Thursday, March 21, 2013

Action TV writing, and Green Arrow

"Just to be clear, I'm not signing on to be a sidekick. But you're right: fighting for this city needs to be done. And you're going to do it with or without me. 
But with me, there'll be fewer casualties. Including you." 

"Dick, I'm not looking for somebody to save me." 

"Maybe not, but maybe you need somebody just the same. You are fighting a war, Queen, but you have no idea what war does to you. How it scrapes off little pieces of your soul. And you need somebody to remind you who you are. Not this thing you're becoming." 

... And they shake hands. The hero, young, handsome and well built, with eyes as empty of reflection and experience as windows into the desert night. I doubt he would recognize anything scraped off his soul if it bit him on the ass.

Why are TV action show always written so damn awful? Toe-curlingly horrible? Among the 20,000 writers in Hollywood, some of them must be good, and surely one of those would be writing action if they paid him?

Also, I'm realizing what makes 'The Clint' special. He is and was the one action hero actor who has something behind the eyes. You can tell he has a mind.

By the way, this show is called Arrow. When I went back to it to write this down (I'd just caught a couple minutes), I realized, when he was called "Queen", that it's a Green Arrow show! They are trying to make a superhero show without a superhero, eating their cake and keeping it too. Good luck with that!

Funny thing: when I was a kid, the Danish translation of Green Arrow was "Red Arrow"! My guess is the Danish editors felt that a Green Lantern and a Green Arrow both in the Justice League was just too much green in one party. And they had a point. Why a green arrow exactly? The only connection with the color was from his sillier-than-usual origin story where he was a Robinson Crouso-like character, surviving alone on his wits and his... trick arrows??!!
I yield: the one thing sillier than TV action writing is the bulk of comics writing. I love comics, at least in principle still, but reading the history of virtually any superhero comic character on Wikipedia will give you a quick idea of the incredible silliness of those stories.

Aha: from Wiki:
When Mort Weisinger was creating the character, aside from the obvious allusions to Robin Hood, he took inspiration from a movie serial, The Green Archer, based on the novel by Edgar Wallace. He retooled the concept into a superhero archer with obvious Batman influences.[3] These include Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy, his use of an Arrow-Car and Arrow-Plane for transportation, his use of an Arrow-Cave as his headquarters, his alter ego as a billionaire playboy, the use of an Arrow-Signal to summon him, and a clown-like arch foe named Bull's Eye, similar to Batman's arch-foe, the Joker.

"Arrow cave" and "arrow signal"? Woa. Sigh. Never say plagiarism never makes for quality writing!

Pascal gave these links to the "Charles Atlas superpower" and the "badass normal", both about the idea in pulp fiction (from Tarzan over Doc Savage and up) that hard training can give you powers way above normal humans.


Bert said...

From Wikipedia:

"The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Magazines printed on higher quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". In their first decades, pulps were most often priced at ten cents per magazine, while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece. Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. Modern superhero comic books are sometimes considered descendants of "hero pulps"; pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Phantom Detective."

It would stand to reason that the amounts spent on the stories reflected the very low cost of the comics of the time, and yet this business model was not only successful enough to endure, it has become a celebrated genre. It is no accident that the quality of the writing is still so low, it is deliberately made so!

Now, don't ask me why this works, I haven't a clue. Never bought into American comics, they always seemed to me like little more than a different presentation for toilet paper.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Yeah, sure, but not everybody gets the privilege of having their face printed on toilet paper!

Arrow-plane... now why does that sound so familiar? I'm getting vague images of a Native American... I think!

Just for the record, Eo, why exactly is the above "bad writing"? Apart from the obvious oddity of action-oriented vigilantes ever getting remotely close to such sophisticated philosophy, of course? Is it because they should be, at best, expressing such stuff in a majorly more soldier-y succinct and rather raw manner, instead of sounding like the captain of a dead poets society?

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

On a totally unrelated note, I've just found something rather stunning: a Playmobil Lara Croft figurine!
The mind boggles at the copyright implications...

John Krumm said...

I always liked the Green Arrow, perhaps because he had a skill, now a power, and as a kid I could fantasize about getting a bow and practicing until I was really good.

