We’ll start on a positive for our superheroes: it was gutsy, action-packed, superheroes galore that held no punches. Literally.
To sum it up:
- The CW, you tried to be a part of the Big Five, but it’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.
- This crossover was endlessly better than the previous snooze-fest.
- Did anyone think of Taylor Swift’s music video to Bad Blood during that scene?
The CW aren’t famed for producing high-quality shows. Channels like Syfy have smugly overtaken their standing within society. The CW caters to a set audience. And then completely refutes that by dumbing down aspects of a show as if the viewers are of kindergarten age. The charisma of Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist in particular glues the crossover together. But you cannot hide behind talented Glee alumni to masquerade your amateur storytelling antics.
For fans of the shows in the crossover, Crisis on Earth X provided ample fun. Watching Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) pair up and kick ass in the brilliant church fight sequence was grin-inducing. Apart from that, the rest of the fight choreography felt clumsy and rushed. We could barely keep up. But was it satisfying, watching our superheroes defeat a fascist regime?
Heck yes, it was!
Alas, with the full understanding that Earth X is within the comic book universe, we have no qualms. But we’re in 2017. We’re no longer in 1973, the first publication of storylines involving Earth X. Alternate regimes could’ve been touched upon. There’s a push-pull between craving the classic but also the push for something new. Supergirl touched upon that with Roulette’s (Dichen Lachman) cruel usage of aliens as ‘entertainment’ in season two. Why not expand on opportunists similar to Roulette?
So yes, we know they’re in the comics. But we’re not dropping this question. Why Nazis?
It isn’t nitpicking to say that humanising the Nazi regime and all those within it is kind of dangerous in our world–even if we did have superheroes in it.
We’re playing the Devil’s Advocate here because yes, it was a fun crossover. Fans across the DCTV universe must’ve yelped in joy seeing their favourites interact. But did the execs play their cards right with the setting?
Every year, we are reminded of the horrors. In an age where right-wing parties in France are gaining ground and the rise of the AfD in Germany is scary, it’s understandable to feel edgy. And we haven’t even touched on Black Lives Matter. Across the world we’ve witnessed horrific attacks on mosques with the reasoning simply being their religion.
Furthermore, the whole Oliver-X/Kara-X romance was awkward and disbelieving to the last moment. We’re completely sold that it’s pure love. But as much as every SS soldier was not a megalomaniac, for this target audience, it was unnecessary. Yes, they trampled over their doppelgangers. But that isn’t the problem.
Superhero stories often tackle the reality and political climate we’re in. We’ll discount Supergirl’s atrociously-written ‘Trump wall’ line. But in a way, we watch these ridiculous, not necessarily quality shows because we want a bit of escapism too. Revisiting the Nazi regime and amplifying the terror by having evil supervillains quash the fledgling Resistance is borderline ridiculous. Did anyone even stop in the writers’ room to consider the validity of exploitation of Nazi use in stories written in the seventies? Some stories remain relevant as of today. But some, published four decades ago, are welcome to be left in the dust, surely.
Frankly, living with the horrors of today, revisiting concentration camps and body-slamming us with hateful rhetoric, even though we know the ‘good guys’ will win, is just uncomfortable and insensitive.
The DCTV-verse houses aliens and waveriders! Are you really telling us they could not invent a better villain than Nazi doppelgangers?!
This is a classic nature versus nurture question. Could our superheroes’ morals be so diminished in a world when there’s an active resistance of non-powered humans fighting for their rights?
There’s a lot of interesting articles out there in the world of Google indicating Superman/Supergirl’s Jewish roots. Of course, we know they’re from Krypton, but it’s a startling juxtaposition nonetheless. Despite that, our superheroes’ stories have always focused on the loneliness, exile and isolation each felt when they were younger. They weren’t normal. To have such a scary depiction where they do not just conquer their loneliness to do good, but to reign as tyrants, is mind-blowing.
There is hope, even when all seems lost upon killing James Olsen in the beginning scene. The Ray (the wonderful Russell Tovey) and the Freedom Fighters on Earth X represent that.
But let’s focus a little on Supergirl as an example. As stated, there are fifty-three Kryptons and therefore fifty-three Supergirls. It brings up the question of nature versus nurture. Born into the Reich and the most powerful being on Earth X, Overgirl is obviously their leader. She sees herself as above humans. Take a shot every time she sneers “weak” or “pathetic”.
Is that so different from the Supergirl we know? Before you launch tomatoes and boo us off-stage, we’re just here to play devil’s advocate. She smugly steals Maggie Sawyer’s (Floriana Lima) hostage situation. Even at the dinner rehearsal, she separates herself from Barry on the basis that she’s an alien. When we watch Supergirl, who is all-heart and goodness, do we just ignore this because she’s a hero? Have you ever considered that with a little nudge from the cosmos, the Kara Danvers/Supergirl we know could devolve into someone completely different?
And then yes, the incredible Odette Annable Reigns superior…
Did it have to be Nazis?
