Danny Phantom is many things. A show with one of the most loyal fanbases. A character with so much heart along with corny humor, unforgettable episodes, and sidekicks/friends to boot. I remember watching the very first episode on its premiere night in April 2004. I was hooked. It became a tradition to watch each episode’s premiere on my living room couch, with a good old Red Baron pizza, and have the best day ever doing it. It’s one of my favorite childhood cartoons of all time, along with the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, The Justice League and My Dad the Rockstar.
Any kind of show that featured a character with powers, I was definitely into it. Now, a show about a teenager with ghost powers was incredibly noteworthy—I had never seen anything like it before. I had seen shows about witches, superheroes, vampires, and the like, of course. But I had never seen ghost powers.
I admit I’ve written some fan-fiction and other works about Danny Phantom. The show’s content opened a whole new door of creativity in my writing and inspired me to create my own heroes. I appreciate the life lessons, still laugh at Danny’s corny and witty comebacks, and definitely consider it one of my favorite childhood shows. One day I would love to meet Butch Hartman, the creator behind it all. I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting a couple of people who have worked on the show, and they were so kind and amazing, it’s no wonder the show turned out so well with so many talented people behind it.
Danny’s story ended too soon for me, as it did for many fans. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to such a beloved show and its troop of characters we’d grown to love. I’m ready for #GoGhostAgain, a hashtag created by Holly Payne, and would love to see the show’s comeback. Until that day though, it’s fun to revisit and reminisce over episodes past. Danny Phantom binge marathon, anyone?
Two Worlds, One Danny
As we all know, it’s hard enough to be human. It’s hard enough just to survive in the world, pursue dreams, find love, pay the rent, and even make sure the laundry is folded just right. Humanity is twisted, beautiful, dark, bright, down and up, and every which way. Plus, as audiences know, life in the Ghost Zone isn’t exactly paradise either. The ghosts are prone to fighting one another and they all live in their own little zones within The Ghost Zone (they seem to prefer isolation from one another, but it must get lonely). Not to mention the ghosts are severely policed by Walker and his goons, if “Prisoners of Love” is anything to go by. In both worlds, expecting the unexpected is an understatement. So it’s pretty admirable that Danny managed to find a way to balance two worlds. It’s never perfect, nothing is perfect, but he found something that worked for him. It definitely took time, and certain episode storylines prove that.
“Teacher of the Year” is a good example of Danny balancing out his human and ghost lives. Like many teenagers, Danny becomes obsessed with a videogame, and it leads to him failing an important test. Unfortunately, Technus is also causing havoc, leaving Danny in a jam. He’s forced to study for the test; he fights it initially, but when he actually focuses, he ends up doing well on the test and even has time to join the battle against Technus that Sam and Tucker have, in the meantime, been fighting on his behalf. Part of balancing life’s to-do list includes a set of good people around you, who will jump in to help in any way they can. It gives Danny the opportunity to finish one responsibility just in time to tackle another, so Danny certainly felt accomplished by the day’s end.
Danny had days where he had to spend more time as a human or as a ghost in order to take care of what was needed. In the beginning, Danny is awkward, which is only exacerbated by the fact that he has ghost powers that he has no idea how to control. Imagine going through growth spurts and discovering different powers as time went on, like Danny learning he could fire ghost rays or manipulate ice. A cool coming-of-age story, but certainly not an easy one.
There were understandably times in which Danny wanted to give up his ghost half. Certainly when he met Dark Danny, as he feared becoming him. Or when he felt obsolete due to the presence of Vlad’s new ghost hunters, the “Masters’ Blasters.” These were significant tests for Danny, as he wondered whether he should continue being Phantom. He always wondered if he was doing the right thing, fighting ghosts with no experience in the beginning, or hiding his secret from his family. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. The more he learned to fight, the better he became as the self-appointed town protector. Where his parents are concerned, Jack is oblivious and Maddie could be to a certain degree; plus, Danny feared what his ghost hunter parents would do (dissection or otherwise) if they knew. So, Danny was content keeping things on the down low.
The thing is, even in these moments of self-doubt, something would happen that would show Danny, and audiences too, that he was always meant to be Phantom. Even when Danny intentionally rid himself of his powers in “Phantom Planet”, the universe intervened, his enemies unintentionally restoring Danny’s ghost half. There was a reason he was meant to have his accident and gain ghost powers. The world needed him, and he had the ability to carry that on his shoulders, even from a young age.
“Memory Blank” provides a memorable insight into Danny’s life without ghost powers. Sam remarks that his powers are “very cool” when Danny recreates his accident to restore his powers in order to defeat Desiree. Yes, his powers are very cool, but Danny is special for more than just the fact that he’s got abilities others do not. He has the unique perspective of being the son of ghost hunters and having access to their knowledge and equipment. He’s also got a very rare insight into the Ghost Zone and the ghosts themselves. Not to mention his own humanity. All of that combined, Danny’s seen a lot of sides to two different worlds and knows how to operate in them. It’s no surprise that even knowing the risks and the trials he went through thanks to Sam jogging his memory, Danny once again chose to go inside the portal, bear the pain, and emerge the hero.
