Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Privilege in Green

Designated Sidekick has a really nice post up here where he talks about his privilege (especially in terms of race) and he uses the example of Hal and Ollie in the O'Neal/Adams years to illustrate a bit.

Go read it. It's a good read!

I do have to disagree with him on one thing though. DS says that he wishes he could be Green Arrow, even though he's more of a Green Lantern, with regards to his privilege and lack of perspective.

I've been thinking about it myself and honestly, of the two of them, I'd rather be Hal Jordan.

This is not to say that I agree with him politically (I'm a staunch liberal, thank you) or that I'm trying to excuse his privilege and ignorance. But the biggest difference for me is that Hal is open to change. He'll say/do something dumb, insensitive, or even downright offensive, get called on it or otherwise have it thrown back in his face, and in the end, he'll come out having learned something.

Ollie, in contrast, spends most of those issues either screetching his politics, making personal attacks against anyone who disagrees (Godwin's Law before it was popular!) or being impossibly smug. And I say that as someone who largely shares Ollie's politics! While Hal is making his usual unconsciously racist or sexist fumbles, Ollie gets to remain secure in his own assumptions and privilege. Because he's the Enlightened Liberal.

And honestly. No. It doesn't work that way. Politics don't make you perfect. And being aware of privilege doesn't mean that we're suddenly going to become free of it. And Ollie may not be as guilty as often as Hal, but he's still guilty.

Hal's changed a lot since those road trip days. He might still be conservative, and he still has his moments of abject insensitivity/stupidity, but in general he's wiser than he was then and it shows. In contrast, it really doesn't seem like Ollie's learned much since those days. Ollie today, for all his good points and growth in other areas, is still the screetching judgemental ranting liberal secure in the belief that he's right beyond anyone else. I don't want to be that. (Though to be fair, Ollie gets called on things a LOT more now than he did way back then.)

Hal does still make the same mistakes over again sometimes, for all his growth, but honestly? So do I. I might think I've learned a lot, but privilege doesn't go away just because I know it's there, and sometimes, I do backslide. Like Hal does. That's part of being human. But I'm also very lucky, because, like Hal in the comics, I have people around who'll call me on it. People who like me enough to forgive my lapses but not accept them. They're wonderful and I owe them so much.

I guess I'm not sure that this HAS a point except that in the end when it comes to awareness and politics, neither of them are particularly admirable to me. But if I have to be one, I'd rather be the guy who gets called on it than the guy that's too smugly secure in his own enlightenment to see the problem. I'd rather be the moron than the hypocrite.


  • At June 20, 2007 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "But if I have to be one, I'd rather be the guy who gets called on it than the guy that's too smugly secure in his own enlightenment to see the problem."

    Naw, i am much happier as the smugly superior enlightened one. ;)

    I solved all my problems, why can't the rest of you?! :)

    But seriously, solid post.

  • At June 20, 2007 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love the Hard Travelling Heroes concept as a kid, but I never understood why Green Arrow was always such a jerk to Hal. These days I tend to understand; Oliver Queen is a pompous, egomaniacal liberal blowhard. :p

    I do enjoy their play by play these days, as both characters have come a long way since O'Neil's firebrand writing days. We rarely see much of Ollie or Hal in each other's books, but I think it'd be great to have them meet up and confront both sides of another issue with their unique perspectives and personalities. Or even better, have Ollie and Guy team up in an 'homage' to those days and have Guy cut him up like a katana. :p

    Great post, by the by.


  • At June 20, 2007 12:13 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Hammm...I do like the idea of Guy and Ollie together, they really haven't had a lot of contact over the years since Guy choked down a bowl of Ollie's chili and gasped out how "great" it was. Could be fun.

    Honestly, I think that Ollie and Hal have both matured to some degree. Yes, Ollie is a jackass, but I liked what Kevin Smith did with him a while back,he's a slightly sadder but wiser man. STILL a jackass however, which he'll always be.

