I’m watching season 1 of YJ (finally) and had a thought, how would ‘Red Arrow’/Speedy react to Danny? He seems to hate the team, but also the idea of anyone replacing him on his non-existent spot in the mountain. How do yall think he’d react to Danny joining the YJ, or the JLA? Especially in the scenario that Danny has limited interacting with either leagues before joining
Let’s have a talk about the wonderful, complicated, and incredibly relevant character that is M’gann M’orzz, and her identity arc in YJ Season 1.
So here’s the thing about M’gann:
I wanted to opening line of this to be that M’gann M’orzz is better than you, mostly as a reaction to the sheer amount of undeserved hate she gets in Season 1. But here’s the thing.
M’gann M’orzz isn’t better than you, not at first, and that’s the fucking point.
M’gann M’orzz isn’t better than you, not if you’re the kind of audience YJ was aimed at (which wasn’t 10-year old boys, contrary to the opinion of CN and whatever drugs they were taking a the time). She’s a mess: she’s insecure, self-protective, and she gets people hurt because of her insecurities.
Beginning Season 1 M’gann M’orzz is every person who has felt uncomfortable in their own skin- whether it’s because they don’t identify with their outward appearance or because they’re discriminated against for it. She hated the person she was seen as when she was on Mars, and other people hated her too.
When we first meet M’gann she’s cute, she’s happy, and a little bit uncertain about how to handle the whole psychic-communication-without-consent-is-invasive thing. Things are different on Mars, and no matter how many episodes of Hello, Megan! she watched she was always going to be a little awkward about Earth customs. And at first that seems to be the most “flawed” thing about her.
Re-watching Season 1, you’d pick up hints of M’gann’s underlying issues everywhere you look. How she’s so enthusiastic about trying to fit into this nice –girl character role, how every things she does seems a little practiced, a little too planned.
In Image we get the big reveal for M’gann character: Not only that she’s a White Martian and has based much of her life on Earth off a TV character, but also how willing she is to lie to and manipulate others, even those she cares about, to protect herself.
Then in Usual Suspects, we get the culmination. Encouraged by Conner and Artemis, M’gann opens herself up to rejection- which I’d like you to keep in mind is canonically her worst fear- by being honest with her friends. It was a very brave thing to do, and the narrative arc rewarded her accordingly.
Her new family, one she had found and had built throughout the season, accepted her in a way her birth family never had. Some team members had some initial shock, but everyone got over it pretty quickly. The subsequent affirmation by Superboy cinched the deal on the over-arching lesson of M’gann plot-line: People who love you will accept you for who you are, your birth family isn’t necessarily your only family, and that who you are isn’t necessarily the person you appear to be to outsiders, and it’s okay to change your outside to fit the inside.
Now that the basic summary is out of the way, let’s talk about a few key details that make M’gann and her arc some of the best and most relatable storytelling I’ve seen in a long time.
Escapism: First we have the familiar theme of escapism- friend and foe to practically everyone who’s had to face a lot of discrimination for simply existing. M’gann latched onto “Megan Wheeler” because of how easily her problems were solved and because of her similar name. It’s a relatable trait, especially to the teens and young adults who were actually watching the show. If you’re living in hell and you can’t get out because that hell is your own body or your current life situation, escapism isn’t the worst way to deal. But it only works for a little while, and sooner or later you have to face the world around you- whether that means making a life change or asserting your real identity.
Found Family- There are strong indications that Martian family structures is not like the ones on Earth- as shown by how M’gann felt the need to clarify to Artemis that she always wanted a sister like sisters are on Earth. M’gann doesn’t seem close to her home family, and it’s strongly implied that they rejected her, too. M’gann is a poster child for the importance of made family, and how they can be so much closer than your real family, especially if they accept you for what you are while your birth family rejected you.
Manipulation: I love M’gann- but she’s always been one of the more morally grey characters on the Team. Her motivations tend to be self-serving rather than altruistic: she’s a hero because it’s what she wants to be, not out of a sense of moral obligation. She’s not the only one like that on the Team or the League either- but it does help to highlight that self-protection and her own needs tend to come first. Which isn’t unusual or unhealthy. But, due to the nature of the issues she faces, her motivations often lead to her manipulating or even hurting others.
Manipulation is a major theme for M’gann, and it’s not all as negative as you’d initially think. Yes, M’gann manipulates others to protect herself, and on a lot of levels that’s not okay. However, it all ties back to how she’s trying to manipulate her outside to fit her inside. From what M’gann’s told us about Martian culture, Martians are a lot more communal, and tend to see themselves from the perspective of not just themselves, but their relationships. Which kinda makes sense if the main method of communication is telepathy- it’s practically impossible not to start seeing yourself from others’ perspectives. For M'gann more than anyone else, how people see her is a big deal.
This is why Superboy was IMPORTANT in so many ways, and why having the team, and having a team with a lot of other people who have identity issues, was such a help to her. And its why, when Psimon showed us her greatest fear, it was rejection.
And that’s right there? That’s what makes M’gann one of the most relatable characters to a teenage audience. The problems she faces may be a little removed from reality, but they aren’t anywhere near too far off from what a lot of people have to face. And the lessons she learned are the kind of lessons people trapped in her situation need.
Being self-protective isn’t a bad thing, and it isn’t the same thing as being selfish, but there’s a line. Keeping parts of yourself a secret in order to protect yourself is fine, until you’re hurting other people in order to keep that secret. Finding an escape from your problems is good for taking a step back and letting you think of how to deal with them, but you can’t run forever. Fearing rejection is normal, but learning to trust the people who love and accept you makes life much easier and happier.
M’gann M’orzz at the end of Season 1 is caring, confident, powerful, and loyal.
But she isn’t better than you, she’s just learned her lessons and she learned them hard. She’s happier for it, and you could be too.