The problem with Nazi allegories in fiction

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Of note – simply because it’s right around the corner, and a pretty good indication of what I have in mind – is the upcoming CW DC crossover event. Crisis on Earth X is set to unite the Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow heroes in one great big extra-dimensional fight against their alternative selves from Earth X – a secret world where the Allies lost the second World War, and all our heroes are thus Nazis.

There’s something uncomfortable about this, I think, in a way that’s not necessarily easy to articulate. It’s not that it’s normalising Nazis, exactly, because it isn’t. Rather, it’s rendering them as objects of fantasy, villains that exist only in secret alternate earths – when that isn’t really the case. It doesn’t matter if you refer back to the idea of the awful atrocities committed (and the special crossover does put concentration camps in a key role), there’s an implicit suggestion that these are ultimately just cartoonish figures by placing them in that role.

An attempt to articulate something I’d been thinking about for a few years now; I also spoke a little about Star Wars, but the main focus is Arrow etc, because it was timely. I’m quite behind on the Arrowverse shows, but I did watch the Crisis on Earth-x crossover. It was… quite something.

Looking back, this article actually posted the same weekend as one of the more egregious of those New York Times Trump voter profiles, about a man who was a literal Nazi, being celebrated because he actually quite liked Seinfeld. Which was patently ridiculous, and got me pondering the role of fiction in reaching this climate. The above is very much a starting point rather than the definitive word on the comment, but I think it gestures at something that’s broadly on point.

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Juliana Harkavy on Arrow, her character Dinah Drake, and more

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There was a fan in Portland, at a comic book convention, a really big fan who was in a wheelchair, and she had this wheelchair that was completely covered in stuff from the show… She told us that she keeps our pictures on her so she feels brave and strong. It was such an incredible moment and it answers the question of how important this is.

My interview with Juliana Harkavy from Arrow! She was lovely.

This is another piece that ended up in my portfolio, if you’d like to check that out.

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TV shows like Arrow or The Flash have always been superpowered soap operas – and there’s nothing wrong with that

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Arrow, from the beginning, was always about the personal lives of its characters. Yes, there’s the obvious angle of the love triangle between Oliver, Tommy and Laurel – but it’s not as though Oliver’s mission wasn’t deeply personally motivated, or inextricably tied to the affairs of his father. That’s demonstrably a soap opera plot, right from the beginning!

Superheroes keep secrets, living double lives, and hiding parts of themselves from those around them that they love. That can surely be considered a soap opera story, no? And surely no one would ever argue that these superhero TV programmes don’t rely on sensationalised and exaggerated plotting – lest you forget, the Flash fought a race of sentient gorillas just a few weeks ago. Besides, everyone loves a good scenery chewing villain, and that’s the epitome of melodrama.

I always thought it was pretty ridiculous when people complained that Arrow was like a soap opera – as if they’d only just noticed? So here’s a post explaning how Arrow has always been a soap opera, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Are the CW making too many super hero shows?

arrow the flash supergirl legends of tomorrow invasion crossover group show heroes dc cw crossover

More to the point, though, there’s a definite limit on how much content the CW can produce – not just in terms of resources, but in terms of hours that they can broadcast programming. After a point, the CW reaches its limit, and can’t actually make any more television shows.

And when that time is limited – well, isn’t it better to diversify the content more? Certainly, I know I’d rather see the CW attempt to give us another Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Jane the Virgin than yet another superhero show; it’s worth remembering that while the DC shows might have brought the CW renewed popularity, it was programmes like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that brought them renewed acclaim.

Obviously, it’s a difficult question, but when it gets down to it – this is a zero-sum game. After a time, adding new superhero shows is going to be to the detriment of other programmes. And I can’t help but wonder what genuinely innovative and brilliant television we might be missing out on, like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for something like Black Lightning.

Much as I do love these superhero programmes (frustrating though they often are), I’d much rather see the CW continue to encourage their original ideas, rather than continuing to pursue the tried and tested DC formula they’ve stumbled upon.

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Why Supergirl merging universes with Arrow & The Flash would be a mistake

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The DC comics that these television shows draw on as source material has a history of “Crisis” events, wherein different universes are split apart from one another or merged together; typically, it’s an attempt to streamline continuity, although it’s debatable as to whether or not it really does make things simpler. As such, then, there are a vocal group who are clamouring for a similar such event to occur now, moving Supergirl into the same reality as The Flash and Arrow, positing that the slated crossover special should be used to reset Supergirl, and essentially reboot it to better fit with the other superhero programmes currently airing on the CW.

