall of Text for your Gargoyles entry! Prepare yourself, wonderful human being!

    Now, I will admit: I don’t think I ever got far enough in the series in my childhood or today on YouTube in order to watch this episode. So I’m going entirely on your post for reference. The part that especially stands out to me is where you speak of the Labyrinth and Talon’s leadership of it. That is, his decree that no weapons are allowed, the fact that most or all of his subjects are homeless humans and apparently the Labyrinth is possibly meant to be a parallel to the Manhattan Clan/Goliath’s Clan.

    Uhhh…I have exactly all the same hang ups as you do.

    To me, this really hearkens back to when I first commented on your deconstruction series. Much of our talk mostly stemmed from how Demona cannot be the [only] face of Gargoyle anger because we’re talking about a righteous anger that comes from being oppressed. I think this particular problem with Talon and the Labyrinth can be related to that because it’s the continuing, problematic theme in Gargoyles of something sounding…nice, but is just fundamentally unsustainable.

    For example, to go back to how Demona can’t be that single face of Gargoyle anger? That’s unsustainable because the oppressed have every single right to feel anger and hatred towards their oppressors. Period, point blank, end of story. Feeling anger and hatred can be freeing, can be therapeutic, can be revolutionary. Every single hard-won, long-fought victory in gaining rights for marginalized/oppressed people never came about from smiling at your oppressor, gently shaking your oppressor’s hand, and softly reminding your oppressor that you’re kinda-sorta human too (or at least, in the gargoyles’ case, sentient beings too) and therefore you deserve all of the same rights and privileges included in that status.

    Now, as I’ve said before, if that ever worked? If it was ever that easy? Systems of oppression wouldn’t be so staunchly still-standing today. Anger and hatred can truly help and, I daresay, are truly required. Without those feelings, change and revolutionary are quite simply unsustainable, if they happen at all.

    Just take a look at how one of Goliath’s trademarks is to forgive. Forgive and forgive and forgive. Now, he doesn’t forgive readily, nor does he have trouble holding a grudge against those that wrong him and his kind/family. But otherwise, almost every single time he forgives his oppressors (the humans) in the end. The unfortunate context/message around this tendency of Goliath’s is that if those who are hurt and oppressed just forgive their oppressors over and over again, then the oppressors will eventually come around and no longer oppress them. And even if the oppressors never do come around, well…being the better person and taking the high road is on the oppressed list of priorities, right? Right?

    But of course, that’s not the way it works. The burden of forgiveness or rather, asking for forgiveness is on the shoulders of the oppressors and even then, the reparations owed are just a starting point.

    I think the key point here is that this kind of philosophy and behavior is quite simply unsustainable. And we’re talking about that unsustainability in a realistic context. There are just only so many times that Goliath can forgive before, really, he has to face that his and his people’s treatment at the hands of humans is not going to change. Hell, in some ways (or a lot of ways, depending on how you see it), their treatment has worsened irrespective of Goliath’s forgiveness.

    Either nothing changes or everything gets worse.

    I see this same realistic pattern with Talon and his Labyrinth. Seriously, no weapons allowed? He’ll be the non-elected leader of them unless and until further notice? No possibility for allowance of a veto or some other kind of check and balance on power? They’ll all just stay underground merrily and contentedly without say, uhh…some kind of Plan B if shit hits the fan?

    No, really, who thought this shit would be a good idea?

    I think the main way in which this, too, is unsustainable is because when you’re talking about homelessness? You’re also talking about violence. Lemme say that again: homelessness and violence go practically hand-in-hand. And despite what mainstream narratives would have you believe, this is not because homeless people are inherently violent and criminal (and, really, that narrative in and of itself is violence against homeless people). No, this is because violence against homeless people is horrifically epidemic. For example, have you seen where cities all over the world are making public places more and more purposely inhospitable? You’ll see benches with rails inside them so people can’t lie down and sleep. You’ll see streets and sidewalks with spikes on them for the same reason. And you’ll see built-in blockages on the sides of stairways for, well…the same reason again.

