Young Justice fits perfectly with the diversity of human faith in the landscape of its fantastic mythology.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Young Justice: Phantoms, streaming now on HBO Max.
Questions of faith are always difficult to discuss, and Young justice is no exception. Divisive topics like politics and religion are often so controversial that most shows treat them broadly, obscure them with symbolism and subtext, or exclude them altogether in order to retain as much appeal as possible. However, Young justice values the realism and diversity of his world as his main virtues, and the latest episode proves that he is more than capable of navigating the difficult territory that discussion of religion can so often become. The episode “Teg Ydaer!” features conversations with its characters Khalid Nassour, Nabu and Zatara who place faith and religion in a meaningful and realistic place in the greatest mythology of its complex world, and it’s beautiful.
Outside of a Christmas episode that goes by with maybe a brief mention of Chanukah, most superhero cartoons seldom touch on religious topics, which is exactly what makes its discussion frank in the final episode. of Young justice so remarkable. The episode “Teg Ydaer!” Mainly focuses on the trials Doctor Fate administers to Zatanna’s magical proteges, each ordeal trapping them in a magical realm where they face their greatest inner demons and their greatest anguish. For Khalid, this means a confrontation with phantasmal versions of his parents centered on the tension between seemingly disparate aspects of his identity. He’s a doctor, wizard, and Muslim, and reconciling his identities proves his challenge throughout the episode.
It is in his faith that Khalid finally finds satisfaction. As the worlds of science and magic seem in conflict, Khalid remains convinced that the two are just different tools given to him by his God to make the world a better place. He qualifies the difficulty of his struggle with the tension of his “jihad, [his] inner struggle ”, using an expression that proves that Young justice does not shrink from specificity when discussing Khalid’s religion. Rather than turning Islam into a bland generic “faith” indistinguishable from any other religion, the series deals with the belief system on its own terms while later placing it in the same episode alongside Zatara’s Christianity as a unique element. but nevertheless present in the landscape of religion.
Locked in a dialogue with Nabu, Zatara reminds the Lord of the Order that the only way Zatara survived his tenure as Doctor Fate was his faith in a higher power. He then draws a cross in the space behind him, and pronounces the Our Father prayer to punctuate his remarks. This is how religion must be integrated into any performance that seeks to adapt realism and diversity to the realm of fiction.
Khalid and Zatara express their faith in unique and important ways, which embed their beliefs into a larger character, offering the perfect alternative to avoiding the subject altogether, approaching it in a non-specific way, or reducing the characters to a symbolic character by centering the entirety of their personality around their religion. Further, it reifies that there is still a place for faith and religion even in the midst of a scenario centered on divine entities struggling for the fate of the cosmos over unfathomable millennia.
This is not the first time that Young justice incorporated the religious beliefs of its characters in the series, but it is perhaps the best. While the Halo character arc over the previous season saw their struggle with their host body, with Gabriella pondering whether or not they should continue to wear a hijab, there have been so many developments in the character of Halo. and the elements of history larger than the aspect of faith never had a chance to shine.
With such a large cast, there are a plethora of other religions that the series has yet to explore. Those who hope to see such representation and diversity on the show can take peace of mind knowing that by delving into the world of religion, the show can skillfully navigate waters so often difficult. And yet, at the same time, Young justice it looks so easy.
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