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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Maisie Richardson-Sellers on Vixen, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 3, and more

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[Vixen] has a very crisp, clear view of right and wrong and she will do whatever it takes to do what is right and whatever it takes to destroy what she believes is wrong and that is something that she sees challenged quite a lot when she meets the Legends because they’re a lot more in the grey area of right and wrong and that’s something she just has to put up with and it’s like is she willing to pull back there a little bit to save the Legends or is it too much for her?

My interview with Maisie Richardson-Sellers about Legends of Tomorrow! Sadly, because of audio problems, there are a few chunks of this missing, but the majority is still there.

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Are the CW making too many super hero shows?

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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 | Legends of Tomorrow Season 2

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This trailer leaves me with the least to say, I think, largely because it’s the one with the least new content – it’s predominantly recycled footage from last year, I suppose because Legends earlier in the filming process than the other two shows?

Anyway.

I don’t really know what to think, to be honest. For a while now I’ve had reservations about the shape of the second season of Legends, and I must admit that I’ve not really been reassured by this trailer. I kind of feel as though the best way to take advantage of the anthology format would be to really push the boat out and just go for it – I feel like the cast should have been shaken up a little more, and perhaps even the time travel aspects abandoned. Retain the “DC’s Legends of” title, and then just do whatever. DC’s Legends of the Dark, a magic and horror based series. DC’s Legends of the Universe, focusing on the intergalactic side of DC comics. Even DC’s Legends of the Multiverse, perhaps.

(I realise, obviously, that you’d need to have some continuity between series, and you can’t just completely change everything each time. My Legends of the Dark pitch does, after all, contain three characters from Legends of Tomorrow, and a further two that were already introduced on Arrow. That, in essence, is the sort of thing I had in mind.)

Even then, though, I’m not sure necessarily that repositioning the show to be about a group of time police is the best idea. I almost feel like it’s better if they have a specific, targeted aim – perhaps the defeat of Vandal Savage created a new problem (Thanagarian invasion!) that they have to deal with? I don’t know, it just feels that making these characters into, as I said, time police is perhaps changing them too far beyond their original conception, simply to ensure they still fit a premise which, honestly, they may well have outgrown.

Hmm. I’ve been quite doom and gloom about this whole thing, haven’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the first season of Legends, and I fully expect to enjoy this season too.  The above was just my immediate thoughts and initial reservations; I’ve no doubt I should be able to get past them reasonably quickly. Principally, Legends of Tomorrow is just a really fun show, and as long as they manage to keep that up, I’m willing to forgive them a lot.

On a related note, I’m a tad peeved there was no Supergirl trailer. That’s the one I was looking forward to most!

Related:

Legends of Tomorrow season 1 review

Supergirl season 1 review

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Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 Review

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Legends of Tomorrow made effective use of a near-anthology format, with episode crashing into a new time and place, and giving us a new spin on a different genre each time. We had a prison breakout episode, a horror story, a Western, and a futuristic dystopia – there was a real, almost giddying, sense of fun to the way Legends presented us with something new each week.

My latest article for Yahoo! This one is all about Legends of Tomorrow, a fun, albeit frustrating, program.

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DC’s Legends of the Dark

dc legends of tomorrow legends of the dark constantine magic atom hawkgirl sara lance matt ryan vixen atom nyssa league of assassins cw zatanna arrow

With Vandal Savage defeated and the timeline restored, Rip Hunter bids farewell to his team; each returns to their own time, now truly a legend.

But upon Sara Lance’s return to Star City 2016, she’s met by another Englishman in a long coat who wants to assemble a team. His name is John Constantine, petty dabbler in the dark arts, and they’ve met before.

Darkness is rising, and a new team of Legends must rise up to defeat it.

So! DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a program that I’m quite enjoying; it’s consistently fun and engaging, and they’re doing a really good job of developing each character. Certainly, it’s a lot better than Arrow, but… well, let’s not get into that now.

Anyway, something I thought was quite interesting, back before the series premiered, was that it was being marketed as an anthology series; each year, it’d deal with different themes, and something of a revolving cast of characters.

Which, you know, sparked the imagination somewhat. Currently they’re dealing with time travel – what if, next year, they’re dealing with magic?