    And then it’s beyond difficult (read that: understatement) for homeless people to access showers (though joining a gym for just about $10 a month can be an option for some), three square meals even from shelters and food banks, and job opportunities. It often culminates in a long, endless cycle where because they can’t find showers they don’t smell the best and because they can’t find food they may appear emaciated and then they sit in for an interview looking the best they can and…the cycle continues on and on.

    Don’t even get me started on the rank violence of people who fit into the categories of homeless and mentally ill and being of color. Don’t even get me started.

    So you have these realities, yet…Talon thinks that a “no weapons” rule is a viable option? That that’s actually going to fly? That he and he alone can protect these innocent people from all the appalling [physical] harm that so-often befalls homeless people? And on top of the external harm these people are at risk for, there’s also just the threat of internal harm too. There will be disputes, arguments and the like among these people. And, sure, in practice, you want to demand that no weapons be around during those times. Of course. But in theory, what with the possible environment that declaration that could create is what I’m worried about. See, “no weapons” can very readily translate into “no discontent ever”. You create that kind of atmosphere and you create a society in which everyone is under a pressure cooker.

    Not good.

    Not sustainable.

    And, well…it’s pretty self-explainable why Talon being an absolute, unelected leader is yet another can of worms. Very, very rarely in history has that ever gone down well. It’s only, well…gone down.

    Again, I’m as stumped as you are about how the writers can think any of this is logical or sustainable. Because one of the main premises of Gargoyles is to talk about oppression via the metaphor of gargoyles=real-life humans. But…the methods in which the metaphors are made are terribly misrepresentative of real life oppression, marginalization and the continual systemic and institutional violence that comes with them. So, so often the series messes up, whether it’s mischaracterizing the right and empowerment of oppressed anger (see again: Demona) or simplifying the role of violence and defense (see again: Talon & his rule over the Labyrinth)…there’s just so much ‘no’ here.

    The best idea that I have about why the series does this is, perhaps, because it wants to water down these ideas for kids, its target audience? But that doesn’t make any damn sense because, barely even a decade or less later, Avatar: The Last Airbender has proven that you can talk in unabashed detail about these real-life concepts with children. Sure, you can’t show some shit explicitly and there will be times when metaphors are more appropriate, but…it can be done. It absolutely can be done.

    So I’m as stumped as you are with Gargoyles and their shit right here. Because no, just…no.

  2. Ian says:

    Note for readers: Examples of the anti-homeless architecture Amarie refers to can be seen here and here.
    (Yes, I have more to say about her post.)

  3. Loudo says:

    As always your analyses are really interesting. For the most part I think your observations are accurate, but I did feel left a little alienated by the part about weapons.

    I believe that the reason for this is that we come from two different cultural background.
    As a European the concept of “everyone should be entitled to bear a weapon” is very alien to me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the American idea is that the State should not take away the right to bear weapons from its citizen because weapons are seen as a way to react to injustices. This ultimately includes injustices from the State as well. The fact that everyone has a weapon means the State will not become a dictatorship, because otherwise this will result in a violent revolution (and the people will have the means to fight). Similarly to what happened in the War of Independence.
    So a State who takes away the right to carry weapons is seen as afraid of its own citizens.

    (Since I am not American please forgive me for any inaccuracies.)

    The European point of view, on the other hand, is that the State must hold the monopoly of force otherwise there’s no real law enforcement, there’s anarchy. A State that admits that its citizens need weapons to protect themselves from injustices is basically admitting it has failed as a State.

    This thought aside, I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate to draw comparisons between States and groups.
    Paradoxically the whole unelected leader thing is much more problematic for gargoyle clans than it is for Talon’s clan, considering gargoyles have a much more limited ability to leave and enter a new group. In fact, we have seen that every time there’s been a major disagreement between a gargoyle and their leader/clan, it has brought to grim consequences (Demona and Yama).

    I think it also makes sense that Talon doesn’t want weapons in his territory because an accidental outburst of violence might lead to unwanted attention to that area. And again the mutates, just like the gargoyles, rely on secrecy to survive and preserve their freedom.
    This is also why I think the mutates (and not the whole human/mutate clan) need a leader: because they are basically in the same situation of the gargoyles, in a world hostile to them. A mistake could lead to end of their species.

