An Arrow through The Heart

Arrow -CW. jpg


Each medium has its own codes and conventions. When you take the content (message) from one medium and convey it in another it becomes altered – change the medium, change the message.  Trying to carry over the audience from one medium to the next, while acquiring an audience new to the content becomes a difficult balance.  In part, this is why  adaptations can fail or succeed  in attempts to being faithful to the source material. Too faithful, may mean that it is working against the codes and conventions of the new medium, which in turn fails to grow the new audience. Adapting the material to make the most of the medium, while growing the audience, may in turn upset, even alienate, the original built-in audience and undermine the potential growth envisioned in the adaptation of the content.  An obvious example of this is when works of print,  such as novels, short stories, sequential graphic narratives ( graphic novels and comics ), are adapted to movies or television.



There are are a number of examples that can be used. The current CW television show, Arrow, is such an example.  The show, Arrow, began as an adaptation of the DC superhero, The Green Arrow.  This comic character has a long history, going back to the 1940s.



The comic superhero is an interesting genre of fictional hero. It has its origins in both the pulp magazines and the newspaper comic strips.  It evolved into a sequential narrative that blended the genres of mystery, science fiction, fantasy, with the masked/disguised hero-vigilante . Originally aimed at children and young teens, as time went on the target audience became decidedly male. Over many decades it began to skew to an increasingly older target audience, that has been often stereotypically portrayed as the inept adult male, the Nerds on (CBS) Big Bang Theory being a comical example.

The Big Bang Theory Cast 1sm


The problem then, in adapting the Green Arrow character to a  weekly television series becomes one of how to to portray the character and his world . A recent development in American television broadcasting is that some networks have attempted to create an identifiable house style of entertainment, both in the variety of  shows and how they appeal to a specific demographic of the viewing audience.  In the case of CW, the emphasis has been on youth and in particular, young women. For Arrow to be accepted by the network and succeed, it would have to adjust its content to appeal to that demographic.


In deciding this, certain elements of the character and his world were placed to the fore front, other elements reduced or jettisoned.  Emphasis was placed on how the protagonist, Oliver Queen, would take on a Count of Monte Cristo  goal of vengeance-redemption of his father’s failings. His character would be of a modern brooding Bryonic hero.


He knew himself a villain—but he deem’d
The rest no better than the thing he seem’d;
And scorn’d the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.

       (Byron’s The Cosair)

He returns after five years to a family full of melodramatic secrets and  fractured by the tragic loss of a father and son . He gains in this television adaptation, a younger troubled sister, a step father, and a mother who is the classic matriarch of a rich and powerful.  Also added to the mix is a wronged girlfriend, Dinah Laurel Lance ( an adaptation of the comic’s Black Canary– Dinah Lance, the super hero and sometimes romantic interest) and her angry police detective father. In addition, there is a boyhood friend, Tommy Merlyn, to be part the required love triangle and a tie to the big bad, Malcolm Merlyn ( comic  villain). 

Black Canary Variations

Initially, costumed villains and science fiction/fantasy elements are avoided for more “grounded” political and industrial corruption. A Bight colourful costume and the mask are also avoided. Relationships are tortured, full of torn allegiances, secrets and lies/half-truths. A private security employee, John Diggle, is also introduced to eventually become confidant and “side-kick support”.  A need for technical support comes in the form of the character, Felicity Smoak ( the name of a comic character used as a lighthearted fan service). Presented as a plucky techno Girl Friday – she initially was  intended to provide the technical backup that a modern 21st century  hero would need, as well as comic relief providing asides and commentary on the fantastical events and situations, plus unintended double entendres.


There were some unintended side effects to this adaptation. The action  superhero elements generated far more interest than expected. Instead of a soft comic book adventure veneer over top of a  evening soap-melodrama, the superhero elements widened the audience. The lighter character of Felicity became an  identifiable surrogate for the female audience and a desirable attractive character for many in the audience. On the other hand, this additional character  combined with the acceleration of the super-heroics  to turn much of the love triangle involving Tommy, Laurel and Oliver into a slow mess. Tommy becomes the season’s sacrificial character to satisfy need for real consequences, and act as a motivational drive for various characters. Laurel’s role in the overall narrative now becomes an issue. 


