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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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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The Flash will need to break with formula to survive

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In a way, the shows that operate alongside The Flash are becoming its greatest threat; Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow – and likely eventually Black Lightning – all work from fairly similar formulas to The Flash. (This was particularly evident in Supergirl season one, which mimicked the structure of The Flash season one fairly closely.) While it’s undeniable that each show executes the formula well, when four programmes are executing the same formula in the same way each week, it does start to get a little tired.

And so The Flash needs to evolve – it has to grow beyond the formula it adheres to so closely, and stop sticking to the same structure with every episode. After all, there’s surely only so many times that Barry running faster to beat someone who is also fast can be considered a satisfying payoff to a year of television, no?

A few thoughts on The Flash, and the changes it’ll need to make to continue to grow and develop and stay of a high level of quality. I am fond of the show, of course, but there’s a frustrating feeling that I’ve simply seen it all before – sometimes even four nights a week – and that needs to change. (I didn’t even begin to get into the whole “mentor is secretly evil” thing they’ve done each year!)

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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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The Flash: Why Zoom should have been Eddie Thawne

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What I find so surprising, though, is that the writers had a much better option open to them that they decided not to take. I’m quite firmly of the believe that had Zoom been revealed to be Eddie, he would have been a far superior villain, and indeed given us a far superior season to boot. I’ve written a little bit about this before, highlighting why I thought Eddie-as-Zoom not only made sense in terms of the plot, but also thematically and dramatically. Consider – Barry has been dealing with the choice he made at the end of the S1 finale. What better villain to confront him with than the one who most directly suffered from this?

This has been bothering me for ages. Basically whenever I watch The Flash, I bring this up, because of how irritated I was by the whole Jay Garrick thing. It was just a mistake. Such a mistake. Ugh.

I will probably write about this again in future, because I’m not convinced this article really does justice to my extensive thoughts on the subject. But it is a start.

Oh, and the image credit is there at Yahoo, but the picture above is by the very talented BossLogic.

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What does Kid Flash mean for The Flash?

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Right now, one of the chief complaints levelled at the show is that it can be quite formulaic; though they managed to move past it somewhat in the second season, there was often a basic recurring set up across each episode. Barry would investigate the villain, and fight them; he’s incapacitated during this first fight, for reasons essentially linked to his own incompetence, and by the end of the episode has learned how to get around the problem previously posed to him – usually the solution is, of course, some variation on “go faster”.

It’d be difficult to take Barry and Wally seriously if, between the two of them, they’re consistently beaten by the same formula. The show would need to shake things up, possibly dramatically, to present scenarios that retain a level of dramatic weight – after all, both of these two individuals are exceptionally fast. That between two of them they’d struggle to take down petty thieves is, to be honest, somewhat unlikely.

An article I wrote for Yahoo; it’s all about Kid Flash, and how his inclusion as a character might change or influence The Flash.

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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 | The Flash Season 3

the flash season 3 season 4 barry allen grant gustin wally west kid flash keiynan lonsdale savitar the thinker legends of tomorrow flashpoint

Cards on the table: I thought an adaptation of Flashpoint was a mistake.

Let’s just look back on my review of The Flash Season 2, because past-me articulated my stance far better than current-me would:

As for next year? I am tentatively worried. Flashpoint, to me, seems like a mistake. Primarily, there’s the fact that The Flash has been mining the Flashpoint story for a lot of imagery for a long time, taking different aspects and using them in the way that best suited the show at the time; Barry bringing Iris a video of Eddie, for example, or being electrocuted to regain his speed. That means that if they do try and use any of the more well known aspects of the Flashpoint story, then it’s going to come across as quite repetitive. (Then again, given how much of this series was just season one repackaged and repolished slightly, it’s possible that being repetitive isn’t a huge concern.)

More importantly, though, I feel like it’s moving backwards. Earlier, I mentioned how much I appreciated that The Flash was dedicated to developing each of the characters; one of the best episodes this year, The Runaway Dinosaur, was all about Barry getting past the death of his mother. It was a really poignant episode, and I think can be included as one of the best of the entire show, up there with the season one finale.

But then they threw that away just a few episodes later.

I stand by this, still; the new trailer didn’t do a lot to reassure me. (In fact, since writing that, I’ve actually grown more disinterested in the Flashpoint adaptation because I’ve read the original comic, and watched the animated movie, and found both to be quite underwhelming; they felt to me more of a string of “cool” moments and set pieces, rather than an attempt at emotional storytelling.)

