Is DC Trying Too Hard to be Adult?

Troy Troodon

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This is a topic that's been on my mind for sometimes, and while I have addressed my own personal concerns and opinions about this before, I thought it may be worth some fodder to look at other people's perspectives on whether they think DC's recent trend on utilizing more graphic or vular content actually to cater to older audiences actually has merit or if it's not really necessary.

The reason why I bring this up is because for some time now, DC has been trying to be more and more "adult" with it's content. NOT that in itself is a bad thing, but recently the surge of more graphic and valgur content they kept pumping up in their animation division, as well as the comics and lack of material for much broader audiences has kind of rubbed on me personaly in how dedicated they can be in being as shocking and crass they can be.
 
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Frontier

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I think it really just begs the question of where you draw the line, because Superhero content can range from all ages fair to serious, thought provoking, adult stories.

On the one hand the former allows you a wider audience and can still deliver memorable storytelling, but the latter can help deliver memorable and impactful content that you may not have been able to otherwise if it had to abide by standards and practices.

Do I think sometimes DC animated films have over-indulged in graphic and explicit content? Yes. But at the same time I can think of instances where that content was used effectively and appropriately, though I always err on the side of keeping things classy.
 

RoryWilliams

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At the premier of Shazam one of the WB execs had said something along the lines that the studio had finally realized that the tone of a movie should fit the character being presented, rather than being a one size fits all prospect. IE, audiences loved the dark and gritty tone of Nolan's Batman movies or the recent Joker film, but were far less receptive when those elements were applied to Superman, while something like Aquaman was a success because it embraced the colorful ridiculousness of the character.

So it depends on who we are talking about. I do think the recent animated films have gotten indulgent with it, though.
 
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Fone Bone

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Good lord, yes. It's actually quite disturbing to me. They seem to be catering to the most toxic elements of fandom rather trying to draw in general audiences to sample comic books. It's why the industry is dying and why almost all of the shows on DC Universe suck so hard.
 

Light Lucario

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If what I've seen of Harley Quinn is any indication, then yes. It is a dark comedy, but the blood and swearing seems to go a bit too far for my tastes. Young Justice Outsiders could get violent too, but it didn't com off as needlessly gruesome and it helped that they used it more sparingly by comparison.
 

Mostezli

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I thought it may be worth some fodder to look at other people's perspectives on whether they think DC's recent trend on utilizing more graphic or vulgar content actually to cater to older audiences actually has merit or if it's not really necessary.
It is a natural progression within the evolution of superhero content if not for action adventure toons in general.
As much as I berated James Tucker's management earlier on, his modus operandi of attracting comic readers older than the prevailing western animation industry demo is commendable. The PG/Y7 gloves came off like never before. All the graphic/vulgar/psychologically risque illustrations preteens and teens seen gets to be transplanted into a media second most readily suited for it. I say second most because video games put consumers in the driver's seat to live out those thrills. And DC coincidentally had that front covered as well since 2009. Not to mention, the cinematic trailer for DC Universe Online is about to be 10 years old next month ie the first time I recall seeing such a gritty take on these characters with all the fantastical elements in play.

It is a bit weird when all that remains for younger viewers to tune into for DC cartoons are LEGO, TTGo! and Super Hero Girls, but that's been the consequence of not having better financing avenues and other attempts not sticking.
 

Frontier

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If what I've seen of Harley Quinn is any indication, then yes. It is a dark comedy, but the blood and swearing seems to go a bit too far for my tastes. Young Justice Outsiders could get violent too, but it didn't com off as needlessly gruesome and it helped that they used it more sparingly by comparison.
I think that goes into content that is appropriate or styled towards the intended audience and the kind of series it's being used in, because tonally and conceptually Harley Quinn and Young Justice are completely different so I wouldn't really expect the same kind of content from either.

Although I would say even Outsiders was a little over-indulgent on constantly killing Halo off in continually gruesome ways.
 

RoryWilliams

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Young Justice S3 was one of the instances where it got gratuitous, if I'm being honest. By the third time Halo got violently and gorily murdered onscreen, I was like "We get it, Greg, you don't have to deal with CN's standards and practices department anymore!"

I actually don't mind the language on Harley Quinn since that was more or less conceived and marketed as a sitcom for adults from the get-go, so maybe it annoyed me in YJ because of the transition from an all-ages show to "Look at all the blood we can show now!"
 

Frontier

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And there are different ranges of being "adult."

Something like DC Showcase Death handles some very heavy and adult topics that you probably wouldn't see in a normal DC cartoon.

The animated Suicide Squad movies are as violent as you would expect from film starring a team of that name. Conversely I don't think Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, while violent, get anywhere near that level and are more reserved.
 

