I have some concerns about unfortunate implications–or my awful misreading.
Last weekend, DuckTales premiered two new episodes on Disney XD. I may write more about both as the series continues. While both were entertaining, I still feel some unease. After shows such as The Simpsons, Parks and Recreation, even really heartwarming and fun shows like Gravity Falls, there is a cynicism about supposedly wholesome content that leaves me worried.
For example, it’s appropriate for this show to make Scrooge the curmudgeon he is in the comics, with David Tennant’s acting, the animators’ body language, and the overall personality of the character giving him a core set of ethics–regarding protecting his family, however much he dislikes them, and having some standards when it comes to balancing his personal desires with his business practices. This is not the greedy Scrooge; thanks to our time period in which income disparity and an even more lopsided economic system denies almost anyone from improving their income and rising in class, the protagonist is now a character who is more devoted to personal gratification and adhering to his personal obligations rather than simply in it for the cash.
Yet there are details about other characters that are as rough and pointed as the character designs. Webby’s upbringing has set up challenges for her interactions with other people, and the show is trying to determine how a violent character would operate in the real world. Likewise with Donald’s anger problems and, as I’ll discuss a bit here, Gyro’s fixation on improving his inventions.
While both episodes were entertaining, as long as they are held up in comparison to the original comics, and the television show with which I am far more familiar, there are details that annoy me. In particular, changing Gyro Gearloose has irked me, not only because there is that problematic detail in which a character, whether by my misreading or by the show’s portrayal comes across as aneurotypical, is portrayed as villainous–by his choices, by his acting, and by the lighting and music set at the ending. I may be misreading all of this, yet I also see many viewers who see Gyro as aneutrotypical–and love the fact that he is for the sake of representation, as well as I anticipate many viewers desire to see such representation because they or people they know are on the spectrum.
Yet I still worry: it is important that representation be expanded, and that such representation has to acknowledge that an aspect of our identities is not solely aligned with one side of the good or bad spectrum–it is awful to portray all people of one identity aspect as villainous, yet it is not realistic to portray all people of one identity aspect as solely good and thus eliminate their diversity and acknowledge their flaws that allow them to have agency how they solve the problems that make up a story’s plot.
Jon Gray, an expert on all things related to the Donald and Scrooge comics, and an illustrator for many of them here in the United States, delved into some canonical comic book sources to acknowledge Gyro’s haughtiness and anger–yet the one example presented feels tenuous. Jon’s discussion also points Frank Angones, who is leading the DuckTales reboot, as to why they revised Gyro’s personality and role within Scrooge’s company. Yet I’m peeved that the show reduced Gyro to just a robotics inventor, whereas, like Ludwig Van Drake, he was an omni-discipline scientist who invented far more than robots.
In his remarks, Angones goes on to explain Gyro’s fixations are not so different from Scrooge’s fixation on adventure, making both characters morally grey for the sake of exploring when a desire grows too dangerous–and which helps motivate the plot. The most I can respond to that statement is that it becomes frustrating when a writer, unable to think what to do with a character, makes them into an antagonist. I get the point: plots are themselves by definition problems for protagonists to solve–and the way to create a problem for a protagonist is to give them an antagonist.
So, we got some ominous music as Gyro writes the name of his new GizmoDuck suit–and I may be misreading anything about that scene’s lighting and music, and Gyro’s face.
At least we understand why GizmoDuck’s “G” symbol replaces the previous “R” symbol. In production of the 1987 series, the characters was going to be “RoboDuck,” until a name change came long after the character model. Now, in-story, the “G” will stand not for “GizmoDuck” initially but for “Gyro.”