Occupy Green Arrow

The CW network has a show called “Arrow” that is meant to be the grim, gritty, relatively “realistic” version of long-running DC Comics superhero Green Arrow.  Nobody calls the new guy “Green Arrow,” even though he does indeed dress in green.  Actually, no character in the show ever calls him “Arrow,” either.  He’s known throughout his fictional city as “The Hood,” because he wears a hood.  Kudos to the screenwriters for that bit of realism; that’s exactly the moniker he’d end up saddled with in the real world.  But this must be measured against the unrealism of his sparse costume somehow concealing his identity, even from people who know him intimately.  (What’s the least realistic thing about Superman: his amazing powers, or his magic disguise eyeglasses?)

It’s generally fun to watch.  There is some great action choreography – the stunt guys put a good deal of effort into making it seem plausible that a guy with a bow and arrow could take on armies of gun thugs.  The lead actor apparently has a clause in his contract requiring him to work out shirtless at least once per episode, while unattractive women have evidently been banned from the city by municipal order.  The guy who used to play Harry Dresden in “The Dresden Files” is in it, which makes me nostalgic for “The Dresden Files.”

At any rate, where Green Arrow was a fairly upbeat happy-go-lucky adventurer in the comics, in “Arrow” he’s a faintly psychotic vigilante who suffered through a long backstory on a mysterious island, then returned home to wreak havoc upon the corrupt associates of his wicked father.  The whole thing is suffused with the language and symbolism of “Occupy Wall Street” class warfare – which, to be sure, follows a long tradition of Evil Businessmen stretching back across decades of television.  In one episode, the Arrow somewhat testily insists that he’s not only targeting the “One Percent.”  Another episode pitted him against a gang of thieves driven to crime because their jobs got offshored.  My favorite bit was a clunky scene in which one villain, completely out of the blue, remarks to a henchman that he really enjoys illegally dumping toxic waste.  I got the impression this scene was added because the writers forgot to make this guy guilty of anything, other than being rich.

The other discordant note is that the Arrow and his allies frequently refer to their fictional city as a crime-infested hellhole, but it doesn’t look like one at all.  Even aside from the youth and good looks of most characters, the city seems happy and prosperous.  It’s not clear why the Arrow is needed to take down some of the villains, because the cops are generally portrayed as honest, and the show rarely bothers to demonstrate that normal regulatory authorities or police couldn’t touch the Arrow’s targets.  It’s a rather noticeable case of “telling instead of showing,” and it feels lazier than even a goofy TV show should be.

It’s interesting to compare the original Green Arrow character, clearly inspired by the cheerful Errol Flynn swashbuckling interpretation of Robin Hood, with a modernized take on the grim socialist version of the Sherwood Forest legend – in which “robbing from the rich” means redistributing wealth from greedy businessmen, rather than reclaiming unfair taxes from the corrupt and tyrannical authorities.  It seems to be quite popular, so Hollywood is doing a good job of keeping that “Occupy” spirit alive.