I've seen a couple of the Arrow episodes, but didn't find what I was looking for...As to the bad writing, so hard to say. Sometimes the cream rises to the top, sometimes something else does, I guess.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Bert, good point. I guess the pulps were what TV game show became later: something to hold your attention with no brain strain involved.

I was afraid somebody would ask me that, Pascal! It's often hard to pin down. Maybe it doesn't look so bad on paper, but in the show, along with the wooden acting and the cliche cutting and timing, it just made my toes curl.

But: I don't think *anybody* except a few brainy writers and philosophers every worry about "what war does to you". The guys who are in war are rather too concerned with what bullets might do to them!

And to try to think so abstract thoughts as "this thing you're becoming" clashed abominably with the blank, youthful faces on the screen.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

JK, yes it's funny how many people say that, also about Batman. It's more realistic because it's within human power.

I'm not sure why, but I don't think I felt that way. I don't think I saw myself as ever becoming capable of rope-slinging and batarang-throwing like that. But I knew I'd love to be invulnerable and be able to fly.

Don't get me wrong, I was probably a bigger Batman fan, always has been. Dunno, they just got something really right with his look.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

You mean of course the MODERN Batman look. Less so for the TV show with Adam West and his clefty sidekick Timmy Turner. ;-)
I think it was a very wise move to do away with the blue and especially the bright yellow. Few bats sport THESE colors.

About hard training, every self-respecting geek MUST have read the official encyclopedic article:

So... regarding the original issue, my hunch was right: it IS that action heroes seldom are deep metaphylosophers simultaneously. (gloats, gloats)
If I weren't the most modestest person in the world (and possibly the Universe), I'd feel something unhumble right now.

I was recently discussing my sign with the parents, and said I wasn't convinced about installing lights for it, because my consulting hours will only be in daytime anyway. Our electrician, of course, is used to making such "bright suggestions" (literally!) to typically Lebanese doctors. I think I said something in the lines of "don't need it lit like a monument to my modesty".
Then came the fantastabbergasting shock: out of the blue, my parents were all huffish and "enough with your modesty jokes already!"
I wonder what in Walhalla came into them? People can be so edgy...
I mean, I can go for HOURS without even mentioning it. 0:-)

But really now, admit it: if *I* didn't tell people about it, nobody would ever even suspect I'm the most humble person in Creation. Elementary logic!

P.S.: You're welcome, Eo. I'm always ready to help a friend confront his fears. (^_^)

Hmm... A monument to someone's modesty... I think it IS feasible. We would just need a half-scale statue, and a very large base to enhance the contrast.
But... wouldn't the public mistake it for a monument to SHYNESS?
(sigh) Normal people have no idea what hard work it takes to be supremely humble. It scrapes off little pieces of your soul. Sometimes you feel like you need somebody to remind you who you are and why you do it. (That is, to serve as a high inspiration to the entire Cosmos, of course.)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"You mean of course the MODERN Batman look. Less so for the TV show with Adam West and his clefty sidekick Timmy Turner. "

It's been back and forth. The very early Batman stories by Kane, he was in a nice spooky grey and black.

(Though rumor has it that had it not been for Kane's collaborator Bill Finger, Bats would have sported the popular primary colors.)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"I mean, I can go for HOURS without even mentioning it."

I know!
We all have to sleep sometime, after all.

But beware, people are weird, if you mention your amazing modesty daily, some of them, may come to suspect that you may have a grain of pride in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Why are TV action show always written so damn awful?

Probably in this case because it's about a comic book hero and their stories these days, whether as a comic book or a TV show or a movie, attempt seriousness and profundity and it falls flat. What they should do is embrace the ridiculousness of comic books and make it fun. The quoted passage, although poorly written anyway, might work if about something less stupid.

Anonymous said...

The difference between the pulps and a show like Green Lantern is that the pulps are from a time when they made no attempt to pretend they were anything but junk. Comic books were once that way but now they make sad attempts at being something more. When they fail as they always do it's all the more pathetic.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Yes. Alan Moore's comics for ABC (Tom Strong, etc) worked wonderfully because he really embraced the un-reality of superheroes and took it to new levels. For example, one superhero traveled across the Galaxy by *running* over the planets, one step on each planet!! Wonderful.