The Wonder Twins and Undervaluing Our Children

"The Wonder Twins and Gleek!" | Art by CreedStonegate. Used with permission.

It’s not easy feeling small and undervalued; not in real life, and not in heroic stories. Being overlooked is the constant lot of sidekicks, a reality they probably expect—they’re still in training, after all. The Wonder Twins have to deal with this underwhelming attitude in the 70’s cartoon, Super Friends, and other DC shows they appear in. Most of the time, it seems like they are tagging along with the real heroes, even though they are part of the team. They’re kids, they’re only effective if they’re within physical reach of one another, and by most accounts in the fandom world, they’re fairly lame. I’ll be honest; if I was in need of a hero and the Wonder Twins showed up, I’d try to be polite, but I’d be super disappointed. And worried.

If Children Believe in the Impossible, We Can Too

Like the Wonder Twins, kids in general are sometimes overlooked or undervalued. They are small, weak, and needy. They can’t do a lot on their own and need almost constant supervision. They’re not the kind of people you’d send out on big missions, much less to the grocery store on their own. But, kids also have a lot to offer—even when they’re little. Just by being themselves, they have value. Their parents love them because they are theirs. They reflect truth on such a pure, unfiltered basis, that if they were listened to more frequently, they could teach adults a ton. Their imaginations make them as super as the Wonder Twins. As shapeshifters, the Twins can become anything from an elephant to a bucket of water, and if you ask a little kid, so can she. Nothing is impossible for little ones.

“Wonder Twins” by rodavlasalvador.

Children inform my faith, too. God says that nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Kids live in God’s realm. Jesus said that we need to become like children to be closest to God. I think they are so willing to accept mystery because they are reliant on others for their needs like I’m supposed to with God, but also because they don’t know they have limitations.

I see myself reflected in children’s eyes, reminding me of who I wanted to be when I was little, who I knew I could be, and what I still can be. They see adults very differently than we see ourselves, believing we can do anything just as they can. When my son was little, he’d ask me to tell him the story he was thinking of in his head because he thought I knew everything he was thinking. He thought I could make any food for him or carry any heavy load. He thought I was invincible. When I was in the right frame of mind, I could allow myself to be inspired by his vision of me. It was probably a lot closer to God’s vision of me than my limited one. I believe God made everyone to do amazing things. I forget that sometimes, focusing too much on my limitations and all the reasons I shouldn’t try something.

The Freedom to Make Mistakes

The level of adult supervision in my childhood looked very different than it does in most households now. We fended for ourselves, climbed trees, hopped fences, ran all over the neighborhood, did wheelies on our bikes; we were sometimes reckless, and definitely not safe all the time. But, at nine or ten, most of us could make meals for ourselves, do our own laundry, and manage minor first aid without bothering an adult. As a teenager, I drove myself everywhere, sometimes babysitting till after midnight.

For better or for worse, children are often more tied to adults nowadays, and all of their time is scheduled for them. I don’t regret that they are safer for it—I’m a very protective mother—but I wonder if they aren’t given enough opportunities to have adventures or to try out life. Perhaps they could benefit from more opportunities to fail or learn from failure. What sort of training ground for heroes are we providing them with? If we treat people like minor characters forever, they can never become what they were built for. They need to stand beside heroes to be mentored by them, not protected from every little scrape in life.

“The wonder twins traditional painting” by Ryou-kuga.

Most of the time, twins Zan and Jayna were more like sidekicks or mascots than they were actual superheroes. They were like younger siblings who followed the big kids around. Having been a younger sibling and cousin myself, I can appreciate the value of hanging with the big kids. Zan and Jayna had the benefit of experiencing battle with supervillains in the company of capable superheroes, which would give them the real-world (can you say that about cartoons?) experience that they’d be able to apply to other sticky situations when they didn’t have the assistance of their Super Friends. They learned to negotiate circumstances that could be very helpful in the future if they ever did become stand-alone…well, they couldn’t really be alone…but, let’s say an independent team unto themselves. Without that mentorship, they might have given up or even become really lame villains and an extremely mild nuisance to society.

Kids have a lot to offer—even when they’re little.

However you slice it, kids need to be taken appropriately seriously. Their feelings, their hopes and dreams, their interests all need to be heard and attended to. Dismissing them does no credit to their adults and no credit to their potential. Consider Buddy from The Incredibles. He was dismissed, and he turned into a psychotic supervillain. Just sayin’. Consider, too, Peter Parker. He was allowed to be part of the Avengers—even if they did try and limit his role because of his youth—and look what he did! Not the fading away thing from Infinity War—the stuff before that. I don’t know if the Wonder Twins ever became more than an ice slick and an orangutan, but, even if they didn’t, they were valuable members of a super team because the team themselves welcomed them.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" is available from Paulist Press.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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