Monday, July 1, 2013

Ranting and Rambling: It's Not Easy Being Green, aka "50 Shades of Green"

Any franchise that has multiple facets to it, or an ensemble cast, or any room for differing tastes is going to be heavily divided. You'll have people arguing over who the best Doctor was (even Peter Cushing has his die-hard fans), Kirk vs. Picard vs. Sisko vs. Janeway vs. Archer (not even getting into the new timeline), but there's really only one franchise where I start to lose my mellow a bit: Green Lantern.

You may not have heard of most of them, but someone will fight tooth and nail that the most obscure one's the best.
Green Lantern has an incredibly diverse but fierce fandom. Any GL sub-fandoms for a specific character can only agree with each other when they come together to hate another group, usually the group that likes the newest Green Lantern. In any adaptation, you have, like, at least three Lanterns to choose from, and that's just talking about the human ones. This leads to the inevitable firestorm that occurs in any DC adaptation that somehow involves a Green Lantern: Which one should be the "main" Green Lantern? Right off the bat, it's always going to be a human one, because I guess we're all species-ist. At that point, the list of Lanterns to choose from is as follows:
  • Alan Scott
  • Hal Jordan
  • John Stewart
  • Guy Gardner
  • Kyle Rayner
  • Simon Baz
I just want to state that I do not dislike any of these characters. They all have interesting qualities that lead to good storytelling. Let's narrow this list down.
My personal favorite, BTdubs.
Alan Scott is not a likely candidate, because he's most closely tied to Earth-2, WW2, and other such things. Those aspects of DC continuity aren't often used in TV adaptations or films, so he's not likely to show up.
Oh, boy, this guy.
Guy Gardner is probably the least likely candidate for one simple reason.

Thank you, Mr. McFly.
All of the characters fans are now thinking, "Wait a minute, Guy-Who's-Not-Linkara! Guy Gardner's willpower is just as strong, and his sense of duty is..." I'ma cut you off right there. You raise a valid point, whatever it may be. However, Guy Gardner's abrasiveness and other character flaws quirks would only work as a solo Lantern if they were part of a larger story arc where he "grows up," so to speak. And if that happens, all of a sudden Guy Gardner's story has been turned into Hal Jordan's story, so why not use Hal Jordan? And come on, we wouldn't love Guy Gardner half as much if he wasn't the kind of person who'd do this:

Batman's actual response: "Tell Guy he needs a shave." And that's why he's Batman.
Don't worry, we'll discuss him in detail at some point.
Simon Baz is also quite unlikely as a leading Lantern, as in the comics, he's still a rookie, and doesn't really work well with others. This is primarily because he's the newest Lantern, and needs a bit of time to grow and mature. (Yes, there's an elephant in the room, here, but that deserves it's own essay.)

This leaves us with the trio of Hal, John, and Kyle.

L to R: Hal, John, Kyle. Coincidentally the only Lanterns in Justice League Heroes. They play exactly the same. Irony?
Either Hal or Kyle tend to be the primary Green Lantern in an adaptation, because they both had the most notable runs in the comics as the primary Green Lantern of Earth.
This leaves us with John Stewart, who, sadly, is most often summed up as "the black guy."

Not this guy.
This guy.
This means that when DC wants to adapt the predominantly Caucasian Justice League into a cartoon, they tend to gravitate to John Stewart as the Green Lantern simply because he's "the black guy," ignoring the actual merits of the character. Yes, any attempt at racial diversity is to be appreciated, but race should not be the deciding factor when choosing a Green Lantern (or any character, really). In fact, when John Stewart was chosen as the Green Lantern in the Justice League cartoon, the Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner fans finally came together, but only to gang up against the Stewart fans (especially since Kyle Rayner had an origin story in the DCAU already, meaning that they were ignoring already established continuity).

Again, I want to stress that I'm not saying John Stewart isn't a good character, quite the opposite. He has many merits and interesting qualities, including his backstory as a Marine and the quirks of his ring constructs.... none of which are the main reason he's chosen to be included in multiple Justice League adaptations.

Hypothetically, if I were in charge of a Justice League adaptation, and I had to decide to decide on a single Lantern, I'd bend the rules and choose a rotating cast of Hal, Guy, and John, as they would logically probably rotate JL duty.

But that's cheating. If I had to choose a single one? ...Hal Jordan, simply for the sake of classic-ness.  But... why have a single one? Why not have two? Especially if the team had to be ethnically diverse, which is a valid concern. My solution: Hal Jordan and Simon Baz. Simon has many interesting qualities that could be used quite well in a team dynamic, and he would represent a minority which, let's face it, does not get enough positive exposure in the media. And even then, why not at least have cameos from other Lanterns?

Basically, my point is that there are many choices for Green Lantern protagonists. The deciding factor should not just be "pick the black guy;" it's unfair to the characters and the fans. Like I said at the beginning, there's a lot of choices, and no matter which one you pick, someone will be upset. Still, at least we have Green Lantern: the Animated Series, which has been slowly but surely building up its roster of Lanterns. Why, I'm certain that soon, we'll get to see all five Earth Lanterns on screen, kicking butt and...

Well, ****.

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