To my mind, though, this would be quite the mistake – both in terms of the story, but also from a business point of view.

Despite now being in a position where it has to move networks, Supergirl’s viewership on CBS did in fact far outstrip the ratings that The Flash maintains on the CW; this is, of course, because CBS itself has a far wider reach than the CW, but it’s also a certainty that the CW is hoping that a large number of these viewers follow the show to the CW. It makes little sense, then, to try and change what is essentially the more popular show to ‘fit’ the more niche one – why would the CW consciously alienate the fans they’re trying to attract?

A new Yahoo article from me, all about why I think a Supergirl reboot to fit in with Arrow and The Flash is, essentially, a terrible idea.

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Why DC is right to keep their TV and Movie Universes separate

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There have still been a few voices expressing a degree of disappointment, positing that this would have been better had the DC movies and the DC television series been unified; that the story we see on Arrow and suchlike would follow the story we see in movies such as Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. It’s a model that Marvel employs, with their Avengers movies being set in the same universe as their Netflix programmes such as Daredevil or Jessica Jones; it’s in part because of this that people would like DC to have followed the same model.

These people are, however, incorrect – DC is entirely right to keep their TV and Movie Universes separate. Allow me to explain why.

Most immediately, there’s the matter of granting the programmes (because movies would undoubtedly take precedence) a level of freedom to chart their own path. The DC movie universe has, rightly or wrongly, thus far opted for a much darker interpretation of their iconic heroes; one that’s entirely valid, of course, but one that’s also worlds away from the lighthearted, even campy, tone of programs like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. Keeping the universes separate allows for both the movies and the television shows to have a greater level of control over their own direction and progress. Indeed, this was the same logic behind the choice when Zack Snyder committed to not using Grant Gustin’s Flash in the Justice League movie.

This article is in fact from late last week, I’m only just getting around to posting it on my personal blog now. It’s discussing the different DC universes, and why – ultimately – I’m actually rather glad that Warner Bros. decided to take the route of a multiverse rather than a shared universe. (Even if they didn’t approach it in those terms!)

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TV Trailer Thoughts | Arrow Season 5

arrow season 5 oliver queen stephen amell mayor star city marc guggenheim beth schwartz

I have been very critical of Arrow over the past few months. (As have a lot of people, really.) In particular, I’ve called out the show for its poor treatment of female characters, and generally abysmal track record with fridging. I’ve given up on other shows for less, and I can’t say that I’m hugely confident about Arrow’s fifth season being able to improve on the precedent of sloppy characterisation and limited emotional beats that has been set across season four.

Nonetheless, I do intend to, at the very least, give it a chance. If nothing else, it should give me a degree of inspiration as to things I can write about.

So, in the flashbacks this year we’re going to be exploring Oliver’s bratva past; it’s something everyone had already clocked on to, but it’s nice to have that confirmed and see a little bit of footage from it. I’m interested to see where they take that; one of the best things about the flashbacks is when they’re tied into the present day arc. Not necessarily in terms of the actual plot, but rather thematically; when Oliver’s journey in the flashbacks directly parallels his development in the present, the writing on the show becomes ever more impressive. (This is one of the things that was sadly missing from the fourth season flashbacks, which did a lot of work to set up some interesting thematic stuff, and then… went nowhere with it. As with a lot of the interesting concepts set up by Arrow’s fourth season, really.)

In the present day, then, we’ve got Oliver training a new set of heroes. (Directly paralleling the bratva environment where you have to be entirely self-sufficient and can’t rely on others! See? So much interesting stuff you can do with that!) As it stands, I think this could be quite interesting; it’s a new role for Oliver to take, and there’s a lot of potential for that to be taken in some interesting directions. While I am quite fond of the dynamic shared between the original Arrow group, mixing it up a bit seems like a good way to keep things fresh. I’m a little wary, admittedly, of the possibility for this to be mishandled; one of the problems in Arrow season 4 was an over saturation of vigilante characters who weren’t made meaningfully distinct from one another. I do think it’s possible for Arrow to successfully have multiple vigilante characters; they just have to take care to pay attention to the characterisation of each.