Is there a trope name for this? There must be. And we’re being very fair here: the exploitation of Nazis and the usage of their regime is nothing new. Exploited by big cinema (a clear example may be Indiana Jones) shoving Nazis in a story for the protagonists to triumph over is a tale so old it may as well be Sara Lance’s crusty exterior.
Why this warrants an article is if you just think logically for a moment. Are we assuming Earth X is present-day Earth, awful and fascist? So why on earth would the Ray, a superhero, flaunt his sexuality? Furthermore, by the time Hitler’s concentration camps would’ve theoretically spread globally, all minorities targeted in World War II would surely be exterminated. There’d be a much more sophisticated system to ensure the production of the Aryan race. And then it brings the question of the existence of such a race. How many generations of inbreeding would you require before you realise you need some diversity on earth? Is that a thing?
Yes, we’re nitpicking. But let’s not forget what made Nazis so fundamentally revolting: they were mass-murders. They committed genocides. Hitler’s cause for war and using Jews as scapegoats for such propaganda against them would diminish once he’d killed all of them, and found another. The cycle is endless. However, none of that was touched upon in the crossover. We saw nothing more than the camps, which is, to paraphrase Supergirl, “so 1940s”.
Now, we’re not discounting usage of Nazism in literature or television. A great book and adaptation is The Man in the High Castle. But that’s really where the similarities end—quite abruptly.
The crossover was fun and well-done, but it didn’t resonate much more than that. On a topic so heavy and relevant to many people’s lives, it had colourful paths of great options and skipped down the muddy brick road.
The Man in the High Castle is a book by Philip K. Dick. But in this, and the television adaptation, we see significant cultural changes due to the Nazi/Imperial Japanese regime. Americans are taught Japanese customs and yes, there’s a resistance building. But what TMITHC does so well is incorporate the consequences of Hitler’s victory and force them upon a regular person’s life. Why TMITHC works is that there’s enough thought put into it to think of the consequences following a Nazi victory.
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the crossover. Yes, it was supposed to be fun. We don’t want to be fun-dampeners. But in utilising Nazis simply as your ‘generic big bad’ is clumsy because as Vox implies, you could’ve used literally anything else.
RELATED l Crisis on Earth X: Roundtable [Part 4]
Frankly, the world post-war (especially the inter-war periods between World Wars I and II) was horrendous. It’s not the kind of stuff you want to see on The CW. If Hitler had only passed in 1994, the atrocities and cruelty would just be too much to show on television, especially for their relatively young audience.
This strange, wispy, watered-down version of what Earth X would’ve been, over seventy years after Hitler won the war, is near-offensive to the people who have had relatives survive the Holocaust. And we’re not just talking on a Western scale. Going back to Imperial Japan, and their nauseating ransacking of huge parts of China and iron-fist rule over South-East Asia, it’s cringe-worthy.
Having said that: we get it. We put a bug in the writers’ room and it went like this:
Writer #1: “Let’s have an ultimate Big Bad for the crossover.”
Writer #2: “Nazis?”
Writer #1: “Brilliant. Done. Nazis are hella bad people.”
We get it! Nazis getting decked in the face by a largely LGBTQ bunch of characters is great! Comeuppance! Yes! But the constant usage of Nazism as the Big Bad is tiring now. And again, The CW should’ve considered their audience. To play the devil’s advocate, a good portion would’ve been satisfied and that’s brilliant. But a fair portion would also be thinking: “why must I see past, real horrors amplified–again?”
DCTV is not begging you to take their programming seriously–that much is clear. If you’re looking for some random hook-ups and fun fight sequences, it’s worth just kicking back and enjoying the view.
There is no doubt that the crossover was glorious punch-up fun. It allowed for all your favourite crossover heroes to kick some ass (Caity Lotz in particular). The action sequences, often confusing and far too fast, found brilliance in the church scene.
Ultimately, where the Crisis on Earth X crossover fell short was its lack of consequence. And this has been a theme on these shows for a long time coming. Truthfully, the villains didn’t need to be Nazis at all. There was zero—actually zero—implications of what the Nazis would’ve accomplished in the time they’d won the war. There was no imagination as to what Earth X would’ve looked like under seventy or so years of the regime, because it was just lazy writing.
Young audiences aren’t stupid and they’re global, too. Consequences, with the emerging far-right parties in politics, are not some twisted goblin tale anymore. Consequences matter.
Despite good intentions, the crossover tried to touch on controversial topics but nothing consequential happened. It wasn’t a story. It was a stand-alone four episodes that can be ignored in the future. Also, apart from the personal takeaways our protagonists seem to have gained, we’re just supposed to be okay with the fact that everyone on Earth X is still under a fascist regime? And just like they replaced Hitler, they’ll replace the Dark Arrow with someone else?
Again with the consequences: what did the DCTV-verse superheroes achieve, apart from defeating their Nazi selves? Was that it? A sense of relief that their Doppelganger’s gone and Earth X can solve its own totalitarian problems?