So I’m Watching the First Season of Arrow

Before I jump into today’s post, I just have to say that I’m either insane, or a masochist, or both.

For those who don’t know, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month for the fourth consecutive time this year, and I’m kicking butt and taking names.  At the time of this writing I’ve been consistently hitting my daily quota of two thousand words for nearly a week, and it feels really good.  In that time I’ve also been staying on top of daily blog post write ups and dealing with my full time job.  This is all to say that while I’m feeling awesome right now, there is the possibility that I’m going to have writing burnout at some point over the course of the month, and blog posts may become spotty (Update: As of this posting, my blogging backlog is exhausted, so blog posts will be spotty at best for the rest of November; on the upside, I’m still writing two thousand words a day for my novel).

So, the beginning of the month is always a magical time, because that’s when Netflix puts new stuff on their streaming service.  This month, notable things that were added were the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic movie (the one where Twilight Sparkle gets transported to a parallel reality where everypony’s a human in high school), the first four seasons of Dexter (I watched the first two seasons a couple years ago when Netflix still organized their online library with distinct seasons for each show in order to make it look like they had more titles than they really did), and the superhero drama Arrow (which is a pseudo-realistic take on DC’s own Robin Hood knockoff, Green Arrow; less generous commentators might say he’s Batman with an archery motif).

I watched a little bit of Arrow over the weekend, and while it strikes me as really cheesy (some of the philosophizing the characters do about the nature of justice just sounds really awkward coming out of the mouths of actors), I’m kind of enjoying it.

The premise of the show is that Oliver Queen, a young, spoiled heir to a multimillion dollar corporation that his parents built survives for five years on an uncharted island in the South China Sea after his father’s yacht sinks during a freak storm.  Oliver’s father survives the sinking of the ship as well, but sacrifices himself so Oliver can make use of all the emergency supplies in the life raft.  His last wish is for Oliver to right all the wrongs his father’s committed in his climb to the top as a wealthy one-percenter.

It’s a pretty timely idea, what with the recent rise in populist rhetoric as a tool for criticizing the actions of the extremely wealthy.  Of course, that’s Green Arrow’s whole schtick.

Green Lantern (vol. 2) #76 (April 1970). Cover...

Green Lantern (vol. 2) #76 (April 1970). Cover art by Neal Adams. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See, as a Robin Hood clone, Green Arrow’s always been about taking the ‘rob from the rich, give to the poor’ concept and contemporizing it with a dash of progressive politics.  In the seventies, there was notably a team-up series that revolved around Green Arrow working with the Green Lantern as they butted heads over their different ideological perspectives (where Green Arrow had been reinvented around this time as a man deeply concerned with the systemic problems of society that fostered the crime he was fighting, Green Lantern was, and has always been, a space cop, primarily concerned with keeping the peace without focusing on the root causes of the evil he fights).

It’s a fun idea, but one thing that I’ve been thinking about in relation to this concept now is that it smacks a little of the trope of the privileged savior.  I think about this trope a lot, because it reflects on me as a straight white Protestant male who is very interested in the advancement of a more socially progressive agenda.  I know that I’ve won the privilege lottery, and I’m still navigating how I reconcile that privilege (which I can’t get rid of) with my desire to help less privileged people attain equal social treatment.  As I like to joke, my least favorite movies are the ones about inspirational white teachers who help a bunch of urban (read: not white) kids excel and find their way to better lives (but seriously, I hate those movies).  I’m only a few episodes into the season, but Arrow seems to be walking right into that territory of unacknowledged privilege, because I haven’t noticed anyone say to Oliver, “You know you can only do all this superhero stuff because you’re rich and don’t have a day job, right?”

Anyhow, I’m enjoying it as a bit of popcorn superhero fluff.  I look forward to finishing the season and seeing if it gets any more nuanced in its approach to the subject matter, but if it doesn’t, I’m still going to enjoy it for the bit of fantasy that it is.

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3 thoughts on “So I’m Watching the First Season of Arrow

    • I’ve not seen any of Hannibal. I jumped on Arrow mostly because it’s a superhero show and it’s on Netflix, which means that it meets two of my criteria for being a show I would like to watch. I figure that it’s a prime target for hate watching if I reach the point where I just find it too absurd.

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