    Hal's been humbled, there's no doubt about that. Kali's right, it is possible for Hal to change, but it IS hard for it would be for anyone. Which is why it is so much fun watching him react to people post-Parallax.s

    At least Ollie has Dinah around to whip him into shape. AND Roy, and Connor, and Mia and Lian and Sin.
    It's going to be tough to be a jerk with that many people watching over you.

  • At June 20, 2007 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    See, I have a slightly different take on Ollie - though I don't disagree with your assessment for a second.

    Yes, Ollie is a jerk. I don't think he's fully aware of how big a of a jerk he is but he knows it. But I think he's a jerk for the right reasons.

    Because I believe there are times when it is neccesary for someone to stand up and tell someone "You're full of it" and do it in the most aggresive manner possible.

    That doesn't change the fact that Ollie can be just as full of it as the people he's telling off... his heart is in the right place even if his head is about three miles behind.

    The thing is: I liked what Kevin Smith did to make the character grow up, somewhat. He was still the same loudmouth. He still had the same "I'll do the right thing and heaven help anyone who stands in my way" attitude. But he was less prone to preaching and a lot more willing to listen than to talk. He even made peace with Hawkman, for crying out loud!

    Shame Winick had to change him back to a parody of what Ollie USED to be because he thought Ollie was supposed to be an obnoxious loudmouth stereotype of what liberals are who talks and talks and is always right...

    Hmmm... why does that description seem oddly familar?

  • At June 20, 2007 7:14 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    I always had the feeling that Ollie was supposed to be a stand-in for O'Neil and Hal a stand-in for the reader.

    That said, When I re-read the "Hard-Traveling Heroes" arc as an adult, I can't help but notice how much of an ass Ollie was to Hal, even going back to the first issue, where Hal arrested the kid who was beating up on some middle-aged guy Hal didn't know was a slumlord and pissed off the crowd in the process. Ollie came in after all this had already gone down, started berating Hal, and claimed he'd been watching this scene all along and knew the whole story. If I were Hal, I would have responded "Really? Gee, thanks for giving me a heads up before I made a complete ass of myself in front of all these people, Goatee Boy! What happened, you forget to bring your 'Stop-Your-Friend-From-Fucking-Up' Arrow? Way to have my back, you fur-faced Robin Hood knockoff!"

  • At June 20, 2007 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post-- like you, I share a lot of the Green Arrow's politics, but the style and tone of the character (and really, that whole run overall) really turns me off. It's interesting what kinds of effects all these reprints have had on my comics reading: I was born far too late to have read those O'Neill issues when they were first published, and never had the cash to buy them as back issues when I was a heavily comics-addicted teen in the 80s. So, when they came out in TPB a few years ago, I eagerly snatched up the first volume, having read all about how "landmark" they were (and having admired O'Neill's problematic-but-still-breathtaking run on Iron Man in the mid-80s, and generally loving everything neal adams drew). And reading through them I felt like peggy lee: is that all there is? Even acknowledging that all art dates, and that work is a product of its time, it still felt underwhelming. The talent is definitely there, but was put at the service of well-intentioned but heavy-handed sermons that might make even ralph nader blush. I think O'Neill and Adams were a great team, but their greatest stuff is easily the batman tales from the same period (and I think O'Neill's brief superman run is also underrated).

  • At June 21, 2007 3:08 AM, Blogger $tephen said…

    Okay, GA is an ass, and I accept that. But, in the grand scheme of things, I still hold a grudge against Hal for the whole Parallax period.

    All things considered, given a choice, I'd rather take the flaws of Ollie than having attempted to rebuild the entire universe because I broke the original one during a personal crisis.

    [Bitter exGL fanboy with grudge over the Kilowog incident. Brightest day, darkest night, no retcon shall escape my light...]

    Of course, my view of GL is somewhat biased in that respect. Was John the only redeeming lantern? Guy was jerk, Hal had issues before Parallax, Kyle is a bit emo for my taste and JSA GL doesn't count.


  • At June 21, 2007 4:43 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    This is the wrong blog to ask that question, man. :-)

    We have much love for the Lanterns here. :-)


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