Saturday, November 14, 2015

Speed of Light vs. Vigilante of the Night

(Images found via Pinterest.)

Recently my siblings and I finished the latest complete season of Arrow, a TV show based on the DC comic hero. Arrow has been a sibling favorite for us as we eat lunch, and recently Netflix streaming has provided us season 3, which we've enjoyed.

But also Netflix has added The Flash, another television adaptation of a DC comic superhero. We had seen it on TV once or twice, and some of us were looking forward to watching it. Once Netflix added it, we had both Arrow and The Flash to watch during lunch.

We watched Arrow first, seeing that the majority of us enjoyed that, and only my little brother and I really enjoyed The Flash. But when Arrow was over, later on my sisters (fans of Arrow) and I debated which show was better. The debate ended with both sides unconvinced, but it got me thinking about both shows. After sifting through thoughts, I zeroed in on the two protagonists, Oliver Queen (the Arrow) and Barry Allen (the Flash).

Personally, I think Barry Allen is a more human character than Oliver Queen. Barry seems more realistic to me as a character than Oliver does. This post isn't meant to bash the Arrow TV show or the character or anything. These are simply my thoughts on the subject. Everyone has their own opinions. If you'd like to discuss/debate (in a civil and friendly way) these two characters, leave a comment! I'd love to discuss it, and maybe I'll learn something about the Arrow or the Flash I hadn't known before.

That said, however, know that I've only seen seasons 1-3 of Arrow and only some of season 1 of The Flash. So no spoilers, please. ;) I'm going on only what I know from the episodes I have watched.

Anyways. As I thought about the characters of Barry and Oliver, and why I like Barry more than Oliver, I realized that Barry's life, his personality, seems more healthy compared to Oliver's. Both men have experienced tragedy, and a certain level of trauma, I think. Oliver has witnessed loved ones die, and has endured torture. Barry has witnessed his mother's murder and seen his father falsely accused. But it's the way these two people handled their grief and the tragedy is what sets them apart.

Oliver tends to let his grief, his experiences, really define who he is and who the Arrow is. It envelops him, becoming part of him and in a way determining his actions. Barry doesn't tend to wallow in the pain inflicted on him. He doesn't let it consume him.

Barry keeps going in life. Granted, his life choices do revolve around solving his mom's murder, but he adds more to his life than that. He holds close the things and the people in his life that make life happy and worth living. He has people to fight for, but he doesn't do it by distancing himself from them. He surrounds himself with them instead. A smile is never far from his features. He lives.

In contrast, Oliver seems to hold on to every hardship in his life and lets it define who he is as a man. While at the end of season three he seems to finally let go of it all, he often denies himself the potentially healing qualities of actually living. Of surrounding himself with people that make him happy. While he does have people he cares about, Oliver tends to control his happiness levels and focuses instead on distancing himself and keeping them safe. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, denying yourself that kind of comforting happiness with loved ones might not be healthy.

But all this isn't to say Barry's perfect. He definitely has his weaknesses. His life has revolved around solving his mom's murder for 10+ years. While it doesn't completely obsess him to the point of being the only thing he can think of, Barry acknowledges that it's kind of trapped him, that he's kept himself from other great things. In an episode where the Arrow visits Barry's city, Barry has a temporary moment where a dark side of him bubbles up, which might suggest a bit of pride in his abilities when he accuses Oliver and Detective West of being jealous. Barry also struggles with having confidence in himself sometimes. But he's learning to be confident, and know that others have confidence in him too. Barry has his own shortcomings just like Oliver, but it's how he responds to them that makes him a little more healthy, in regards to his personality and thinking.

The focus of these two men when in hero uniform kind of helps show how Barry's lifestyle and personality is a more healthy model than Oliver's. In uniform, the Arrow's focus is on justice, punishing the baddies. While this isn't a bad thing, it's essentially the sole goal. The Arrow/Oliver, while upholding justice, is also not above killing or inflicting pain as punishment. If someone causes trouble in his city, you can be sure they'll have an arrow in their arm (or their heart, depending on how naughty they are), and anybody who stands in his way will too. The Arrow plays God in his work, deciding who will be punished. We can see how his rather dark experiences have turned his lifestyle dark when he puts on the hood.

While in contrast, the Flash/Barry focuses on helping and protecting people. This is the Arrow's goal, too, but it is the Flash's top priority, not bringing justice to the villains. He leaves that to the police. If he has to, he will hurt the bad guys because that's what it takes to stop them from hurting innocent people. And, if there is no alternative, death comes to the villain to stop him. The Flash doesn't seek justice, he seeks to help. In a way, Barry is reciprocating the kind of care he received. He was helped by Iris and her father when his mother was murdered and his father imprisoned. And now that he can run at superhuman speeds, he uses that to help others.

Oliver's and Barry's outlook on life and how they live it also shows how they handle the hardships thrown at them, and how Barry's responses seem healthier than Oliver's. With Oliver, we kind of get the feeling that life sucks, and you're just gonna with to live with it and do what you can to survive. But with Barry, we get the feeling that life can suck sometimes, but there's always hope. We just have to be determined enough to look for it, and then fight for it when we find it.

Another thing I noticed was the difference between Oliver Queen and the Arrow, and the seeming lack of difference between Barry Allen and the Flash. Again it kind of contributes to the healthier personality Barry seems to have compared to Oliver's. Oliver detaches himself from the identity of the Arrow, making Arrow and Oliver feel like two different people. But because he allows the dark experiences he's faced define him and become him, he loses Oliver to the more violent Arrow, becoming unaffected by the pain he inflicts. With Barry, you can see both identities in either. He doesn't change himself, at least not much, to become the Flash. Barry is more affected by others hurting. He's deeply affected when people die and he can't help them. He doesn't let it harden him against this dark reality like Oliver does. He expresses his struggles and his pain, and he lets people help him with it.

Barry and Oliver also have different ways of interacting with people, and it too suggests, to me, how Barry's lifestyle seems more healthy than Oliver's lifestyle. For instance, when others are dealing with their own struggles, Oliver comes across as kind of arrogant. If others seem to be becoming reckless when trying to deal with their grief, Oliver scolds, essentially saying “just stop. You don't know what you're doing. I know what this feels like because I've gone through it before, so just listen to me to know how to behave.” That to me came across as a superior arrogance.

In contrast, Barry gives of his time to listen to others when they're struggling. He listens to Iris when she's had a crappy day, and to Caitlin abut her grief. Barry doesn't try to instruct and direct how others should react to their grief. He listens to them, and tries to help. He might advise against a certain way of reacting, but he doesn't try to act superior. Barry takes time out of his own crazy life to help others, even when he's feeling down.

Can we talk about how absolutely amazing Barry was as a friend in this episode?

Between Oliver Queen and Barry Allen, I think Barry seems a little more realistic and human. He seems to show a healthier way to deal with the tragedies that strike. He and Oliver both have their own personal missions, but it's how they go about them that makes them different.

Oliver lets it become who he is, defining his actions and his overall personality and morals. He denies himself the ability to express emotion and keeps his struggles to himself most of the time.

Barry, while focusing hard on his mission, still finds reasons to really live. He makes time for others and keeps up the relationships he has, and surround himself with people he loves, going to them for help or just a shoulder to lean on. And most importantly, being open with the people who want to help him (without going too far and revealing his super speed identity). He doesn't hide his emotions, keeping them bottled up. He lets himself feel. He lets himself live.

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