Arrow: The Surprisingly Feminist Anti-Batman

I’m beyond sick of superheroes, and Batman generally bores me to tears, so I can’t quite explain how I came to start enjoying Arrow, the CW’s TV version of the Batman-esque Green Arrow character. (Broody billionaire with a playboy persona? Check. Parentally-inflected vigilante quest for Vengeance and/or Justice, circle all that apply? Check. Humorless-lawyer childhood sweetheart who sees the world in black and white, and who’s played by a willowy, brunette Katie? Yep, that too.) Then you add the CW’s Abercrombie-model definitions of attractiveness and required teen angst (the main character’s sister is in high school but somehow runs a bar, at which she employs her wrong-side-of-the-tracks boyfriend? Whatever you say, show!), and Arrow should be a forgettable mess.

And the first season kind of was. But I started watching the second season, after a whole bunch of TV critics and bloggers gave Arrow a Most Improved Series trophy, and I have to say – it’s a blast. Here’s why:

-Its pacing is insane. Arrow hurtles towards all kinds of reveals and showdowns that I’d expect other shows to spend a full season carefully, lovingly arranging. (Cf. this week’s episode - spoilers, obviously.) I think this is most of why Arrow overcomes my superhero fatigue - yeah, it has all those tiresomely quirky, poorly-motivated villains of the week, but it regularly spends as little time as necessary on them in favor of setting up its season-long arc and having its main characters interact.

-It’s surprisingly, if spottily, feminist. Arrow hasn’t been kind to all of its female characters; there’s a lady in the refrigerator of this season’s supervillain, and you have to pity poor childhood sweetheart Laurel, who’s gotten to bounce between self-righteousness, bitterness, depression and now (sigh) pill addiction and alcoholism. (The writers apparently attended a Pills: Instant!Characterization workshop with the Nashville writers.) But Arrow has also created some super-compelling women, from the wonderfully smart yet well-adjusted Felicity Smoak, who gets to be the show’s conscience as well as its main voice of sanity and humor, to Laurel’s sister Sara, who survived the island with main character Oliver and gets to be a vigilante in her own right.

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A modest proposal for action films

Can we PLEASE stop killing off women close to the hero and calling it character development?

Specific Skyfall spoilers ahead …

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Battle of the Batman nerds

In which my friend Joe and I killed way too many electronic trees to hash out The Dark Knight Rises.

joerauch:

You’d think Dark Knight Rises reviews would be beat to death. But I think there’s room for at least one more. This time, Maria Aspan — you can find her Tumblr here — was gracious enough to provide a bit of point-counterpoint argument about the film. Maria is the devoted movie geek. I, of course, will fight the good fight for comics until the end.

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Why Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is the best part of The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan likes to do horrible things to his female characters, especially those romantically entangled with his heroes: rape, torture, insanity, death and death and death. …  But the Selina Kyle of The Dark Knight Rises is a welcome and long overdue departure from all of those tropes. She’s a protagonist in her own right, with problems and motivations unrelated to the hero or to the actions of men in her life; she’s the hero of her own story, which overlaps with Batman’s but doesn’t rely on it.

I can’t overstate how much I was dreading seeing a Nolan-written, Anne Hathaway-acted Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. (Seriously, the dread started the night I saw The Dark Knight, four years ago.) Yet somehow she became the best part of the movie. I wrote about why in a guest post at Indiewire’s Women and Hollywood blog:

Why Catwoman is the Best Part of The Dark Knight Rises