Oliver Queen and Candace Bushnell

Oliver Queen, as comic-book and Smallville fans know, is a millionaire who lives a double life as the crimefighting hero Green Arrow. What most people don’t know is that during the late seventies—during a period Ollie’s money had been stolen, leaving him broke, radical and angry—he supported himself by writing a newspaper column, Queen’s Gambit (I’m a comic-book geek, so I do know this stuff). I forget who was writing Green Arrow at the time but this was a seriously bad idea. Every story, Ollie would pen a column making radical announcement such as “Crime is rampant in the inner city!” and we’d have shots of people reacting with outrage and demands he be horsewhipped for saying something so offensive. Which did nothing to convince me that Ollie’s bland musings were, in fact, radical, rabble-rousing diatribes, though it did make most of Star City’s residents look like idiots. This is a problem I’ve seen a lot over the years—often enough a friend of mine and I used to discussing giving “Oliver Queen Awards” to characters who were shown stunning everyone with their wit and insight even though they didn’t have any.
•Candace Bushnell’s One Fifth Avenue has a middle-aged woman become a hot new blogger with her edgy, you-can’t-say-that-can-you columns about marriage and husbands (actually, given her dour personality they don’t seem edgy as much as pissed off and meanspirited), which eventually land her a book deal. Based on what we see of her column, she’s perfectly adequate as a blogger … which makes her one of about fifty million perfectly adequate, unremarkable bloggers, not a rising media star.
•The Dolly Parton film Straight Talk has Parton spouting folksy homilies (about the level of “A barking dog never bites”) that convince everyone in Chicago she has a genius understanding of human nature. A call-in self-help show and celebrity follow, which is about as plausible as my literary output to date winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
•In Someone Like You, Ashley Judd becomes a celebrity (under an assumed identity) by making the stunning revelation that men want to sleep around, women want a relationship. Which is something lifestyle magazines have been saying since the late seventies, so there’s no reason other than plot requirements that everyone’s so impressed when Judd says it. In a sense, it’s the equivalent of idiot plot: These people are only regarded as wise and insightful because, apparently, everyone else in the movie is an idiot whose never heard any of their cliches before. I don’t think it’s a challenge to have a character say something insightful, but when the plot calls for them to either have an earthshaking insight (such as Judd’s) or a steady stream of clever thoughts, it’s a lot harder to keep the balls in the air. And actually in Straight Talk, the ball was never in the air. In some ways, it’s a subset of a bigger problem: Authors trying to show, not tell how impressive their characters are by the way people react to them. This is a good tactic—the guy who’s nervous and tongue tied talking to the female lead tells me a lot more about how sexy she is than just describing her—except there has to be something there to justify the reactions. If everyone is bowled over by your protagonist’s charm, we need to see some action or dialogue that shows how charming they are; if the hero is being seduced by the bad girl, she needs to do something seductive; if the villain scares the hell out of his lackeys, that’s good but at some point we need to see why.


Filed under Movies, Writing

4 responses to “Oliver Queen and Candace Bushnell

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