Laurel is portrayed (intended) as destined love of the Oliver’s life.  Somewhere, way down the line, she is also destined to become the Black Canary.  Unfortunately her narrative role and relationship has been taken away from her, by circumstance.  Rather than being a strong assertive character, she becomes the helpless victim – as a consequence many in the audience take a dislike to the character. Rather than growing into the confidant and emotional support of the protagonist, the writers had inadvertently created another  female character who ends up filling that role, one with whom the audience identifies.  Because of the none fantasy elements ( no super powers), the means of turning Laurel into the Black Canary becomes tortuous and convoluted.  How to acquire the skills and motivation ? How to bring her character into the inner circle in a meaningful way ? How to back away from potential the soap opera love triangle that actually engenders hostility amongst the viewing audience ? The codes and conventions of the superhero comic  collide with those of a television drama  – narrative & character development evolves as the show progresses and responds to a target audience it did not totally anticipate.


Those in the viewing audience who were drawn to the show, hoping to see beloved characters adapted in a manner that was faithful to the spirit of the originals, were demanding that both Oliver and Laurel exhibit those familiar characteristics.  Oliver needed to be less dour and guilty. Laurel needed to be more assertive, competent and not so oblivious to the dual identity. The writer response was to use the Felicity-Oliver relationship to very slowly lighten up the protagonist’s character and actions, he smiled and even joked a couple of times in the season. Laurel however, went into an emotional  spiral shifting motivation and occupation. Now even more damaged, she was further from the inner circle and becoming an antagonist/obstacle.

Black Canary - Sarah Lance

In an attempt to create the Black Canary as quickly as the audience demanded, the writers introduced a new character by resurrecting the supposedly dead Sarah Lance, Laurel’s sister.  This character served the role so well in bringing a version the Black Canary character to life, that Laurel looked even more inadequate and unnecessary. The character of Laurel was so tied to the CW soap opera format that the writers were incapable of finding a way to transform her into the superhero that she was intended to become. 


It is especially ironic that Arrow, a show hoping to draw upon a strong female demographic and the comic-book fans, shifted more and more into a realm of fantastical adventure and individuals with either  magical or science fiction  based abilities  and yet failed so badly to  bring an early positive female superhero to life.  After further convolutions in plot, Laurel took on the role of Black Canary, acquired technology to produce the Canary sonic  cry, and even demonstrated competency as a lawyer, supportive friend, and as a costumed superhero, only now to become this season’s sacrificial character to motivate others and demonstrate serious consequences. 

White Canary - Legends of Tomorrow


There is already much outcry (pun intended) on the internet by those against her death. Typical show-runner  spin on why this was the best  move available to them in the narrative thrust.  It will take time to see what the outcome will be for the viewership of the show.  


A couple of closing  observations to consider.  There may be a possibility that the actress, Katie Cassidy is still with the show for next season.  She will be portraying  her Earth Two self, Black Siren, on the companion show, The Flash. She will also voice the Black Canary character on the Vixon online cartoon.  Some viewers are interpreting the death as some type of fake-out to fool both the audience and this season’s big bad. This has, so far,  been denied by the show-runners.  Considering how audience demand has modified the trajectory of the show, it is possible that  viewer response may still alter plans. There  is another possibility to consider, Warner Bros. attempt to develop a DC superhero universe may be planning on introducing Black Canary in one of its films. There may have been pressure to   remove the character from the Arrow TV Universe , as they did with Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad.


Advertising Hunger: Values, Beliefs & Ideology



Jennifer Lawrence disappears in a constructed  reality of marketing  the latest Hunger Games movie. It has been reported in Variety that “ a handful of cities across the Jewish State have cut Lawrence herself out of the film’s posters ”.


Israel Mockingjay Posters

In the ultra-Orthodox suburb of Bnei Brak, as well as in the city Jerusalem – where several neighborhoods are heavily religious – only a censored version of the poster, featuring the image of the fiery crown is being displayed. Extreme adherents to Judaism  consider any display of the  female image to be immoral. Ultra-orthodox newspapers and catalogues commonly remove images of females from any images.

