'Titans': Why "F--k Batman" Matters (And It Isn't Why You Think)

DC Universe premiered Titans today, and while we found it to be a generally-enjoyable pilot, [...]

DC Universe premiered Titans today, and while we found it to be a generally-enjoyable pilot, jam-packed with Easter eggs for longtime fans, it was not without its faults.

One of those faults? Editing -- and the notorious "f--k Batman" line that polarized fans when the initial trailer hit three months ago is a perfect example of how careless editing can create the wrong impression.

In one of the show's first big action sequences, Robin (Brenton Thwaites) sees a drug deal going down and swoops in to stop it. After his impressive superhero landing, Robin fails to impress the criminals, who wonder instead where Batman is.

Silently, stoically, Robin storms into action, lashing out against the villains in a fast-paced and brutal action sequence that likely leaves several of the men near death. In the final moments of the scene, he reaches one of the baddies, who is trying to escape in a car.

"You ever touch your kid again and I'll find you," Robin tells the man as he brutalizes him, leaving him bleeding and broken.

Then he turns around and delivers the "f--k Batman" line.

While common sense suggests Robin's "f--k Batman" is in response to the original inquiry -- "Where's Batman?" -- it is delivered about 90 seconds after that line, and those are 90 long seconds since there is a high-intensity fight scene packed with memorable beats that pull audience attention and focus.

Even so, a silent, stoic hero who punctuates his actions with a dramatic declaration would have created an intention and obvious callback to the beginning of the scene, forcing the audience to remember why he might say something so seemingly random and making the connection.

But after a long silence and a number of deliberate actions, Robin stops being stoic in order to deliver a moral to one of the criminals: child abuse is bad. Stop abusing children.

Then he beats the man badly and delivers the "f--k Batman" line, which unintentionally creates a juxtaposition: child abuse, beat, f--k Batman.

In other words, while it is almost certainly not the intent of the writing or performances in the scene, the film language here is telling the audience that Dick's anger with Batman is associated with child abuse. Given that Dick has been Bruce's adoptive son and young ward/sidekick for years prior to the start of Titans, it is not difficult to assume that the implication of the scene is that Batman was abusing Robin.

If that was the intent, the internet would likely be having a much bigger, broader conversation about why depicting one of DC's most beloved heroes as a child abuser is problematic. That we are not having such a conversation suggests that this was a case of sloppy editing, which is a less serious problem -- but a problem nonetheless.

What is doubly odd is that shuffling some lines around may have made it work better; before Robin comes into the picture, the dealer suggests that his drugs are pink because that appeals to kids, so the idea that Robin is protective of children could have been distinguished easily from the "f--k Batman" line. And, of course, since this is an implicit rather than explicit editing error, many viewers might read no fault in the whole scene and might think this entire analysis is about nothing. That is fair, but juxtaposing two thoughts close to one another creates a subconscious connection between them, and so while this misconception will not occur to everyone it will occur to enough people that it should likely not be there.

Given that so far, DC's dark, brooding feature film library is five movies deep and includes two that have had serious editing problems (Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad) as well as a third that famously has a radically different director's cut out there somewhere (Justice League), one would think that the Titans crew would be hyper-aware of the editing on the show.

One scene is not, in and of itself, a serious problem for a show of this magnitude, and the unintended implication that Batman is a child abuser does not ruin an otherwise watchable episode of TV.

That said, an issue with Titans is that it seems to be so determined to push the envelope that it loses sight of the bigger picture, and the heroics that make DC characters appealing, at times. Delivering a glib F-bomb and inadvertently creating the impression that Batman might be a child abuser feels like a microcosm of that issue -- and an illustration of how the issue if completely avoidable and fixable going forward.

New episodes of Titans debut on the DC Universe app Friday mornings.