One of my favorite mythological creatures is the gargoyle. Most are pretty creepy, but the one above looks cute! like a lizard-kitty hybrid. One of my favorite shows as a kid was “Gargoyles”. I didn’t remember much, mostly that these winged creatures that turned to stone by day and by night protected the city of New York. It was great! Action, adventure, betrayals, and all that jazz. It was awesome! (solely in my humble opinion).
But what was it that made it so special? Memorable? As a kid I never put much thought into it, it was cool so I liked it. Case closed. Yet, as I became more serious with my writing, I’ve gotten into the habit of analyzing things that I like. So, I re-watched the series and was amazed at all the themes and details I didn’t notice as a child. Gargoyles is a mixture of genres, has a great batch of identifiable and unique characters, and deals with some pretty heavy themes for a children’s show.
A trend that seems to be rising is the emergence of female protagonists, just look at the successes of Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent. We need strong female roles and I glad for this trend. But for me, Gargoyles was the first one that exposed me strong female leads. Take Elisa Maza, for example. Not only was she a female detective (strong, witty, and competent) but she was a POC. She was of both African and Native American descent, on her mother’s and father’s side respectively. I feel like this was a big deal because most cartoons featured Caucasian characters as the Leads.
Besides Elisa, there was Demona, one of the main antagonists of the series. I love her. You just can’t get solid, 3-dimensional female villains like her. My problem with female characters is that they are very 1-dimensional and stereotypical, such as the damsel in distress or the “bitch” (I really dislike that word). Most female villains, especially in children’s stories and shows, turn evil because of their vanity, jealously or they were scorned by an old lover. Their lives revolve around men, whether for their youth/beauty to a get a lover or for revenge for and/or against their lover. But back to Demona. As per the norm, she wasn’t always evil, her plan to protect her clan went awry, and her betrayal by humans lead to her heart hardening. The world turned black and white for her, her goals in life now narrowed down to the survival and protection of her people and revenge on humans (I don’t blame her, we are pretty crappy at times). Her hatred is what fueled her, but she really did believe she was doing the right thing by destroying humans. I loved the complexity of her character and how easily she grew from ripping people apart, to become conniving and manipulating people to carry out her plans (I have weird role models, huh?).
Next, is Angela. Angela was introduced in the second season (I believe, my memory is hazy) as the daughter of both Goliath and Demona. She is strong and independent like the rest of her clan. When Goliath returns to New York with Angela, the younger gargoyles flip out (Gargoyle hormones). The following episodes show the three, Lexington, Broadway, and Brooklyn, fighting over Angela’s affection to the point of her annoyance. She lets them know that they shouldn’t look at her as a female, but as a member of their clan. She didn’t need their protection; she wanted to be seen as an equal.
Throughout the series, gender roles didn’t matter. Both men and women could be evil (they had solid reasons than just “being evil for the heck of it”). Both genders could fight, on equal ground no less. I also like how the clothing for male and female Gargoyles didn’t differ much. I mean, yes what the female is wearing is “revealing”, yet the males are wearing just as little (yay equality), but it makes sense for the characters.
It really saddens me that kid shows today aren’t showing complex characters anymore. I shudder when my niece watches certain shows such as Teen Titans Go. Yes, the shows can be entertaining but they aren’t making kids think. I love parodies, don’t get me wrong, yet this prolonged ridiculing of characters is heart-wrenching. Ideally, I would love it if she read more, but she feels like it’s boring (gasp!).
Moreover, shows are getting shorter. When I was a kid (which wasn’t that long ago), shows were thirty minutes. Like in Gargoyles, shows used to contain long story arcs that would take several episodes to resolve the conflict. Now shows are fifteen minutes long, or less (not counting the commercial breaks). Conflicts are shallow, resolved quickly, if at all.
“Gargoyles” is a mixture of both fantasy and science-fiction genres. The fantasy aspect of it pertains to the wide range of mythologies (don’t forget the magic) tied into the story. Science-fiction covers the technological side of the story (robots, clones, lasers). It really is a cool mix. Basically, if you ever wondered how someone from the middle ages would react to modern times.
Gargoyles tackled several themes during its run time. The most prominent one would be the topic of racism. When the Gargoyles are finally revealed to the public, a sect called the Quarrymen (similar to the KKK) rises up to “deal” with them. This theme can also be applied to the interracial (interspecies?) relationship between Goliath, the clan leader of the Gargoyles, and Elisa Maza, the human detective. I remember hearing that the third season of Gargoyles (when their relationship becomes canon and Gargoyles are no longer a secret) was seen as controversial. Was it because of the parallels the show drew to racism in the U.S. or was it due to the romance between these two characters? I’m not sure, but as a child I squealed in delight when they became a couple.
The show was also culturally diverse. Throughout the series, the characters traveled across the globe and interacted with different cultures. Gargoyles are friendly individuals and were quick to befriend others, regardless of their background.
Another huge theme in the Gargoyle series was the bond between people, including family, friends, and even enemies. Demona, even though she is on opposing sides of her ex-mate and daughter, she still chooses to protect Angela from others, and even her own plans of destruction. The bonds between the Gargoyles and their non-gargoyle friends is also strong, such as the trust and friendship between Elisa and the other Gargoyles.
Lexington and Alexander, Xanatos’ son
Jesus preached to love our enemies. It is not easy to love someone who has wronged you in the past, thus this brings us to the relationship between the Gargoyles and David Xanatos. Xanatos is a self-made billionaire (he went to the past, got a super old penny which he had arranged to be sent to himself in modern times. Awesome, right?), and another antagonist throughout the series. The relationship he has with the Gargoyles is rocky, given he tried to kill them several times, ran them from their home, manipulated them into doing his dirty work, but in the end, they always come to an agreement, albeit grudgingly on the Gargoyles’ side. When Xanatos’ son was kidnapped, the gargoyles protected the infant, sometimes they even babysat. It changed Xanatos’ perspective because he had treated them horribly in the past, yet they didn’t hesitate to help him.
Gargoyle family bonds were also not tied by blood. Gargoyles believed in communal raising of their young, so all the children were loved and treated equally. Princess Katherine saved the Gargoyle eggs and became their adoptive mother. This became important later on, as Angela believed all humans to be kind like her adoptive family and Elisa. She didn’t want to believe such racism existed, but it made her appreciate the family she had all the more.
In short, Gargoyles was a cartoon but it held complex characters and story arcs that modern cartoons lack. I feel if we are going to be feeding kids junk food, at least make it the 60% reduced salt/fat. We owe it to the emerging generations to give them quality stories, whether through television or through a book. I’m all down for “quick fixes” but not all the time, like candy, you need them in small doses.
Sorry for the long post, but it was something I’ve been meaning to
rant write about for a while.
Is there a show you wish would be brought back?