A few weeks ago I wrote about raised female warriors and their fight for autonomy. Since then I’ve been thinking on whether male characters are ever given a similar kind of tragic backstory where they‘re kidnapped, as children or even as adults, and their agency is taken away and they are forced to learn to fight and kill on the orders of their captors. I managed to find a few that could fit this trope—Matt Murdock (Netflix‘s Daredevil), Oliver Queen (Arrow), Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier (MCU), and D‘Avin Jaqobi (Killjoys). All these characters have their freedom and autonomy taken away (to differing extents) and, as such, they present a lot of opportunities for nontraditional portrayals of masculinity.
Spoilers for Arrow, Killjoys, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier below.
A while ago we had a post discussing female protagonists who are being watched over/controlled by men/patriarchal organizations. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Orphan Black were primary examples. Today, I would like to expand on the ideas of that post and talk about a subset of this type of female characters—female characters who are not only overseen by men/organizations (often patriarchal, though perhaps not always) but are also raised to be killers and assassins against their will. I’m a bit torn when it comes to this type of character. On one hand, these women are complex and their tragic backstories allow for character development and growth. But on the other hand, the misogynistic undertones in their arcs are troubling.
Spoilers for Orphan Black, Killjoys, Firefly, and Doctor Who below the jump. Also, trigger warning for child abuse and self-harm.
Arrow’s treatment of Sara’s death has been one of my bigger criticisms for the show this season. I didn’t like the ableist way Laurel handled it by refusing to tell Quentin—though that’s at least changed these past few episodes—but the bigger issue that a lot of people have pointed out is that Sara was an established bisexual character. She was complex and intriguing, and good bisexual representation is really hard to come by in our media.
Her lover, Nyssa al Ghul, swears revenge on Sara’s killer. Unfortunately for Nyssa, Oliver Queen decides to take the blame for what happened. To Deliver Grief is a oneshot that takes place after Oliver’s duel with Ra’s. Nyssa, knowing Felicity’s feelings for Oliver, and feeling a bit of kinship with her because of both their losses, decides to go back to Starling City to tell Felicity the truth about what happened to Oliver.
We haven’t spent much time talking about Arrow here. Okay, there was that once, but that was a review of the very first episode, so we’ve definitely got some lost time to make up.
I never really bothered to review the show during its first season because, well, I didn’t think it was much to write home about. Much like my decision to keep buying the Fearless Defenders comic, I tuned in weekly more out of a desire to give a hopeful, just-starting-out superhero show good ratings so that the CW would continue making superhero shows. (I was apparently successful, as they’re planning a Flash spinoff series. Dammit, CW, make a show about a lady superhero, not another white guy.) The writing was sort of terrible, the plots were sort of predictable, and at least half of Oliver’s manpain was based on the fridging of his illicit lady-love. The only character who had consistently decent dialogue for the entire first season was our hero’s go-to hacker Felicity Smoak, a queen among women.
Anyway, I’m glad I gave the so-so first season a shot, because the second season is pretty much kicking it in the ass. Spoilers below the jump.
So Wednesday night was the series premiere of Arrow, a show based off the DC comic character Green Arrow, also called Oliver Queen when he’s not out pwning the bad guys. Personally, I don’t know much about Green Arrow outside what Young Justice has taught me—he’s not Batman! Sorry!—but from what I’ve seen so far, I approve of the show. The first episode’s not without its faults, but it was exceedingly enjoyable, and it makes me want to watch more.