I was a little disappointed not to see any clips from Oliver’s mayoral campaign, which is one of the few things I’m actually genuinely quite excited about for the new season of Arrow – I’m hoping that’s just because it doesn’t fit particularly well into a trailer, rather than because it won’t be focused on in the early episodes. Having Oliver as the Mayor would, I believe, push both the character and the show into new places, which is undeniably quite intriguing.

Another piece of news from Comic-Con that I found quite interesting, but I don’t think I can spin off into its own post, is the fact that Katie Cassidy will have a “universe regular” contract. If I’ve understood it correctly, that means she’ll have 23 appearances, spread out across Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. I’m in two minds about this: while I think it was a huge mistake to kill off the character, I don’t know that contrived excuses to bring back quasi-versions of the character through time travel, flashbacks and alternate Earth doppelgangers is necessarily going to work. I’d prefer, I think, if the show were simply to own its choices and move forward regardless, without looking back and trying to get a do-over.

That about concludes my Arrow related thoughts, in any case. Somewhat longer than expected, actually.

Related:

Arrow & the Disturbing Trend of Fridging Female Characters

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What will a DC TV Flashpoint look like?

the flash flashpoint paradox barry allen grant gustin the cw tv comics arrow arrowverse tommy merlyn wally west greg berlanti

A lot of people online seem to expect that Green Arrow would fill the role of Batman in this story, with Robert Queen rather than Oliver; that’s possible, perhaps, particularly given that it wouldn’t require Stephen Amell to stop filming Arrow. Personally, however, I’d prefer it if Colin Donnell was brought in to guest star as an alternate Tommy Merlyn who took up the mantle of the Green Arrow. It’d have a far greater emotional resonance for the audience, I believe, given that we already know and have a connection with Tommy – one we don’t have with Robert Queen, who never really featured in particular depth before. 

Another Yahoo article; I’ve been writing a lot of them for the past few weeks. This time it’s all about the upcoming Flashpoint arc over on The Flash; my thoughts, my expectations, and indeed to an extent my reservations.

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Arrow Season 4 Review

arrow season 4 review cw oliver queen felicity smoak paralysis olicity marc guggenheim hd image poster

There’s not a lot to be said here, really.

In my previous season retrospective of The Flash, I commented on how much I enjoyed last year’s season. Arguably, that’s true of Arrow as well; I’ve written before about how Season 3, though much maligned, doesn’t quite deserve the reputation it got. There was a lot of good material there, and some great concepts, that were ultimately let down by the execution. In theory, then, so long as they managed to put their ideas into practice a little better, this season would be able to reach the same heights as the first and second years, with S3 remembered as little more than a slightly awkward but forgivable misstep.

That didn’t happen.

It’s not like there weren’t good ideas! On paper, this could well have been the best season of Arrow yet. Plenty of fantastic concepts to play around with. Oliver’s mayoral race should have been fantastic. Felicity dealing with paralysis should have been genuinely compelling drama. Diggle facing the return of his brother should have been cataclysmic. Oliver getting to know his son should have been brilliant. Felicity meeting her father for the first time should have been wonderful. Lance’s struggle with HIVE should have been tense and exciting.

None of them were, obviously.

You’ll notice, I imagine, that in the above I didn’t mention Laurel or Thea. Did they have anything resembling a plot arc this series? An emotional arc? Any sort of character development? You can perhaps make the argument that during the first 9 episodes they were given things to do – Laurel resurrecting Sara, Thea dealing with bloodlust – but it’s not like they actually went anywhere. Certainly, by the 15th episode or so, they had essentially finished their “arc”, as it were, and they ended up with little to do apart from stand around.

That, I think, was an ongoing problem – as it was increasingly emphasised that the characters would each go out into the field, so they all became increasingly indistinct from one another. As Thea’s only plot function became fighting, there was nothing to set her apart from Laurel, or from Diggle, or indeed particularly from Oliver, and so on and so forth. This season lost sight of the character’s other lives, and thus, in turn, lost sight of them as characters. One of Laurel’s best episodes this season was when she was allowed to be a lawyer again. In any given episode, where was this side of their characters? What gave them each different perspectives?

Also, Diggle’s helmet looks ridiculous, and I cannot abide it.