DC’s Legends of the Dark

John Constantine is assembling a team of his own. It’s comprised of various different individuals from across the world, each of whom have a magical connection (with one notable exception, of course).

This team won’t be travelling across time, but rather, through different dimensions; they’ll visit fiery hellscapes and cold recesses of the underworld, while at the same time having to contend with new threats breaking through into the mortal world.

Each of these individual threats – such as Circe, Gentleman Ghost and Etrigan, all of whom the team will encounter – are being co-ordinated by a much older, much greater darkness.

Nekron.

Known as the Lord of the Unliving, Nekron is the personification of Death; darkness, before ever there was light. It threatens to break into our plane of existence, and corrupt the very fabric of our existence.

And that cannot be allowed to happen.

Hence this team.

  • Sara Lance, an assassin brought back from the dead – one of the few people resistant to Nekron’s powers over life and death.
  • Nyssa Raatko, one of the foremost members of the League of Assassins, and the last Heir to the Demon – that’s not just a title.
  • Kendra Saunders, reincarnated Hawk Goddess, and wielder of an Nth metal mace, one of the few weapons which can counteract the affects of magic. Given her own experiences with death and reincarnation, she’ll prove to be a valuable member of this team – but in many ways, her connection to death will also be their greatest weakness
  • Vixen, owner of the Anansi totem, and capable of channelling the life force any creature in the Animal Kingdom. Mari has a direct link to Anansi the Trickster God, who at times will be a hindrance more than a help.
  • Zatanna, a friend of Constantine’s – Constantine had known her late father, the magician John Zatara. Though she’s only been practicing magic a short time, it’s clear she has the potential to grow more powerful than any other.
  • Ray Palmer, the ATOM. Despite having no knowledge of magic whatsoever, he was with Kendra when Constantine asked for her help. Insisting on joining the team, Constantine quickly relented – after all, he’s not one to say no to a handsome man.

Across the course of their journey together, they’ll realise they are bound by more than just their mission – death unites them all.

As Nekron commands an army of their fallen friends, family and lovers, this group of seven will confront demons both occult and personal, and have to answer the question as to whether it is worth saving the world, quite literally, at the cost of your soul…

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The Frustration with UK Broadcast Delays

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A good example of this is Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD; its broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK has been a rocky one. Despite very high ratings for its initial premier – notable being broadcast only three days after the American release – there was a notable decline in ratings over the course of the rest of the season. In part, that’s because of undeniably rocky levels of quality in those early days, but it’s far more easily attributed to the variable scheduling the show received; it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a break in the broadcast every couple of weeks.

Hoping to avoid this, Channel 4 held back the broadcast of the show for a month after the American premier – the idea being that, if they could air each episode in a row, they’d be able to maintain their viewers each week. Of course, though, the majority of the people who were interested in the show had pirated it by this point, meaning the show ended up with increasingly poor ratings.

A recent article on the Yahoo TV website, for which I am a contributor.

(An early one! A rare attempt at a general, overview type article, which I’ve not really done a lot of since. I’m not sure why, exactly; I suppose I tend to find them a little harder, but often also just don’t really have opinions about the state of television as a holistic whole like that.)

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TV Review: Arrow – Legends of Yesterday (4×08)

Arrow The Flash Crossover Logo Legends of Yesterday review Grant Gustin Stephen Amell

Wait, the ‘Indiana Jones’ reference is the only thing I understood. 

So, typically, I don’t review episodes of Arrow, on account of my being quite so far behind on the series, but I thought I needed to make an exception for this episode, given that it’s the second part of the annual crossover special.

This episode opens with a flashback to Ancient Egypt, showing us the first life of Kendra and Carter, as well as the beginning of their enmity with Vandal Savage. It’s a clever move, and a good way to adapt the flashback structure of Arrow to fit with this episode; last year, one of the main issues with the crossover episode, The Brave and the Bold, was that they tried to maintain the typical Arrow flashback structure. The problem, though, was that it had little relevance to the main plot of the episode, and was more than a little overshadowed by the appearance of Barry, Cisco and Caitlin.

