Sunday, June 12, 2022

Fastest Man-Child Alive 3: The Ship of Non-Fools

I began this series of posts with discussing my dismissal and then conversion to the "SnowBarry" contingent of thinkers who feel that Barry and Caitlin are clearly a more natural couple than Barry and Iris, not based on wishful thinking but the evidence of their actual behavior in the show.  Barry & Iris's grand amour has always been Received Tradition. Essentially, it's simply something we are informed of as fact, loudly and repeatedly, and that makes it so.  

Even as received tradition it's a lie: Barry & Iris were always a terrible couple in comics.  It's obvious to any well-read comics fan that the comic book couple that CW's Barry & Iris are actually patterned after are Wally West & Linda Park.

Your mate, "lightning rod" or not, is not safe from Barry Allen.

It's okay; I heard he has an AMAZING new boyfriend name Cristiano.

Other media do have to build their own versions of the world of the original IP; television's Oliver Queen certainly didn't wind up with Black Canary, after all (any of them).  But showrunners can become short-sighted and it shows quite a lot in the Flash.

For one thing, the writers (since there are many of the course of such long-runner shows) are understandably focused on the trees of that week's story ... so focused that over time the forest becomes incomprehensible.  I'm not just talking about idea-bombs like "Barry Allen built Gideon?!", which seemed really neat at the time, but before anyone figured out how to make it work the timeline got rewritten so many times, it wasn't clear whether it mattered.  

Or, just maybe, don't introduce questions like that unless you already have the answers already planned, laid out, and agreed upon by the showrunners.  Maybe that's just how I think, I dunno.

I'm talking about basic world-building questions you can overlook for one episode that become impossibly glaring when one episode turns into eight years' worth of episodes.

Questions like: "Who runs/works at S.T.A.R. Labs and how?"

Ah, no, that's the answer to, "Who does NOT run/work at S.T.A.R. Labs?"
Thank you for playing.

I could belabor this problem, but anyone who watches the show gets it. It's an ENORMOUS facility, that had a city-shattering accident, with a (still) badly damaged roof, that (apparently) has only 4 or 5 employees, no one running it, no security (apparently), no stated source of income, a fleet of satellites and has whatever tech it requires, with the only limitations being scientific, not financial.  It's less believable than the Speed Force OR even Barry & Iris.  

Now, any comic book reader could fix this and probably with only a handful of throwaway lines, like "thanks to all those DEO/WayneTech/DCCompanyEntityNameHere contracts!" 

The writers can do it when they want to.

I did MYSELF, nearly by accident, in conversation with a friend about the missed opportunity when they decided that HR's attempt to turn the facility into the Flash Museum would be a "failure"; I suppose they wanted HR to fail at everything to set up his sacrifice at the end of the season, because CW.  I automatically said, "they could have used it to mention that Dexter Myles was the exec running STAR Labs skeleton operations on Barry's behalf and that he wanted to continue the idea for PR's sake, it's so obvious, you would never even have to have to SEEN him."  Instead, they wasted him here.

There's a plethora of other such lost opportunities (like the Justice League HQ that gets introduced and, as far as I can remember, never gets used again).  But the Trees-vs-Forest problem also plays into the Caitlin-vs-Iris issue.  The showrunners were so convinced of their Iris Forest that they ignored the accumulated Caitlin trees, which pointed to an entirely different conclusion. What a different--and I daresay more mature--show it might have been had they had the courage to let Iris be Barry's sister and Caitlin his eventual love interest, rather than forcing them to be the reverse. 

Tell me you can't feel that.
I swear if there were sound you'd be able to hear her ovulating.

If Barry has a consistent flaw in the show, it's that he's resistant and slow (at best) to re-examine (let alone change) his initial assessment of any person or situation.  Barry is way too overconfident in his own gut opinion of everyone and everything, which is pretty much the least scientist-like attitude I can imagine.  What better way to break that pattern than to have him finally give up on his childhood obsession with Iris and move on to an adult relationship with someone more compatible?  

"And, we, Barry, have decided that means you WILL give me two children.
Begin. And don't stop until they arrive."

Unfortunately, the show is hellbent on disproving free will, so Barry is no longer free to change the past OR the future, and Bart and Nora MUST be born now, and it looks like the rest of the series will be Barry paradoxically ensuring his own misery by creating the Reverse Flash through his own unwillingness to re-examine his initial assessment of Eobard Thawne.

I would say, "Oh, Barry, never change," but why bother?