    For me Talon’s clan is born at the end of the episode, when he basically tells everybody “I’m letting anyone join my group, live in my territory, as long as they don’t bring violence in it”. Before that point there is no single group of mutates/humans of which Talon unfairly takes control of.
    The whole situation exists because the mutates need to find their place in the world. If the arrangement with the humans living in the Labyrinth hadn’t been beneficial to the mutates, Talon would have had to either drive the humans away or leave with the others. Because the mutates have some pretty high priorities right now and as far as we know nothing binds them to the other people there yet. In fact, as far as we know, the humans choose to live there specifically to be protected by the mutates, an expectation that was not being met by Fang.

  4. Ian says:

    Oh, gosh. Two people have weighed in, with opinions and arguments and everything, and I’ve yet to write anything resembling a coherent response. Amarie, Loudo, I apologize for not being able to respond immediately to your awesome comments; just know that I’m working on it.

  5. Ian says:

    Amarie:
    Sorry for the lateness! I’ve honestly written like five different versions of this, and this is the first one I feel says what I want to say somewhat coherently.

    Why was this story told in this particular way? Part of it, I feel, is that logistics prevented the creators from writing in ongoing multi-episode subplots like the one with Katara’s missing necklace in Avatar, meaning that episodes which weren’t explicitly multi-parters needed to be largely self-contained. For the most part, though, I feel that what we got is in no way accidental: the writers, for whatever reason, believe in what they’re saying.

    As you may know, Gargoyles eventually got comic book continuations, and the Labyrinth we see there is essentially the one we get in the cartoon. We’re shown that the people there are happy, but how it came to be this way is never really explained. And that’s in part really weird, given how much time and effort creator Greg Weisman had spent—and still spends—explaining how every little thing in his universe works.

    On the other hand, it’s not surprising at all that the concept of the Labyrinth hasn’t really received a lot of elaboration, because in the end, there’s not really a whole lot that can be done without highlighting how The Labyrinth—or at least the utopian version that they’re portraying—is not at all workable as a concept, and a that more realistic take would mostly find the mutates being either superfluous or existing in a subordinate role.

    This, I feel, possibly explains why Talon’s first proclamation focuses on banning weapons; it’s something he can theoretically do, and one doesn’t need a whole lot of imagination to visualize its implementation. Have him talk about dealing with any of the other priorities a homeless person is likely to have, like obtaining food, health care—physical or mental, and which can often include things like birth control or hormones—job searches, money, respect for consent—and suddenly, you have to either answer the question of how he’s going to achieve that or admit that it’s all just talk.

    (He could validate them and their experiences, of course, but that tends to not be visible or flashy.)

    As for how this fits in the greater context of Gargoyles’ other fails, I’m reminded largely of the X-Men, and how a work where the themes of oppression are even more front and center would very often present the same sort of issues Gargoyles does. So the fact that this is the case, while disappointing, isn’t entirely surprising. Two differences stand out, though: first, that an ongoing work like X-Men has only become more collaborative, which allows for more input from a wider variety of people, while Gargoyles has largely done the opposite, with creative decisions now left solely at the hand of their creator. Second, while fandoms have played similar roles in shaping the franchises, criticism has tended to play a more key role in the discourse surrounding Marvel’s mutants than it has with the gargoyles—or at least that’s been my impression. That criticism matters, which is why I’m really glad when you, Loudo and others do so.

  6. Pingback: Open Thread: Writing about oppression | Monsters of New York

  7. Ian says:

    Loudo:
    Despite the “yay, weapons” undertones of the original post, this wasn’t meant to be an endorsement of unregulated weapons trafficking. I do agree that in a state that actively works for its people, guns should not be necessary in order to for people to remain and feel safe, which is why I deeply mistrust, the people who say they absolutely need to own ten personal assault rifles (and then insist on bringing them to Starbucks). These people, usually white and male, don’t tote around guns in public because they’re unsafe; they have no reason to, given that institutions are designed to work in their favor. They can rely on things like the police with reasonable confidence that their concerns will be attended to.

