Youngjustice

7

Day 13: Emotion

"I need some distance. I need a change. So let’s see how Tigress does." "As a hero?" "As a blonde."

On Artemis and being a hero: I don’t have any idea where I read it or who said it now, but I remember once seeing the argument that Artemis’s decision to remain Tigress in ‘Endgame’ was a foreboding harbinger of her not being entirely committed to remaining a hero. The thought went something along the lines that her response when asked about it indicated some kind of renewed sense of moral ambiguity, but I think this is a complete misunderstanding of what Artemis was saying.

In her very first appearance in the tie-in comic, even before she met the Team, Artemis wanted to be a hero. She didn’t know if she could be one, but she didn’t want the life her father had raised her to lead and bristled against the fact that he told her mother that it was foolish to ever expect anything different from her. Even though it is fair to say that Artemis was plagued with doubts because of her upbringing and the way it kept eating its way back into her life, it was this doubt in her that spurred her into making her first efforts to perform an act of heroism. She was looking for a way to make a change in her own life - her White Rabbit to lead her to her very own rabbit hole, as she put it - and she found it the night she saved Wally’s life.

Following that, Artemis’s life became about proving her worth as a member of the Team and as a hero. She sought their acceptance and almost immediately clung to any suggestion that they were her “new family” no matter how unfamiliar she was with a group of people where she didn’t have to fight to have a place. She was so unfamiliar with unconditional acceptance that she was terrified of her friends learning the truth about her background. She tried to hide it from them, but any suggestion that she genuinely “switch sides” horrified her in Season 1. There’s no reason to assume that this changed moving into Season 2.

Artemis’s sense of identity is very important to her and it becomes a central theme in Season 2. The ambiguity that existed in her life in Season 1 was conquered and put behind her for five years. She had established a stable life with friends and a relationship and college - plans for a future. Then she’s called upon to go back into the field, undercover, as an assassin and a member of an organization known to be allied with some very bad people. It’s very difficult not to see this as a deliberate subversion of assumptions that might have been made about Artemis and her motives in Season 1. It seemed far more plausible that a girl whose entire family had at one point or another been on the “wrong side” might try to find acceptance in the underworld, but Artemis has long since grown up in an environment where any advantage to that is far outweighed by its disadvantages.

Artemis is frustrated with her undercover identity and the way that being in such deep cover erodes her sense of self. She wants to be who she is, and she knows that the more things go wrong, the less likely it is she’ll be able to return to the life she left behind. Tragically, she’s very right in this fear, but she is able to regain some of what she’d lost. And this is why I think that an understanding of Artemis’s feelings about Tigress and being a hero that suggests that she is headed down a ‘dark’ path toward villainy ignores the rest of her character development up until that point.

It might be fun to think about alignment shifts in characters, and I can definitely see how Artemis’s background might have - in some circumstances - led her down the path of her comics namesake, but I don’t think the Artemis we know is in that kind of danger. I have no doubt that at the end of Season 2, she feels that much of who she was before has been lost to the fire. But she’s going to keep trying. She’s back in the hero game, and it’s a choice she made for herself that she must bear with its consequences. But I think, ultimately, her comment “As a blonde,” means that despite everything horrible that has come of her character arc in Season 2 that she never doubted that she was trying to do the right thing.

Artemis knows she’s a hero.