Of course, what I (and most SnowBarry 'shippers) overlook here is the obvious.  Can't speak for others, but I'm overlooking it because I'm a sexist male chauvinist pig (are we still called that?), so I only look at the issue from the MAN'S point of view: What should HE do, and what does HE deserve?   

If you look at it more broadly, it's obvious why Barry is with Iris and not with Caitlin.  Iris is numb to putting up with Barry's shit because she grew up with it; they are already family. She has to deal with him anyway, and he's a rich, funny, brilliant, sexy superhero, with the world's briefest refractory period; Iris is no starry-eyed fool, she knows a good deal when she sees one. 

This is what Iris would be without simp Barry weighing her down like a red-pajamaed albatross and I would watch ALL her movies.

Barry isn't with Caitlin because he doesn't deserve to be.  Caitlin may have more chemistry with Barry (like... a lot) but moving on isn't her strength, either, and he's absolutely terrible at helping her with it (as recently demonstrated), he's a constant emotional mess (also not her strength), he's... he's a boy. Watch the show. Caitlin clearly wants, and deserves a man. She'd LIKE Barry to be that man, but he's NOT, and she knows it.  

Iris knows what Barry is, but... she's okay with it. She accepts him as he is, which is often called "love". Healthy? Probably not.  You could make the case that she's an enabler not a supporter.  On the other hand, it may simply be... realistic.  If Barry & Iris don't seem romantic (certainly not as super-romantic as the show pumps them as), it's because their relationship already started past the limerence part of falling in love because they grew up together. You could make that case that -- if you subtract all the goofy 'lightning rod' mushy talk-- it's a more realistic depiction of an actual grounded relationship than most 20somethings get on teevee.  Probably because mostly 20somethings don't have relationships like that; Barry & Iris don't resemble, say, Caitlin & Ronnie as a couple as much as they do Joe & Cecille. It certain helps give them that Old Married Couple feeling when they spend more time dealing with their two 20something kids' screwups than having their own sexy-time adventures.  

Except Joe & Cecille have a child who's been born whom we can't see whereas Barry & Iris have children we can see who haven't been born.

And now Barry's driven Caitlin off Team Flash with his insensitivity and self-righteousness. Obviously, the real-world reason for this is Danielle Panebaker's contract for the next season hasn't been sorted out yet, so it has to be open-ended whether she'll be back as a hero, a villain, or ... not at all. SO TOO, Candice "Iris West-Allen" Patton's contract, which is part of the reason her 'time sickness' leaves HER status open-ended.  

Meanwhile, in Midway City, an ovulating Patty Spivot gets an urge to check the train schedules...

All of which leads to our next post in this series...

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Fastest Man-Child Alive 2: No West, Young Man

Yesterday's post concluded that CW's Barry Allen's famous inability to learn from his mistake is a function of his broader inability to move forward; to grow up.

Why has a 32-year-old scientist been wearing high-tops for seven years?

And I blame Joe West.

Now, we all love Joe West (and Jesse L. Martin, who plays him); how can you not? But functionally it's Joe West who's kept the Barry Allen character from growing up on the show.

"Look, Bar; I know it's tough, now. But if it's one thing I've learned in my life:
Not every haircut is gonna work out."

Sure, the root of the problem is the CW and its writers, whose default milieu is adolescent angst. But Joe is their secret weapon. Joe's the show's Everyman, yes, but anyone can do that. Joe's real main function is as THE ADULT. Joe is the person Barry RUNS TO whenever adulting is too much for him (once per episode) and then Joe tells him how to adult (whether Barry listens and succeeds is another matter).  If Barry is allowed to grow up, to start acting like an adult, Joe West (one of the best characters and actors on the show) loses his narrative function.   And Joe is the tentpole in the vast Circus of Support that surrounds Barry at all times and circumstances.  

SAG-AFTRA has three factions:
Membership First; Unite for Strength; and Team Flash.

Have you ever noticed we never see Barry alone? Early on, briefly, Barry had his own apartment, but we literally never saw it... then he moved back in to his childhood home.  Not only did Barry live under Joe's roof, he worked under Joe's wing at CCPD.  He never operated as the Flash on his own. The STAR Labs team taught him everything he knew and gave him all his equipment. Barry has never had to stand on his own independently--the hallmark of adulthood.

Compare that to notoriously independent Oliver Queen, who ALWAYS seemed like an adult.  

A violent and judgemental adult sometimes.  But an adult.

I am not going to belabor the comparison comma but. Ollie Queen, shipwrecked, left for dead, fought his way back to survival on a desert island, then through the Russia mafia, becoming super-competent, tough, and clever along the way.

