The Titans live-action series will feature a male Hawk and a female Dove in a romantic relationship. Not only is this a big missed opportunity, but it also supports unfair expectations of women.
On Thursday, Deadline announced that the Titans live-action series had cast Hawk and Dove. And just as a video report by That Hashtag Show suggested a week earlier, Hawk will be male, Dove will be female, and they will be a couple. This means it’s likely that Titans is using the recent Hank Hall and Dawn Granger versions of the characters from the comics, which makes sense from a company synergy standpoint. But by going this route, the series missed a huge chance to subvert gender stereotypes.
In the comics, Hawk is typically an aggressive character and Dove prefers a peaceful solution. Without any knowledge of these characters aside from those traits, you would likely expect that the aggressive character would be male, and the peace-loving partner would be female. It’s the kind of gender stereotyping that leads people to expect women to smile, and excuse aggressive behavior from boys with “boys will be boys.”
As a result, not having a male Hawk and female Dove would have allowed the series to subvert those societal expectations, and open it up to some important conversations. The original Hawk and Dove in the comics are Hank and Don Hall, respectively, and using a male Dove would have allowed the series to tackle the subject of toxic masculinity, by sending an obvious message that men don’t have to be the typical “punch everything” character in order to be considered a man, let alone a superhero.
Not only that, but using the Hall brothers would also have meant that Titans would avoid assigning more emotional labor to a woman — in real life, women are expected to manage their own emotions and the emotions of their male colleagues. When Hawk wants to enter a situation fists-first, Dove is probably always going to have to push back and advocate for a less violent tactic.
Based on information in That Hashtag Show’s video regarding Dove and Hawk’s character arcs, this message could be intensified in the series. “While they love working together and cleaning up the streets, Dove is beginning to see that Hawk may be taking things a bit too far,” the video reports.
While this could be an interesting way for the series to explore the destructive aspects of masculine stereotypes, it could also come at the expense of reinforcing the societal expectation that women perform emotional double-duty. By assigning emotional labor to women, we downplay the responsibility of men to regulate their own reactions.
To be clear, these issues could also be avoided by using most combinations other than a male Hawk and female Dove. Titans could have chosen another version of Hawk and Dove from the comics — estranged sisters Holly and Dawn Granger — to challenge the ideas that women aren’t naturally aggressive, or that they can’t be both aggressive and feminine.
If DC had chosen to deviate from the comics, they could have used a female Hawk and male Dove to fight stereotypes on both fronts. Conversely, reconfiguring the characters as a gay or lesbian couple would have avoided putting the onus on women to perform more emotional labor than men, and provide a big win for representation in the process. Having Hawk and Dove as other members of the LGBTQIA community would also have been a crucial step in seeing their stories explored on-screen, while potentially navigating around these issues, though this could have ended up contributing to gender stereotypes, if an actor presented as a sex they didn’t identify with and were in a certain role.
None of these options are necessarily problem free, and Titans may still tell important stories using a male Hawk and female Dove. But it’s a shame the series didn’t take this opportunity to challenge stereotypes, or to put further effort into representation.
Titans will be released on DC’s streaming service in 2018.