Perhaps, because of his lineage, it was meant to be that he be a ghost hunter, too. In a way, it seems pre-destined. However, Danny ultimately chooses to be a ghost fighter, every time, feeling a weight of responsibility to keep people safe. He comes to learn that not all ghosts are harmful or bear ill will. There are two sides to everything, and no one knows that better than Danny. Ultimately, I believe Danny chose to be Danny Phantom out of free will, and not pre-determined destiny. He knew it was his purpose, his calling, and he did love what he could do, and the impact he had, even if it cost him from time to time. He even found a way to unite the ghosts for the greater good in “Phantom Planet”, that episode, as well as “Pirate Radio”, truly showcases Danny’s natural leadership skills. He managed to unite his classmates and ghosts on those occasions, and neither is an easy feat!
That being said, I think there’s an interesting aspect to Danny’s identity regarding his two worlds. Notably, the town referred to the new ghost boy as “Inviso-Bill”, which Danny understandably detested. Plus, as audiences know, Danny struggled with his identity in school, being teased cruelly by Dash, Kwan, and the other jocks. Even though Danny had a crush on Paulina, she notably favored Danny’s ghost half over his human half, and she wasn’t ever genuine or kind to him. It’s easy to see why Sam turned dragon and tried to destroy Paulina in “Parental Bonding.”
Being a teenager isn’t sunshine and roses. It’s a lot of uncertainty and discovery as you decide who you want to be while dealing with pressure from family and friends regarding life choices. Can you imagine being in Danny’s shoes, having that to deal with, plus his ghost half? Not to mention the stress he was under trying to stay out of the way of his parents’ ghost hunting equipment revealing his secret, so even home wasn’t a safe space.
Danny’s identity is tied to himself as both a human and a ghost. They are one. They are combined. They can’t be one without the other. Does he have his teenage moments, like bailing on his friends to go to a popular kids’ party? Absolutely. Does he have his moments where he screws up and ghosts get away? Most definitely. No one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. The difference is, that Danny learned from them. It made him a better person as he learned and gained wisdom. His character development is truly amazing when you compare Season 1 Danny to Season 3 Danny. The latter is more confident and mature, having learned some tough life lessons. Danny can be selfish, but his selflessness, especially when it comes to saving his town, and caring about Tucker, Sam, and his family, outweighs that.
He is also brave, and willing to risk his life to save someone else. Just like anyone, Danny had some growing up to do. He’s still a teenager by the end of the series, so naturally, Danny as an adult in his early twenties would be vastly different from his teenage self. He’d grown up faster than most teenagers given his situation, but he’s also granted that confidence in who he is, and what he wants to do. I can envision Danny following his dream of being an astronaut, marrying Sam, and still keeping the world safe from ghosts.
It doesn’t happen overnight, though. One episode that comes to mind that really brings forth questions about personal identity is “13.” Not only is Danny questioning his likeness to his father in this episode, but he’s also watching Tucker undergo changes in his image as well. Tucker wants to stop the bullies from calling him “Bad Luck Tuck”, and Sam assists in changing his image. Though I love how she takes it to the extreme, ultimately proving to Tucker that who he is, was more than enough to begin with, and his love of technology is what makes him the Tucker she and Danny know and love. Danny meanwhile appears to accept his likeness to Jack, though he doesn’t look too happy to be wearing Jack’s suit when he’s dropped off at school. It was a little big for him, after all.
Danny may share similar interests with his family, but he’s not them. He loves his family, but he’s also his own person, with his own traits, and interests—quirks and all. Sam points out several similarities between Danny and his family in “13”, also seeming to show that, like Tucker, Danny is who he is and that’s what makes him the Danny they know, love, and accept. With the Danny Phantom alternate identity, Danny probably has a better acceptance of that fact as an adult than as a teenager; sometimes, leaving and living your own life helps you gain perspective, and sharing similarities with your family may not seem so detrimental, depending on the circumstances.
Best Friends To Something More
One of the things I love most about Danny and Sam’s relationship is that they both accept each other for who they are without condition. They just love and care for one another as they are and don’t expect, and even better, don’t want the other to change.
I do love stories where best friends fall in love. There’s a special connection in having been friends first, knowing each other on that level, and then going forward to see where it could lead. That’s not to say it’s better than falling in love with someone you met a year ago or three months ago. It’s just a different connection when you’ve grown up together, or known each other for years like Sam and Danny have.