BigFatHairyDeal

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Based on the timing of this thread, I imagine it's at least partially inspired by Apokolips War. That movie is something else...

As for does DC try too hard? I don't watch all their stuff, but I figure DC Superhero Girls aims for a younger audience. I loved Justice League Action, and that definitely skews younger, too.

Off the cuff, I'd say DC skews both younger and older. Maybe the issue is that the DCAU was mostly Y7 TV shows, and the first round of movies were PG/PG-13, but now they utilize the whole spectrum from Y-rated shows to R-rated films.

I guess I'd rather watch the PG/PG-13 movies. I'd be OK with R if it were more for language, but seeing all the blood and guts fly mean that people I'd like to watch the movie with, including my wife and my sister, won't enjoy it as much.
 

Troy Troodon

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Based on the timing of this thread, I imagine it's at least partially inspired by Apokolips War. That movie is something else...

As for does DC try too hard? I don't watch all their stuff, but I figure DC Superhero Girls aims for a younger audience. I loved Justice League Action, and that definitely skews younger, too.

Off the cuff, I'd say DC skews both younger and older. Maybe the issue is that the DCAU was mostly Y7 TV shows, and the first round of movies were PG/PG-13, but now they utilize the whole spectrum from Y-rated shows to R-rated films.

I guess I'd rather watch the PG/PG-13 movies. I'd be OK with R if it were more for language, but seeing all the blood and guts fly mean that people I'd like to watch the movie with, including my wife and my sister, won't enjoy it as much.

It's not because of Apokolips War, it's actually been on my mind for sometime since the New 52 reboot began, not just with it's animation devision but in the comics as well. And again this is just my opinion, but honestly I felt DC in general has gotten too dark, it has gotten too violent and vulgar, and there's been a stead decline in material that could be considerably good for younger and older audiences alike.

Again I have no problem with DC caterting towards a primarily adult audience, heck I dare argue the original Bruce Timm animated shows actually were for adults, but my main problem is the lengths they'd go to show off just how "adult" they can be, down to making Harley Quinn a clone of Lobo. (But that's neither here or there)
 

SweetShop209

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Actually, DC's kids shows have always been TV-Y7 or TV-PG, never TV-Y.

As for the question at hand, I think it all varies. With something like Young Justice, it is a bit more tasteful, though it does still have moments that make me think Greg Weisman is a little too comfortable with how he doesn't have to conform to Cartoon Network standards anymore. Something like the animated CW content (from what I heard) is in a similarly tasteful boat, though that's probably because their live action counterparts don't do that. I'd say the times this really gets noticeable are when the tones are established to be bleak right off the bat (like with the R rated movies) or if the protagonists are, put simply, very flawed. One movie I think balances the darker moments better is Batman Vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (though I'd say this is more due to Nickelodeon's influence since they've never done animated PG-13 movies before).
 
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Well, it depends after all but I do think Didio definitely had a hand on doing this aspect prior to his recent departure.
 

Daikun

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The success of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen have influenced DC to take a more "grimdark" approach to their media. It's been pretty unshakable from their identity for the past 35 years. Only in recent years have they been trying to move away from it following the failure of their attempt at a Cinematic Universe and their lighthearted fare being more successful. The grimdark approach may work for Batman, but it feels out of place for DC's other heroes.

Wisecrack made a great video recently explaining why the DCEU didn't click, as well as a history lesson on those how two aforementioned comic books changed the industry.

 

Frontier

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The success of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen have influenced DC to take a more "grimdark" approach to their media. It's been pretty unshakable from their identity for the past 35 years. Only in recent years have they been trying to move away from it following the failure of their attempt at a Cinematic Universe and their lighthearted fare being more successful. The grimdark approach may work for Batman, but it feels out of place for DC's other heroes.

Wisecrack made a great video recently explaining why the DCEU didn't click, as well as a history lesson on those how two aforementioned comic books changed the industry.

Personally I think the animated films have approached a more serious and adult DCU better then the movies have. Like compare Gods and Monsters to the Snyder-verse.
 

Fone Bone

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Yeah, I've lacked confidence that ratings for DC animated shows were done properly. How on earth was a show like JLU, which once featured a double suicide, just as much a Y7 show as Krypto the Superdog?
Rating are and always have been useless and unhelpful. This goes for TV but especially movies. The entire idea is a complete scam.
 

