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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Supergirl and the question of refugees, immigrants, and illegal aliens

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The show is exploring the theme of immigration through their various dispossessed alien characters – an entirely understandable choice. It’s attempting to convey the message, basically, that there’s no need to be suspicious of refugees, and to treat them with acceptance and tolerance – an entirely admirable decision. It’s not, however, conveyed particularly effectively, because many of these same dispossessed aliens end up being the ‘threat of the week’ – while the episode is saying one thing about refugees, while demonstrating another through its plot. This paradox was painfully evident in the aforementioned episode Welcome to Earth, wherein one of the alien refugees does turn out to be evil, despite frequent insistence that this wouldn’t be the case – it’s a frustrating lapse that undercuts the message that Supergirl is reaching for.

What makes this particularly frustrating, though, is that there are several other avenues open to the writers from which to explore this concept – many of them more effective than the direction they opted for.

Here’s an article I’ve been meaning to write for a little while, about how Supergirl has been handling the themes of immigration. There’s a chance it might form something of a broader series of articles – alongside, I suspect, “Legends of Tomorrow and historical racism”, “Arrow and capitalism” and then something else about The Flash just to cover all four – but I wouldn’t hold your breath there.

(Yeah, I never did do those other ones. Would’ve been interesting to see what I came up with. Ah well. If I remember correctly, actually, I wrote the above post in school during a free period. Those were the days. Anyway, I’ve not re-read the above; I suspect the basic point I was going for still works, but forgive me any lapses borne from ignorance.)

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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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Supergirl: Where next for Jimmy Olsen?

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The first season ended with Kara and Jimmy in a relationship together – meaning, then, that the majority of Jimmy’s plotlines will no longer be linked to a love triangle, because this love triangle simply doesn’t exist anymore. Which does then beg the question: Where next for Jimmy Olsen?

The problem when trying to answer that question is that we’re trying to answer it for Jimmy Olsen – a character who has, historically, essentially only been a minor character whom Superman would occasionally tease. Certainly, there have been departures from this, but only the most dedicated of comic book devotees would be able to point to “the definitive Jimmy Olsen story”. So, let’s widen the field a little bit – this is a journalist character who’s in a relationship with our Super main character, and has thus far acted as a moral centre for them. When you distil it down to those base elements, which character does Jimmy Olsen most resemble?

Another Yahoo article, this time about Supergirl, putting forward a few ideas about a potential character arc for Jimmy Olsen. Somewhat irritatingly, I’ve inadvertently picked up on a few spoilers for the upcoming season… and it sounds like Berlanti and co are doing the exact opposite of my suggestions! Honestly, it’s like they’re not even listening to me.

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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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Supergirl Season 1 Review

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I think the standout strength of the series is Melissa Benoist – and I’m certainly not alone in highlighting this. She’s absolutely perfect for the role of Kara, having created a character who’s genuinely endearing and a delight to watch. More than that, though, she really captures that bright and cheerful optimism that, to my mind, is so essential for a hero. Of course, Benoist isn’t limited to just charming awkwardness – she has real range as an actress, which goes a long way towards depicting Kara as a nuanced, three dimensional character. 

This one is, in fact, yesterday’s article! It’s a review of Supergirl, which I have really, really enjoyed this past year. Watched it with my pal Gibbs, and it was lots of fun to discuss it with him each week. Certainly, it’s been my favourite of all the DC TV offerings over the past year. Excellent stuff.

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The Shared Universe Between Supergirl, Parks and Rec, Scandal and more!

You may have recognised the man in the picture above as Perd Hapley, one of the funniest of Parks and Recreation’s recurring background characters. Perd was a newscaster with a fairly unique set of inflections and turn of phrase, which lead to a lot of funny moments across the course of the show’s run.

Did you recognise him when he was on Supergirl, though?

Something more of a joke-y, fun article today. It made me laugh, at any rate, but my sense of humour is fairly subjective.

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Why Michael Ealy should play Superman on Supergirl Season 2

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He’s got the smile. That wonderful, reassuring smile that Superman should absolutely have, because he’s a character who’s full of joy and optimism and hope. The type of hero who cares, on a deep and personal level, about the people that he saves. That’s something Michael Ealy can do perfectly.

New article for Yahoo TV! In light of the very exciting news about Superman appearing in the opening two episodes of Supergirl next year, I’ve got a suggestion as to who should next don the red cape…

(This image was created by Gaz Williams, who very graciously allowed me to use their image for this article.)

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Why I love Supergirl

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So, the last couple of posts I’ve written have been fairly negative, and I wanted to write about something a little more positive. An obvious solution presented itself to me, and now here we are.

It’s been quite a while since I last properly wrote about Supergirl; I managed to review the first three episodes, but in the end other obligations took over and I couldn’t really keep it up. That’s a shame, really, and in a way I feel worse about not having been able to keep up with my Supergirl reviews than my corresponding reviews of The Flash. And that’s because I’ve been enjoying Supergirl more than The Flash, of late, and I genuinely kinda miss writing about it.

I’ll tell you why.

Supergirl is an unabashedly optimistic and positive show, which makes a strong case for the intrinsic value of heroism motivated by compassion. And that’s wonderful. At a point at which so many heroes are grimdark and gritty – even Superman himself – it’s really, truly heartening to see Supergirl rejecting that entirely, and quite firmly taking the stance that caring matters.

The above clip is a brilliant example of that, and it’s why I love Supergirl so much. They take the time, even in amongst the ongoing plots of Kryptonians and Martians and government agencies, to show us the small scale moments of heroism. Kara takes a moment from her day to go and reassure a young girl. How brilliant is that?

Honestly, I love the fact that Supergirl gives us this. The fact that we do see Kara saving a child’s pet from a tree (in a fantastic twist on the usual image, it is in fact a snake called Fluffy), and we do see Kara working with firefighters, and yes, that we do see Kara reassuring a young girl.

Maybe this is just a case of my own idiosyncratic interests and particular tastes in superhero fiction, but I love the fact that Supergirl does “present us with an ideal, and inspire us to be our best selves”.

We can learn a lot from that.

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