Green Arrow: Liberal Idiot

September 24th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Most people have heard of the Green Arrow movie by now. It’s not called Green Arrow, and the hero doesn’t have the Green Arrow costume, and he doesn’t fight any costumed criminals, and the people he does fight aren’t on the street, they’re in a prison, and he is, too, and just before they put him away for life, they shave his goatee.

This pretty much sounds like they’re hanging on to the concept of the Green Arrow comic with one pinky and a whole lot of optimism. I mean, taking away his beard. Really? For one thing; that’s low. For another; they want us to believe he’s incarcerated in the ultimate prison designed for the worst offenders in the world, but they still give the prisoners access to razor blades?

In the end, though, I don’t much care if Ollie never wears the suit, or runs through the streets shooting arrows. I do, however, want to see him stand up during one of those tense communal meals, the ones where you wonder if someone is going to get a shiv to the neck, and give a big speech on the politics of the prison system in this country. And I want to see his fellow inmates roll their eyes and keep eating. Because that’s who Ollie is; the liberal idiot.

When I say idiot, I don’t mean it as a comment on the extremism of his politics, because that would be meaningless. Everyone who is or has ever been liberal has experienced a moment when you look to the person to the right of you and think, ‘You’re not really a liberal,’ and then look to the person to the left of you and think, ‘Yeah. Come back to earth, Moon Unit.’ Ollie is neither of those people. He’s the guy who is standing opposite the three of you and making a long speech that makes all three of you yell ‘Shut up,’ even though all three of you agree with him. He’s the guy in the coffee house, stroking the thigh of a girl fifteen years younger than he is and saying, ‘The concept of marriage is completely a tool of the patriarchy. I love that you see through that.’

Oliver Queen is a liberal idiot. He’s always injecting politics into every situation. He makes a point of positioning himself as not only right, but righteous. He identifies with the little guy, the poor, the weak, the underdogs, while he’s a billionaire vigilante, highly trained in martial arts. He’s much more principled politically than he is personally.

He’s also a dedicated political activist who puts his money, time, and effort where his mouth is.

Green Arrow emerges from all of these contradictions as a gloriously fun amalgam of the liberal movement; its inappropriateness, its shaggy, swaggering machismo, its self-righteousness, and its moments of great achievement. If the filmmakers are going to toss out the green hoodie, I hope that they at least keep that.

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