While learning Russian and Chinese in a series of uncomfortable and unflattering wigs.

Barry Allen, given superpowers by an act of plot, tended to by a team of crack scientists devoted solely to his well-being, supported at home and work by his family, eventually gifted a billion-dollar company by his own nemesis, simply to support him in perpetuity.

Still, shouldn't the entire world be sacrificed to bring back his mom who died 15 years ago?

Despite Ollie being the born billionaire, Barry is the poster child for entitlement (emphasis on child). And you know what Ollie did on his series that Barry hasn't done on his? Grown. He went from being a self-righteous murderer to being a calm, supportive leader for the entire Arrowverse, and it did not come easily. Meanwhile, thanks to being coddled for eight seasons, the Fastest Man-Child Alive still can't give an inspirational speech to his own team that's not risible. I remember one recent time he tried (after Iris telling him, "if anyone can inspire them, it's you, Barry") and it fell so flat, Joe immediately had to step in on the spot and fix it for him.  

No wonder fans love Eobard Thawne so much. It's not because he's a great villain. It's because he's the only character (either as himself or as Harrison Wells) who actually ever pushed Barry to get BETTER. When he gave him STAR Labs at the end of Season One they had a chance to let Barry step up as a leader. He could have run the place, or hired someone to, and had it become a presence in the city rather than just Barry's Back-Up Band.  But, no.  It has, I believe, NEVER been acknowledged at any point later that lowly police scientist Barry Allen actually OWNS that zillion dollar business with the giant building with the damage roofed and a fleet of satellites that employs/ed Caitlin, Cisco, and Chester. Because that would require Barry to GROW UP.

"I'm gonna need you ta believe the impossible."
Like, that you can pay the property taxes on that, or that building inspectors let you leave it that way for seven years, or that STAR Labs seems to magically run itself with fewer personnel than Jitters?

Since the show's start, much maligned Iris turned her blog into a full-fledged newspaper with real reporters and employees and everything (thanks to her own adulting skills and Sue Dearbon's money). In that same time, Barry hasn't even FIXED HIS ROOF.

Jesse L. Martin's getting a television show of his own soon, so Joe West's role is being rewritten on the Flash to give him much less screen time.  For Barry's sake, that needed to have happened seven years ago.

Monday, June 06, 2022

The Fastest Man-Child Alive 1: Let It Snow

I want to talk about the Flash television show this week, which I have discussed infrequently here, but often with my friends.

Recently I watched a video that made the case for Barry "The Flash" Allen and his S.T.A.R. Labs colleague Caitlin "Killer Frost" Snow as a truly appropriate couple (there are a LOT of such videos, apparently), rather than the 'forced' couple of Barry&Iris. 

How my mind always sees them.

Before clicking, I rolled my eyes at the fan 'shipping', which often defies logics and limits.  But by the time I was done watching the video--long before I was done, actually--my mind had been changed. I saw that not only would Barry & Caitlin be a better couple than Barry & Iris they basically already were.

Naturally, the video selected only excerpts that made its point; but they were there to be selected. A great many of them.  The chemistry between the characters was palpable in a way it never has been between Barry & Iris (despite their actors' best efforts).  

The scales fell from my eyes.  I realized that to a large degree what had kept me from seeing their connection was, well, That is Barry Allen and That is Caitlin Snow and That is Iris West and I have known full well for fifty years which of those two people are supposed to go together.  That's an enormous weight of expectation that's nearly impossible to Dare to Defy, even on the CW, where they had Ollie Queen wind up with the comic book character who was Firestorm's stepmom rather than the one who's been his canonical girlfriend for fifty years.  

I am going to pretend--and it IS pretending--that the writers intend that.  That it's part of the MESSAGE of the show.  That they wanted to make it obvious that Barry really belongs with Caitlin (or with someone more like her, like Patty, or Felicity). 

All of whom are SMOKING HOT. I mean, I dig Grant Gustin, sign me up, for sure, but...
JEEZ, are all his love interests on a higher level or what?!

Barry simply fails to make his relationships with those other women happen (and Linda Park, but who remembers her?).  He doesn't really choose Iris because she is better or his relationship with her is better. He simply fails to get a better one, even though BRILLIANT FUNNY HOT WOMEN keep throwing themselves at him, despite his poor fashion sense and that one weird eyebrow he never fixes. 

Barry Allen after Sebastian Smythe crucified his sense of style in public.