Here, though, the use of the flashbacks ties into the main plot of the episode really well, and gives us an interesting insight into the past lives of the Hawks. It’s a rather neat, effective little structural cue that has a significant impact on the story, where we get to see more of Kendra learning about her powers – and, more importantly, where we see Kendra in a position of greater authority than Carter. I must admit, I did find him quite obnoxious still in this episode – saying things like “I’ve always been the planner, and now I’m starting to understand why” really began to grate after a while – so it was nice to see Kendra starting to push back against that.

(One other things, with regards to the Hawks – I’m not really certain how I feel about the actual execution of their powers. The costume they wear aren’t great, and the wings don’t look amazing either. Perhaps I’m being a tad critical, but still. It’s something to think about for Legends of Tomorrow, when the time comes; the problem I have isn’t so much the CGI, but the style and design of the wings. It looks questionable; wings just aren’t like that, so there’s something a little off and disconcerting about seeing them here like this.)

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In many ways, this episode is a significant improvement on its predecessor; although there’s quite a few characters who don’t really get much of a look in, like Thea or Diggle (and I kind of got the impression Laurel was only in it because of Katie Cassidy’s contract) or Caitlin, the entire episode felt a lot more balanced and better paced than Legends of Today. I think that’s in part because the episode was much more focused – even the digression with regards to Oliver’s child, which I’ll come to in a minute, had a direct impact on the main plot. That’s something that couldn’t be said in the previous episode, and I’m glad they made the change this go around.

Something I found quite interesting here was the fact that they used Barry’s time travel powers. It was rather a surprise, actually – I thought they’d be a little too ‘out there’ for Arrow, given that it’s typically a little more grounded. Still, I suppose now that they’re delving into magic and mysticism, that’s unlikely to remain to be the case. Regardless, it was used well (and I suppose it’s important to include that, given that Legends of Tomorrow is going to be a time travel program) and I quite liked the way the different characters dealt with it. Barry, obviously, was pretty shaken up, which is understandable given his experiences last season, but Oliver was interestingly pragmatic about the whole thing, taking the opportunity for a second chance and rolling with it.

Another useful implication of the time travel aspect is to emphasise the power of Vandal Savage; he’s such a serious adversary, they need to change time to deal with him. That’s something that’s only been true of Eobard Thawne previously, and in making that the case here, it means that Vandal Savage has a certain weight to him as a villain – he’s treated as a threat on the same level as villains who took entire seasons to deal with.

(In terms of the final resolution – I was quite surprised by the fact that they killed Vandal Savage off, with Malcolm Merlyn doing something to bring him back. I was expecting him to simply escape, though I suppose this was a deliberate move to counter expectations. Wonder how they’ll address it in Legends of Tomorrow?)

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The other major plot point of this episode was the introduction of Oliver’s son – an arc they’ve been building to for nearly two years, given that the first indication of his existence came towards the end of season 2.

Oliver discovers the existence of William (not, interestingly, Connor Hawke; somewhat surprising, given the existence of the comics character and the upcoming time travel program) and begins to make efforts to get to know his son – keeping it all secret at Samantha’s behest, however. That was something I found interesting, although it’s clear that this is a set up for future drama, particularly given Felicity’s reaction to the news in the aborted timeline. (I must say, though, I found her reaction to be more than a little unreasonable – if that’s how the character was depicted throughout last year, I can understand why people became so aggravated with her.)

I’m not certain where it’ll go, but I am looking forward to eventually seeing how it all pans out – it’s a really interesting storyline, with a lot of potential, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they explore that. (As an aside – does anyone think it’s possible they’re going to depict William as having autism? I’m speaking from a place of ignorance, but the character did seem to fit most of the TV stereotypes for depictions of autism – obsessed with the Flash, quiet, didn’t make eye contact much. It’s perhaps more likely that I’m reading too far into it though.)

In the end, then, this was a very enjoyable episode of Arrow; it managed to improve on the flaws of its counterpart, whilst at the same time building a fun and engaging storyline, and laying the groundwork for a compelling ongoing plot.

9/10

This review was recently posted on the Yahoo UK website.

Related:

The Flash reviews

Supergirl reviews

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