Don’t get me wrong, there looks to be a lot of cool stuff here. I really enjoy alternate takes on characters I already know, and looking at parallel universe versions of them; the new timeline has the potential to be quite engaging. It looks to me at the minute as though Wally is going to be the Flash in this new dimension; while I’m not expecting him to retain these powers when the timeline is fixed, I think this is probably foreshadowing a point later on in the season when he will gain powers in the proper timeline. (I’m a little disappointed to see another speedster villain, though, and I dearly hope that this is confined solely to the flashpoint timeline; The Flash is quite heavily running the risk of getting too repetitive with speedster villains.)

Part of me is slightly concerned that what we’ve seen here is actually just an edited down version of the first episode; from the filming reports I’ve been following, it seems they’ve only recently started episode 2, which does suggest that all of this footage is simply from the premier episode. I hope that’s not the case; I kinda feel like the only thing that would bother me more than doing Flashpoint would be to rush it. It seems to me that this is something that should, at the very least, get two-parter, because 40 minutes really doesn’t feel like enough. (I’m particularly hoping to see a considerable number of scenes between Barry and his mother, because I feel that this was a crucial aspect that the original story was lacking.)

In the end, I’m still looking forward to this new season of The Flash a lot. After all, I do really love the show; while I felt that there were, perhaps, a few missteps with the second season, on the whole it remained quite fantastic. I know that it’s going to remain consistently entertaining, and to be quite honest, I’ll probably still quite enjoy the flashpoint episodes too.

It’s just that, right now, this trailer hasn’t quite convinced me, and I’m feeling just a little underwhelmed by it all.

Ah well.

Related:

The Flash Season 2 Review

What will a DC TV Flashpoint look like?

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Film Trailer Thoughts | Justice League (First Look Footage)

justice league first look footage sdcc 2016 henry cavill ben affleck gal gadot jason momao ezra miller ray fisher zack snyder joss whedon

Alongside the Wonder Woman trailer, we’ve also got our first look at Justice League.

I’ve said – quite a lot, actually – how I’m not really a fan of the current direction that DC seems to be taking their properties in; I’ve done it to death by this point, so I shan’t spend too long on it, but in essence I’ve been less than impressed by the grimdark, cynical veneer applied to Superman, because I simply don’t recognise that interpretation as being my Superman. (To say nothing, of course, of the sheer sloppiness and general faults that are found within Batman vs Superman.)

And given the level of criticism I’ve levelled at the franchise, you’d perhaps be forgiven for mistaking it as a general disdain for DC characters. That couldn’t be further from the truth, honestly; I far prefer them to their Marvel counterparts, and I really enjoy all of the DC television offerings that are currently about. (Arrow notwithstanding, of course.) Indeed, I’m a pretty big fan of all the DC characters, but none moreso than the Justice League; the Bruce Timm cartoon series was a pretty huge factor in my resounding love for superheroes, hence a soft spot for the Justice League.

But that’s also why I’ve been so worried about this movie – there’s a personal connection, for me, and a precedent that seems to suggest it was very much going to be a movie that wasn’t for me. Which is fine, you know; other interpretations can be valid, and I don’t need everything to be tailored exactly to my idiosyncratic tastes, even if I’d quite like them to be.

Yet there’s something about this trailer, even despite all my reservations, I find extremely exciting. Tonally, it’s far more on the ball than previous installments; this film looks like it might be fun, for a change, rather than unremittingly dull and cynical. Visually, it already looks impressive, with Aquaman and the Flash being particularly notable standouts. (I imagine we saw comparatively little of Cyborg because of the level of CGI his character clearly involves.)

There’s already a great chemistry between the core cast, it seems, with a very natural interplay on display. I’m glad to see Batman and Wonder Woman working together, as friends, just like I’m used to them doing. I’m glad to see Barry and Bruce interacting so well together. And I’m glad to see that Bruce and Aquaman don’t, immediately, gel with one another; I wouldn’t want everything to be the same, after all. Primarily, then, I’m glad that this trailer seems to be putting the characters front and centre, and I dearly hope that the movie does too.

So, for now, to hell with all my doubts and my naysaying. This has got me excited, and for now, I’m just going to bask in that. The characters I love are going to have a movie together, and right now, it looks fantastic.

Finally.

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