    None of this, however, applies to the people in the Labyrinth, who are, almost by definition, the sort of people who can’t rely on the police or institutions, because there’s every chance that the only thing that they will have to offer is further victimization in the form or arrests, verbal or physical aggression, victim blaming, etc. In short, they’re people who have learned that when it comes to their own survival and safety, they’re on their own. While many of them may not feel the need for weapons, those who do are more than justified in their feelings, and the fact that neither Talon nor the episode acknowledges it is a problem.

    And here’s the thing: the poor in the United States are constantly told that they can’t have things they need. Food stamps only allow you to buy ridiculously limited range of foods. Things like cell phones, and laptops, which are often essential to get jobs, are treated as conservatives as extravagances and used to “prove” that the poor who own these things don’t actually need assistance. Far too many people still believe that people don’t deserve a right to health care services that won’t bankrupt those who use them. Talon, in telling the people at the Labyrinth that they can’t have weapons—in effect, that they can’t have a role in their own defense—is showing that despite whatever his intentions, he’s not actually that different from the institutions above ground.

    This, in turn, is partly why the concept of the Labyrinth as seen in the show doesn’t ring true to me, at all. I don’t see any reason for the homeless to trust the mutates, or to consider them or their protection a selling point for the Labyrinth, or to consider their leadership a good thing—or at least, no reason that we’re shown. Yes, squatting in the Labyrinth provides material advantages, but they’re not that substantial. Yes, the mutates claim to have good intentions, but the homeless have all the reason in the world to be skeptical of these, even if we don’t take the beginning of the episode, when we see Fang and Claw tormenting people with impunity, into account. Heck, in the end, Fang was only imprisoned after he’d made a move against Talon—not exactly the sort of thing that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the mutates have the homeless’ best interests at heart. And yet, none of this is taken into account. We’re just meant to believe that everyone decided that yeah, this is an appropriate status quo.

    As for gargoyle clan structure vs. Labyrinth leadership structure, I don’t agree. While I don’t wish to idealize it, I do think that it has far more positive qualities than anything we’ve seen in the Labyrinth. For one, the leaders tend to be gargoyles, who understand what the clan is going through at any given moment. Talon has no idea what it’s like to be a homeless human; Goliath knows precisely how confusing it is to be a gargoyle in New York, and his position as leader grants him no special privileges. Second, there appear to be no significant barriers for advancement. Demona was Goliath’s second despite her dissenting opinions (although, admittedly, we have no idea how much her position owed to her status as Goliath’s mate), and all three members of the trio were viable candidates for the position of second. While the fact that both Demona and Yama felt the need to operate outside the system in order to bring change suggests that the system had its problems, it’s really hard to say what those problems would be, given what we’ve been shown.

  8. Chimalpahin says:

    “the characters and the series have given up on trying to actually put a stop to Xanatos through anything resembling legal means.” in retrospect I know wish Eliza would have kept pressing on Xanatos outside of the magical combat they have with him. Imagine if the show had her pouring over books or whatever to try and take Xanatos down in her, more down to earth, way? And the gargoyles in their more fantastical way?

    Man this reminds me of a really horrid video-game whose creator’s said that gameplay isn’t a factor in the game because that’s how the homeless lead their lives. That is to say they have no agency.

    Anyway garbageman, again in retrospect I wish the turtles would’ve kept in contact with the homeless characters. Imagine if April, with her tech smarts now ignored by the series teamed up with the Scholar and then she built her own company? Or just more interaction with the only humans who would talk to them? Have them be the agents and be parallels to the turtle’s situation, that being of outcasts who have to make their way in w world that hates them? After all the Turtles have more in common with the Morlocks than with the X-Men proper.

  9. Ian says:

    Yeah. We see a little bit of them throughout the series, but they never again get the focus they got in “Garbageman”. On one hand, this means they didn’t get to do wrong (or more wrong) by them. On the other hand, it sucks, because that focus done well would have been super-nice to see.

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