While this segment of the population is not the intended target audience for the movie, any advertisements in public space which is frequented by this group risks creating an offence to their cultural views.  Since more militant/aggressive members of the group are known to vandalize images that depict women,  it becomes necessary to be proactive in posting advertising.

Now, in some parts of the world,  the news reports of such public attacks of movie posters would be seen as valuable publicity, in Israel such news reports produce a negative image of the country. So by modifying the advertisements, public behaviour itself is modified.  This in turn constructs a reality that portrays Israel in a different light.  Unfortunately, in this instance the significance of the movie and its female lead makes the altered poster news-worthy and as a consequence, the event creates much the same negative impact as would reports of vandalized posters. Some would see this as worse, since the self-censoring could be interpretation of capitulating to an extreme element of the Israeli population, rather than defying them and treating the vandalization  as a criminal act.


Media Principles: Click Those Ads for Helpful Information

Media Principles - Click Ads 1Those  click bait ads for articles and services are ubiquitous.  Just remember to keep in mind the Mass Media Principles. They play to your values, beliefs and ideologies, but what if we change those icon images ? A different constructed reality emerges. How do those business interests and intended  target audiences look now ? Use the principles to view with a slightly ironic eye and underlying intention of the message becomes obvious.

Media Principles - Click Ads 2

Ontario Sex-ed: Mass Media Conveys Values, Beliefs & Ideologies

Though I have been retired from teaching for a few years now, I can clearly remember in my first couple of years of teaching when  one  young fellows ( Grd. 10-11)  was in the English Department Office . While there,  getting some information on an assignment, he casually asked one of the teachers some advice on dating/asking out a girl.  A short while later he was walking hand in with a young lady.


He was a thin pale gawky kid of bookish demeanor ,while the young lady in question was a lovely girl with dark tresses and eyes that spoke of her African heritage.  Even now I smile at the thought that no one batted an eye at this  inter-racial couple. It didn’t matter – I thought we were on our way to a better society.

By the time I was approaching retirement,  we had  a school support group for gay students . Students were feeling more comfortable self-identifying and non-gay students were supportive of them. There were still some issues, but again I thought we were on our way to a better society.

The Ontario Sex-ed curriculum has been updated (from 1998) to acknowledge changes in science, medicine, social norms and the impact of social media and media devices on society. 


The new curriculum mandates that students in Grade 4 be taught the risks associated with communications technology, including sharing sexual photos or personal information and cyber-bullying, and strategies to use the technologies safely.

Grade 5 students get a bit more in-depth on what’s appropriate in relationships. “Sharing private sexual photos or posting sexual comments online is unacceptable and also illegal,” the curriculum says.

There has been push-back from various groups in society, some of which has been generated by intentional misinformation by politically/ideologically motivated groups or individuals.

There was a trap set by easy news shorthand – most news gathering organizations went for the “colourful exotic” image of protestors, with the implied message that most protestors were of Arabic and Asian (India/Pakistan) background .

Saying No to Sex-Ed in OntarioIn reality the groups protesting are more diverse, but many hold common beliefs about  family role in education, sexual orientation and strong to moderate  importance placed on cultural and religious background. Not all are newcomers, non-European or belong to religions other than Christianity. 

The equal diversity in those supporting the new Sex-Ed mandate has only recently hit the news gathering institutions – Muslim, newcomer groups join coalition supporting sex-ed

 This  arises from an online petition defending the New Ontario Curriculum .  The video at the top of the post is also by this group.  As you can see there is an attempt to balance out, not just the negative atmosphere surrounding the revised educational resources, but also emphasis on a negative portrayal of newcomers to Canada and non-Christian groups.

There is much work to be done in this area.  I suspect that the underlying concern is with cultural attitudes towards gender roles and sexual orientation.  We as a society have only recently moved forward in acceptance of differences in sexual orientation. Not all are accepting of this change in attitude and behaviour.  The education system will be one of the places where the lines of discomfort will come to the attention of the public in a very emotional manner.  Mass Media will play a significant role in how smoothly society navigates this issue.