I started binge-watching Arrow a few weeks back, thinking it would be escapist relief from election season. Surely benighted, beleaguered Starling City (later Star City) would make my world look better in comparison? Sadly, it did not. In spite of all its masked villains, whole sections of the city getting blown up or imploded, and guys running around shooting everyone with arrows, Starling City, in general, seemedbetter off than the current USA, at least generally.
But, as we crept into the home stretch of this election season (I hope), something stood out in the first four seasons of Arrow; mayoral campaigns. After writing a 2,000 word post in which I tried to come to grips with my feelings about this show, I realized that simply imagining the details of two campaigns in this comic-book city would probably clarify things nicely.
First, a recap: Arrow was inspired by a DC masked hero called Green Arrow. Here’s the story from the show, which premiered in 2012. (I never read the comics.)
Spoiled billionaire fratboy Oliver Queen and his father Robert were presumed dead when Robert’s luxury yacht sank in the North China Sea. In fact, they both made it into a life-raft, but Robert Queen killed himself so Oliver could live. Oliver washed up on the shores of a scary island, where he spent the next five years getting really buff, fighting, being tortured, learning to speak Russian and Chinese, shooting arrows, wielding magic, trusting the wrong people and killing people. And sinking boats. Did I mention it was a deserted island? Anyway, after five years, Oliver arranged for his “rescue” and returned home to Starling City.
He found his home city in the throes of a near fatal recession. (Before they left, Dad closed his steel foundry, laying off 30,000 people. I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.) Except for being forced to live in a monstrosity of a mansion, the Queen family was doing fine financially. Moira Queen, Oliver’s mother, was now the CEO of Queen Consolidated, and had married the CFO, Walter. As Season One unfolded, we learned that Moira and Robert were part of a one-percenter scheme to blow up a huge district of the city, called the Glades. Malcolm Merlyn, close family friend and another billionaire, was the architect of the scheme. He said it was revenge for the mugging death of his doctor wife in the Glades, but really it was just to devalue some real estate and pick it up for cheap. Robert was getting ready to expose the scheme, so Malcolm sabotaged the yacht.
Oliver, struggling to make a difference in his city, started dressing up in a costume and shooting bad guys with arrows. He was good at it, but it wasn’t effective at revitalizing the city.
Moira was still closely aligned with Merlyn because, she insisted, he threatened the lives of her children if she broke her silence. (Later he kidnapped Walter to ensure her compliance.) At the last minute, Moira called a press conference and warned the people of the Glades—and admitted her involvement. Thanks to Oliver/the Arrow, and Moira’s warning, only (only) 500+ people were killed, and only half the destroy-the-Glades plan worked. Oliver “killed” Malcolm Merlyn in an arrow/sword fight.
Moira was tried—as a co-conspirator, I guess—and acquitted due the manipulations of the not-so-dead Merlyn. And then, half a season later, she ran for mayor.
Moira Queen, the Campaign.
Slogan: Vote for Moira! She’s the One Who Didn’t Blow Us Up!
Policy Platform: Tax breaks for Billionaires! We Create the Jobs!
Platform Expansion: Economic Stimulus is for Losers.
Talking Points: “I’d do anything to save my children.”
Queen press event:
Moira Queen: And in closing, I’d like to just say again, I’m simply a mother. A mother who will do anything to save her children. And now, I’ll take a few questions. Yes, Amelia.
Amelia (WZZG): Mrs. Queen, the now-dead Malcolm Merlyn was a sociopathic murderer who tried to destroy twenty-seven blocks of this city. You stated under oath during your trial that you had an affair with him. What should voters make of your judgment? And there are even those who say your daughter Thea–
Queen: I did have an… ill-considered and brief liaison with the definitely, indisputably dead Malcolm Merlyn. It was bad judgment. Amelia, we make mistakes, but some things should stay in the past. Should those mistakes haunt us? I mean, imagine if you knew someone who celebrated completing her Masters in Journalism by taking a trip to Costa Rica—
Queen:… and while there, participated in some events that were… well, don’t you think…?
Amelia: Yes! Yes, of course, some things belong in the past. Thank you, Mrs. Queen.
Jacob (Starling City Inquirer): Mrs. Queen, you’ve said on several occasions that you will do anything for your children.
Queen: I have, because I will do anything for my children.
Jacob: So can we assume that if another supervillain comes to town, you’d betray the city to keep your children safe?