(Certainly, if you make a very forensic reading of the text, you can arguably find more in there regarding different plot arcs. I’m inclined towards a redemptive reading, certainly, because I want to be positive – but I think if you have to actively work to find something, to the point at which it’s not even really subtext, you have to step back and say “actually, this is coming more from me than from the text”. And, you know, fine – death of the author and all that – but don’t credit Guggenheim and co with your headcanon. That aspect of the writing was yours; be proud of it, and don’t attribute it to someone else.)

Something that does stand out at me is the nuclear weapons threat; I’d like to take a moment to talk about that here, because I’m not sure if I’ll mention it elsewhere. It was, of course, awful; one of the most tone deaf moments of the season. (Alongside it as similarly tone deaf, but awful for other reasons, is Felicity’s disability arc and Laurel’s fridging.) Primarily, it’s predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of the scale of a threat compared to the impact of the threat; the writers seem to believe that a nuclear armageddon is impressive and scary because of how big it is, without actually considering that what matters is, always, the characters and how they react on a personal level. After all, when no one really gives a damn about the Havenrock disaster that kills ten thousand people, it’s hard to be particularly invested in the rest of it.

It became quite quickly apparent that the writers just didn’t really understand how nuclear weapons work. Like, at all. And while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, I do know that a nuclear attack on an American city from a Russian missile would not be forgotten just a few days later. Havenrock wouldn’t be an “oh, that’s sad”, it’d be synonymous with “twin towers” and “Chernobyl” and “Hiroshima”. This is the sort of thing that would change the world Arrow is in forever – and, frankly, it’s far more of a stretch to believe people would just forget about a massive great big nuclear explosion than it is to believe in magic or superpowers.

I don’t want to get too bogged down in this, because I am just trying to give something of a general overview. More to the point, though, I’ve already written a lot about Arrow, and I’m in the middle of writing more. So far I’ve written one article about Felicity’s characterisation, another about Marc Guggenheim, a more conceptual piece about Laurel’s death, and a fourth about fridging; I’m currently in the middle of a further four articles comparing Arrow to Agents of SHIELD, and I’ve already done nearly 6000 words trying to ‘fix’ and rewrite S4. (I got a little carried away with that last one. It’s not even finished yet. It’ll probably end up being five different posts. No idea if anyone will even be interested in that.)

So, anyway. My feelings of general disappointment towards Arrow this year are astonishingly well documented – probably the most well documented of all the television shows I’ve been watching in 2016.

I’m not really sure what to think, or what to expect, about Season 5. My hopes are low. I’ll watch it, don’t get me wrong – even for all of this, I still care, because I used to enjoy it, and there’s a degree of loyalty there. On a more cynical level, I know it’ll give me inspiration to write these sorts of articles, and also I think help me to realise what not to do in my own work.

Normally I like to end these articles with a joke about how I want Arrow to become “something else”, in a ‘clever’ reference to the opening titles.

This time, I think I’ll simply say that it’s been a hellish season, and I can’t wait to return home, to proper Arrow, be it with season 5, or a rewatch of the first few years.

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Arrow, and the Disturbing Trend of Fridging Female Characters

arrow laurel lance black canary fridging female character death sara lance white canary moira queen shado marc guggenheim wendy mericle review criticism katie cassidy felicity smoak bye bye birdie emily bett rickards

“Fridging” is a term which is used to describe the death of a female character to further the development of and advance the plot for a male character. It is typically the bastion of the lazy screenwriter, given that it is a tired and overused cliché. You need only take a quick perusal of this TV Tropes page, or indeed the Women in Refrigerators website where the concept was first defined, to appreciate quite how proliferated our media has become with this hackneyed trope.

More to the point, though, there is often an inherent misogyny and sexism to this trope. That’s very much self evident, really; when a writer kills off a female character to further develop a male one, then the implicit suggestion is that her story is one not worth telling. 

Arrow has engaged in this not once, not twice, but at least five times – this is in a show which hasn’t even begun its fifth season yet. For obvious reasons, that’s not really something to be proud of.

So, my most recent article for Yahoo is about Arrow, and their habit of fridging female characters. For obvious reasons, regularly fridging female characters isn’t a particularly good thing, so the article takes something of a critical tone.

I would really appreciate it if people were to share this article. I’m quite pleased with it, as it goes; I think I make a fairly important point, and that it’s reasonably well articulated. It’s something I’d like to reach a fairly wide audience, so please do share this article if you can.

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