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.


Anonymous said...

I think you've put your finger on why I was never able to get into "The Flash". The thing I noticed was that all the challenges on the show seem to be that Barry isn't fast enough for this or that so he has to get faster - which I think is a valid criticism - but while that's a complaint about what the show IS about, it's equally important to look at what the show ISN'T about.

I'm thinking about, say, "Superman and Lois", and how few of the challenges to Kal-El are about super powers. Much more often, he struggles to find a way to be a better husband, a better father, a better friend. There is no question that he is a "good" husband / father / friend, but even so he is always looking to do better, and the challenges never end. That's what keeps me watching.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you deserve credit for titles like "No West, Young Man". I know a good punny title is its own reward, but a little praise is due.

Scipio said...

"a good punny title is its own reward"
They make me happy, too.