Barry can't let go of his childhood crush on the girl next door. Or the girl in the bedroom next door, she we should never EVER forget he grew up in the same house with her, raised by her father, for all intents and purposes as her brother.  And once Barry's father was exonerated, released from prison, and then nearly immediately killed (since his narrative purpose was filled and the actor was better used to play Jay Garrick), the show doubled-down on the sense that Joe Was Barry's Functional Father. Meaning Barry and Iris's relationship has gotten MORE, not less creepy, with time.  

One of most frequent critiques of the show is that "Barry never learns".  I think a more generalized version of that is, "Barry doesn't move forward", which is ironic for someone who motto is "Run, Barry, run."  

This makes the Cosmic Treadmill the perfect metaphor for the show;
lots of running, potential for re-sets, but no forward motion.

Over the years, most of the spotlight on Barry's inability to let go of the past and move forward has been on his mother's death.  But the elephant in the room has been his baseless infatuation with Iris.  

Barry thought balloon: "I..I... can't go on without her."
Iris thought balloon: "Bread; milk; I think I still have yogurt..."

It's an elephant we have have been fed, bite by bite, week by week, year by year. Two good actors (both very nice people) sold it to us because it was their job. But the writers and we the canon-fixated readers are to blame. As much as I make fun of her, there's nothing "wrong with Iris" as a character on the show (except perhaps her willingness to put up with Barry's bushwa).  Candice Patton has done an amazing job in an impossible position in portraying her.  Iris, in fact, did pretty much everything she could to escape Barry, but the narrative pull, and her lifelong habit of being supportive of his endless neediness, was simply too strong.

You had your chance, Iris, during those nine blissfully quiet months when Barry was in a coma, but you dragged your feet and didn't elope with Eddie and then he shot himself and saved the world from Reverse-Flash when Barry couldn't, so you've only yourself to blame.

Sure, the mom-thing did inspire Barry to change the timeline and non-hilarity ensued; but that's just because he HAPPENS to have godlike superpowers.  However the Iris-fixation is a real-person problem, a realistic symptom of Barry's unwillingness to just GROW UP and everyone's willingness to indulge that.

More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Gotham Knights IS "Squirrelman: The Legacy"

 It's not easy to make someone--let alone me--be embarrassed for something they have nothing to do with.

So... congratulations, Gotham Knights!

Was Bird of Prey too high-brow for you?

"Greetings, Angels."

Was Gotham too dignified?

I had... SO many choices.

Was Batwoman too respectful?

"I'm, sorry, kids.... we've already run out of candy! Do you like apples?"

Was Pennyworth too closely tied in?

Bob Haney would love this.

Well, then you're in luck! Gotham Knights should be the show for you.

Gotham Knights, to most people, is a popular Batman-based video game; this show has nothing to do with that. It starts with Batman's death--because OF COURSE IT DOES.  Then a Scooby Gang of Batman-adjacent precocious adolescents are (somehow) collectively, absurdly accused of his murder. Naturally, they escape custody and go on the run to prove their innocence, as kids are wont to do.

One of aspects people are complaining about is using Bruce Wayne's ad hoc "adopted son, Turner Hayes" rather than one of Bruce's 47 pre-existing orphan wards/offspring. I say, thank Kane for small favors. The last thing we need is a "real" character attached to this hot mess.

At least Riverdale's stunt doubles found work.

That's why the others are mostly "unreal": Duela (Dent?), the "Joker's Daughter" (who in comics was actually Two-Face's daughter, which is weird because Two-Face is IN the show, except he's still Harvey Dent, even though he's 47 and Batman's already dead and I'm getting a headache just typing this); Harper and Cullen Row, because no one gives a hoot about them anyway except their creator; Stephanie Brown, because she's ALWAYS a log for the fire; and Carrie Kelly, because 40 years later fanboys still won't drop that bone; and whoever "Brody" really turns out to be.

NEVER underestimate the threat he poses.

Many (including me) would prefer WB's new owners to simply say "NO" and add this one to the pile of shows newly cancelled as part of a desire for a more coherent, holistic approach to the use of the DCU properties. But it's already in the can and paid for, so it's seem unlikely they are going to let that go to waste.

Gotham Knights is a perfect example of the 'Squirrelman Phenomenon' I mentioned in yesterday's post. The owners of a popular property like Batman would rather milk that to death with the most tortured and tangentially related projects than make the investment to develop any of their thousand other properties.  It diminishes the greatness of the popular IP and stunts the growth the lesser known ones. It shallows the IP 'gene pool', insults the audience, and reaffirms the prejudice that comics books really only offer a lower-common-denominator form of entertainment.

In short, it's embarrassing.