Queen: Of course I would, Jacob. I’m a mother. But you must understand that I consider Starling City one of my children. I’d never sacrifice two of my children to save one, even if Oliver is my favorite.
Jacob: Sounds legit.
Queen: That’s all for today. Thank you all. Don’t forget to vote!
Sadly, Moira did not live to win the election.
Several seasons and several mayors later, Oliver Queen mounted a campaign. He was running unopposed.
Oliver Queen, the Campaign
Slogan: Vote for Oliver! No One Else is Running.
Policy Platform: I have to have policies?
Platform Expansion: I’ll hire all my friends. Oh, wait, I don’t have any.
Talking Point: This is all my fault.
Oliver did not win the mayor’s seat, but some time later, he was appointed mayor.
Oliver Queen Mayoral Press Conference
Amelia(WZZG): Mr. Mayor, for the third time in as many years, the city’s bonds have been downgraded. What do you intend to do about this?
Queen: Well, frankly, Amelia, zip ties just won’t do it. I’m looking at a steel-titanium alloy that—
Quentin Lance: (Hurries to the podium, shields the mike, whispers urgently into Queen’s ear.)
Queen: Oh. Oh, those bonds! That’s an excellent question. I’ll get back to you on that.
Jacob (Star City Inquirer): Mr. Mayor, the police pension fund is on track to become fifty percent of the city budget, far outstripping the revenues. What do you see as a solution?
Queen: I think that problem will take care of itself.
Queen: Well, have you noticed the mortality rate of SCPD officers? It’s like, minutes. They’re dead before their first coffee break sometimes. I don’t think demand’s going to overwhelm supply, that’s what I’m saying.
Jacob: I can’t even…
Bella (Central City Tattler): Bella Rave, Mr. Mayor. Five years ago, the city council earmarked five million dollars for repairs and upgrades to the city water system. Those repairs were never made, and projected costs have now ballooned to fifteen million. What is your plan for rehabbing the city’s water supply?
Queen: I think you’re really focusing on the negative. I mean, nobody’s tried to poison the water supply lately. No weird guys in helmets have dumped drums full of Vertigo or Stardust or some other Star-City customized drug in there, right?
Bella: Your point, Mr. Mayor?
Queen (seems confused): I take my wins where I can get them.
Jacob: How would you respond to your critics who say you are completely unqualified?
Queen: I’d say, “Hellloooo! I said I wasn’t qualified. Did you even listen to my campaign?”
Tailor (Star City Ledger): What is your plan for bringing business back to Star City?
Queen: Well, I was going to buy back my company with the money my girlfriend made as CEO of Palmer Industries, but they fired her, so that’s out.
Tailor: Clarification, Mr. Mayor. Is that the girlfriend you proposed to at the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony who was promptly shot by unknown villains–
Queen: Known villains.
Tailor: –and was paralyzed but then had an implant that lets her walk but then she dumped you?
Queen: Yes. So that plan won’t work. My second plan to go back to the island and dig around for another magical artifact that will bring weal–
Thea Queen, Chief of Staff (audible): Ix-nay on the agic-may.
Amelia: Mr. Mayor, the three mayors before you have been murdered during their tenures–
Amelia: –and, what? Four? Ruvee Adams is considered missing, I thought. Not dead.
Queen: Oh, yeah. Right. Three. Sorry, I miscounted.
Amelia: She hasn’t been declared dead, has she? Do you know something we don’t?
Queen: Well, probably. I probably know lots of things you don’t. But about Ruvee Darhk, I mean, Adams, uh, no, I just misspoke. What was your question?
Amelia: Starling City, even with the upbeat name change to Star City, seems cursed. In six months, you face an election. What would you say to someone thinking about running for mayor?
Queen (Straightens up and leans forward slightly. A light comes into his eyes.): I’d say this. Unless you are me, if you want to run for mayor of Star City, you are either a supervillain or the minion of a supervillain. And if you are, then there is no place you can run. No place you can–
Thea Queen: Okay! Good talk! (Hustles up to the podium, grabs his arm.)
Queen: There is a face of justice in this city. It wears a mask. And I say to you now, wherever you are–
Quentin Lance grabs Queen’s other arm, they drag him off the podium.
Thea Queen: Okay! Thank you all. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And now we have a guest from Central City, Barry Allen, presenting a talk on forensics interventions. “Forensics at the speed of stars!” Barry Allen, everyone.