Friday, February 12, 2016

DC Television Shows And Guantanamo

In the CW Arrow series, Oliver Queen (along with A.R.G.U.S.) has a secret island prison, in which they stash particularly troublesome prisoners. No trial, no hope of release.

Sure, that seems 100% the opposite of what the Bronze Age Green Arrow would accept...but this is another universe, yada yada.

On the CW Flash show, Barry Allen and friends (including a respected police detective and a reporter) secretly keep any number of meta-humans prisoner in a secret prison in the basement at S.T.A.R. Labs. No trial, no hope of release, not even bathrooms, as far as we can see.

But they're dangerous, right? So it's OK, right?

On the CBS Supergirl show, the DEO keeps their prisoners--you know where I'm going here--in secret extra-judicial prisons. No trial, no hope of release.

And before you say "they're just aliens," what about Max Lord, eh?

The DC TV shows, whatever else you want to say about them, have set as their default position that troublesome people, once captured, should be imprisoned permanently, with no recourse to lawyers, or judges, or juries, or any semblance of any kind of justice of civil liberties.

It's not just one show, where maybe you could make some argument about need or justification or the misguided efforts of good people or whatever. All 3 shows use black prison sites to stash captured felons, and no one--not scientists, nor police officers, nor reporters, nor government officials, nor even the super-heroes themselves--have one bit of hesitation, one bit reservation, or the least bit of conscience about locking up the people they've just beat up for life sentences, throw away the key.

Hell, even Batman turns the worst of the worst over to the authorities.

We can accept storytelling shortcuts. We can accept that not all characters have the same viewpoint on some issues. But when the same creators on three connected show resort to the same practice, is it just laziness, or are they giving us their moral viewpoint on how justice should be handled?

I know that "Is this how we want our heroes to behave" should be the subtitle of my blog...but really, is this how we want our heroes to behave? Are Geoff Johns, Andrew Kreisberg, Greg Berlanti, and the other producers just so lazy that they cut and paste the same set-up from show to show? Or does this repetition mean that they really believe that Supergirl is no different than the Master Jailer, that Barry Allen cares nothing for civil rights, that Ollie is a dick. OK, never mind that last one. Have they started locking up bad guys in the basement of the TARDIS Waverider yet on Legends Of Tomorrow? 

I know that we're all distracted by shiny fan service and token Easter eggs they toss out like candy to cover up some of the shows' deficiencies. Yeah, yeah, we saw one second of a Legion ring. But does that make it right that every DC TV show is running their own Guantanamo? Or have we abandoned hope that even our aspirational heroes should care about justice and rights and the Constitution?

Oh, look, 3 seconds of a CGI King Shark! How cool....what was I saying now? Ah, well, it couldn't have been too important.


Matthew E said...

Well, you're completely right, of course.

But there are a couple of things to note. First, the problem of what do you do with the defeated supervillains is a longstanding problem with the superhero genre. Nobody's ever really found a good answer to it. (Although the record is full of various unsatisfactory answers, some of which have been around for a while.) So the DC tv shows aren't any different from the comic books in this respect. But it seems like more of a plot hole when you see it on tv.

To me, it's one of those conventions of the genre that you have to just swallow in the story to keep things moving along, even though it's drastically unacceptable in real life. Like Indiana Jones's idea of archaeological ethics.

Anyway, The Flash did touch on this issue toward the end of Season 1. It turned out not to resolve anything, but at least we know the writers are aware of the problem.

Veronica said...

yeah, it really is a big problem. I think public was already brain washed with "24" and other tvshows/movies that people are detained illegally without judgement or arrest order.
And arrow/sup/flash producers are not well known for substance.

oh look a squirrel...*chase the squirrel*

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, Ollie is a dick in every incarnation, but until now he was never this much of a dick.

Simon Dyer said...

It might be laziness or just cartoon logic more than politics. Johns was the one who focused on Iron Heights' ethical issues and abuse of inmates in the same Flash run he introduced it in. He never actually concluded the story line as far as I know but that's...something.

Mind you in that same run he also claimed Barry and Wally believed in the death penalty while also focusing large chunks of the story on Wally NOT killing Hunter Zolomon.

Madman said...

I completely agree. I don't watch "Arrow" but I am very disturbed by the perspective shown by the Flash and Supergirl. The writers would have us believe that the DEO can just pick up Maxwell Lord and shove him in a cell without any due process? What was his crime? As near as I can determine, he has broken no laws.

And, as Hank Henshaw mentioned, the press should be all over this. If, say, Bill Gates suddenly disappeared, what media outlet would NOT be digging? Didn't anyone see the DEO leave with Maxwell? Gosh, it's beyond sloppy writing -- it shows a complete ignorance of "reality".

And apparently we are supposed to cheer on Supergirl's step-sister when she beats up Maxwell Lord. So, he is not only incarcerated, he is, to a large extent, tortured.

Continuing with the bad writing theme, it was a completely stupid idea for the Martian Manhunter to impersonate Kara. How could that have possibly worked?

I will probably end up dropping Supergirl. The writing is just too too awful.