Sam isn’t afraid to call Danny out on his mistakes, but she’s also the first one there to help him right his wrongs and find a solution. Likewise, Danny is very protective of Sam; “Double Cross My Heart” certainly proves how far Danny will go. In that particular case, Danny was definitely jealous, but he was also concerned for Sam’s safety, as he was highly suspicious of Gregor.
Tucker knew the two were in love before Danny and Sam knew themselves. He’s not afraid to make comments on it either, especially when he notices the two are acting as more than just friends. I am glad that Danny and Sam did get together before the series ended; it would’ve made the show harder to say goodbye to had they still been dancing around their feelings. There just wouldn’t have been as strong a sense of closure for fans had they remained friends.
Chemistry is key to a good onscreen relationship, whether it’s live-action or animated. Danny and Sam make my personal list of favorite TV couples. Though they went off the air, I know they had their happily ever after, tackling life’s struggles together and always being there for one another. They really are perfect for each other; Sam understood Danny on a level that few do, and vice versa.
Sam and Danny knew what they wanted. Sam didn’t want to live the lifestyle her family did, as shown by her wardrobe choices and rebellious attitude. Danny wanted to follow his dreams and be his own person, which Sam could relate to. Sam was also there, alongside Tucker when Danny needed help the most. Sam and Tucker really were his rocks, the people who helped him adjust the most and who kept him grounded on both human and ghostly matters. Sure, like any friendship, they had their ups and downs, but the fact remains that their friendships ran deep, and thus, they always made up. Even when Tucker was jealous of Danny’s powers, the two still made up and even fought off a nasty cold together.
In any case, Danny and Sam are meant to be. They are a team, they are partners, and they can always count on one another to save the day, whether it be literally saving the world or saving each other.
Final Thoughts On Family And Arch-Enemies
On one last note, I must mention Danny’s corny humor and witty comebacks. I absolutely love it. Corny humor is my go-to, especially on rough days. I love scenes where Danny and Vlad go up against each other; they really do make for the perfect arch-enemies. “Oh yeah, you and what toaster?” is a particular favorite of mine. Or the time Danny and Maddie were stuck in the middle of nowhere at Vlad’s house, and Danny shorts out Vlad’s powers and remarks, “Minutes, seconds. You know how bad I can be at math.”
Even Danny and Vlad love their rivalry. They seem to genuinely enjoy making each other miserable. Which arch-enemies wouldn’t take that opportunity every chance they got? Dare I say, even the fans looked forward to the scenes between them, especially if they were battle scenes.
Elsewhere, I have to mention Danny’s relationship with Jazz. Yes, she’s very smart and she’s the rare older sibling that actually pays attention to her kid brother in high school. Signing him up for therapy without his consent was a risky move, but she did it out of love and concern. The thing is, Jazz is the only other person in the world who could innately understand Danny’s fear regarding telling their parents about his powers. She grew up in the same household; if the roles were reversed, she’d probably do the same. That’s why she was so understanding in “Brother’s Keeper”, and opted to wait for Danny to tell her himself, on his own terms.
“Secret Weapons” is one of the best episodes, in my opinion, in regards to their sibling relationship. It tests them and brings them both to the brink. Jazz’s good intentions get out of hand, but she resolves to prove to her brother that she has what it takes to fight the good fight. Teaming up and knowing just what to do, even as Vlad tests them, shows how much they understand one another; they have their own means of communication. They’re not always perfect, but they love each other. Danny even opts to ride back home with Jazz at the episode’s end, content to spend time with his sister. They each look out for each other, whether it be Jazz keeping an eye on Danny’s ghost hunting, or Danny keeping an eye on Jazz’s boyfriends (he definitely didn’t like Johnny 13!).
Danny is complex, but he’s also an open book. He’ll say what he feels. He’ll make mistakes and own up to them. He’s also the most loyal friend you could ever have, and he’ll take on responsibilities that aren’t even his own, simply because he knows it’s the right thing to do. Could he have used his powers for his own gain and done nothing? Yes. However, he didn’t choose that route; he knew what his powers were for, and put them to good use, as audiences know.
Danny Phantom will always be special to me for many reasons. Its heart, its soul, its humor, its character, its foundations, and its life lessons are forever embedded in my heart and memories. I’m sure many fans can say the same. The show inspires me in my everyday writing, and it’s my dream to create something as wonderful and unique for the world to love too. There’s only one Danny Fenton/Danny Phantom, but my dream is to create a character and a show with that much impact and to be that beloved someday.
Hopefully, someday, a reboot will come on the air, and we can see more of Danny’s adventures. I would love to see where he is now with Sam, Tucker, and his family, and what new ghosts would be in his life. Would he be fighting them, or would he have made friends with all the inhabitants of the Ghost Zone by now? What is his world like now that everyone knows his secret?
Until then, #GoGhostAgain.