Mostezli

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Again I have no problem with DC caterting towards a primarily adult audience, heck I dare argue the original Bruce Timm animated shows actually were for adults, but my main problem is the lengths they'd go to show off just how "adult" they can be, down to making Harley Quinn a clone of Lobo. (But that's neither here or there)
When was this? I get that Bruce Timm had some weird ideas, but woah.
The original Bruce Timm shows had to be suitable for the network & saturday mornings/weekday afternoons, while still letting them get to tell those kinds of stories. They were the ones being bold and daring at the time.
Fast-forward some years and that's why Justice League Action's approach was the way it was after the apparent failures of YJ, GLTAS, and Beware the Batman + the success of TTGo! As a possible pilots program so to speak for the DC Nation Shorts even though they weren't actually pilots, only Super Best Friends Forever got the offshoot.
The success of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen have influenced DC to take a more "grimdark" approach to their media. It's been pretty unshakable from their identity for the past 35 years. Only in recent years have they been trying to move away from it following the failure of their attempt at a Cinematic Universe and their lighthearted fare being more successful. The grimdark approach may work for Batman, but it feels out of place for DC's other heroes.

Wisecrack made a great video recently explaining why the DCEU didn't click, as well as a history lesson on those how two aforementioned comic books changed the industry.
The "grimdark" shook the industry as a whole. After the 90s absurdity, imhobservation superheroes found a proper middle ground where these stories took themselves more seriously without being so satirically dark as TDKReturns & Watchmen. At the end of the day the target demo was no different from what manga/anime has been for this generation (not adults). From what I've read, modern DC (New 52+), Valiant, IDW TMNT carried on that torch.
Personally I think the animated films have approached a more serious and adult DCU better then the movies have. Like compare Gods and Monsters to the Snyder-verse.
Gods & Monsters is bleaker than the Snyder-verse which was live-action DC for the first time ever catching up with the animated side of DC without having to be so "grounded" as what came directly before. In another timeline, Justice League Mortal may have been the one to do it. In another universe, the CW shows might have been replaced by Johns/Berlanti's cinematic universe due to the success of Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern followed by The Flash .
 

Hawkgirl Smash

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It's not just DC but media in general that's becoming more vile, vulgar, and dark, as much of society desensitizes to previous shock values and everyone's in search of the next, biggest shock value in order to grab attention stretched thin in a world over-saturated with stimulants and instant "celebrities". Many layers, nuances, subtleties etc are lost, in art as well as in life, as everything moves further and further toward extremes and lowest common denominators. As such, it's created a consumer culture where lower-rated media isn't even taken seriously, and in order to appeal to adult crowd (and teens trying to show off how "adult" they are), it gets packed full of foul language, excessive graphic violence, sex, drugs etc. It's not a "comedy" nowadays if it's not loaded with swearing and vulgarities, a film isn't considered "raw", "relatable", "real", "authentic" etc if it doesn't include graphic sex and violence and morbid dysfunctions. The crudeness and darkness are marketed as more "sophisticated". I'd overheard adults deciding against a movie neither of them had ever seen because it was "only PG13". It's no wonder DC would wanna keep up in order to attract/retain more audience.

As an adult, I'm honestly disappointed at the descent. There are many different ways to be mature/adult/raw/real/authentic etc and one size does not fit all. In my opinion, the Timmverse shows were where it struck the most balance, although I would have been okay with a little more blood. There was character development, adults behaving like adults (okay except for Flash), relationships, innuendos etc, while still being appropriate for the younger audience. Clean humor, clean language, but still gripping and entertaining. And Batman did dark well without the blood and guts.

It peeves me that I can't watch much of the new material with my Hawkbabies due to the foul language and gore, and despite all the movies being released, it feels like there's a near-vacuum in the family-friendly department, and much of the family-friendly material is over-the-top, like Lego and TTG. While I love over-the-top absurdity (if anyone's seen my art LOL), I wish there was more somewhere in the middle rather than the two extremes, the stark contrast, total separation. Wish there was more stuff aimed at everyone without the implied stigma that something is "childish" just because children can watch it too and the bias of "I'm too good for lower ratings". But it's hard to point fingers at DC alone when such supply is in high demand.

Personally I'd watch the darker stuff for the lack of milder yet still mature options, but I gravitate toward the lighter end of the spectrum. I enjoy the subtleties, the fact that some things are left to the imagination, a "story behind the story", and dislike being offended with increasingly shocking shock-values at every turn. And I hate the prevailing idea that people need darkness and dysfunction to relate to, that it makes it more "real". People - and reality - are more diverse than that. But then again, I'm that weird adult who functions without alcohol or coffee. :p

heck I dare argue the original Bruce Timm animated shows actually were for adults
Agreed 100%. Probably what got them canceled... the fact that they were more than extended toy commercials and that much of their fanbase no longer played with toys... same with Young Justice.
 

KeldeoKitty

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Maybe a lot of these adult DC shows are trying to be adult to appease Teen Titans Go haters, especially the Live Action Titans show which was seemingly designed to pander to that hatedom with the [Titans Season 1] trailer that said “[F] Batman”.

Mod Note: Language edited.
 
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