Arrow and the Politics of Gun Control
Let me start by saying that I’m a fan of the show Arrow on the CW. Like many people, I watch shows like that partially to distract from things like politics. Simply put: I don’t watch shows that are set in the DC Comics Universe for their political stances. But last week, Arrow decided to tackle one of the hot button issues of politics: gun control.
If you haven’t seen the episode, it begins with a mass shooting that hits close to home for Oliver Queen, our protagonist, who also serves as the mayor of Star City as well as the vigilante/hero known as the Green Arrow. Considering the nature of the show, this isn’t an altogether unusual setup.
But as Team Arrow starts to try to figure out who the killer is and his motive, the discussion quickly turns to gun control. What kind of gun was it? It’s an AR-15, the most popular gun in America, they say. Can we track the gun? No, because there’s no gun database (giving the viewer the impression that surely a gun database would’ve easily led them to the killer).
To the writers’ credit, the team does have some dissenting voices that are supportive of gun ownership. But Oliver Queen is convinced that a law must be passed to address the dangers of guns falling into the wrong hands. So he meets with a councilwoman who had worked to defeat a previous gun registry law in order to come to some form of compromise.
To make a long story short, Queen, with the help of one of his pro-gun friends, manages to come up with a law the doesn’t affect legal purchases of guns and doesn’t restrict any freedoms, but somehow makes the city safer. Did I mention that this is a fictional show and the main villain last season had magic powers that he got from a rock?
Of course, they don’t tell you what’s actually in the gun law or what it does. Surely if there was some form of perfect compromise, you’d think the writers would readily promote it. What’s interesting is that we find out that the killer’s motive is tied to the fact that his family was murdered by shooters with AR-15 rifles and that the city refused to pass a gun registration law in the aftermath of the shooting. We also find out that the guns used in the massacre of the killer’s family were obtained illegally and therefore, no gun law would’ve stopped them.
So in a very odd way, the episode’s argument for gun control is somewhat self-defeating. The law that Star City passes to save itself from gun violence would do virtually nothing to keep criminals from using guns to commit crimes. How the law would’ve affected law-abiding gun owners is essentially unknown.
However, if there’s an important lesson to glean from the episode, it can be found in Curtis, Team Arrow’s pro-gun control crime-fighter. He points out that as Americans, we used to debate topics without hating or vilifying each other to the degree we do today. This is a very important sentiment that transcends all of politics, not just the gun control debate. As annoying as a political episode of a comic book show can be, this particular point is well-taken.
While the episode is all-too-obviously promoting a pro-gun control agenda, I do feel like it could’ve been much worse. After all, the Green Arrow of the comic book world is traditionally considered to be a left-leaning, if not socialist, character.
The problem with the writers’ perspective is that it focuses as heavily on the guns as it does the killer. Perhaps the emphasis should be placed primarily on the man rather than the motive. Interestingly enough, this logic isn’t lost on most slasher movies. There’s no rush in Haddonfield to ban kitchen knives to stop Michael Myers. Crystal Lake never tried to ban machetes or whatever bizarre murder methods that Jason Voorhees used. They didn’t try to regulate knife-fingered gloves or the ability to enter dreams to stop Freddy Krueger on Elm Street. Maybe the writers of Arrow should take note.
I’m reminded of a moment at a panel at a comic convention I attended that featured Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen on Arrow. A fan was complaining to him about aliens being on an episode of such a “grounded” and “realistic” show (did she forget the guy with the magic rock powers?). In response, Amell said something to the effect of “you don’t always get what you want on this show.” At the time, I was impressed that he had the gumption to be so blunt with a fan. But after this latest episode, in a different context, his statement takes on a new meaning.